The official blog of Susan Landis-Steward, writer of whatever she likes, and co-founder of Puddletown Publishing Group


>It’s now December 6th and I am almost done with my Christmas shopping. It took me all night, and my fingers are tired, but I did it. . .online. I hate malls. Not just the way other people say they hate malls. I truly hate malls. They are a blight on the landscape, filled with screaming babies, unruly children, tired moms, jangling cellphones attached to the ears of every teenager and the 20th century equivalent of the hawker in every doorway. Worst of all, they lack imagination. A major sin in my book.

Every mall I’ve ever been in (the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul excepted) has been essentially the same. Two or three major anchor stores (Nordstroms, Sears, Penneys, insert your local May Company here) held together by an endless string of trendy stores du jour. You can count on such staples as Starbucks, Hallmark, Bath and Body Works, Lane Bryant, Eddie Bauer, The Limited, Sam Goodie, Walden Books, Lenscrafters, KB Toys, and stores selling cell phones. Even the restaurants , if you can call them that, are the same at every mall in the country.

One of the things I love about Manhattan is that I’ve never found the mall. I’m sure there is one….I seem to remember some sort of mall under the World Trade Center….but mostly there are just shops. And if there are malls, New Yorkers have the good sense to put them underground where they belong.

I like ‘just shops’. I like small, I like personal, I like the independents who manage to succeed without giving in and moving to the mall. Here in Oregon, I have my favorite independents. Powells and Annie Blooms for books, Music Millenium for the obvious, Northwest Wools for yarn, Pacific Wool and Fiber for spinning supplies and Rich’s Cigar store for magazines and newspapers and weird candy from foreign places.

You can walk into Powells and you are immediately assailled by the smell of old paper. This is a bookstore with a MAP, for Chrissake! The old and the new are mixed in, there are at least three floors, covering a city block, plus assorted mezzanines, rooms, and crannies. I first went to Powell’s when it was still a little tiny bookstore, covering one corner of a city block, and just one floor. Now it is the behemoth of all bookstores yet it still feels small and very Portland-ish. You can go in, sit on the floor and really look at the books. Smart parents teach their children how to find the best used copies, how to work the silly little stools that move when you kick them but stand still when you put weight on them. It has something of the feel of library stacks with a twist of maze thrown in. There are very few people I will go there with as it is not a fast food bookstore. It is designed for lingering and exploring and wandering and even the elevators take you to mysterious places: You have to choose the right one to get you there or you WILL end up somewhere else.

Music Millenium has also been around for decades and it still has that feeling of a 1960s head shop, which it was in the early years, and more music than you can imagine. Not just the pop stuff. Hell, they have music by LESBIANS who are not named k.d. or Melissa.

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Comments on: ">Bah! Humbug! And a tribute to Independent Shops" (1)

  1. In college, Powells used to be a great place to meet potential bedmates. You’re both hanging out in the Sci-fi section for 20 minutes. He’s cute. You say, “Have you read anything by this Harlan Ellison guy?” After a while he offers to buy you a coffee in the coffee shop that is actually right there in the store! You talk. You flirt. You explore the Pacific NW secion and show each other pictures of places you have loved. Two heads touching over a small map. Electricity. dot, dot, dot.

    And if nothing else, you could spend a rainy afternoon with wonderful books and maybe even go home with one.

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