There's something about shopping malls in America that feels removed from place and time—the big-box stores with familiar names that sell the same fast-fashion items all across the country, the artificial lighting, the ambient strains of the most recent top-charting pop songs floating through echoey halls populated by packs of teenagers—this familiar scene is reiterated across cities and generations. Santa Fe's big mall fits perfectly into this image of the all-American consumer culture cliche, one of the few places in the city with national brands on offer. And across town, the small mall continues to raise the bar with establishments high in local flavor and high-end shopping vibes.
Santa Fe Place, located at the intersection of Cerrillos and Rodeo roads on the Southside and still called Villa Linda by at least half of our readers, is the quintessential mall experience, now home to World Market and Bed Bath & Beyond, to boot. A security guard on the lookout for shoplifters confirms, "This mall is a pretty safe place where kids just like to come and kick back, just like they do at any mall anywhere."
This is the place to go if you're looking for killer deals on trendy summer dresses or an affordable pair of jeans. We recommend grabbing refreshments at the Boba Tea Company as you head to H&M or Torrid for reasonably priced fashion staples, or to the Boot Barn for a classic pair of cowboy boots. Not only do H&M and Torrid offer the most fashionable attire, but H&M also recently started offering discounts if you bring in old clothes to recycle, and has been working on sustainable production methods for some of its fashion lines.
Torrid is your best bet for stylish plus-size apparel. Shopper Tiffany Di Marco tells SFR that it is her go-to spot. "It's hard to find boutiques that cater to a full spectrum of body types," says Di Marco. "Torrid is special because they really celebrate who you are and sell clothes that are super flattering on curvier women."
But before you whip out your credit card, we feel obligated to note that despite H&M's new sustainability campaign, the fashion industry still accounts for nearly 10 percent of global carbon emissions and remains the second-largest polluter in the world. The UN reports that nearly 40 percent of clothes in the developed world's closets are discarded without having ever been worn. Our advice: Once you're done in the dressing room, take a lap around the mall to decide if you really need that new item, and mentally catalog how you will wear it with the clothes you already own before committing. Donate or consign one thing in your closet for every new thing you buy.
Saturday afternoon is the best time for people-watching at the Santa Fe Place food court, where teens, families and couples like to kick back. Catch a movie at the newly reopened theater while you're at it, or play some old-school arcade games at the only retro arcade in town, right across from the theater.
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The north side DeVargas Center at the V of Paseo de Peralta and Guadalupe Street has gone through some serious upgrades in the past few years. When the Sanbusco Center at the Railyard closed to make way for the New Mexico School for the Arts campus, many of its businesses moved to spaces at DeVargas. This, along with Sprouts moving in as its second grocery, brought both a parking crunch and new life to De Vargas. Gone are the sketchy vibes of the '90s when kids did wheelies in the parking lot in broad daylight, brought sub-woofers out for mini dance parties at night, and casually referred to the shopping center as the "Hall of Lame."
The businesses that made the move from Sanbusco to DeVargas include On Your Feet, Rock Paper Scissors Salon Spa, Kioti Boutique and more. The flurry of recent activity and the redesign of the interior has transformed the DeVargas Center into an upscale and lively place, with men playing mahjong at the center tables and ladies sipping hot drinks outside of Sabor Peruano, children playing life-size chess, and members of a popular speed-walking and jogging club pacing the hallways in the early mornings.
The change has been good for the businesses too. The owner of op.cit Books, Noemi de Bodisco, tells SFR that being in De Vargas has greatly increased traffic to the bookstore.
"Since the move, our business has been increasing every year. We feel like this is a real center for community; people buy books and read them at the tables outside the doors, we host readings and other community events and we get many more people dropping in who are at the mall shopping for something else. It just feels a lot more engaging." op.cit sells both new book-club hits and used books. The store is full of rare treasures and first editions, but scrappy paperbacks for a couple bucks are an easy score as well.
Bodhi Bazaar and Kioti offer high-end women's attire with a particularly Santa Fe aesthetic, and Indigo Baby sells beautiful (if not sometimes expensive) kids' clothes—but fear not, there's a consignment rack too.
Despite the enjoyable new atmosphere, most of the boutiques in the transformed shopping center remain out of an average gal's price range. Good thing Ross has held on to its location at the mall to provide a little bit of balance to this newly thriving shopping center.
Stay tuned for the new bowling alley that is scheduled to open this spring!
The most awesome mall oddity ever
The Harrell House Bug Museum, where you can pet tarantulas and millipedes during feeding time every day at 4 pm.