Aventura Mall, Miami
I have a queer obsession with shopping malls. Queer…in the biblical sense, not queer…as in me, you, and everyone we know. I characterize it as queer because I love shopping malls, and I hate them. They are simultaneously infuriating, unfair, exclusionary, hierarchical…and fabulously chic, gleaming– teeming with shopper giddiness.
Naturally, not all malls fit this category – some are depressing, uninspired places. I’ve written about some of my favorites before…Highland Park Village in Dallas, Americana Manhasset on Long Island, and others. Even those aren’t true malls – they’re more like loose groupings of premium brands in a neighborhood strip center-mall hybrid. For malls in the truest sense, filled with premium brands, Florida is queen. My home state has built more luxury indoor shopping malls than any other state – due in no small part to its huge tourism base and major income on the coasts. Las Vegas has more in a small geographic area, and California has more malls and shopping centers overall, but neither have the geographic spread and nearly uniform level of luxury. Florida is the largest market in the country for two of the oldest and most exclusive luxury anchors in the business: Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus. Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s have similar presences in the state, too.
Gardens Mall, Palm Beach Gardens
- In Tampa, there is one premier shopping destination – International Plaza, built in 2001. It houses anchors Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Dillard’s, and a currently vacant but former Lord & Taylor store. Saks Fifth Avenue also has a mainline store here, at neighboring Westshore Plaza.
- In Orlando, the two main luxury anchors are similarly split. Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale’s, and Macy’s are at the Mall at Millenia, also built around the turn of the century. Saks and Nordstrom are at The Florida Mall, a couple miles away.
- In the Palm Beach area, two major indoor malls hold court at opposite ends of the county. The Gardens Mall is in Palm Beach Gardens (Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s, Sears) and Town Center at Boca Raton (Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom, Macy’s, Sears) is just across the Broward County line.
- In Fort Lauderdale, Neiman Marcus and Macy’s anchor the aging but elegant Galleria Mall, which is nearly on the waterfront near Downtown.
- In metro Miami, there are two major upscale indoor shopping mall destinations.
- Aventura Mall is at the north end of the county and is anchored by Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom, Macy’s, and Sears.
- Dadeland Mall is at the south end of the county and hosts Saks, Nordstrom, Macy’s, and JCPenney.
- Several other major luxury destinations are scattered, however none of them are traditional enclosed malls.
- Stores create micro-environments. Specific music is played, temperatures are regulated, store design is as good or better than most people’s homes…so naturally they are pleasant places to be. The lighting is optimal, the staff is helpful and attentive.
- Spending money is fun, and easy, when you aren’t dashing from store to store in the (a) heat, (b) cold, (c) rain, (d) crowd of protesters or schoolchildren. Malls are regulated even in the common areas for easy access.
- Even if it takes 15 minutes to find a parking space, malls are relatively efficient places if you have a couple of items to pick up, and you can easily hit all of them by walking 100 feet in a mall.
- There is a sense of accomplishment and excitement in wearing a branded shopping bag on your wrist, from store to store to the cafe or coffee stand to the car in the valet line…
- The mall is a social place – you inevitably run into friends, acquaintances, enemies, and everything in the middle. (You can achieve the same “coincidental critical mass of a social circle” on a street, but only in the largest cities with distinct walkable neighborhoods, not car-culture Florida.) This is great if you look good, feel good, or have just purchased something ridiculously expensive. Not great if you aren’t any of those things.