Saturday, October 5, 2013

Window into La Porte

My work travels took me through the City of La Porte yesterday and so I did my usual bucket-list thing:  I dropped in on some local specialty shops that I had driven past twenty times previously without stopping. 
La Porte has attempted to buck the trend of small town Main Street decline (OK, outright death) by repurposing its original general shopping district into a targeted specialty market. 

Incidentally, I like La Porte's municipal logo much better than League City's controversial logo.  By representing Galveston Bay dynamically but generically, La Porte leaves open to the imagination what a person might achieve there on a variety of personal levels.  This logo conjures up a sense of freedom, energy, and delight without being locked into a specific narrowly-defined and hellaciously-expensive recreational pursuit.  When I look at La Porte's logo, I think to myself, "Immediately they're communicating to me that they're artistic, so I wonder what there is to discover here?"  In contrast, when I look at League City's logo, I think to myself, "I'm S.O.L. in this town unless I own a sailboat and can afford a berth plus insurance for it." 

Remember the idea of "open to the imagination"??  Or as Anne of Green Gables would say, "There's plenty of scope for imagination in it."  "Open to the imagination" is the antithesis of "We spend our money here according to well-established stereotypical formulae from which we do not deviate". 

Screengrabbed from the City of La Porte website
Tap to expand.  Amen, sister. 

Screengrabbed from Goodreads
OK, enough horse-beating digression.  Now onto Main Street, La Porte.

They've created a really cozy atmosphere for shopping. 

There are historical markers here...
...and there.  Somewhere in my dim and distant memory, I remember reading about that famous children's train. 
I'm a sucker for pretty but unconventional building colors... 
...and meticulously-maintained thoroughfares.  Main Street in itself has become a piece of art.  This store (Mike's Antique Station) was my favorite of the ones I saw, for the sheer diversity of goods it contained.  To get a feel for the interior, search for it on Facebook. 
Two things struck me about this shopping-slash-cultural experience:

(1) The word "antiques" in the La Porte context really means "small antique items".  There wasn't much furniture in any store.  Mostly they were dominated by glassware and ceramics, except for Mike's, which had a mind-boggling collection of just about every item you could name that was smaller than a breadbox.

(2) The high prices blew my mind.  I come from an age when new products were expensive and most used goods were sold at bargain basement prices.  With the recent influx of cheap goods from China and other overseas markets, that paradigm has basically been turned upside down.  "Old" and "used" are now expensive (even if they are nowhere near old enough to qualify as antiques) whereas "new" is dirt cheap.

Let me give you an example.  Three months ago when we installed our first stacked stone garden, I had to cut down a fairly large tree to accommodate it.  Not wanting to be wasteful, I wondered if I could turn it into one of the deep south's folk artistic staples - a bottle tree
Here's an example screengrabbed from this site.  They come in many forms but I'm partial to the classic all-cobalt-blue renditions. 

Austin landscape designer Pam Penick actually has the coolest-looking modern bottle tree I've ever seen, but I don't reproduce her imagery so you'd have to click the link to see it. 
This bottle tree project is not a high priority on my list of life chores, but given that I was driving through La Porte anyway, one of my motivations for stopping was to see if I could pick up some blue bottles to get me started, again with the idea of recycling plus also supporting local small businesses by purchasing from them instead of feeding the ravenous maw of cheap crap that continuously spews forth from China. 

What I found in La Porte blew my mind.  Blue bottles that weren't that old were consistently priced in the range of $8 to $50.  Apiece!! 
Compared with what you can get on the internet for a bit more than one dollar apiece.  The very same item, except it's new instead of slightly used. 

Screengrabbed from the Label Peelers retail site which, in turn, references the LD Carson site
I have no problem supporting local businesses by paying a little more or in some cases even significantly more for goods.  But not eight times as much!

With respect to some items in the La Porte stores, I was amazed to see that the prices did, in fact, reflect prevailing market values.  Here's an example of where the brick-and-mortar pricing was right on the money: 
Back in the 1970's, every household in every Commonwealth country had a collection of Red Rose tea figurines on the kitchen windowsill.  Seriously, these things were everywhere.  And they were freebies included in every box of tea, except the older ones are now priced at five to eight bucks apiece.  Plus shipping if you buy them on eBay.  If I'd known this value appreciation was going to happen, I could have saved my family's collection and used it to finance my child's college education three years from now. 

Screengrabbed from Google's thumbnail of this listing
Anyway, if you're looking for unique décor items, La Porte might be a good place to shop.  But don't expect to experience the flea market economics of yesteryear.  The goods may be older, but the prices are very much a modern phenomenon. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

I'm forced to moderate comments because the spammers have become too much for me to keep up with. If you have a legitimate comment, I will post it promptly. Sorry for the inconvenience.