Monday, April 04, 2005

Twilight Zona

Being a woman and an avid shopper, I was intrigued by the prospect of Zona Rosa, the new shopping “community” in the Northland. I call it a community because it is modeled to look like a small town. The streets are pedestrian friendly and are lined with quaint street lamps. There several free parking lots on the “outskirts” of town, but there are also parking spaces in front of the shops, complete with meters. High priced lofts above some of the shops complete the “neighborhood” feel of the area.
Zona Rosa is pretty enough, but there are some things about the feel of the small town square that just seemed, well, more like the Twilight Zona, than a real small town. When we first drove up, the first thing we saw was a huge Dick’s Sporting Goods store, where we decided to park, for its free parking.
Fair enough, many small towns now have big box stores and it made my husband happy on a trip that he wasn’t too keen on taking. The weather was beautifully mild, so we headed out for the “town square.”
Maybe it was the huge dirt berms surrounding the perimeter of the town that reminded me of hills, or maybe it was the exceptionally clean streets, but I immediately felt like I was in a tourist movie set at Universal Studios in California. I fully expected, at one point, to look up and see the infamous “Hollywood” sign on one of those berms.
Huge retail chains, some I’ve never heard of also lined “Main Street” and all of the streets in between. The other thing we immediately noticed was that most of the shops were clothing stores catering to the younger set.
Now, as a 40-something, who was recently told by my 30-something sister in law that I need to start dressing in “something a little tighter that fits me better,” I’m well aware that I’m past the tween-35 ages that retailers, advertisers on radio and television and most everyone else considers hip. Still, we 40-somethings have to wear clothes, too right?
We did see “American Eagle Outfitters” and thinking it might be some type of a “Northern Reflections” (an outdoorsy chain that I’m still mourning the passing of) type of store, we jaywalked across the street and headed in. Wrong! It was another teenybopper store full of clothes I haven’t been able to wear in a good 15-20 years. If there were any stores in the Twilight Zona that addressed me or anyone above 21, I couldn’t immediately find them.
The other thing sorely lacking in the Twilight Zona was the small town feel of the mom and pop stores. All of the shops (probably rent priced to exclude a family owned business) are national retail chains. I find it ironic that the big national retailers, which have driven out most of the mom and pop stores that used to grace real town squares in real small towns, were now imitating what they have destroyed.
It just made the place feel all the more creepy.
Unfortunately for most of the obvious target market of Zona Rosa, the younger generation, this will be the closest they ever come to seeing a small town and that is sad.
For us, the next time we have the yearning to go to a town square or browse some quaint stores and sit and have an ice cream cone while a bad band strums some tunes on a Saturday night, we’ll head out to a real small town. At least in those, we can still find some family owned antique shops and vintage jewelry and we won’t feel like we’re cast on the set of the Twilight Zone.


Blogger hooper2 said...

I, too, was disappointed on my first trip to Zona Rosa as I didn't realize it was really an outside mall filled with all the franchise stores (which, yes, cater to that age group that defines itself by the clothes it wears). Convenience over charm continues to win the retail race.

3:09 PM CDT  

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