Shopping in Scottsdale

Mike and I make a day trip down to Kierland Commons.

It was Sunday morning and Mike was looking for an interesting way to spend the day. We briefly seen the shops at Kierland Commons, just east of the Scottsdale Airport, and he wanted to explore them more fully. (Yes, I have a man who likes to shop.) He was also interested in having a “good lunch” (his words).

I wanted to hit the Organized Living shop on the west side of Scottsdale Airport (right near the loop 101’s Frank Lloyd Wright exit) and the Apple Store down at the Biltmore shopping center (Camelback and 24th Street). I was shopping for a color laser printer, tired of sending small print jobs out and having to wait for the print shop guy to get around to printing them.

So we hopped in Mike’s Honda Accord, which has far more trunk and storage space than my Honda S2000, and drove out of town.

Traffic was light. We got off the Loop 101 at Scottsdale Road less than an hour after leaving the house. We both commented on the development that had been going on over the years. When I was just finishing up my helicopter training in Scottsdale, the entire stretch of Scottsdale Road from where the Loop 101 would be (it didn’t exist there yet) to Bell Road was pretty much empty. The only landmarks were the entrance to the Scottsdale Princess Resort and Chauncey’s Ranch, a really fancy horse facility. Now the same stretch is lined with shopping centers, car dealers, and condos. Chauncy’s Ranch is gone — although it’s still referred to as a check point by pilots flying into Scottsdale Airport — and there’s no empty frontage on Scottsdale Road at all. This is all in a matter of less than five years.

We turned into Kierland Commons, drove down its main street, and were fortunate enough to find a parking spot right in front of one of the shops. The place was bustling with people. Mike’s first order of business was lunch and we quickly found a suitable place: a restaurant called North. The sign said it was “Modern Italian Cuisine” and after a quick glance at the menu, we decided to get a table. There was seating both indoors and outdoors, but we took an inside table. A cold front is moving through the area (again) and neither of us wanted to eat with our jackets on.

Mike ordered an “antipasti of seasonal Italian specialties” and some seared ahi tuna with a salad and I ordered a pizza with figs, prosciutto (an Italian ham), and goat cheese. We shared everything and everything was very good. It’s always great to eat fresh ingredients prepared simply but in interesting combinations.

Once Mike’s stomach (and mine) had been satisfied, we took a walk around the shopping center. It had been designed to resemble a downtown shopping area, with a few streets just wide enough for two-way traffic and diagonal parking on both sides. Shops with various exterior designs lined both sides of the streets. There were tall trees, vine-covered awnings, and a real small town feel. Remarkable, when you think that we were deep in the city of Scottsdale. Although there were a lot of people around and all the parking spots were taken, I couldn’t say it was crowded. Most folks were in the shops and restaurants and in a small parklike area where Santa was waiting to get his picture taken with kids.

The shops were of the designer variety you’d fully expect to find in a place like Scottsdale. I don’t remember many of the shop names — I know little about designer clothes — but some that I do recall include Bebe, Clearwater Creek, Tommy Bahama, Restoration Hardware, Crate and Barrel, and Orvis. We went into very few of the shops, preferring to stroll along the sidewalk and just take in the sights. Mike may be a shopper, but I’m not.

The highlight for Mike was seeing a Bentley Continental GT parked in front of one of the shops. Although I asked him not to drool as he went over to check it out, I’m afraid he might have.

My friends Jim and Judith have been making occasional trips out this way in Jim’s helicopter. Jim parks at the airport and they walk over. It’s not a long walk — maybe 1/4 mile — and although the walk isn’t exactly pleasant, the atmosphere once you get to Kierland Commons certainly is. I have to make a trip for business down to Scottsdale in a few weeks and have saved two seats on the helicopter for anyone interested in joining me for the flight and spending a few hours at Kierland Commons while I take care of business. I’m offering the seats as a special deal through Flying M Air, but if it works out well, I might offer it as a shopping expedition day trip. Although most Wickenburg residents would find the $395 round trip charter price tag a bit tough to swallow, some of the bigger guest ranches in town attract the kind of clientele that would see it as the bargain it really is.

After our walk, we got back into the car and went over to Organized Living. We stopped at the Toyota dealer along the way; I’m thinking about buying a small pickup truck and wanted to check out the Tacomas. Sadly the smallest model that I can add the features I want — 6 cylinder engine, 6-speed manual, tow package, 4×4 off road package — is still a bit larger than I want. We already have one big pickup; I can’t see having two. And I’m accustomed to small vehicles. The sales guy who intercepted us in the lot had to be the worst sales guy I’d ever met. A complete loser who knew less about the trucks and their options than I did. He had no clue how to handle us and quickly retreated back into the building to get help. The sales manager he came out with wasn’t much better.

At Organized Living, we discovered that they’d soon be changing their name to Storables. Okay. The place was in the middle of being reorganized and the item I wanted to buy — a laundry sorter with a clothes rack for hanging finished laundry — wasn’t there. Odd, because I was pretty sure I’d seen it in one of their mailings. We bought something else to do the job and headed out for the Biltmore.

My main goal at the Apple Store was to see the print quality offered by some of the color laser printers I’d been researching. I’m an HP printer person; I’ve owned 2 HP laser printers and both of them continue to work faithfully. Mike has the old one, which is at least 10 years old. I passed it on to him when I realized that my print jobs were just too complex for its limited RAM. That was a LaserJet 4MP. I replaced it with a LaserJet 2100TN, a network printer with 3 paper trays. It continues to work well, but it does make a kind of clanking sound as it spits out each sheet of paper. I think some lubrication in the right places would help. But the printer is 5 years old and would cost more to service than replace. So I’ll continue to use it until it dies.

The idea behind the color laser printer is to be able to produce my own marketing materials for Flying M Air without having to send out small color print jobs. Each page on one of those small jobs costs about $1 at the local print shop and I can’t always get them done as quickly as I’d like. This was beginning to become a nuisance. So I’d get my own color printer and continue to use the old printer for my B&W work. I didn’t want to spend a lot of money. In fact, if I could keep it under $500, I’d be very happy.

Unfortunately, Apple didn’t have a single color laser printer on display at the Apple Store at the Biltmore. They had “all-in-one” devices (fax, scanner, copier, printer) and plenty of photo printers, but no color lasers.

The place was absolutely mobbed, with dozens of people milling about the iPod side of the store and the rest sprinkled around other cool toys. I found a guy to ask about the printers and he confirmed what I’d seen: no color laser printers on display. I asked him some other questions I had about printers. Like can I get a non-network printer if I hook the printer up to a computer and use printer sharing to share it. Yes, was the answer, as long as I left that computer on. How about if the computer was running Mac OS X server? He told me he’d tried it without luck. Server seems to work okay if you use a generic printer driver, but if you try the printer driver that comes with the printer, no luck. That means you can’t access printer-specific features. This confirmed a rumor I had already heard. But it didn’t matter. 99% of the printing I do is from my Dual G5, so I’d just hook up to that.

We left the Apple Store and wandered into Macy’s. Mike was looking for a pair of brown pants. (Ick.) I needed to buy something to wear to Mike’s office Christmas party on Friday. None of my party clothes would fit. I looked at what was available at Macy’s and decided that clothing had gotten just plain ugly. Even the mannequins didn’t look good wearing it. What was wrong with simple clothing with simple lines, the kind of thing that relies on the woman inside them to complete the picture? Not that I’d do a good job completing that picture these days. (I’m feeling quite fat and very ugly.)

Mike, of course, found a pair of slacks and two shirts to buy.

We started on our way home with one more stop to make: a pet store just off I-17 at Happy Valley Road. It’s in a new shopping center that’s probably the closest to Wickenburg without stopping at a traffic light. (How’s that for a weird statistic?) There was a PetCo in there and I went in to buy some feeder fish for a very large carnivorous fish I have in one of my tanks. I wound up with some live plants and other fish for my other tank, too. Meanwhile, Mike had gone into Staples next door. He reported that they had 3 HP color laser printers on display. So after stowing the fish stuff in the car, we went for a look. Oddly enough, they had the same three models I’d been considering. I got a chance to look at them in detail. I was hesitant to buy the one I wanted — a LaserJet 2600n priced at only $319 — because the onboard memory seemed low. But the sales guy, who was extremely helpful and knowledgeable, told me that I had two weeks to try it out and make sure it met my needs. Sold! I bought the printer but passed on the extra consumables ($82 per cartridge and I’d need 4 of them!). This week, I’ll give it a good testing by throwing all kinds of complex documents at it. If it passes this week’s test, I’ll keep it. Otherwise, it’ll go back to Staples and I’ll go back to researching printers.

We rolled into Wickenburg at about 6:30 PM, after spending most of the day shopping down in the valley. It had been good to get out of town and see some new things. And although I’d expected to encounter traffic, congestion, and crowds, there had been none of that. Not bad for three weeks before Christmas.

What do you think?