Maybe it's because I'm a 'Tosa girl at heart, or maybe it's because I've never really been all that excited by the mall experience, but even after the Bayshore Town Center redefined what a mall can be for the Milwaukee area, I still wasn't all that taken with it.
I guess it comes down to what I, personally, need a mall to be. Basically, I don't need it to be all encompassing, as I prefer to be in and out as quickly as possible, I rarely want to dine in or around a mall and if I wanted to walk around outside, I would probably find a place as far from a mega shopping center as possible.
Quality of store options is my first priority, and while Bayshore will definitely get me with H&M and Ma Jolie, I've yet to see a major difference between Mayfair's and Bayshore's options, based on what I like. With both malls being about equidistant from my house, and with Mayfair not making me scurry around in the wind, for now -- or at least until it warms up -- my loyalties lay with Mayfair.
One of the immutable facts of retailing is that "new" doesn’t always mean "improved." If you need an example, think about the focus-group fascists who reformulated the Coke recipe about 20 years ago.
This challenge, in essence, is old vs. new.
Though it has been updated several times (I’m old enough to remember the skating rink) and has the stores consumers want, Mayfair Mall is, in many ways, old. The big-box mall is being replaced in many new developments by the "new urbanism," mixed-use design employed in Bayshore’s makeover.
I’ve shopped at malls all over the country, from Fashion Square in Phoenix to the Galleria in Houston, the Beverly Center in Beverly Hills, a number of spots in and around Dallas and Fashion Valley in San Diego.
Some are enclosed. Some are open-air. Some have different quirks about them, but they are all filled with the same shoes, shirts, Sunglass Huts and annoying teenagers. That numbing sameness permeates much of the culture these days, but we can table that "old guy" rant for another time.
As for the subject at hand …
Though it can be a bit jarring for first-timers, I like the layout of the new Bayshore. I might not like it when it’s raining, sleeting, freezing or roasting outside, but I like the idea of walking outside to the different stores and restaurants. I think the people who work in the offices and live in the condos will like the vibe, too.
I have a feeling that if the people who developed Mayfair, Brookfield Square or Grand Avenue were given another chance, they would adopt this John Norquist wet dream design over a big box surrounded by blacktop.
Ask me which setup I prefer, and I’ll say Bayshore. Ask me which mall I’ll shop at and I’ll tell you Mayfair, because it’s closer to my house. As long as the shopping and dining selections are fundamentally the same, the final answer will always be convenience.
Molly Snyder Edler
I’m not a big mall person to begin with, but if I were in the mood for a mainstream shopping experience, I would probably pick Bayshore Town Center over Mayfair. For one, it’s closer to my Riverwest home, and for two, I really like getting fresh air in all kinds of weather -- including the dead of winter. Some people have shunned the new Bayshore for being a cookie-cutter consumer community that’s, more or less, the same in every city, but I think Bayshore has a good selection of shops and a nice feel. I especially appreciate H&M and that the Alterra serves food. Best of all, on a recent trip, we were actually able to "window shop" the way it’s supposed to be done: from the outdoors looking in.
I’ll admit I was a little skeptical on Bayshore Town Center’s opening day. It was cold that afternoon and I thought, "This won’t fly in the Wisconsin winter." Time will tell if I was right, but even now as it’s getting deeper into December, I find that I actually prefer outside Bayshore to inside Bayshore. Whether or not I prefer it to Mayfair is hard to say because the experiences are so different.
When it comes to signage and assortment of shops, both places seem neck and neck. As for bigger eating establishments, they’re pretty even, too, although Mayfair’s food court wins out easily.
I prefer the open-air experience to any inside mall, Mayfair included, at least when the weather is nice. But Mayfair is pretty convenient, despite the mythical parking shortage, and it’s close to home. So, I think it will remain my go-to place.
But Bayshore has a few stores -- like Trader Joe’s -- that are unique in the area, so I’ll get there, too.
For me (and for most men), shopping comes down to two words: surgical strike. That's why I found myself so conflicted in choosing between Bayshore and Mayfair. In most categories, Bayshore has Mayfair beat -- but the old standby was designed for maximum convenience, and it still serves that purpose.
In terms of accessibility, parking at Bayshore couldn't have been easier. On an afternoon just a week before Christmas, I had no problems getting in and out. The exit off of I-43N literally led me into a free parking garage with ample spaces. By contrast, parking at Mayfair is a pain, no matter what time of day, no matter what time of the week. Bayshore is also closer to my East Side office and usually an easier drive. Bayshore felt spacious and not at all crowded; Mayfair always feels like a zoo.
The new stores at Bayshore are more unique than its counterparts in reliable ol' Mayfair. Trader Joe's and the H&M (with men's clothes) aside, there are more interesting shops you don't find at other Milwaukee malls.
But what Mayfair's biggest selling point is gives it a huge advantage: it's indoors. I'm sure that on a lovely summer day, shopping at Bayshore is a pleasant experience. But except for the old indoors portion (which seems barely changed at all), the new mall is a twisty, largely signage-free maze that involves lots of walking around in the freezing cold. For straight-up ease of use, Mayfair, in its old-school traditional layout, gets the edge. Sure, Bayshore's "town" concept serves up the ambience of an actual shopping district -- but for that, I'd rather cruise Brady Street or the Third Ward. No matter how it looks, remember that Bayshore is still a mall.
So -- getting in and out of Bayshore is a snap. Its stores are better. But Mayfair is a more comfortable and faster experience with a legit food court. It's just about a toss-up for me -- but the proximity and the novelty factor just slightly outweighs the comfort and familiarity. Unless it's 10 below zero, I'll take Bayshore -- but just barely.