white polo boat shoes The new outlet center in Leeds
“I found the perfect blazer to go with the gold top.”
Such banter, sprinkled with giggles, went back and forth for the next 30 minutes as sisters Nancy Gilmore of Alabaster and Cindy Russo of Trussville and other shoppers tried on clothes and modeled in front of a store mirror at the Kasper Outlet store, one of over 60 new stores now open at the Shops of Grand River outlet center in Leeds.
The women were there to find deals on a preview shopping night. As they checked out at the register, it was obvious they had found some. Most items in the store are already marked off 20 percent.
“It been a blast,” said Gilmore, wearing a Kasper suit she bought in Destin and holding her new finds. Now that Kasper is closer to Birmingham, she said she be back. And so will her big sister.
“I came out tonight because I always in for a good shop,” said Russo. “I must say I impressed.”
Kasper Outlet manager Wanda Vincent and two other employees were responsible for providing that party vibe in the changing rooms. “We just want everyone to come in and have fun and play dress up,” Vincent said. “You never know what you might like. We want to make your day.”
Down from the store front door was Areta Mosley of Homewood, who was carrying bags holding two pairs of shoes, two dress shirts, two ties for her husband, a Polo shirt and two bras from other stores. Her original intent was to do some Christmas shopping. But the sales were too good, she said, and she did a little personal shopping.
“The customer service (here) was amazing. They made you want to buy more,” she said.
Here a quick guide to the Birmingham area newest shopping center:
Brooks Brothers basic non iron dress shirts generally retail for $79.50 a piece. But shoppers can find them for $59.50 each, or three for $159 at the outlet store in Leeds. (The Birmingham News / Joe Songer)
Grand Opening events continue through today. Balloon art, performers, singers, store to store trick or treating and a costume contest are part of the fun. Customers can sign up for giveaways through today. Today is the last day to use one of the 20 percent off grand opening coupons, which can be used at selected stores. The parking lot surrounds The Shops. The center is handicap accessible and wheelchairs are available at Guest Services.
The Shops is located in Leeds. Take exit 140 off I 20 East. Turn left at the end of the ramp. The shops are on the right. If you using a GPS, the address is 6200 Grand River Blvd. East. The phone number is 205 699 3700.
Messages about parking and traffic will appear on message boards on I 20 East before drivers get to exit 140 today. Traffic updates will also be posted on The Shops Facebook page and its Twitter feed.
Parking is available at the outlet center. But, off site parking will be provided across from the Bass Pro Shops off Highway 78 in case of heavy traffic. Free shuttles will be provided as needed. Message boards on the interstate will indicate if and when off site parking will be used.
The meaning behind the “O” in the Shops
The spiral icon that makes the “O” in The Shops of Grand River is a Native American pictograph, which is a painting on a rock wall. The icon represents water. It pays homage to the historical significance of the Cahaba River. Cahaba means “above water.” The Choctaw Indians once inhabited the area around the Cahaba.
One of the fountains at The Shops of Grand River. The blue paths were placed at the entrances. (The Birmingham News / Joe Songer)
Walking on (what looks like) water
The blue walkway that stretches from the front entrance to the back entrance was created to symbolize water. The Shops is perched on the banks of the Cahaba River.
The plants used in the landscaping are indigenous to Alabama and are drought tolerant. The boulders used in building the fountains at the front and back entrances came from the site during excavation. The property has been designated as a Certified Gold Audubon International Signature Sanctuary. It is the first development in Alabama to earn the distinction from Audubon International, and one of 22 in the world. There are functioning rain gardens surrounded by benches along the pathways outside the stores.
Free Wi Fi will be available soon near the food court and atrium. Updates about the outlet center can be found on its Facebook and Twitter feeds. Music is piped throughout the complex. Security cameras have been installed.
You won go hungry while on the hunt for bargains at the new outlet center. Red Mango is a smoothie and yogurt place. Ghirardelli is known for its chocolates. The food court is around the corner.
The food court and a covered eating area known as The Atrium are at the center of The Shops. Nearby, is a small playground for children. Guest Services is inside the food court, which has The Coffee Bean Tea Leaf, Charley Grilled Subs, Sbarro, Auntie Anne Burger King, Chicken Now, China Max, vending machines, a Regions ATM and colorful strollers known as “Kiddie Kruzzers” for children. Red Mango, a yogurt and smoothie shop, and Ghirardelli chocolates have their own storefronts. The Old Farmer Almanac General Store is like an upscale general store with everything from dressings and spices, to jams, sauces and more.
You can go to The Shops website or to Guest Services and sign up as a VIP member to get a free outlet coupon booklet, which can be used at participating outlet stores. Additional booklets will be $5.
In a separate coupon deal, the Junior League of Birmingham has partnered with The Shops of Grand River to promote the League Shop, Save and Share card, which provides coupons to 535 stores and restaurants throughout metro Birmingham area. Most of the stores at The Shops will accept the card, which can be bought at the outlet Guest Services, Dressbarn and Book Warehouse. The card is $40 and is good, now through Nov. 7. All proceeds will support Junior League of Birmingham programs for women and children. Go here for more info.
A Coach store and Bose store are expected to open in the spring. A wide, open plaza area on the northern end of the center will be used to host special events. As the center expands, it will be transformed into additional tenant space.