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City Guide 2014

Shopping Inside the Loop

Photo: Sunni Hammer, License: N/A

Sunni Hammer

One of my favorite learning curves in a new city is finding places to shop. It’s a necessity and a treat—everyone needs both staples and sprees. But, while retail-friendly developments will catch your eye, it can be tough to discern if they indeed hold what you’re looking for. Here’s central SA’s three main shopping locales, each with something different to offer.

The Pearl

The Pearl Brewery’s retail collection might not be as well-known as its restaurants or Saturday farmer’s market, but it is the place to go downtown for a solid concentration of unique gifts and special treats. If you really want to wow an out-of-town guest with a special taste of San Antonio, consider a custom-made guayabera from Dos Carolinas, a local author’s latest work at the Twig bookstore or perhaps a tortilla press or talavera ware from Melissa Guerra’s cook shop. Alamo Heights exports Adelante Boutique and LeeLee shoes offer high-quality fashion you won’t see on every other person at the office, and Leighelena’s jewelry is unusual and fun.

My holiday shopping was saved by a recent trip to the Pearl with a big stop at the new fair trade shop Ten Thousand Villages. Full of responsibly made home décor, jewelry and other small gifts, I was able to pick up several nice and affordable pieces for a wide variety of friends. I rewarded myself for finishing my list next door at The Tiny Finch, a Brooklyn-style boutique filled with luxuriant, eclectic goods.

Verdict: Best for window shopping, gifts and small splurges, especially when framed by a few cocktails at Blue Box or Nao. The Pearl is also experimenting with pop-up stores, so keep checking in.

North Star Mall

North Star Mall, at the intersection of San Pedro and Loop 410, enjoyed several decades as San Antonio’s premier shopping destination, eventually eroding support for Downtown’s retail center (thanks a lot). However, indoor malls are now relegated to the same antique status as glass-roofed gallerias and open-air agoras. North Star has undergone some major renovation in the last few years and the upgrade is welcomed. Yet, it continues to be high on nostalgia—the only place for miles where you’ll find a FootLocker, a Spencer’s Gifts or an Auntie Anne’s Pretzels.

But what malls still hold the corner on are department stores, and for some shopping dilemmas, those are the only solutions. North Star Mall has Dillard’s, JCPenney, Macy’s and a very nice, old-school Saks Fifth Avenue. As part of my (and many women’s) new year cleanse, I purge my unmentionables drawer and buy all new underthings. Ladies, forget that Victoria’s Secret silliness (although they have a huge store at North Star Mall)—a traditional lingerie department is your best friend for a non-commission based bra fitting, a wide variety of panties and shape wear, and a few new sets of fancy, old-fashioned pjs.

Verdict: Best for annual basics, perfume for grandma, reliving your glory days. Alamo Drafthouse Park North is around the corner for a prime shopping-and-a-movie combination.

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