Over the weekend, I have to say I became an even more enthusiastic fan of local shopping than I already was. It all started when a friend I hadn’t seen for a while asked me to tag along as she did a big family shopping trip. Sure, I said, as long as we could first […]

Over the weekend, I have to say I became an even more enthusiastic fan of local shopping than I already was. It all started when a friend I hadn’t seen for a while asked me to tag along as she did a big family shopping trip. Sure, I said, as long as we could first make a quick stop at Olive Fine Organic Living to take advantage of the moving sale (remember I told you about it last week?).

After getting a great deal on a pair of 100 percent organic pillows, I settled in as her sidekick heading north to the intersection of Port Washington Road and Highway 60 in Grafton to make a clean sweep of the Target, Best Buy, Pet Smart, Kohl’s, Home Depot, Michaels and OfficeMax stores, all located in one of those sprawling shopping complexes. Because just about every store was in plain sight of each other, my guess was hitting them all would be a quick piece of cake, a simple matter of zooming in, parking, shopping, heading off to the next store, parking, shopping etc., etc. But, unfortunately, that’s not quite how it played out. After filling a cart at Target and Home Depot, my friend’s attempt to zip from the north exit of the parking lot directly across Highway 60 to shop other stores just across the street was stymied by a right-turn only sign and a long non-crossable median strip, which left just one option. Drive east on Highway 60 AWAY from the shopping area, cross County C, make a u-turn in a restaurant parking lot, and then head BACK to Port Washington Road to maneuver additional traffic lane snags. Are you kidding me? Logically, what sense did it make to establish a mega shopping area without putting in place expedient traffic patterns to make accessing the stores as easy as possible for consumers? On top of this, some rather restrictive parking lot design and few convenient entries made maneuvering the concentration of national stores spread around the intersection a little too frustrating for my taste. I definitely felt out of my element.

I’m not saying this sort of big-box shopping doesn’t have its place because in our culture, there’s no getting around it, it’s here to stay. I’m just saying that it’s not my cup of tea. In this economy, if I’m going to be enticed to spend my money, I want more than a rushed, impersonal, pre-packaged shopping experience with little personality. I’m happier exploring the variety and interest inherent in small independent shops and unique retail neighborhoods. Spending a day grabbing bits and pieces of conversation while hunting down parking spots, joining throngs of other Saturday shoppers pushing massive carts under the glare of unflattering florescent lighting and getting all snarled up in traffic fell short of spending quality time with a friend. So I made her promise the next time we shop together it’ll be strolling along Silver Spring Drive or Brady Street, weaving our way through the Historic Third Ward, The Village of Wauwatosa or Downtown Waukesha, checking out what East Town or Shorewood are up to, ferreting out the boutiques of Mequon or Brookfield or maybe even driving out to Cedarburg, Kohler or Delafield for a day trip. Not surprisingly, she wholeheartedly agreed.

Photo by Jean Claude Dhien.

Now onto something that’s anything but boring. Johnny Weir, the American champion figure skater (currently ranked 12th in the world), is busy riding the crest of his popularity thanks to his ‘reality’ TV series Be “Good Johnny Weir” and appearances as a judge on “Skating with the Stars.” He’s also swinging by Boswell Book Company Jan. 19 (5 p.m.) to promote and sign copies of his new memoir Welcome to My World. As fans of this fellow find him utterly fabulous, how could an evening filled with Weir’s quick and clever wit and wildly entertaining anecdotes of a life celebrating pop culture, skating and fashion be anything but great fun? 2559 N. Downer Ave., 414-332-1181, boswell.indiebound.com.

Good news for denim lovers on a budget. On January 18, Jeanerations opens its doors, offering a broad selection of high-quality resale jeans and denim fashions for infants, children, tweens, teens and adults (including maternity styles, workman’s carpenter pants and overalls thrown in for good measure). According to owner Kourtney Steven, the boutique will focus on one-stop thrifty shopping. With labels such as Lucky, Aeropostale, Gap, Ann Taylor, American Eagle Outfitters and Seven for All Mankind, all priced between $2.99-$24.99 and special half-off discount days, it’s definitely tailor made for tight economic times. Opening Day specials include complimentary Krispy Kreme donuts and coffee (11 a.m.–1 p.m. or while supplies last), free T-shirt with purchase of $50 or more, 15 percent off entire purchase of $40 or more, and $5 off purchases of $30 or more (limit one promotion per customer). Got clean, gently used denim you’d like to add to the mix? The store’s Jeanius program offers Dollars 4 Denim (30 percent of projected resale value in cash) as well as Trade 4 Treasure (50 percent of projected resale value in merchandise trade). Like I said, it’s all about saving money here. 240 N. Milwaukee St., 414-223-5576, jeanerationsmke.com.