CHAINS OF LOVE 


My Christmas wish has already been answered. My favoritest thing of all has landed in Orlando, and it’s big, good-looking, Scandinavian and cheap. No, not a Swedish exchange student – IKEA! One thing I’ve missed since moving here is the ability to buy, say, a stylish, inexpensive laundry hamper. (Why spend $25 on a Rubbermaid monstrosity when you could have Skübb, an attractive divided bin made of black fabric and metal, for only $9?) And it’s not just about laundry baskets. Our mattress rests on an old futon frame because we can’t find a bed frame that’s not a) hideous or b) mega-expensive. Now that IKEA’s here, we can buy Mälm, a sleek birch baby that won’t clash with our Eames-y vibe, for only $179. For a price like that, I won’t mind spending an hour struggling with a hex wrench.

So my Christmas wish now is the arrival of some other chain stores that would make Orlando a better place to live — and shop.

No. 1 on my list and in my heart: Trader Joe’s. A West Coast fixture, Trader Joe’s has expanded rapidly in the last few years, but hasn’t found its way to Florida yet. I’ve been whingeing about how much I miss TJ’s since I moved here. It’s not a big-box store like Costco; it’s not a temple of high-priced purity like Whole Foods; if I had to come up with a slogan, it would be “high livin’ for broke folks.” TJ’s is where you go when you get paid peanuts but have a taste for Marcona almonds dusted with rosemary and sea salt. They sell bags of frozen wild-caught salmon, artisanal goat cheese, organic blueberry juice, candied blood-orange peels dipped in bittersweet chocolate, etc. Yes, it’s foo-foo, but more important, it’s CHEAP.

A few other stores I wouldn’t kick out of my back yard:

American Apparel: If you haven’t already been converted to the AmApp cult, you’re probably still wearing that Beefy-T from your company’s last team-building exercise. AA T-shirts are thin and super-soft, they come in a million colors, and they’re made in America by workers paid a decent wage. The stores are thick on the ground in New York and L.A., but Central Floridians either have to trek to Miami or order online.

H&M: Another Swedish chain, H&M is the IKEA of clothing – addictively cute, enablingly cheap. Sure, their clothes are cheaply made and sometimes overly trendy, but if I’m going to jump a trend that will die in half a season, better to pay less than $50 to indulge. And with capsule collections from Stella McCartney, Karl Lagerfeld and Viktor & Rolf, the store’s fashionista credentials are impeccable.

The Container Store: One of these days I gotta get myself organizized. Wishing for a store devoted to stuff in which to put my stuff might mean I have too much stuff; nevertheless, the rows and rows of shiny bins and baskets have a soothing and hypnotic effect.

Famima!!: Cooler cases stacked with tidy columns of sushi, edamame, rice balls with pickled plums; shelves stuffed with a rainbow of Pocky and Pretz, bags of Japanese crunchy snacks saturated in MSG, Tokyo fashion mags and my favorite Rhodia graph-paper pads … it’s like Famima climbed into my brain and used me as a focus group of one. In the U.S., Famima is only in the Los Angeles area as yet, but my fingers are crossed for a Godzilla-style rampage of expansion.

jyoung@orlandoweekly.com

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