By Annette Gallagher Weisman
Cincinnati magazine – December 2004

A visit to Easton Town Center in Columbus brings a reluctant shopper out of the closet.

My idea of a shopping spree is a pair of clogs and a collection of essays. Except when I travel: My closet is full of fanciful purchases from places as disparate as Connemara and Copenhagen. It seems I need to take a trip to come out of the shopping closet and into the stores. So when my friend JoAnna suggested going to the Easton Town Center, near Columbus, I thought hmm…it”s not exactly Paris or London, but I’ve had a quick tour of this upscale shopping center before and liked it. Besides her birthday is coming up soon. It would be a great place to buy her a gift and take her to lunch.

The largely outdoor setting and attractive architecture and landscaping is reminiscent of a small town in a Norman Rockwell painting. With 2.9 million square feet of retail space, you could literally shop till you drop, but here, the process is more fun. Easton is a shopping gateway for the day or the weekend.

I agreed to meet JoAnna at Easton. It’s an easy, if boring, drive from Cincinnati, but the two hours passed quickly listening to my CDs, beginning serenely enough with some Chopin concertos. By the time I passed the outlet stores at exit 65, I was screaming to the Eagles “Life in the Fast Lane,” my voice elevated to rock star decibels; I was one happy escapee on the lam from Indian Hill.

We meet at 10:30 a.m. at Guest Services, in the Station Building, where I picked up a map. And, because I’d driven more than 50 miles, I received a coupon book good for shops, restaurants, and more,. Nordstrom was first on our list. A parade of footwear greeted us at the entrance, including multi-colored rabbit fur boots, gaily patterned rain boots, and all kinds of Uggs. After trying on designer shoes that made walking an art form, I checked out make-up bags by Lulu Guinness, while JoAnna, a former model, bought the latest trend in eye wear, a pair of Jackie O.-like Chanel sunglasses.

While window shopping, I noticed cars parked on the street. The meter costs 25 cents per 15 minutes; a bit steep, but handy for some, and a portion of the money and any fines go to charity. There is, however, abundant free parking, and you can also take a trolley from one end of “town” to the other.

At Yves Delorme, I bought JoAnna a present. This small French boutique has bed, bath, and table linens, decorative plates, glasses, cookbooks, and other items that make ideal gifts. JoAnna loved a faux lily of the valley plant in a charming container, which brought back fond memories of her grandmother’s garden in Wisconsin. Despite the chill in the air, the sun was out, so we opted to have lunch at Bon Vie, one of the many restaurants that have outdoor dining. We both ordered their superb, fluffy chicken and veggie omelette, a mixed green salad, bubbly water, and a cappuccino. OK, and a glass of wine. We had a nice view of the fountains in Central Park and nearby stores, including Henri Bendel, which–sadly for us–wasn’t opening till the following week. Smaller than the New York department store, it is the only other location in the U.S., featuring color cosmetics by renowned make-up artists, such as Trish McEvoy and Kevyn Aucoin, as well as Bendel’s Home Line fragrances.

After lunch, we continued strolling. JoAnna spied a new , short-cropped blazer at BCBG Max Azria. While she investigated, I popped into the very hip Max Studio. It had pretty slips of dresses in chiffon and silk, lots of purses and belts, and creatively designed suits ideal for 20-to-30 somethings and maybe me–if the South Beach Diet works.

I picked up Angel perfume by Thierry Mugler at the discount store Perfumania. It also sells popular Spanish brands, like Jesus del Pozo’s On Ella, hard to find in America.

We didn’t make it to Harry & David, well known for its gourmet gifts, but did drop by Trader Joe’s, a small, reasonably priced supermarket that sells healthy and tasty edibles. (One just opened in Kenwood.) At Easton, it’s located near the Residence Inn and Courtyard by Marriott. The popular “Two Buck Chuck,” a surprisingly palatable California table wine by Charles Shaw, sells here for a whopping $3.39 per bottle.

The nearby A.D. Farrow Co. Harley-Davidson store doesn’t sell bikes, unlike the one in downtown Columbus. what it does have is a wide selection of merchandise featuring the name this dealership, the oldest authentic Harley supplier in the U.S. Check out the dog dishes and baby clothes. Despite my rock star aspirations, I wasn’t born to be wild enough and passed on a Harley leather jacket.

Instead, I indulged in a set of smooth as silk Italian Hotel linens at Restoration Hardware and seriously considered an old-fashioned turn-table for those LPs left over from my Beatlemania days.

The Container Store, our last stop, is known for its Elfa and Metro systems, which will organize any room in your house. The store even offers free space-planning advice. We were also happy to hear that Crate & Barrel, a terrific home store, opens here soon, which is much more convenient than driving to Cleveland.

With more than 150 stores, restaurants to suit every palate, a 30-screen movie theater and even a cabaret and comedy club, it was impossible to see everything in the time we had. I’m coming back with my husband for the weekend to do some serious holiday shopping. By then, they’ll be festive lighting and decorations, a 50-foot Christmas tree, Santa’s Workshop, carolers, and carriage rides. No word yet on whether Santa will be outsourcing his entire operation to Easton, but you never know.