DEEP ELLUM IS PFFFFFT—IT’S not the underground anymore,” a salesman in a Montrose vintage-clothing store says with a sneer, as if his locale were any different. Here in Houston the fabled Westheimer strip—the blocks of Westheimer Road east of Montrose Boulevard—is quiet, pretty much cleared of seventies-era chicken hawks and their prey, along with the once-ubiquitous Oriental modeling and massage studios.
CONSIDER THE OUTLET MALL: SO AMERICAN and so inevitable is this cross between the grubby factory outlet of the past and the chipper middle-American shopping mall of the present that it’s a miracle no one ever thought of it before. Today these malls are upscale and sleek, but their origins are humble. They began on the East Coast in the late 1800’s as dingy back rooms of factories, often separated from the manufacturing area by only a flimsy curtain.
THERE IS SOMETHING CHURCHLIKE about the J. Crew store that opened in May in Dallas’ NorthPark Center, something solemn and reverent, as if the store had been designed by a Shaker splinter group. Shoppers accustomed to the aristocratic fun of the ubiquitous J. Crew catalog—photo after photo of those handsome, impeccably proportioned couples wearing windbreakers and chinos at the shore—will find a different aura here.