Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Mary in Western Plaza

I'm a girl (it's true). And while I would never qualify myself as a girlie girl, it's fair to say that I like to look good. I'm into hot shoes and high fashion. I'm into paying good money for high quality products (I think fashion is an investment), and I'm also into looking good on a budget.

I hate the mall. Hate it. And I don't tend to like strip malls, and I certainly don't like outlet malls. Sprawl makes me anxious. I cant help it. But this is Knoxville, and we've got to take what we can get. And we're just not going to get the sort of fashion boulevards that cities like LA, Chicago, New York, Atlanta or Austin have. It's not in our cards. This is why you will rarely ever find me in West Town mall, but you will frequently find me hitting up the strip mall (plaza is the fancy word for it) boutiques.

Tulip is out for me. Why? Not really because it's a little too high fashion and too expensive for me (because it is both of those things), but because the people who work there are rude. And I'm not down with that. Kristi is kind of out for me because I don't tend to find items I love there. I do like their Nars makeup counter (Nars is nowhere else in Knoxville), but Kristi and Tulip share ownership; and just based on principles (Tulip is rude) I try to stay away.

I like Bar Denim Blues (a lot, actually), but that's a specialty shop and I force (yes, force) myself to limit my annual denim consumption. I also like the jeans and the staff at Classy Lady, though that's also a specialty shop and I will never in my life need another prom dress (and the shop's name makes me cringe: sorry).

And so Obligato has been the place for me, but I cant commit to being a die-hard fan of the place for two reasons. The first is that I've been there when the staff has been wonderful and accommodating, and I've been there when they've been flat out rude. It's inconsistent. And the thing is, no one want to go spend 200 to 500 dollars somewhere just to be made to feel like shit. It's the Pretty Woman theory. Hey!: high end boutiques! Hey! Be NICE to your patrons! They will actually spend money at your store! I do like what Obligato has to offer brand-wise, but the other issue I take is that the store is stocked almost solely with sizes zero and two. I dont know if we're deluding ourselves here, but not every woman in Knoxville is either a) in a sorority or b) teeny tiny. I wish Obligato would stock more regular sizes (like a 6 or, dare I say it, gasp, an 8). My theory is that about 10 percent of their selection is sized above a 4, and those are the pieces that always go first. Leaving 90 percent of nothing that I (and a lot of us) can wear. Anyway, Obligato is a good store. Don't get me wrong. I bought a great pair of Kasil jeans there before you could find Kasil anywhere other than LA. And they were moderately priced. But those are simply my issues.

And so there's a new favorite in town, and it comes in the form of Mary in Western Plaza (4485 Kingston Pike, (865) 450-9242). This shop is incredible! It's got a huge variety of jeans, including Citizens and Sevens. It's got tons of great labels like Diana Warner, TiBi, Nanette Lepore, CK Bradley, Velvet, BCBG, Theory, Yoana Baraschi, French Connection, Free People, Frenzii, 12th Street by Cynthia Vincent and Morrell Maxie (and two of my favorites - Oh Deer! shoes and Hanky Panky undies). It's got the cutest dresses and tops; it's got regular girl sizes! AND the staff is sooooo very friendly and accommodating. They really are wonderful. Every time I shop there, I leave with a smile on my face even if I dont purchase anything. Mary's tagline is "Collections for every pocketbook," and that could not be more true. If you have a strict budget, you can find something cute at Mary. If you have money to burn, you can find something at Mary. It's a wonderful boutique. Really and truly. I'm about to leave work and head over there right now.

As I prepare to head into retail heaven, I will leave you with the immortal words of Vivian: "You people work on commission, right? Big mistake. Big. Huge. I have to go shopping now." Hey Knoxville boutiques, take a hint from Mary: Be nice to your customers!


Anonymous said...

Mary, a personal favorite....

ck said...

i don't have anything really add to the boutiques discussion, but i agree that customer service seems to not be #1 around knoxville. opposite end of the spectrum: at the farmers market on saturday, i were trying to buy okra from a farmer and waited behind a lady who was talking with him about the weather. i tried to be patient, but after ten minutes of standing there, he hadn't even looked at me or said, "i'll be right with you."
he didn't seem to care if he sold me anything, so i left. i'm always amazed by merchants who snub the people that they need convince to buy their product, whether it's organic okra or $200 jeans. talk about biting the hand that feeds you.

The Modern Gal said...

Em, I'm so glad you've scoped out the boutique scene. I love fashion too, but nearly every boutique experience I've had anywhere involves a snotty staff. I will definitely try Mary's though.

Seriously, boutiques. You're not gaining anything by having a spoon up your you-know-what.

Mickey said...

Why did I read this entire post? Because Em wrote it. That said, I take nothing whatsoever from it, but I don't think I'm supposed to.