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Published: Saturday, 5/13/2006

Shopping: Array of choices could run shopping enthusiasts ragged

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Shoppers at Westfield Franklin Park can find 111 specialty shops and four anchor stores.
Shoppers at Westfield Franklin Park can find 111 specialty shops and four anchor stores.
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There s no question that it s easy to shop online. And home shopping parties have come a long way since the times of Tupperware.

But for those looking to get out, relax, or chase away the boredom with some good ol fashion retail therapy, a plethora of destinations await.

Whether looking for a weekend experience or just a few hours at the mall, shopping can be much more than a quick trip for necessary items. There are outdoor malls and triple-layered shopping destinations. Just a short drive away, shoppers can find antiques or one-of-a-kind arts.

Downtown, they can find all things Toledo.

Officially, retail therapy is the act of buying to improve one s mood. Unofficially, it s an excuse to spend the weekend shopping.

And local residents don t have to go far.

Calling itself the premier super regional shopping center destination serving the Toledo metropolitan area, Westfield Franklin Park offers 1.2 million square feet of hy-style shopping. With 111 specialty shops and four anchor stores, the center offers the Toledo area s largest, and most varied, buying opportunities.

We call it a destination, said Sara Young, the center s marketing director, adding that about 11 million visitors are expected a year.

The mall announced the recent opening of Forever 21, the June opening of Elephant Bar Restaurant, and that the Swedish retailer H&M will be setting up shop. For more information, go online at www.westfield.com/franklinpark/.

Offering a different experience are the outdoor shops of the Town Center at Levis Commons in Perrysburg. Located off State Rt. 25 near I-475, the development looks more like a small-city downtown than a mall.

With nearly 30 stores, several restaurants, and a movie theater complex, Levis Commons is the first lifestyle center to open in metro Toledo, giving shoppers a chance to spend the day shopping outdoors. For more information, go online at leviscommons.com.

If you are interested in malls, there are plenty within easy reach. In Cleveland, nine malls can be found in the metropolitan area; information is available online at shopcleveland.com/shop/.

Ann Arbor is home to Briarwood Mall just off I-94.

And about 75 miles north of Toledo, the Somerset Collection in Troy, Mich., bills itself as the destination for power walkers, people watchers, and power shoppers.

The Somerset Collection features more than 180 stores, ranging from Gucci to Gap and four prominent department stores, including Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Nordstrom.

For information, go to www.-thesomersetcollection.com.

But Toledo is not without its high-end appeal. More stores have opened in the city s downtown that attract those looking for that unique something.

Jim Donnelly, president and chief executive officer for the Greater Toledo Convention and Business Bureau, said downtown Toledo offers specialty shopping.

The streets aren t as crowded as the malls, and downtown offers plenty of parking. Once there, shoppers can peruse the exclusive items at the Paula Brown Shop on Monroe Street, the lavish shoes at Scarpe s, and the fine furs at Roth Furs.

With more restaurants opening and small groceries now available downtown, Toledo is a place to spend the day, if not the weekend, Mr. Donnelly said.

We re never going to have another box store downtown, he said. What you want is specialty retailing that people can t find anywhere else.

Shopping opportunities downtown and beyond can be found online at dotoledo.org/gtcvb.

Specialty gifts and handmade crafts are what draws thousands of people to the small town of Grand Rapids, Ohio, year after year. Acknowledging that the city offers more for a day trip rather than a weekend, Jackie Matzinger said the motto of the town is shopping, dining, sightseeing.

There are unique little gift shops, some galleries, and visitors can walk the canal, said Ms. Matzinger, a member of the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce and owner of Front Street Framing. We even have benches on the street where the men can be found while their wives are in stores shopping.

The mood is slower paced and the downtown feel is real, she said. But avoid coming on Monday because many retailers take the day off. More information is available at grandrapidsohio.com.

About 125 miles to the west, in Shipshewana, Ind., shopoholics looking for handmade work by artisans can find plenty of ideas in the heart of Amish country.

The small town, just minutes from the Indiana Toll Road, is home to about 65 shops, including woodworking and furniture as well as quilt shops and fabric outlets. For more information, go online at shipshewana.com.

A short 45-minute drive north on U.S. 23 will take area shoppers into the heart of Ann Arbor, known as much for its unique shopping as for its culture and for being the home of the University of Michigan.

Although shoppers can find everything from artwork to college football garb, it is the city s abundance of bookshops that many people talk about.

With nearly 40 bookshops in Ann Arbor and vicinity, an avid reader can spend several days going from store to store. The city has large booksellers such as Borders, Barnes & Noble, and Waldenbooks, as well as small specialty shops such as Aunt Agatha s, which sells new and used mystery and true crime books.

For more information or a list of bookstores, visit the Ann Arbor Convention and Visitors Bureau online at annarbor.org.

Also north of Toledo and not far off U.S. 23 is the village of Blissfield, where antique hunters from all over converge. Matt Kester, owner of Blissfield Antique Mall, said antique stores have been a predominant part of the small village for about two decades, although it has been a bit more recent that it was added as a must-do on the antique circuit.

The more [antique shops] you have, the more of a draw you are, he said. It takes [visitors] two to three hours if they want to look at everything. Add on the train ride, the gifts and the crafts, and they re here all day.

A list of Michigan s antique destinations, including Blissfield, is available on the Web at mi-antiques.com.

Although shopping maestros can create a symphony of opportunities in Toledo and surrounding areas for fun and unique gifts, extravagant clothes and accessories, and one-of-a-kind works of art, don t forget visitors who may be interested in some uniquely Toledo items.

A trip downtown will give shoppers a chance to pick up Mud Hens gear at the Fifth-Third Field Swamp Shop, grab some grub at Tony Packo s new restaurant, Packo s at the Park, and stack up on glassware at Libbey Glass Outlet in the Erie Street Market.

Go ahead, get something for yourself.

Contact Erica Blake at: eblake@theblade.com or 419-724-6076.



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