Oh, the shopping you could do

Kevin Cowherd

February 17, 1992|By Kevin Cowherd

THIS CAME to me in the mall one day as we walked past Just Shower Caps and Hal's House of Plaids and the bench where the disaffected young people with green hair and nose rings hang out smoking Salems.

A refrigerator magnet store. No, hear me out. Call it something cutesy like, oh, Stick to Me. Or maybe Fridge Friends.

Twelve hundred feet of floor space, is what I'm thinking. Row after row after row of refrigerator magnets gleaming under the track lighting, everything from those little fruit jobs and "I Love My Grandma" missives to the more elaborate magnets with the Ansel Adams scenes etched in polyurethane.

Look at the hassle you go through now to buy a refrigerator magnet.

Maybe you go to one of those gourmet kitchen stores where they make you wade through spatulas and pot holders while an officious woman in a white apron with her hair in a bun shoots you dirty looks if you even brush against the oven mitts.

Or you go to a discount store like K mart, where you're liable to run into someone's senile 82-year-old grandfather rolling a radial tire down the aisle while sniffing a can of wood sealant. Who needs that?

The point is, the age of specialization is here, pal. Do one thing and do it well. Especially in malls. Hey, I hear a certain famous chain of beef stick-and-cheese salons -- no names, please -- is thinking about dropping its whole line of smoked sausage and going just with cheese.

Maybe only Muenster cheese, too. Can you imagine?

Anyway, the other idea I had is Strictly Terriers, which would be pretty much what the name implies.

At long last you'd have a pet store devoted to one of the hottest breed of dogs around. Nothing in the store but terriers (Airedale, fox, Scotch, Jack Russell, you name it) and terrier-related products: custom-made leashes and collars, how-to books on raising your terrier, I (Heart) My Terrier bumper stickers, gag books like "Terrier Spoken Here."

There would also be a bulletin board near the cash register crammed with news from the terrier breeder world, as well as addresses and phone numbers of terrier aficionados in your area.

Someone comes in looking for a beagle or something, you show him the door.

"You want the Beagle Barn," you say, politely but firmly. "Up the escalator and to the left, next to Sears."

Pretty soon, each time the little bell above the door jingles, you'll know it's not someone looking for iguana food or one of those pecking bars for a parakeet.

I'll tell you something else that would be huge in a mall: a shrink. There are a lot of miserable people out there and we're not doing enough to get them off the streets and into the malls where they belong. Not to mention where they might spend a few bucks and get the economy moving in the right direction.

Anyway, you go with a '90s theme here and call the shrink's office something like, oh, Mind Games. No, maybe that's too flip. How about What's Yer Problem? No, too . . . I don't know, challenging.

Wait a minute! Phobias N' Things. There you go.

Now, unlike Strictly Terriers, we'd want to expand the focus a little and treat a broad range of problems: anxiety, depression, mood swings, food dysfunctions, simple shyness, etc.

At least for the first few months, advertising would be an imperative. You'd want a lot of signs in the front window geared to mall traffic, such as:

"Unsettling Dreams Interpreted While U Wait!"

"Complete Jungian Analysis in 30 Minutes or Your Money Back!"

"Ask About Our Rebates for Multiple-Personality Disorders!"

Look, the place would be nothing fancy. We'd go with standard-issue waiting room furniture in muted gray tones and year-old People magazines. Maybe a nice aquarium off to one side. The emotionally distressed are said to find fish soothing.

The therapist's office would be a similarly no-frills set-up: two lumpy chairs, couch, glass coffee table with the requisite copy of Architectural Digest, artificial plant in the corner.

And get this: For those patients who demand privacy, at the end of a session, instead of exiting through the waiting room, you'd go through a breezeway that leads into the Burger King next door!

Is that neat or what? Again, the goal is not necessarily to help these patients, but to get them in the mall where they might patronize the other stores.

Speaking of Burger King, it probably goes without saying that we should jazz up some of these food courts. One possible direction -- I'm just thinking out loud here -- involves Thai food.

Nobody is doing Thai.

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