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Out and About Ventura County | Shoptalk

24-Hour Spending

County has evolved from retail desert into a mecca for merchandise mavens.

November 14, 1998|LEO SMITH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Imagine a world with no factory outlets.

Chilling, isn't it?

Now take away the Barnes & Noble bookstores, Borders music and record stores, Bristol Farms markets and 24-hour Wal-Marts.

Shocking, huh?

Local shoppers may be in denial, but that was Ventura County not so long ago. Back in the summer of 1993, just months before the original Shoptalk column debuted, none of those major retail operations existed in the county.

It was just five years ago, but it seems a lifetime for anyone with a charge card.

These days--close to 150 outlet stores and hundreds of thousands of square feet of developed retail space later--Ventura County not only offers round-the-clock buying opportunities for locals but has also developed into a legitimate destination for out-of-town shoppers.

Oxnard has its 36-store Factory Outlet and a Wal-Mart that never closes. Camarillo has a 118-store Premium Outlet of its own. There are Barnes & Noble stores in Ventura and Thousand Oaks, which also is home to a Borders and a Bristol Farms.

Add to that upgrades at The Oaks mall; a revamping of the Janss Mall into the upscale, state-of-the-art Janss Marketplace; a huge renovation of the Buenaventura Mall in process; and renovations in downtown Ventura, and the phrase "shopping mecca" may not be that farfetched.

Some would argue that this is a bad thing, resulting in too many people in and around the malls; too many tour buses hauling in out-of-towners on knock-down; drag-out shopping missions; and too much dust, traffic and life disruption from remodeling of malls and stores.

For the other segment of the population--those who prefer not to travel to Santa Barbara, let alone the San Fernando Valley or Los Angeles for a day of serious shopping--it's hard to imagine life in Ventura County without the retail developments of the mid-1990s.

Donna Karan, where are you?

That plea is not heard around these parts anymore.

At one end of the Ventura County shopping experience, there still is a tremendous selection of thrift and discount stores for the budget-conscious. At the other end are department stores such as Robinsons-May and Macy's.

For those interested in something in between, there are the factory outlets--including Saks and Barney's New York--offering upscale labels at discounted prices.

And it's not just the product selection. As it has in other metropolitan regions, shopping in Ventura County has become more than a quest for the ultimate purchase. The malls and the downtown shopping districts are not simply retail centers; they are event centers.

The retail hubs still bustle with package-laden patrons, but you will also find moviegoers (the Century multiplex in downtown Ventura), children (Club Disney at the Westlake Promenade) and gourmands (a Cheesecake Factory coming soon to The Oaks mall).

A day of shopping is hardly what it used to be.

Sure, the county still has a small-town atmosphere--just don't let the folks at Saks find out.

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