16
Sep
07

Weekend Update: Redstar and Weboy visit the Natick Collection

On my third straight day of shopping (it’s Redstar’s “buy my fall wardrobeâ€? weekend), Weboy and I headed to the new Natick Collection.  “Eh,” is all I really have to say. 

I second Adam at Universal Hub re: the vertigo of standing in the old “Natick Mall” section at the doorstep of the suburban retail nirvana that is the new hall of shops.  Readers above the age of 22, beware the second story, where it’s one Abercrombie or their competitor after another.  I asked Weboy, when did we decide that the upscale wardrobe of today consisted essentially of sweatshirts and flip flops?  (If you do make your way out to Natick, check out Ruehl of Greenwich Village.  It’s as if Disney added a Village facade to Epcot, and let fans of shows like The OC and Gossip Girl decorate it according to what they’ve been told is fancy – that’d be fake fireplaces, college basement-party quality lighting and framed photos of half naked boys leaning against the walls.) 

The first floor feels more mature, definitely more pricey, and not quite at full throttle, given about one-third of the stores still are not open. They also need many more pushcarts to fill the dead space in the middle.  (I wonder if they’ll have the one where my dad can have his face emblazened on mugs for Xmas gifts for my stepmom and me.  You know, to go with the one I already have.)

As someone who lives closest to the Chestnut Hill mall, but about equidistant between Back Bay and Natick, I don’t foresee too much siphoning off from these other retail destinations due to Natick.  (I would be worried if I was the Atrium, which is the most generic of all the neighboring upscale spots, lacking the anchors of Bloomingdale’s, Barney’s, Saks, Louis Boston, etc., and having the most stores that I saw replicated at Natick.)  Boston should still have its international set and folks who prefer to shop downtown, and Chestnut Hill still has Jasmine Sola and Bloomingdale’s for the Newton/Brookline crowds.  Given that our parochialism means few of us like to drive further than 15 minutes to get what we need, I only see the Natick Collection adding to Boston’s fragmented retail market, rather than acting as a consolidator of sorts.  If anything, Natick should be avoided as it will bring together the over-caffeinated, hell-on-wheels rich suburban moms that roam the grounds of Chestnut Hill with the more slow-moving, easily confused, thick suburban crowds.

Ultimately, it’s about the kind of atmosphere in which you want to shop.  For the M.A.S., the perfect atmosphere is my living room with a beer in hand as I deliver packages I picked up for him that day at the outlets.  For me, it’s obviously a more sedate, preferably weekday experience where I can wander in peace and still find some deals.  Space and air matter; Newbury St., most outlets and the pseudo-downtowns of places like Mashpee Commons and the one in Hingham that my cousins love – all these are outdoors and offer varying degrees of “street life” and space.  In contrast, I hate “high-rise” malls like Cambridgeside and Providence Place where the stores are narrowly stacked and closing in around on you and the families and adolescent crowds.  Lighting is also key.  The Chestnut Hill Mall and Copley Place have pleasingly resisted the garish lighting that ultimately leaves the Natick Collection feeling stupifyingly similar to its traditional mall roots (or, as Adam at U. Hub put it, like the duty free section of an airport).   

I’m curious to see how the Natick Collection fares.  It’s not too often you see a Sears and Neiman Marcus sit side-by-side as you search in vain for a parking space between them.  It’s a long walk between JC Penney and Neiman Marcus, where the former has bi-lingual English-Spanish signage* and the latter’s snooty customers nonetheless ask for “Stella McCaHTney.”  I’m well aware of the $$ in the suburbs; visitors to the Natick Collection can browse the adjacent opening-in-2008 Nouvelle condos sales office as they wander from Nordstrom to Neiman’s.  But though I felt momentarily like I was in Soho as I passed the same chains that now consume that neighborhood, I thought I’d feel a lot more like I was in our version of Manhasset.  All I can say is, shame on this Masshole for being disappointed in our failure to measure up to Long Island luxury. 

 

*I’ve noticed many stores like Sears, JC Penney, and Best Buy now have bi-lingual signage, but at what I think was a Nine West I saw my first bi-lingual hiring sign today.

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