If you’re tired of Arizona Mills, head south on Interstate 10 for about 40 miles to a real outlet mall. The Outlets at Casa Grande, a factory-direct shopping center right off Exit 198, boasts more than 40 stores.
The shopping center has a charming, out-of-time feel that takes you back to the early ’90s.
Here’s a look at some of the shops (prices may be reflective of short-term sales):
This discount bookseller has deals on relatively new releases (Stephen King’s “Cell” and “S for Silence” by Sue Grafton, $10 each) and amusingly anachronistic titles such as the “ ‘Party of Five’ Family Photo Album” and an unauthorized biography of former female pro wrestling star Chyna. Buried treasures abound — like the long out-of-print “Satellite Down” by “Veronica Mars” creator Rob Thomas for four bucks.
Spotted a 5-pound tub of “Mega-Whey” for $47.49. Apparently, that’s a good price.
50% Off Cards
This greeting card place boasts “Up to 75% off cards” on a neon sign in their window. Why not just call it “75% Off Cards”?
Those looking to stock up on pants would do well to check here — $20 for Dockers and $25-$30 for men’s jeans, including $28 for the ol’ button-fly stand-by 501s. Most women’s jeans are around $25. There are also some obnoxious T-shirts with allegedly “funny” sayings on them, so . . . yay?
Though this is one of their largest stores in terms of geographic area, it’s pretty empty on the Sunday afternoon I stroll in. Like, totally empty. Deals include a Kenmore Elite gas grill for $1,000 and a 60-inch Sony LCD HDTV for $2,649 — don’t expect the “softer side” of Sears here, it’s all electronics and around-the-home stuff. Eventually an employee materializes out of nowhere.
Mall management office
I chat with the woman on duty, asking some questions about the place’s history, like how long it’s been around. “About 15 years,” she reports. That explains the early ’90s feel.
Steiner’s Amish Furniture
There are no guys with beards inside — in fact, the whole time I’m inside I don’t see any people at all. It’s pretty dark, too. I would think that it was closed had the door not been unlocked and the sign on the door not said “open.” Lots of wooden furniture, though.
Factory Brand Shoes
Moderately good deals ($50 for a pair of Skechers), but nothing that can’t be duplicated at a local DSW or Famous Footwear.
Two greeting card stores in the same shopping center? I try to get the scoop from the guy behind the counter on any rivalry. “We’re more of a party supply store,” he says. Boring. He’s right, though, there’s plenty of party paraphernalia on hand, including items tying into the movie “Cars” — the shock of seeing something from 2006 sent me reeling for a bit.
An impressive amount of kitchen gadgets in a small place, most sporting $5-$20 discounts.
Perhaps the crème de la crème of the Outlets at Casa Grande. Sure, you could go to the location at Arizona Mills, but that’s not nearly as adventurous. Here we’ve got $3.99 tank tops and $6.99 skirts — the good thing about the Gap is that their clothes are basic enough to always be in fashion, so the fact that this stuff is a few months old isn’t that big of a deal.
Not a lot of options at the outlet mall — in fact, there’s really only a Wendy’s. As you can guess, it’s packed, with hurried shoppers wolfing down square patties and Frosties. A few miles down the road (Exit 194) there are many more options — Burger King, Del Taco, Denny’s and the almighty Cracker Barrel — it’s also the location of the city’s now-defunct second outlet mall, which has a sign announcing future plans as a Central Arizona College location.