Shopping for necessities in Belgium was a constant thorn in my side. It took me two years to find a local place to buy cheap replacement t-shirts and shoes for my fast growing children so that I didn’t have to rely on ordering from Old Navy. I lamented on more than one occasion my lack of a nearby Starbucks. I saved our family a small fortune without a European outlet of Target and I yearned for any easy, fast, cheap and open late restaurant so as to not have to labor over Sunday dinner (Panera, where were you?). As our moving date got closer, I could practically smell the bread from Jimmy John’s and feel the heat of Chipotle. (Seriously, have you ever been inside a Chipotle that wasn’t a million degrees?)
Within 48 hours of landing in America, I visited Target. And it was exactly as I remembered. I knew the precise route to take to find just what I needed. (I did wander off course on purpose. What am I, a non-dollar-section-loving robot?) Within the first week I visited Target three times. And Jimmy John’s twice. Hey, you need a lot of stuff when you start fresh in a new (old) country. And shopping makes me hungry.
And now, three months in, I’ve tired of chain stores. For instance, we need furniture to fill this giant rental home of ours. We may have brought back four antique armoires from Belgium, but you can’t eat dinner off them. So, we tried the vast array of chains available to us, with no luck. Did you know that Columbus is the 15th largest city in the U.S.? So, how is it possible that I still don’t have a table and chairs to fill the wide open space next to my kitchen? I’ll tell you why. This city is packed to the brim with chain stores. And that Target has the same stuff as that Target, and that one, and that one (and that one). That Pottery Barn has the same furniture as the other three. That Home Goods…. you get my point. This city is huge, but everything repeats itself.
So, I’ve returned to my favorite way of shopping. My Belgian way of shopping. The American version of the brocante. The antique mall.
Columbus and its surrounding towns have a decent number of good sized antique malls. And then there’s Springfield. About 45 minutes west of Columbus, right off the highway, are several huge, warehouse-looking buildings with the word “ANTIQUES” printed so large on the sides and roofs that it can probably be read from space. Ah, Heaven! If Heaven were miles of musty smelling aisles of vintage globes, old books, Pyrex bowls and license plates.
If you’re ever in central Ohio and feel the desire to do some vintage shopping, allow me to recommend……
(This list is by no means exhaustive. I’ve only been here ten weeks. Give me some time and I’m sure to find more.)
And then Jimmy John’s.