Tuesday, June 06, 2006
Is it ghetto to shop for gifts in a drug store?
When my family first moved to America, we were astounded by the gorgeous array of plenty that awaited us at every shopping venue. Seven Eleven was a treasure trove of sweets, ice cream, magazines and even groceries. Thrifty drugs was even better. You could run in, barefoot, for a quick ice cream cone (for 5¢) and leave with a web lawn chair, a disposable BBQ grill, some insect repellent and a pair of flip flops. The toy aisle was a site to behold, with everything from Little Golden Books to Hot Wheels to hollow plastic bats and balls.
It didn’t take long, in this land of plenty, for my tastes to become a bit more refined; buying toys, household items and clothing under one roof, at the drug store began to seem a bit tacky. While I wore flip flops and shorts bought at Thrifty, my fellow classmates at L’alliance Francaise, wore dresses with matching shorts from Neiman Marcus, Houston.
Years later, chains like Target, WalMart and Costco sell everything. Shoppers can buy food for dinner, an outfit for work and new tires, plus installation all in one place. But this sort of mass market appeal is becoming become undesirable for those who appreciate quality and uniqueness. Lovely little boutiques are often the preferred shopping venue for urban and urbane consumers. I love to go to a place like Kiehls, where you know exactly what high-quality products you’re getting. You don’t need to linger in the store; you can just zoom in, grab your shampoo and zoom right on out. However, sometimes you just want to go to a good old-fashioned drug store where you can browse around and pick up a quart of ice cream, some made in America beauty supplies, a garden hose and a three-pack of T-shirts while you’re getting your prescription filled.
Longs is such a drug store. It has that appeal of American plenty without actually being a bog box store, like Target. It’s a drugstore where you can still find the unusual, the hard-to-find, the shopping treasure. For example, My favorite Longs in San Mateo carries PG Tips and other British groceries that cost double elsewhere, Rachel Perry cosmetics, complete with retro packaging that hasn’t been changed since the seventies, organic California Baby & EO products, the whole Line of Tom’s of Main & Burt’s Bees, and a large variety of French toiletries.
I think Paco Underhill would approve.
77 Bovet Rd
San Mateo, CA 94402