The reason why the Bella boutique on 4th Street in San Rafael is my favorite store isn’t just because they stay open late and offer a 10% discount on Thursdays, or that I can walk there from my house, or even that the clothes are really cute.
It’s because I am a terrible shopper, and I don’t know how to do it. I hate trying on clothes, I am not built like most women, and in fact, if you ask me, I’m just all, all wrong, and nothing can confirm this more quickly than trying to shop at the Banana Republic or J. Crew or other chain stores. And then even in other downtown boutiques, I walk in the door, take notice of all the aisles, and I am immediately uncomfortable because I don’t even know where to start. This feeling of dread only intensifies when the sales staff coolly asks me how I’m doing. Right, like you even care, I know you’re laughing at me, just leave me alone!
And so normally what I do is I don’t shop at all, and this is a primary reason why I ride my bike so much. I buy my clothes once a year, on the team order form, and move on with my life.
So last Thursday evening, after passing throuth the 4th Street Farmer’s Market, which isn’t even a market at all, and there aren’t any farmers, I walked into Bella on 4th street. A very nice lady, who turns out to be the owner of the store, named Stacy, said, “Can I help you find something?”
“I’m looking for a, um, how about a shirt.”
“Is this for work, night time, or casual?” she said.
“Uh, there’s a difference? Oh, okay, casual.”
“Okay, give me five minutes.”
Within three minutes and forty-four seconds, she handed me hanger after hanger of tops that she felt would actually fit and look good. I spent the next twenty minutes trying them all on, and walking out on the sales floor for the “fashion show” (she says they love fashion shows), and not once did I feel silly or goofy or like they were laughing at me, as I have in all those “other” fashion shows, and I actually ended up buying two tops that actually fit and none of them say anything about our team sponsors.
They also offer complimentary cheese, crackers, and grapes on Thursday evenings.
So I consider this a good day for me, and that’s also why it’s my favorite store.
My other favorite store is Double Rainbow Ice Cream, also on 4th Street. You don’t have to know anything about ice cream, but the odds are, they’ll hook you up with a flavor you like. I consider them a comforting antithesis to Cold Stone, which is a block away around the corner, which offers way too many choices in the condiments department. I have only gone once, actually, and was dismayed to know that I couldn’t just order plain ice cream, that I had to add other flavorings, and then watch them chop it all up on a cutting board. That makes no sense. Ice cream is to be scooped, not chopped.