Living Here Guide

Big malls are great, but add smaller stores to your shopping list

The newest addition to our shopping scene is Charlotte Premium Outlets, the first outlet mall inside the city limits. It opened recently in the Steele Creek area, in the southwestern part of the city. Its 400,000 square feet are anchored by Saks Fifth Avenue OFF 5TH.

Among the 100 retailers: Banana Republic Factory Store, Eddie Bauer Outlet, Talbots, J. Crew, Aeropostale, Jockey, Loft Outlet, Wilsons Leather, Swarovski, Wet Seal, Tommy Hilfiger, Yankee Candle and a New Balance Factory Store. It joins a roster of big malls in our area that attract hometown shoppers and tourists alike. Big isn’t bad, but don’t overlook some of the stores unique to the Charlotte area, often just a few miles away from their ginormous mall cousins.

Here’s a list of major shopping malls, plus a few popular locally owned stores nearby to consider:

1 SouthPark is the largest shopping center in the Carolinas, with more than 1.6 million square feet of retail space. Stores include Belk, Dillard’s, Macy’s, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Tory Burch, Michael Kors, Louis Vuitton, Burberry, the Container Store and Dick’s Sporting Goods. New retailers set to open soon include Athleta, Boston Proper, Vince Camuto and H&M. 4400 Sharon Road. 704-364-4411;

Nearby: Across the street from the mall, at Specialty Shops on the Park, is Mack and Mack, a women’s boutique that carries artisan designers from throughout the United States, including the Mack and Mack line, made in downtown Greensboro. Among its unique offerings are jewelry, handbags, scarves, dresses and everyday wear. 6401 Morrison Blvd. 704-365-3002;

Down the street at Morrison Shopping Center are Capitol and its sister store, the Poole Shop. Owner Laura Vinroot Poole has an international reputation as a stylesetter with an eye toward emerging young designers; she also sells exquisite pieces from Altuzarra, Balenciaga, Celine, Christopher Kane, Giambattista Valli and more. Not only is it where Charlotte’s A-listers shop, the stores are constantly mentioned in fashion magazines, from Vogue to Harper’s Bazaar. 4010 Sharon Road. 704-366-0388;

2 Carolina Place has Belk, Dillard’s’ Macy’s, Sears, J.C. Penney, REI, Barnes & Noble, H&M and more than 130 specialty stores. 11025 Carolina Place Parkway at Highway 51. 704-543-9300;

Nearby: Almost across the street from the mall, you can prowl the aisles at Blacklion, where multiple vendors sell gifts, home furnishings, jewelry, children’s clothing and more. 10635 Park Road near Highway 51. 704-541-1148;

A few miles away at the Arboretum Shopping Center is Bruce Julian men’s store, where some of Charlotte’s best-dressed men shop for everything from business suits to snazzy accessories. If that’s not enough to entice you, there’s a bar in the back – and a putting green. 8128 Providence Road. 704-364-8686;

3 Northlake – the closest and easiest-to-get-to mall from uptown – has Belk, Dillard’s, Macy’s, Dick’s Sporting Goods, a 14-screen AMC theater, plus 150 stores and restaurants. Interstate 77, Exit 18, and W.T. Harris Blvd. 704-921-2000;

Nearby: Seven miles up I-77, the Lipp boutique at Birkdale Village has a fun selection of trendy women’s clothing and accessories at great price points. 16836 Birkdale Commons Parkway, Suite E, Huntersville. 704-655-1243;

Worth driving 15 minutes farther north is Lavendar women’s boutique, owned by the stylish and philanthropic Sherry Pollex, longtime girlfriend of NASCAR driver Martin Truex Jr. It has a loyal fan base of fellow NASCAR insiders and women who love to shop its racks of relaxed but glamorous clothes. 279 Williamson Road, Suite F, Mooresville. 704-663-2880;

4 Concord Mills is a complex of shops, restaurants and entertainment venues that bills itself as North Carolina’s most popular shopping destination. It includes a Saks Fifth Avenue OFF 5TH outlet, Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World, Burlington Coat Factory, a 24-screen AMC theatre and nearly 200 other stores and restaurants. Its newest attraction is the Sea Life aquarium. Exit 49 off I-85 in Concord. 704-979-5000;

Nearby: Less than 15 minutes away is a former textile plant now called The Depot at Gibson Mill, 88,000 square feet filled with 600 booths offering antiques, household items and mementos from the past that attract “pickers” from all over. They’ve made it one of the largest antique malls in the Southeast. 325 McGill Ave., Concord. 704-787-9351;

Less than 20 minutes away is Ellis Jewelers, a staple of downtown Concord since 1953. Run by the same family for four generations, it has built a loyal following thanks to its customer service and fine jewelry. 29 Union St. South, Concord. 704-782-9314;