The City Shopping Center in Orange looks like a lot of malls--plenty of plants, the ubiquitous Parkland Hosiery and your usual assortment of ice cream and hot dog emporiums.
What sets The City apart, however, are its number and variety of gift and specialty shops. Of the 101 stores (including two department stores, May Co. and J.C. Penney), 15 are gift or specialty stores. Names like Unga Bunga ("gifts from the jungle"), The Incredible Machine and Ho Ho Gifts relieve the sameness of Thom McAn, The Limited and Swiss Colony.
Looking for a black Asian scorpion or tarantula for that special someone? Pat's Pets has them. The perfect doll for the child who has everything? Ho Ho Gifts sells a particularly ugly "preemie" baby doll for $39.99. Unga Bunga sells neckties shaped like wild animals. There is something for everyone.
Also unusual is the mall's target customer. Marketing Director Mary Flynn says the stores are geared to three groups--tourists because of the mall's proximity to Disneyland and the Anaheim Convention Center; office building employees because it is surrounded by office buildings, and shoppers from Orange and nearby communities with family incomes of less than $45,000.
With its bright and airy interior, colorful decorative banners and liberal use of skylights, The City provides a cheerful atmosphere in which to part with one's money. Although the stores cater to middle incomes, the selection of moderate-priced goods is impressive. And along with more than 100 year-round stores, the mall has added 21 holiday shops and service booths, including a baby-sitting service, a rare coin shop and Fry's Left Handed Supply.
The City is part of a huge development project managed by the Tishman West Management Corp. and owned by Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. In or just outside the mall are two hotels, several office buildings, Clubhouse Pizza, two movie theaters (City Center Theatres and UA the Movies), an exercise center, three full-service restaurants, a foreign currency exchange and a post office.
Coupled with the convenience of having a wide variety of facilities in one location are some handy services: computerized information screens to answer shoppers' questions, free use of wheelchairs, free shopping bags and free shuttle buses to and from local hotels.
Built in 1970, The City has a modern and functional, if not glamorous, appeal. Its L-shape design allows plenty of resting places near large windows overlooking courtyards or a fountain. And banners hanging from the huge vaulted ceiling brighten the middle of the mall.
However, if you're looking for top-quality goods with plenty of style, you won't find them here. There is very little for the Amen Wardy or Brooks Brothers shopper. Kids also get short shrift. The only children's clothing store is Kid's Mart, and for toys the selection consists of Kay-Bee Toy & Hobby Shop.
Men do not fare much better. Just four clothing stores cater to them, and half of those stores also sell women's clothes.
Women, as usual, get the best selection: 15 stores feature women's fashions. The City also has four sporting goods shops, eight jewelry stores, a CVS drugstore, three card or bookstores and six beauty salons or supply shops.
Also shortchanged are hungry shoppers. Although the mall has an adequate number of food counters, the eateries fall into the ho-hum category. Orange Julius, Papa's Famous Hot Dogs and Carl's Jr. predominate.
Bargain shoppers who are not searching for high style or the latest word in munchies, however, will be rewarded. Last week, cocktail gowns at Bobbi's were selling for $29.98. Everything at a gift shop called Uniquely Yours was 20% off, and all merchandise was 75% off at Fashion Conspiracy, which features fetching clothes at low prices.
The City has interesting stores, a pleasant atmosphere and plenty of conveniences. Just don't go looking for the latest thing from Milan.
THE CITY SHOPPING CENTER AT A GLANCE
Address: At the intersection of the Santa Ana (5) or Garden Grove Freeways and The City Drive in Orange. 714-634-8500.
Hours: 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Friday; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday; 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday. Call for holiday hours.
Number of stores: 99 plus two department stores.
Department stores: May Co. and J.C. Penney.
Most unusual store: Unga Bunga is like a miniature trading post tucked under a banana tree. In a tiny corner shop in Center Court, the store sells four-inch fighting rhinos carved out of wood ($78), zebra T-shirts ($12.95), and adjustable elephant tail-hair bracelets ($7).
Best place to browse: Ho Ho Gifts has merchandise as lighthearted as its name. "Mr. Bills" is a cellophane teddy bear stuffed with $250,000 in shredded U.S. currency ($36.99). Realistic preemie dolls sell for $39.99.
Best place to take the kids: Pat's Pets, where you can pick up an Asian scorpion for $14.99 (yes they sting, but no they're not poisonous). $24.99 buys a Chili Rose tarantula and $19.99 buys a mud turtle. The shop also has cute little dogs and cats.
Good cheap eats: China King Restaurant offers tasty and inexpensive daily specials, such as almond chicken or sweet and sour pork, for about $3.
Services: Free wheelchair loans, stroller rentals, free shopping bags, free shuttle buses to and from area hotels. Babysitting is available during holiday shopping season; call ahead for times available. No valet parking.