by Henry Charles Mishkoff

Chapter 3: I Go to the Mall. I Get a Suit.

August 3, 2001
The Grand Opening in the Grand Court

By mid-summer, the afternoon temperatures in Dallas were regularly topping off over the 100 mark. But I wasn't concerned about the heat on the morning of the first Friday in August, because I was relaxing in air-conditioned comfort at the Grand Opening ceremonies for The Shops at Willow Bend.

The event was staged in the mall's central atrium, an area that Taubman called "the Grand Court." The obligatory speeches were mercifully short. Robert S. Taubman, CEO of the company that shares his name (and son of the company's founder, A. Alfred Taubman), talked about how pleased his company was to be opening a mall in Plano. State Senator Florence Shapiro, a former Plano mayor, spoke of how pleased she was that The Taubman Company had decided to build their mall in her city. A yellow ribbon was cut, the Imperial Brass1 struck up an appropriately invigorating tune, everyone applauded, and the mall was open for business.

Even though I was in the midst of a squabble with the mall's owner, I was thrilled that opening day had finally arrived. I'm a big fan of malls, something that I recognize is not especially fashionable these days, as shopping malls regularly take the blame for every negative social phenomenon from rampant consumerism to the decay of urban centers to the corruption of American teenagers. But being a confirmed suburbanite, shopping malls give me a place to hang out, walk around, and people-watch. And being a confirmed Dallasite, malls provide a setting for me to do all that without having to risk sunstroke. (You might say that, if it weren't for shopping malls, people would be walking around their neighborhoods with their families and conversing with their neighbors. But if you would say that, you've obviously never lived through a summer in Dallas.)

I took a leisurely stroll around the mall, wandering into a few of The Shops, but mostly window shopping. The mall was airy and its motif was decidedly willowy. Willow-leaf patterns were incorporated into the floor tiles. Willow-branch designs were etched into the glass dividers. A willow sculpture graced the food court. An Ian Fry2 willow mural arched languidly over the main entrance.

Many of the retailers were names you'd recognize if you'd ever set foot in a shopping mall anywhere in the United States: Foot Locker, Radio Shack, Casual Corner, and so on. But a non-trivial number of The Shops were occupied by retailers who were notably more upscale than your typical mall business: The upper floor of the mall was populated by a number of high-priced boutiques that sported familiar high-fashion names like Armani, St. John, Hugo Boss, and Escada. The bust of the dot-com economy was starting to hit the Dallas area pretty hard; I remember wondering if Taubman hadn't been overly optimistic in launching such a lavish enterprise at such a risky time.

I wandered into Neiman Marcus and strolled over to their menswear department. They were featuring some strikingly attractive suits, but it took only a few minutes for me to realize that they were well out of my price range.

However, I needn't have worried, because only a few short days after my delightful introduction to their mall, The Taubman Company was thoughtful enough to send me a suit.

For free.

Next: I've Been Served

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