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The Fox Cities -- Wisconsin's Shopping Place

By Stephanie Scott 

Every experienced shopper can recall the rush of discovering the perfect dress, finding fashionable footwear or locating luxurious linens for home. Call it retail therapy or a shopping high, but visitors to the Fox Cities uncover unique finds and plenty of deals making it the perfect destination for a girlfriend’s getaway or a family shopping spree.

While intriguing shopping opportunities can be found around just about every corner, visitors will find three main retail districts: Fox River Mall in Grand Chute, downtown Appleton and downtown Neenah.

FOX RIVER MALL

With more than 180 stores, the Fox River Mall ranks as one of Wisconsin’s largest shopping destinations. From home décor to trendy apparel, visitors will find an array of merchandise at this large complex.

Ladies will love the upscale fashions and home furnishings found in the Marshall Field’s wing of the mall, including the comfortable, yet sophisticated sweaters and jeans at Coldwater Creek. On a recent visit, my mother and I headed out of the store carrying bags stuffed with amethyst- and turquoise-colored cardigan sweaters and matching long-sleeved tees.

For women looking for fashion with a bit more foreign flair, head over to Chico’s. Recent finds include Asian-, African- and Indian-inspired prints. The exclusive, private label designs come from Fort Myers, Fla.

Now that you’ve found pieces to dress up your wardrobe, it’s time to search for items to embellish the home. Look no further than Pottery Barn, where shoppers find ideas for tasks such as setting the perfect table or making the most comfortable bed.

If it’s the kitchen that needs some attention, Williams-Sonoma offers all kinds of gadgets to assist in cooking endeavors. My family loves to bake cookies for every occasion, so we enjoy sorting through cookie cutters of every shape and size.

Since the shopping for cookware probably piqued some hunger, it’s time for a treat. For the shopper with a sweet tooth, treat yourself to gourmet candies and dipped strawberries at Godiva Chocolatier.

Do your husband’s eyes glaze over while you try on outfits and chat about the latest styles? Send him to the store guaranteed to make his face light up—in fact you may have trouble getting him to leave. Sports fans will have a field day at Scheels All Sports. With its two levels and 130,000 square feet of shopping space, it’s the largest sporting goods store in Wisconsin.

Just to make sure a visitor doesn’t get lost at Scheels, plan on meeting at the 62-foot-tall oak tree that stands majestically at the store’s center.

American Eagle Outfitters, Abercrombie & Fitch, Aeropostale, Gap and Hollister Co. are just a few shops selling the latest styles in denim, casualwear and accessories for teens. You might not recognize all the names, but I bet your kids will. They also know it’s almost impossible to make a fashion faux pas at one of these hip and trendy places.

For the younger set who want to dress like their older siblings, Fox River Mall houses junior versions of many of the hot shops like Abercrombie Kids and Gap Kids, to name a few.

Whether there are kids in the group or only kids at heart, no trip to Fox River Mall would be complete without a stop at Build-A-Bear Work-shop. Enter a factory like no other with assembly line stations labeled “stuff me,” “stitch me” and “fluff me.” Guests pick a furry friend, from bears to leopards, and bring it to life, even giving it a heart and personalized recorded message.

Heavy shopping can work up any appetite. So bring the entire gang back together at Fox River Brewing Co. Here they brew up Winnebago Wheat and Fox Tail Amber Ale, as well as a full menu of pizzas, pastas, sandwiches and seafood.

Or, if your gang can’t agree on one restaurant—which is probably more common than not—the Northwoods Café food court at the main entrance to the mall offers 14 dining choices.

When the mall has been thoroughly scrutinized, it’s time to head outside where you will find many more popular stores nearby, including Cost Plus World Market, DSW Shoe Warehouse and Linens ‘n Things.

DOWNTOWN APPLETON

Since undergoing major renovations a few years ago, an eclectic collection of boutiques and galleries have found their way into the heart of Appleton.

People seeking a rare oddity for their home or the gift for the person who already owns everything, need look no further than the shops along College Avenue, downtown Appleton’s main thoroughfare.

Stop at Hey, Daisy, 206 E. College Ave., for the best in new clothing designs for young women and teens. The trendy boutique stocks its shelves with J. Lo sunglasses, Alan Stuart handbags and 7 for All Mankind denim.

Whereas Hey, Daisy derives its décor from the flower power generation of the 1970s, Sparka-doodles, 604 W. College Ave., is decidedly 1960s retro with leather chairs and martini glasses. However, the merchandise is definitely meant for the modern generation with cell phone purses and MP3 player cases.

Looking for something a bit more serious? From angels to zen, people can find items to boost their mind, body and spirit at Angels Forever– Windows of Light, 310 W. College Ave. The spiritual refuge is a source for aromatherapy, candles, crystals, essential oils and more.

Crystals—the Swarovski kind, that is—and charms can also be found at The Bead Garden, 227 E. College Ave. Sort through glass, semiprecious stones, silver and other baubles to create the perfect chandelier earrings or drop necklace to match the outfit you found earlier in the day at the mall.

Where better to pick up some magic tricks than the hometown of Harry Houdini? Rondini’s Abracadabra Magic and Costume Shop, 508 W. College Ave., pays homage to the famed illusionist with an inventory that includes hundreds of magic items for beginner to professional skill levels. Browse products from balloon animals to card and coin tricks.

Lucky shoppers may have the opportunity to meet the great Rondini himself and watch as he dazzles customers of all ages with a few amazing magic tricks of his own.

Once you’ve moved on from fashion and magic, it’s time to begin an art crawl of downtown Appleton, where a number of galleries and shops display the works of both local and national artists.

With its hardwood floors and large windows overlooking the downtown, Wild Apple Gallery, 513 W. College Ave., serves as a chic urban art haven. The artist co-op displays more than 500 original works including hand-blown glass, prints, jewelry and fiber arts. All work is juried and for sale year-round.

Next, stop by art mall Studio 213, 213 E. College Ave., where restored carousel horses bring back the whimsy of childhood. Then, round out the impromptu art crawl at Coventry Glassworks & Gallery, 514 W. College Ave., where light dances through stained glass creations, and aficionados have a difficult time choosing which piece to add to their collections.

DOWNTOWN NEENAH

Framed in historic architecture and neighbored by the Fox River and Lake Winnebago, visitors to downtown Neenah feel no need to hurry in and out of shops. Boutiques beckon people to browse and the small-town charm encourages them to stay awhile.

Despite its name, Daisy’s Dandelion, 210 W. Wisconsin Ave., has little to do with plants and lots to do with beauty and style. The retailer believes people should pamper themselves with fine linens, signature apparel lines like Lily Pulitzer and classic women’s and children’s clothing.

Customers are transported from the sidewalks of Neenah to the quaint French countryside at French Flea, 214 W. Wisconsin Ave., a flea market-inspired business. Browse through vintage, new and second-hand home goods, décor items and furnishings, or take a seat at the gourmet coffee bar and sip on espresso.

Looking for a bit of local culture? Peruse the masterpieces made by Midwestern artists at Art Affair, 108 W. Wisconsin Ave. Visitors will find handcrafted works such as paintings, glass, pottery and jewelry for sale.

OTHER MUST-SHOP STOPS

While the three shopping districts provide plenty of appealing prospects, there are a few additional Fox Cities retailers that prove worthy of a special visit.

In Grand Chute, people will find Cooks Corner in Trasino Center, 1920 N. Casaloma Drive. With 12,000 square feet of retail space, Cooks Corner is considered the nation’s largest kitchen supply store.

Antique enthusiasts will also find a lot to entertain them in the Fox Cities, starting with Harp Gallery, 2495 Northern Road, Appleton. Nestled off Highway 41, it takes a bit of time to locate, but those who take the time find a wealth of treasure awaiting them.

From a Victorian silver water pitcher to an Art Nouveau-carved walnut dining set with seating for 10, Harp Gallery looks more like a furniture showroom than a typical antique shop.

At the Fox River Antique Mall, 1074 S. Van Dyne Road, Grand Chute, more than 165 dealers occupy 20,000 square feet of space. Antique collectors will find everything from barware to baby dolls; however, this mall really shines when it comes to its glass and pottery selection.

Pansies Country Store, 833 E. Cecil, Neenah, makes people reminisce about days gone by in the old-fashioned general store surroundings. The shop that derives its name from a flower features products to help any garden grow as well as gifts for people with a green thumb. I always enjoy perusing their selection of Crabtree and Evelyn soaps and lotions in scents like lily of the valley, rose and lavender.

Finally, make time for a stop at Urban Evolutions, 867 Valley Road, Menasha, where staff re-purpose tin salvaged from turn-of-the-century buildings, in addition to many other architectural elements, to make beautiful, artistic furnishings and home décor.

The showroom features mirrors, dressers, tables and other items restyled from architectural salvage, as well as custom fixtures and some new decorative and gift items. Many of the pieces can trace their origins to a piece of Midwestern history. For example, the butcher block table island got its wood top from reclaimed pickle barrels and water vats found at Krakow Pickle Co. in Krakow, Wis., and the drawer pulls are classroom door handles from a Chicago Catholic elementary school.

Whether a shopper wants a piece reminiscent of years past or the latest and greatest styles, the stores of the Fox Cities offer something for just about everyone.

Fox Cities Visitor Guide

Fox Cities Visitor Center

3433 W. College Avenue, Appleton, WI 54914

800-236-6673

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