A tale of two malls: Southgate & DeSoto Square

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Photo courtesy of westfield.com

Craving a sweet, air conditioned respite from the trials and tribulations of schoolwork? With your credit card handy, indulge yourself with a day trip to Westfield Southgate Mall or DeSoto Square Mall. Southgate Mall appeals to more formal, refined tastes while DeSoto Mall has a grungy, comfortable atmosphere.

Westfield Southgate Mall

The polished marble floors, airy windows and fresh white walls of Westfield Southgate Mall lend it a luxe, formal ambience. The mall is arranged in an L-shape, with venders selling orchids, gadgets and Dead Sea Spa Skin Care products along its main thoroughfare. Its stores are predictably ritzy due to its proximity to the beach and location in one of Sarasota’s most expensive neighborhoods. The mall includes Saks Fifth Avenue, Coach, The Walking Company, Dillards and Macy’s among others.

Sadly, Southgate Mall lacks a food court and has only Euro Grill, Pretzel Twister, Starbucks, Cosimo’s Brick Oven and Tasti D-Lite to satiate mall-goer’s munchies. Cosimo’s Brick Oven is a sit down restaurant that serves pizza, salad, pasta, wraps and award winning Tempura Shrimp. The shrimp dish was voted best appetizer in Taste of Sarasota Chef’s competition and is accompanied by wasabi aioli and sweet chili dipping sauces.

First-year student Zoë Strauss is not smitten with the Southgate mall, she said, “The mall was small,” she said, “It seemed like it was catering more to older people. It was kind of unusual and there wasn’t a food court. It was kind of a weird mall.” When asked her favorite aspect of the mall, she further elaborated: “I don’t like the mall.”

Macy’s store employee Katrine Colvin said that though she works at Southgate, she prefers to shop at the Westfield Sarasota Square mall — where stores are more budget friendly.

Last week, the Williams-Sonoma in the mall offered a complimentary fall cooking class and Pottery Barn offered a free design class where, atttendees could “Design your dream living room” — two samples of the activities hosted at the mall each week that Novocollegians could take advantage of.

In spite of this criticism, Southgate Mall has its finer points and provides a gathering spot for the Sarasota community. It is a straight shot down South Tamiami Trail from the New College campus — just 15 minutes away by car.

DeSoto Square Mall

DeSoto Square Mall is laid out in a T-shape, its corridors are spacious and it possesses a funky array of stores including Spencer’s Gifts, Hot Topic, The Stoned Toad, Simplicity, a new age home goods store, and Jenny’s Dollar +. The mall has food court staples such as Chik-fil-A, China Max, Sbarro and Tokyo Sushi Bar arranged in a circle at its the west end. These eateries offer cheap fare and a lot of variety that can satisfy the cravings of the most eclectic group of college students. One could make a meal out of orange chicken, waffle fries and a stromboli.

DeSoto Mall has an arcade with video games, skee ball, billiards, a bounce house and black light miniature golf course. It is a prime place to hang out at on a rainy day. The mall also features a dollar movie theatre, currently playing Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore, Despicable Me, Grown Ups, Charlie St. Cloud and Dinner for Schmucks. Tickets cost $1 every day except for mondays and tuesdays when they are discounted to $0.50. The theater offers free refills on popcorn and drinks so that its moviegoers need not feel parched or famished partway through a flick.

On Sunday Oct 2nd, DeSoto Square Mall hosted America’s Cute Kids, a beauty pageant for infants to 15 year olds. The pageant was divided into seven categories: the baby contest, most photogenic child, most beautiful or handsome child, best outfit of choice, best attire, prettiest eyes and prettiest smile. Every contestant received a trophy or plaque and contestants in 1st to 4th place will move on to represent Sarasota at finals.

DeSoto Square Mall is unique and lacks the homogenization that pervades most other temples of consumerism. Though its floor tiles are chipped and its decor dated, it possesses a funkiness that is especially appealing to college students

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