How Has Las Vegas Shopping Changed Over the Years?

The Boulevard Mall | Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The Boulevard Mall | Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

That’s a heckuva topic to tackle, but I’ll give it the old Rebel try. For kicks, here’s a rough retail timeline: Fremont Street was eaten by the Boulevard mall was eaten by the Meadows mall was eaten by the Fashion Show was eaten by the Boulevard (again) was eaten by Henderson’s Galleria at Sunset was eaten by Town Square was eaten by Downtown Summerlin was eaten by … the Fashion Show (again?). Mall wars!

As a child of mall culture (if not a mall rat), I have fond memories of the heydays of many these spots, but I also remember local touchstones such as Ronzone’s department store, the Upper Ear home audio shop and Vegas Village (It’s a department store! It’s a grocery store! It’s a bar!). As is common across the country, Vegas retail today is dominated by national brands, leaving every mall in every city feeling (if not looking) similar.

In typical Vegas fashion, this homogenization was seen as a good thing. Sure, we had some interesting spots (ladies shopped boutiques such as Rebel Britches and Suzy Creamcheese). But generally, whenever someone sported something offbeat or stylish, it almost always came from California. For years, whatever post-preppy style I embraced required a trek south to acquire the proper uniform. Even in high school, some friends made the drive to Venice Beach and Melrose Avenue a couple of times a year, scouring stalls and boutiques for truly exotic items such as vintage 501s, sterling silver accessories, band T-shirts and Dr. Martens.

Eventually, a few local spots catered to that particular scene; I scored broken-in Levis from Vintage Madness and band T-shirts (Joy Division, Bauhaus) from the Hair Zoo and The Underground, long before Hot Topic was a thing. But this was a niche taste, and many Las Vegans who wanted more were still heading out of town through the mid-1990s.

That’s changed dramatically. Recently, a Vegas-based musician who travels the world said about our food and shopping scene, “Something I truly love about Las Vegas is that you can get anything here.” He was particularly impressed by the selection in Chinatown. Even Ikea (another road-trip fave) is headed here soon. Considering department store staples such as Nordstrom (2002) and Barneys (2008) didn’t open Vegas outposts until the 21st century, that’s significant. And now that we’ve finally arrived in that regard, boutique shopping is making a welcome comeback. May I kindly suggest you head out this Small Business Saturday (November 28) to show some local love?


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