October 22, 2014

Power Shopper

An ode to Hermes, Cartier, Saks et al.—the early gossip notwithstanding.

Actual bits and pieces of conversation overheard, or personally involved in, circa 2006:

"They’re ruining the last bit of Naples left."
"All the charm is gone."
"I’d like to see what happens when it rains and those tiles get wet!"
"Well, it’s just ridiculous. I won’t go there, that’s for sure."

And what, you might inquire, engendered such derision, such righteous indignation? Alvin’s Island? The proposed Cap d’Antibes? Mangrove depletion? Blues jeans at the Phil?

No, these conversations were about Waterside Shops, the newly renovated shopping complex in north Naples. And, not to pat my own Power Shopping shoulder quite so hard as to make me stumble in my four-inch Gucci heels, I dissented, vocally and indignantly, right from the start.

Like it or not, Naples is not, nor has it been for a very long time, a quaint fishing village. We all need to just strike that overused phrase from our vocabulary the same way we managed to drop horseless carriage, penny candy and Gibson Girl.

Admit it: The new Waterside Shops are glorious, and you can’t wait to get there again. Nor can I. Waterside is exactly what other, slowly dying shopping areas in Naples should learn from, if not flat-out emulate.

The ultimate test of any new venture is the opinion of an impartial party. I happened to have one available. Fellow author Tasha Alexander had a hankering for a few days of sunshine last month. Being a Tennessee resident, she’d never paid much attention to the political or shopping atmosphere of Southwest Florida. But as a homeowner in Franklin, a wealthy suburb adjacent to celebrity-rich Nashville, she is also no stranger to fine shopping. She was a compliant, if utterly unaware, test subject for a visit to Waterside.

I’m proud to say that she was mightily impressed—without prodding even. We started at BrickTop’s for lunch, and though they’d recently discontinued my favorite steak sandwich, they had added a lobster roll, and it served as a pleasant primer for the rest of our day.

From the shoe department at Saks Fifth Avenue (the Christian Louboutins made our knees weak), to the cashmere scarves at Hermès, the sleek simplicity of Ralph Lauren and the sunglass-worthy sparkle of Tiffany & Co., there’s no question that Naples has turned into the upscale shopping heaven we’ve been bragging about for so many years.

New York City shopping trips with the girls? Fun, yes, but no longer necessary. I snap up lipsticks at M.A.C., Tasha nearly gets lost in the baking section at Williams-Sonoma, and neither of us can seem to haul ourselves out of the massage chairs at The Sharper Image. OK, I’ll be honest; I got one. I’m sitting in it now, working. Does my relaxation infuse my words with ease and … Oh. Sorry, fell asleep there. Where was I? Ah yes, Waterside.

The place is packed, but not uncomfortably so. In fact, despite the naysayers, Waterside Shops feels the way Naples felt in better years, in more profitable, happy years. Shoppers are smiling, they’re carrying bags filled with, one can only assume, actual purchases. There are groups of women chatting, men admiring watches in windows, valets scurrying to retrieve Bentleys. In short, Waterside is hopping.

We stop shopping long enough to grab a chai tea latte at Starbucks and wander though the center of the mall, one of the spaces decried as ruined the previous year. There is live music being performed, and Silver Spoon’s outside bar is filled with people, laughing and talking to each other.

The gorgeous new tile feels fine beneath our heels. It wasn’t raining, but it would appear that the walkways are well protected for that eventuality, so we can toss that argument. The shop facades are modern without being vulgar, and it’s all sparkling clean.

We both admire the tiled water features; the brightly colored glass sculptures atop elegant, stainless-steel bases; and the massive, beautifully designed pots filled with well-tended greenery. I like those pots so much that my new author photos were taken against one as a backdrop.

Before we go home, Tasha has stocked up on soaps at Crabtree & Evelyn, and I’ve made notes of items in Anthropologie, Cartier and Coach to drop as subtle hints as my birthday approaches.

Am I gushing? Unapologetically. As a resident of Southwest Florida for almost 40 years, I am thrilled to see our area coming alive again in the right ways. There is true beauty here, thought and care, vigilant maintenance and high standards, and isn’t that why we’re all here, why we came?

After Tasha winged her way back to Tennessee, I had lunch at Waterside with three lovely women. Two couldn’t believe I’d ever heard the things I did during the renovation, but the third admitted that she, herself, had said those very things. And then she admitted that she was now there two or three times a week.

If you were one of them, the men and women I overheard or spoke with directly, have you changed your mind? If not, your Power Shopper implores you to stop being stubborn. She only has your best shopping interests at heart.

Don’t Miss At Waterside

BrickTop’s
Beef Tenderloin Flatbread
Grilled Chicken Salad
Mongolian Pork Chop

M.A.C. Cosmetics
Pro Longwear Lipcolor
Prep + Prime Skin
Mineralize Eye Shadow

Saks Fifth Avenue
Christian Louboutin Architek Slingbacks
Dolce & Gabbana Satin Underwire Chemise

Hermès
Cashmere and Silk Scarf

Anthropologie
Firefly Belt
Lofli Denim Trousers

Williams-Sonoma
Rectangular Pâté en Croute Mold
The Williams-Sonoma Collection, Soup

Cartier
Caresse d’Orchidées par Cartier Ring
Ralph Lauren
Black Label Evelyn Stretch Crepe Pant
Black Label Beatrice Radzimir Blouse

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