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Hop a Bus to Barstow’s Bargain Mecca

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

DEAR HOT: My favorite pastime is discount shopping--leave the malls to someone else. Are there any new places where I can fulfill my wildest shopping fantasies?

--A.S., Hollywood

DEAR A.S.: The best new discount shopping mecca in Southern California is Factory Merchants Outlet Stores in Barstow, which includes Anne Klein, Evan Picone, Polo Ralph Lauren, Fieldcrest/Cannon and Royal Doulton stores. It’s off I-15’s Lenwood Road exit on the way to Las Vegas.

If you’re not up for the Barstow trip on your own, consider going with Outlet Shopping Tours, headquartered in Hermosa Beach. The company is run by Buckita Benson, who offers one-day excursions to the center in plush buses. The tours are available for large groups (individuals may be assigned to tours that aren’t filled), and Benson provides mall maps and store brochures. She charges $24 per person, which includes beverages; $30 includes a catered lunch. Benson suggests booking at least a month in advance. For more information, call (213) 372-9930.

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Another shopping tour is Kathy Bendett’s Born to Shop, which began as a wardrobe consultation and personal shopping service. Now she’s added a variety of tours, for individuals and groups, to discount stores, children’s shops and local arts and crafts boutiques.

Bendett will also customize a tour to shopping preferences. Shoppers are taken in mini-vans or buses for full- or half-day tours with an escort who also acts as a wardrobe consultant. Full-day tours are $100 and up (lunch not included), depending on how customized they are, and reservations should be made a couple of days in advance. For more information, call (213) 273-1660.

DEAR HOT: I’ve put the fun back in shopping; I do it on roller skates. This works great at Venice Beach (as long as I’m not trying on pants). However, I now have all the tank tops I need. Where else can I shop on skates?--C.S., Malibu

DEAR C.S.: Lace up and roll on over to Melrose Avenue. Many stores there welcome wheel heads (among them: Warbabies, which sells combat boots, fatigues and styled-up Army/Navy surplus-type goods; Maya, the jewelry boutique that houses 7,000 pairs of earrings, and Lip Service, known for rock ‘n’ roll gear).

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A few stores have carpeting so warped that their owners caution that even roller-derby veterans would have trouble skating there. And some shops (including Soap Plant, Wacko, La Luz de Jesus Gallery, Zulu, and Leathers and Treasures) report that their insurance policies strictly forbid shoppers on wheels. Cowabunga, dude.

DEAR HOT: I thought I’d seen everything. But at my health club, there was a woman with pink webbed hands working out in my pool aerobics class. What are those things?--J.N., Culver City

DEAR J.N.: The woman was probably wearing Wave Webs, one of the new products designed to increase the natural resistance water provides during exercise. The Webs, which come in pink, blue or lime (each with black trim), sell for $12 a pair and can be ordered by phone from Hydro-Fit (800) 346-7295). The Eugene, Ore.-based firm makes products for water workouts, including “buoyancy cuffs,” worn on the ankles or arms much like the weights worn by landlocked exercisers.


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