10 April 2010

Saturday special: Shopping at the Mitsukoshi Department Store:

What excites shoppers? The merchandise, the layout of a store, the service and the overall atmosphere all play a role. Gift & Home Today asked writer Louise Burton to share her thoughts of the Mitsukoshi Department Store in the EPCOT Center at Walt Disney World, Florida.

When I shop for home décor, one of the things I always look for is great Asian design. Because I have a difficult time finding stores that sell traditional Japanese crafts and décor, I was delighted to discover a branch of the Mitsukoshi Department Store in the EPCOT Center at Walt Disney World. The main store is located in Tokyo, and the WDW store is the only branch in North America.
Every year, my husband and I go to a trade show held in one of the Disney World hotels. Although we’re there to work, we find time to visit the theme parks. Visiting the EPCOT Center’s World Showcase is like walking around a huge bazaar with great international food and music. And one of the biggest draws is the shopping.
When we visited the Japan Pavilion in 2009, I discovered the Mitsukoshi Department Store’s tiny entrance inside a large, imposing replica from Japan’s Imperial Palace. When I walked inside, tables of Hello Kitty toys and lucky cat figurines greeted me. Further back, I saw rows and rows of stationery and other paper products, imprinted with elegant details from Japanese fans and woodblock prints. My favorite Japanese print, Hokusai’s Red Fuji, was reprinted on journal and notebook covers.
In the women’s department, there were exquisite wall hangings and purses made out of kimono fabric and colorful silk brocade. Several young Japanese women dressed in stunning kimonos stood behind glass cases of Mikimoto pearl jewelry, while others sat at a table writing calligraphy on fans.
I truly wanted everything I saw in the women’s department. I had so many choices, I didn’t know what or how to choose. My husband returned to warn me the EPCOT closing fireworks were about to begin. I let myself be dragged out without buying anything. What could I do? There was no way to choose when what I wanted was everything. I promised myself that one day I would return.
When we finally visit EPCOT again, I wondered, will the Mitsukoshi shopping experience be as I remembered it?
This year, I convinced my husband to return to EPCOT, despite his objections against “paying for admission just to go shopping.” In the Japan Pavilion, the front entrance of Mitsukoshi was the same: a gleaming metallic sign reading “Mitsukoshi: Since 1673”, and a few items in small windows. Not much to suggest what wonders lay within. When we walked in, the children’s department at the front of the store looked the same. But, further back, the shelves of exquisite stationery and paper products were gone! Instead, the area featured anime-inspired gifts (dolls, tote bags, etc.) that were more commercial and less appealing. I began to worry.
But the further back I went, the more things I remembered: a small black handbag with the image of a gold crane spreading its wings, silk brocade purses, teacups, jewelry. In particular, jewelry made out of kimono fabric. I was attracted to a sparkling Sakura (cherry blossom) pendant, as well as a red-and-black floral pendant shaped like a donut (see pictures).
Because I love all things Sakura, a set of Sakura hairpins caught my eye, but they were just the tiny tip of the iceberg. The hairpins were sitting on a glass case containing a wealth of traditional Japanese hair ornaments made from satin flowers and silk brocade. Unfortunately, most were designed for longer tresses than my businesslike bob!
I also discovered mini tote bags in one of my favorite Japanese patterns: waves of the sea, shown as formalized wavy lines with white splashes shooting up at intervals. This design was used as a sea god emblem in Japanese shrines. (See picture). I also saw teacups imprinted with another iconic image of the sea: Hokusai’s famous Great Wave off Kanagawa.
Unfortunately, my brief, tantalizing impression of Mitsukoshi in 2009 was not entirely confirmed this year. There didn’t seem to be as much merchandise on the floor, and what was there seemed picked over. The only category that retained its astonishing beauty and variety was the jewelry and hair ornaments. These were worth the price of admission alone.
I had been saving my money for months for this moment. I purchased two necklaces, a Sakura fabric ornament, the Sakura hairpins, and the mini tote bag. All together, this was the only splurge purchase I had allowed myself in months! And I’d do it again.



Louise Burton is a writer, editor and avid shopper who lives in Wilmette, IL. Louise previously wrote about a gift store in Evanston, IL. She currently writes Web content and designs Web sites, uniting her interests in both writing and design. She has written for a host of e-newsletters about marketing trends and techniques. One of her passions is good design, wherever it can be found: on the Web, at art fairs, or in home furnishings. She is constantly on the lookout for the finest products available in gift and home décor.

09 April 2010

Glass pendants are made in the U.S.A.


Meyda Custom Lighting's new green fused-glass mini-pendants are made in New York state. The mint green pendant (left), is 8 inches wide and has a fiddlehead pattern. The art glass pendant is high-fired to fall into a flowing, draped fabric-like shape. The 6-inch-tall shade is complemented with brushed nickel hardware. The pendant includes a 6-foot-long cord and a canopy.
The Aventurin mini-pendant is 8 inches wide, with a six-inch-tall.

Retailers: Contact the manufacturer for prices and minimums.

Shoppers: Ask your favorite independent retailer to order this item for you.

08 April 2010

Candle warmers are alternatives to traditional candles

Candle Warmers Etc. introduced new products at the Housewares Show in Chicago. The ceramic candle warmer lantern (top photo) uses a soft halogen light to warm the top of the candle so that it releases the fragrance. This eliminates the fire hazard and smoke damage from burning a candle indoors.
The fleur de lis candle warmer and dish line accommodates most 4- to 18-ounce jar candles. Plug-in styles are also available.

Retailers: Contact the manufacturer for prices and minimums.

Shoppers: Ask your favorite independent retailer to order this item for you.

07 April 2010

Colorful housewares from Spain

The Spanish company Casa Vigar showed its colorful accessories for the kitchen and bath at the Housewares Show in Chicago in March. The caddy (below) from the Cactus line can be used as a fruit bowl or as an organizer.

Retailers: Contact the manufacturer for prices and minimums.

Shoppers: Ask your favorite independent retailer to order this item for you.

06 April 2010

Contemporary accent tables in polished nickel

The Oval Ring tables from Global Views are made of polished nickel with a 3/8-inch, clear glass top. Tables are available in diameters of 20 and 26 inches.
Also shown are a red Molten Jewel vase, an orange/yellow Sunset bowl, a Tangelo pillow and a Great Continent pillow. See the company in High Point.


Retailers: Contact the manufacturer for prices and minimums.

Shoppers: Ask your favorite independent retailer to order this item for you.

05 April 2010

Fruit bowl made of natural fibers


Roberta Schilling’s Centopeia is a fruit bowl made of recycled natural fibers in an undulating configuration that can be changed in multiple ways. It turns the piece into an art sculpture that makes a creative, eco-friendly statement.
Available in coconut fiber, sugar cane fiber and wood, this eco-friendly piece was featured in various art exhibits in the United States, Europe and Latin America. It received the 2009 International Forum Design Award. See the company in High Point.

Retailers: Contact the manufacturer for prices and minimums.

Shoppers: Ask your favorite independent retailer to order this item for you.
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