Enjoying a day of shopping at the mall

When was the last time you took a walk through the Ohio Valley Mall in St. Clairsville?

I had the chance to do that on Friday. It was my husband’s birthday; Mike was in the market for some new shirts and ties for work, and I was happy to get those for him since I hadn’t taken time to buy him a gift in advance.

We both grow up during an era when the thing to do on a Saturday afternoon or a day off from school was to go to the mall. It had been a long time, though, since we had reverted to those old habits and invested a few hours in a shopping spree.

On Friday, we did one heck of a job of shopping around. We spent so much time hunting for those work clothes and just generally looking around that we began and ended our trip with meals.

The day out started with lunch at Mehlman’s Cafeteria. Although we were probably the youngest customers in the restaurant, we got just what we were looking for –warm, tasty comfort food. We each had the stuffed chicken breasts with mashed potatoes and gravy.

From there, we made our way to the mall and kicked things off by getting haircuts. Mike went to Sport Clips in the newest development on the mall’s perimeter while I visited the Regis salon inside the main mall building.

When we were finished, we began shopping in earnest. It did not take Mike long to find some shirts he really liked. We went to Macy’s, Boscov’s, and Sears. We also visited several smaller specialty shops, such as Payless Shoe Source and Bath & Body Works.

One thing I like about the mall is the ease of access it offers to a variety of stores. While a stand-alone Macy’s store would have provided much of what we were after, by simply walking through the mall we got to pass many other establishments and see what they had to offer, whether we actually went inside all of them or not.

During this particular visit, I found the mall to be as clean and pleasant as always, with comfortable seating available along each of its concourses. The fact that several storefronts are vacant was noticeable, but those vacancies did not impact the overall appeal of the experience. I am just glad to know that Marshalls will open early next month and that other retailers are on the way to help fill those voids.

After we completed our tour of the mall we still felt like shopping, so we headed to The Highlands in Ohio County. Visits to Target, J.C. Penney and Kohl’s quickly added to the pile of packages in the trunk of my car. Again, we mainly purchased clothing, but we also browsed the stores’ selections of home goods, sparkling jewelry and stylish shoes.

That shopping experience also was a positive one, but I couldn’t help but notice how we simply bypassed many of the stores at The Highlands. While we drove by a number of shops that were new additions since the last time we had visited that shopping complex, we didn’t’ bother to stop and park the car so we could visit them.

Our shopping style during our trip to The Highlands was less like our casual stroll through the mall than it was like one of our typical trips to the grocery store–get in, grab what you need and get back out.

We concluded our day with dinner at Olive Garden before we left The Highlands. It was delicious, and I still have some leftover steak gorgonzola pasta in my fridge.

The retail industry has weathered some tough conditions over the past several months. Many brick and mortar stores have closed their doors, and most attribute their struggles to competition from online retailers.

I have heard a few of my friends and many younger people say they prefer online shopping. They can make their purchases from home in their pajamas and then simply wait for their merchandise to be delivered to their door.

That type of shopping is just not for me. Of course I have purchased a few specialty items — such as magic tricks for my husband to perform — online. But I find that no matter how other people tout the conveniences of online shopping, it simply doesn’t appeal to me.

I prefer to be able to see and touch the items I am buying before I make a purchase. I like to know whether a shirt will be soft and comfortable or if it will be scratchy. I want to try my new shoes on before I leave the store, so I won’t end up with blisters on my heels or painfully pinched toes.

I also enjoy the sights, smells and sounds of shops I don’t even go into as I pass through the mall. The Yankee Candle store, for example, emits a lovely perfume that changes with the seasons. I rarely buy candles, but I do enjoy experiencing that aroma as I shop.

As we have seen throughout the first half of this year, though, those stores won’t be there for long if we don’t shop in them. If you haven’t been to the mall lately, I urge you to make a visit and see what you’ve been missing.