Thursday, September 25, 2008

Barton Creek Mall

When entering Barton Creek Mall I notice that, even though I came in entrance A at ground level from one of the many parking lots, I’m actually on the second floor of the mall. The lady from Lane Bryant props open her door, mall walkers are walking the interior of the mall, and workers are fixing the S from the Sears sign, which currently reads EARS. I see a girl with her camera taking a picture of the sign.

Taking the escalator down to the first floor, I look over the edge and see a sitting area. There are two couches facing each other with a wide gap for people to easily walk through and go into the first floor entrance of Sears. On both sides of each couch are chairs. The mall manager, Nancy Hedrick, explains that the theme for the mall is “country club casual.” She hopes that the various sitting areas help to emit this feeling. The mall management wants to present the image that they’re not just an ordinary mall; they can fiscally afford to bring aspects of a living room into a shopping center to make the shoppers feel more at home.

As I walk around the mall I see many other sitting areas. Some are just benches; others are comfortable-looking couches and chairs. I notice that the main people to be taking advantage of these areas are men. Most are on their cell phones. One seating area has been taken apart to make it even more comfortable for the resting shoppers. There are two couches with black pillows that were once attached to the back of the couch, but now are separate from the couch. On one of the couches there are three of the black pillows stacked on top of each other that someone used while they took a nap. I notice that the fabric on these pillows have collected many stains from the multiple users.

Next to just about every seating area, and other locations throughout the mall, are huge pots filled with plants. At one entrance there’s a granite table with a giant bouquet of flowers. I notice that the mall management makes an effort in bringing nature into the man-made building. The food court is designed with a foliage theme, displayed by an overload of leaves and greenery, in an attempt to give the mall a nature feel.

Just about every store had a different style at their opening. Some protruded out into the hallway, and some stayed flat with the original architecture. Hollister’s store opening is an elaborate tiki hut, but there is not an easily visible sign that says the store’s name. For the longest time I didn’t know what store it was, until I saw the painted name on the very bottom left of the tiki display.

My favorite thing to watch while observing the shoppers at Barton Creek was how those on the second floor mezzanine used the vantage points overlooking the floor below. Many people would walk by, trailing their hand along the railing, while looking at the other shoppers and shops below. These large openings are successful at opening up the floors so the mall doesn’t feel constraining. They also allow the skylights to bring daylight through to both floors. There are skylights all over the mall, and they don’t all look the same. On my last stop at Nordstrom’s, I notice that there is a large skylight before the entrance. When I walk under it I have to squint my eyes because it is so bright. This skylight also allows in a lot of heat. The friends having lunch and business partners having a meeting at the tables on the first floor don’t seem to be bothered by the bright light; they carry on with their conversations and meals.

On a second visit to the mall, I enter with my boyfriend through entrance C. A maintenance man enters right before us. I notice that the handicap door has an out of order sign on it. We walk through the first set of doors into a little area that smelled strongly of mildew then walked through the second set of doors. As soon as we enter the mall there is another out of order sign on the station to rent a cart.

We walk into the store called Past and Presents. There are three girls sitting on the counter by the cash registers. They are all texting on their phones and never once acknowledge us. Once we leave that store we go to In the Loop, where we are immediately greeted by a friendly hello. I ask the sales clerk what she likes and dislikes about the mall. She says she likes how the mall has everything all together in one spot and you can spend a whole day shopping just by walking store to store. Ms. Hedrick mentioned that the average time spent by a shopper in the mall is four and a half hours. The sales clerk then tells me that she hates always being harassed by the salespeople at the cell phone kiosks and the hair straightener kiosk. In the three hours at the mall, my boyfriend is stopped twice by the same T-Mobile cell phone kiosk by “what plan are you on?” being yelled at him. The cell phone salespeople work on commission, so they are persistent to get their sales.

Also while talking to the salesperson at In the Loop, I see a security guard that rides by us on his segway. This is the third security guard I’ve seen, but the only one that’s on a segway. She said that he always comes in to her store on it and asks for cookies. She explains to me that there are usually complimentary cookies at her check out counter.

Once I feel that I've made some good observations and my shopping needs have been met, my boyfriend and I find entrance C so we can head to the car. We walk through the first set of doors and notice that the mildew smell seems to have gotten even stronger. We exit, pass by the people eating on the California Pizza Kitchen patio to our left, look for my car in the large parking lot and head home.

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