Today I was visiting Northern Virginia to call on a potential customer. The trip happened quickly and somehow I forgot to take any gloves with me. I needed a quick lunch and some gloves so I decided to stop by Tyson's Corner Mall, grab lunch in the food court and some gloves at LL Bean's.
I only go to couple of places at Tyson's regularly but I know exactly where to park, and I can usually be in and out in less than fifteen minutes. Parking was no challenge and almost identical to what it was like a month or so ago. The mall itself was a little more crowded but again not massively different than it is on most weekdays around noon.
LL Bean's was a different matter. Shoppers were stretched across the store in these huge lines waiting to pay for merchandise. If anyone is printing money at Tyson's it appears to be our Yankee friends from Maine.
I have a long history with LL Bean's, having first visited their Maine headquarters around midnight one November day in 1967. At the time the showroom was nothing like it is today, and Freeport was a sleepy little town. Bean's looked more like a warehouse than anything and there might have been a dozen parking spaces at their Freeport store. They have come a long way. I wore Bean boots for much of my time on the farm in the winter. I still miss the soft cotton LL Bean Tattersall shirts that they made for years. It's nice to have a LL Bean's store in Tyson's but they're going to have install some automated checkouts, or there will be lots more people like me who just turn around and walk out.
While walking to the Tyson's Food Court, I snapped this shot of a kid's Christmas concert. All in all, it was a very festive atmosphere. Most of the other stores didn't seem that crowded. The computer counters at the Apple Store were deserted, but there seemed to be a knot of people around the iPods but it was minuscule compared to the crowd in LL Bean's.
Unfortunately I didn't really have time to shop, and a big mall like Tyson's isn't exactly my favorite place to shop. After leaving Tyson's and attending to my meeting, I headed home and got another good reason to not live in Northern Virginia. Coming from Alexandria, I had just gotten on Interstate 66 going west when I noticed one of the electronic alert signs telling of a closure of I66 at 2:00 PM. Doing some quick calculations, I decided that I was going to beat the closure by ten minutes. Unfortunately I drove about ten miles and saw another sign which stated that the closure had been moved up ten minutes. My window to beat the closure had completely disappeared. As I neared the detour point, I watched for the telltale signs of brake lights. Just as I was approaching the last exit, I saw a sea of red lights, quickly got off I66, hit the detour button on my GPS system, and got rerouted. It only cost me ten minutes, but sthis is the third time this has happened, and it makes a miserable stretch of road even worse.
The traffic was pretty amazing with more trucks than normal on the way home, but I did have time to swing by my favorite shopping place, Lexington, Va. I never fail to find a convenient parking place on the street, and there are several small shops which have a great selection of merchandise without the crowds and long lines. I'm glad there is no LL Bean's in Lexington, it would destroy the peace and quiet. I slipped in several shops and there was only one where I wasn't the only customer. Of courses the stores keep fairly short hours, closing most days by 5:oo pm or shortly thereafter.
It's such a pleasure shopping in a small spot like Lexington. The shop keepers are always friendly and willing to talk. The items on display are often hand crafted or unique in their own respect. There's certainly no Christmas rush or crush. The pictures below are from the inside of one shop and the outsides of others. Take my word for it, Lexington has lots more charm and far fewer people than Tyson's Corner. There are also some nice restaurants for a lunch. Perhaps I'll get to run up next week and review one.