ON THE LOWER UPPER WEST SIDE, the big-box stores, from Loehmann’s to Zara to Filene’s, have been moving in for some time. There is also some shopping action near Columbia University. But now my neighborhood, too (between 96th and 110th Streets), is being mallified. A row of shops—Whole Foods, Sephora, Michaels (without apostrophe), and T.J. Maxx—flourishes on Columbus Avenue in the 90s, with Modell’s (with apostrophe) just opening and Borders on the way (the sign says). Around the corner on Broadway and 100th Street an Urban Outfitters now stands as one of the few outposts of fashion in these parts (after a fire destroyed the Gap at 96th Street, it never reopened).
Even further downtown, things are evolving. Barnes & Noble, once the book lover’s bad guy, is being replaced on 66th Street by Century 21 (my inner literary critic mourns; my inner fashion-hunter is yipping like a beagle pup). And threatening Fairway, Citarella, perhaps even Zabar’s is the behemoth of Trader Joe’s at 72nd and Broadway.
I hate the homogeneity imposed by the chains—it’s hard for independent shops to survive, given Manhattan rents these days; all the interesting ones seem to have fled to Brooklyn or Queens. But my guilty secret is that it’s fun having access to a million different goods without going far from home. I love being able to buy art supplies, stick-on jewels, and cheap ribbon at Michaels; have dinner off the salad bar at Whole Foods; assess the bath products, foods, and nightgowns at T.J. Maxx; try on lipsticks at Sephora. And just the other day I found an ecru and navy striped polyester blouse—looks and feels like silk—at Urban Outfitters.
This mall stuff could get tricky.