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TRC Blog

November 19 , 2009

Our shoppers compare Arlington Highlands and Southlake Town Square

Thursday, Nov. 19, 2009

From the gilded shops of NorthPark Center to the giddy excess of Grapevine Mills (not to mention all of those Costcos and Walmarts in between), Dallas-Fort Worth is a shoppers’ paradise. But for us, two shopping experiences rise above the others: Arlington Highlands and Southlake Town Square.

Snicker all you want about Arlington and Southlake — Lord knows we do — but as shopping meccas go, their outdoor complexes are peerless. For one thing, you aren’t trapped inside a mega-mall or big-box chain store. Instead, you can wander along faux cobblestone streets, soaking in the last vestiges of fall and finding one-of-a-kind gifts for all the naughty and nice people on your list.

Besides, where else can you buy Gucci, get a facial, eat great burgers, see the world blown up on the big screen and buy dog goggles — all within spitting distance of topiary reindeer and elegant fountains? At Southlake Town Square, you can even pay a visit to city hall!

The only question that remains: Which of these two retail Shangri-Las will help us stock our stockings this season?

We decided to put them to the test, with an Amazing Race-inspired holiday-shopping showdown.

Two over-caffeinated shoppers are on a mission to buy gifts for four people (tough-to-please parent, true love, best friend, cute kid), as well as eat lunch, see a movie, have a snack and experience all the capitalistic nirvana that these two shopping shrines have to offer . . . in about four hours. (Hey, we’re busy people!)

Oh, and they can’t spend more than $125 or our boss will totally freak.

So come along as we give the corporate card a workout.

Southlake Town Square

I have worked in retail for damn near 10 years and have been shopping since I could walk, so I figured I could do this challenge in the late afternoon and still have time to get my nails done. But I also believe in shopping fate. The right item is out there waiting for you; you will just know it when you see it. No 5 a.m. lines for this girl.

Well, I have now been defeated by Southlake Town Square. For a tale of shopping tragedy, read on.

6 p.m. Parked in front of the Owl’s Nest Toy Shop in the first phase of the Square. Figured this would be a good place to start looking for a gift for my friend’s 8-month-old baby boy, Jackson. I couldn’t find anything that wasn’t a choking hazard, but my boyfriend found plenty of noisy items to annoy me.

6:20 p.m. Wandered around Charming Charlie, a girlie girl’s boutique and accessory shop. My best friend once bought me a pair of shoes here, so I thought I could score a good bauble or two for her. I found a compact mirror that had something witty engraved on it, but my gut said to hold out for something that wowed me.

6:31 p.m. Re-parked car in front of Williams-Sonoma. Everybody eats, so maybe I could find something here that my bestie and her husband could enjoy. I’m intrigued by the Sprinkles Cupcake mixes (my friend likes to bake every weekend). But again, I thought I should hold out. Got a free snack, though — pumpkin pie samples baked in their on-site oven. Got into an argument about coffee makers with a rude salesgirl. Boyfriend drags me out before I throw espresso beans at her.

6:40 p.m. Walked by Talbots. Strongly considered stopping but decided against it. Time is precious.

6:42 p.m. Walked into Crazy 8. Looks like Gymboree. I thought a cute hat could work for Jackson, but I found something better: a jacket with a hood that turned baby into a teddy bear. With the 25 percent-off coupon I was handed as I walked in, the jacket only set me back $15.83. The cashier informed me that this is the only Crazy 8 in North Texas, which I found impressive until I learned that it’s owned by Gymboree.

7:02 p.m. Parked in Phase 2 parking garage. Took forever to find a space in this sector of the Square, where all the newer shops are.

7:10 p.m. Walked through Anthropologie. Found a possible present for my mom and my B.F.F., but decided I must eat before making a clear decision.

7:31 p.m. Ate at Five Guys Burgers and Fries. Two cheeseburgers (one for the boyfriend), a large order of Cajun fries and a large drink to share for less than $20. Not bad for an amazing dinner for two. The burgers were so big, I couldn’t finish mine. The large fries were enough for four adults.

8 p.m. Stop in at Rockfish and say hi to my parents, who are dining with friends. Mom helps me decide on Sprinkles Cupcake mix for my friend.

8:05 p.m. Pull on the door at Williams-Sonoma. Closed at 7 p.m., along with 50 percent of the shops in the Square.

8:15 p.m. Return to Anthropologie, the only place I have found something meaningful for Mom. They have pink drinking glasses in the Battenburg style. I remember seeing something similar in her hutch when I was little. They belong to my aunt now. I got my mom three for $18.

8:20 p.m. I look through Metropark for something cutesy for my best friend. I find some unique lip glosses but decide to check just a few more stores.

8:30 p.m. Shop around the Buckle. I send my boyfriend off in another direction and try to pick out a shirt for him. He likes Affliction, but I start to feel like a shirt just isn’t good enough.

8:35 p.m. Laugh at T-shirt prices at Oakley.

8:40 p.m. Return to Metropark. Buy a set of three lip glosses in containers that look like doughnuts. Apparently the gloss is doughnut-y delicious, too. $9

9 p.m. Desperately look for CDs, DVDs and books in Barnes and Noble. Time running out. They don’t have any CDs from my boyfriend’s fave band, Dream Theater. The blu-rays are about $15 more than at Best Buy. I find a travel book that could work, but the line is so ridiculous, I abandon ship.

9:30 p.m. Settle in at Cine Capri for the 9:40 p.m. showing of 2012. The world is ending, but the disaster on-screen hardly compares with my shopping expedition.

12:21 a.m. It’s Sunday, and we are wandering the parking garage looking for the car. Where did I go wrong? Jennifer Kyle

Arlington Highlands

Nobody has ever confused Arlington, Texas, for the Scottish Highlands, but the two are strangely comfortable bedfellows in this sprawling complex that opened in 2007. The name is a reference to the Mathes family that came here from Scotland in the 1940s and bought this patch of land. Boy, would they be surprised to see what’s sprung up on it: a bowling nightclub, a movie grill, a Golf Galaxy, spas and a wine shop, and dozens more restaurants and retail stores. In short, the Highlands "makes Arlington feel a little less like Arlington." That’s what one of the fun folks who works here tells me. And I think it deserves serious consideration as the place’s slogan.

2:07 p.m. We pull off Interstate 20 at Matlock Road and turn north toward the Highlands. You can almost smell the money . . . and the burgers (Kincaid’s), the fajitas (Gloria’s) and the curry (India Grill). Can you tell we’re hungry? There are so many choices, we take a lap around before deciding where to fuel up for our shoppers’ odyssey.

2:15 p.m. Torn between Chuy’s, the famed Austin-based Mexican spot, and Bone Daddy’s, the barbecue joint/breastaurant, my 5-year-old son makes the call. He sees a hot rod in front of Chuy’s and steers me in that direction. (Why did I bring him again?) It’s a beautiful fall day, so we sit on the patio and watch the traffic whiz by on I-20. Our gooey queso and giant Chuychanga arrive, along with two tall lemonades, and life is good. Chuy’s is not the best Mexican food I’ve tried (even in the last week), but the portions are big and service is friendly. Wish I could have a margarita — but I’ve got plenty of shopping to do, and I don’t want to dull my reflexes.

3 p.m. We walk toward the Studio Movie Grill to check showtimes (aside from having to dodge a few Tundras, the Highlands is pretty pedestrian-friendly), but Nathan spots the bowling pin marquee at Splitsville. Movie, shmovie. Let’s go bowling, dude. Splitsville, a swanky bowling lounge, doesn’t open till 4, but as we poke around, the nice folks inside wave us in and invite us to bowl for free. (This probably only works if you’ve got a cute kid with you.)

3:30 p.m. Enough eating and playing — time to shop. We need four gifts, and, surprise, Mr. Nate wants to start with his, so we make a beeline for Kidcore Toys. The independently owned shop moved to the Highlands this year from the Park Row area of Arlington, and it has lots of educational and vintage toys, which appeals to me. Nathan, however, wants a kiddie cash register (that’s m’boy!). At $59.99, my cash drawer is closed, so we compromise on the Fizzy Foamy Science game. Nathan can’t wait to get home and start making things erupt.

3:50 p.m. Walking west, we chart a course for Ooo La La, the wholesale women’s accessory shop, but a centrifugal force shoots us toward Golf Galaxy instead. Twenty minutes later, we’re still on the putting green.

4:15 p.m. Off to Ooo La La now . . . oooh, what’s that smell? Topiary deer? Nah, fresh wood chips around the recently planted trees. Walk faster!

4:21 p.m. I’m overwhelmed by the walls of purses and cheap jewelry at Ooo La La. Must get out.

4:26 p.m. The Highlands has a good selection of smaller, trendy shops. Francesca’s, Fashion Lounge and Accents all have funky clothes and affordable accessories, but my wife is a graphic designer with a distinct personal style, so that puts a lot of pressure on me when it comes to buying gifts. At Teesie’s Attic, I finally hit pay dirt. With a little help from the lovely Britni and A.J., we zero in on a green studded leather cuff by Juan Antonio ($38). It’s perfect for all sorts of situations. Lots of cool jeans and jewelry here, too. Gotta keep moving.

4:45 p.m. Right next door at WineStyles, I find Mom and Dad’s gift. The owners, Vicki and Jay, are doing some inventory when I mosey in, and he’s opening a box of something I’ve never seen before: Ben Hogan Tribute Series wine. Kinda cool. I’m a golfer, Hogan’s a Fort Worth original, it’s perfect. But, wait, is the wine any good? Jay waxes on about its portlike feel and raisiny finish. OK, OK, sold! One bottle of zinfandel ($24.95), plus I taste of a couple of other wines while I wait. Gratis.

5:04 p.m. Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory is the perfect spot for a late-afternoon snack. The caramel apple is sinfully good, but two truffles at $2.50 apiece is a little too sweet for my wallet. "They take two days to make," the candy dude says. No thanks. Put ’em in a museum, not my mouth.

5:20 p.m. One more gift, and this one’s easy. My buddy Steve’s a die-hard TCU fan, and the Frogs are having a magical season. Rally House Texas, which opened in the Highlands eight weeks ago, is home to all things Texas sports — UT, TCU, Cowboys, Mavs, you name it. Once I pry Nathan off the giant inflatable Longhorn out front, I snatch up a metallic purple TCU thermos and a package of TCU eye black — "the official eye black of athletes." Gotta be ready for that BCS game, right?!

5:30 p.m. Walking back to our car as the sun sets, we feel a deep sense of satisfaction. (Or is that the Chuychanga?) Our quest is complete in less than four hours, our bellies are full, and we had fun. But wait, we haven’t spent all $125 yet! We do an about-face and head to Veria, a yoga shop/spa/juice bar, for a berry-papaya-mango thingie to go.

Now, mission accomplished. Rick Press

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