Sono Collection

Why Do We Shop?

Of course, the simple answer is to buy things we need and/or to see stuff we desire.

We also shop for connectivity. No, not IT connectivity, but rather our fundamental desire to connect with other human beings. In a word we seek opportunities to socialize. Since ancient times mankind has sought gathering places. Bazaars and souqs dating back at least 3,000 years evolved into larger scale, often mixed-use office and retail developments referred to as CBDs — Central Business Districts. Walt Disney’s childhood memories of growing up in Marceline, Missouri inspired him to create a core area in his original ‘Happiest Place On Earth’ theme park — Disneyland that celebrated and emulated small town America of a bygone era.  Since its creation in 1956 visitors continue to enjoy this nostalgic tribute known as ‘Main Street USA.’

What made small town America so attractive?

In a  couple  of words — ‘human-scale’ and coalescence; in contemporary idiom — ‘user friendly.’ People did not feel diminished by much larger-than-life streetscapes. ‘Downtowns’ we’re easily accessible and pedestrian-friendly. They were designed to serve the local community versus the regional mega-malls of today designed to serve a mammoth regional population. The model for ‘Main Street U.S.A.' and historic preservation, in general, embodied and cultivated social interaction and fostered our intrinsic desire to experience a genuine sense of community. As large-scale, unbridled urbanization began to proliferate, unconstrained urban sprawl wreaked havoc on the principles and practices of coherent urban planning and design while concomitantly displacing human-scale downtowns. The fundamental (nee axiomatic) relationship between land-use and transportation planning was largely disregarded. And where the tentacles of sprawl disfigured many less far-reaching areas, urban blight prompted equally ambitious and misguided massive urban redevelopment projects. Many of the amenities that residents of these areas had treasured and enjoyed for generations were destroyed by redevelopment. Eminent domain displaced many that were forced by government to relocate into public housing projects so profiteering slumlords could prosper. As the social fabric unraveled, urban designers began to recognize the need to regenerate the historic legacies that we’re fast becoming faded  — ‘once upon a time’ — memories.

Born In The USA?

In 1956 the Age of the American Shopping Mall began in Edina, Minnesota with Southdale Center — the oldest fully enclosed, climate-controlled shopping mall in the U.S.A. If you’re wondering why such developments are called ‘malls’ here are a couple answers to add to your trivial pursuit memory bank. The word 'mall' comes from a 16th-century Italian alley game that resembled croquet. It was called pallamaglio, or pall-mall in English; the alley on which the game was played came to be known as a ‘mall’. Pall-mall literally means “ball-mallet.”

The concept is not all that different from famed Austria-born architect and preeminent American mall designer, Victor Gruen’s original vision for the shopping mall: A place to gather, a place to shop, a place to relax, a place to live. The mall was and remains horrible in some ways, but useful and even magical in others. It yoked people to commerce, but it also gave them tools with which to manage that harness, to loosen it enough to live somewhat peacefully, even while collared to capitalism.

Is ‘Malling’ Reason To Start Bawling?

Short answer is NO unless parking is an issue. I have visited, and for the most part, enjoyed exploring and patronizing many (both east and west coast) shopping malls. As a life-long resident of Orange County, California and relatively recent resident of Fairfield County, Connecticut, I may be inadvertently biased to favor all people, places, and things bordering PCH — AKA Pacific Coast Highway;-)

Shopping centers notwithstanding, I am generally not enamored by the Northeast where I currently reside in the ’Nutmeg State’ of Connecticut. No offense to New Englanders, (like my Massachusetts cousin) friends, neighbors, and countrymen.  Let’s begin by naming a few places to do some serious California dreamin’ where we can joyfully exercise our desire to acquire. From The Rodeo Collection in Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive itself to Beverly Center in West Hollywood to the Glendale Galleria in, of course, Glendale,
Los Angeles has a cornucopia of interesting  places to shop and people watch. In ‘The OC (Orange County), my stomping ground, I spent many years strolling and shopping one of the region’s most visited malls — South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa. Designed by acclaimed shopping center architect Victor Gruen, it is a global shopping destination with more than 250 extraordinary boutiques, critically acclaimed restaurants and the celebrated Segerstrom Center For The Arts. It is also the largest shopping center on the West Coast of the United States, its sales of over $1.5 billion annually are the highest in the United States. Fashion Island, Newport Beach is a ‘must-see’ shopping destination overlooking the blue Pacific. Unlike many malls, it is an ‘al fresco’ experience where sunshine and sea breezes add a charmingly captivating charm to its unmistakable beauty.

I also spent some years living in ‘Sin City’ Las Vegas, Nevada where several noteworthy shopping emporiums are designed to attract both locals and tourists. Certainly rounding out the many Vegas gaming, dining, and show attractions, retail has earned a prominent place gaming, dining, and show attractions, retail has earned a prominent place amidst the glitter of one of the greatest shows on earth. The Forum Shops at Caesars is a fabulous ‘not-to-be-missed’ sight featuring extraordinarily imaginative historical and mythological audio-animatronic exhibits. The Grand Canal Shops at The Venetian Hotel provide another another unique shopping experience amidst the magnificent backdrop of gondolas gliding down the spectacular canals and serenading gondoliers.

A Connecticut Showplace  — THE SONO COLLECTION

Located in Fairfield County, this superlative regional shopping mall is destined to become the retail centerpiece of the State and most likely the Northeast. Adjacent to I-95 and Route 7, the South Norwalk (SoNo) retail ‘collection’ is already the ‘talk of the town,’ region, and State!  The mall opened on October 11, 2019. The mall has adopted a phased opening process, including interactive art installations and community gathering spaces. It features southern Connecticut’s only Nordstrom and Bloomingdale's as the anchor stores.

I’ve visited the mall at least a half-dozen times and each time I’m wowed! Its spacious concours encourage visitors to explore all 4 floors of its 717,000 square feet of retail space. Its provision of many public spaces to sit back, relax, and interact with others. Thus, it is this singular accouterment that makes the mall a convincingly people-friendly experience. An interesting collection of seating (both upholstered and hard-surfaced) offer many options  — from picnic benches to rocking chairs, and ‘twirling top chairs for kids ( and adults ) to enjoy. Lighting and storefronts exhibit significant eye appeal. Conversely, THE SONO COLLECTION is missing a generic feature of most shopping malls, namely a food court. Its culinary amenities are limited to those within the anchor stores and a sparse number of kiosk-style concours vendors. Perhaps the greatest design detractors are parking and directions. The cost of parking is relatively steep at $1.00/hour. Bloomingdale's offers complimentary validated parking (up to 3 hours). Nordstrom validates Nordstrom card holders only. Garage directions can be confusing, but acres of spaces make finding a vacancy quite easy — even on weekends! Directional assistance is readily available from a courteous security staff. Lastly, if you’re a coffee connoisseur you may be pleased to learn that illy Café will soon be available in Bloomingdales. Nordstrom also offers some excellent barista prepared beverages.

I think you’ll truly enjoy your visit to THE SONO COLLECTION and likely love the invitingly eclectic Herman Miller ‘street furniture’ creations
. It’s definitely much more than a place to shop; it’s a place where new friendships may be comfortably kindled. Moreover, you will be experiencing an ancient tradition — the joy of socializing and people watching, not to mention, shopping a variety of very attractive stores interspersed with a few particularly distinctive ones including Alter’d State and CAMP. Mercedes-Benz even has an AMG showroom with exciting ‘seat-of-your-pants’ virtual Formula One race car experiences.

Better yet twirl like a top... or spin with a grin. 😊

The Sono Collection - a place where the experience is greater than the sum of its parts ... and a whole lot of fun too!


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