Remember these crowds from over the winter? These are people lined up to spend money in our University Mall! With no more drugstore, rumors of Dillard’s leaving, the departure of the Children’s Store, people whispered and railed that the mall had too little to offer. What then were all these people doing there?

The shopping throngs above are waiting to spend $$ in University Mall… in Chapel Hill… and their collected sales tax will go to Orange County! What? Is this some sort of parallel universe? No, it’s a J.Crew warehouse sale – a “pop-up” sale in that it formed and now it’s gone.

Renting an empty spot, bringing in merchandise from dozens of stores and staging a special event, J.Crew reached out and grabbed the heart (and wallet) of many a Chapelboro shopper.

What can be learned from this for those wanting to recalibrate the proportion of sales & property taxes supporting our county? Was the success of this sale due to the location? The pricing? The wares? The short-term opportunity? In other words, what worked here that this community can re-create?

General Manager Peter de Leon told me the traffic was great, bringing a younger customer not usually in the mall. And, while the traffic pattern of the J.Crew sale store made it perhaps too easy for people to leave the store without coming back into the mall, de Leon does believe J.Crew’s success here “opened the door to a discussion of repeating” the pop-up store or, possibly, a permanent one.

I can’t tell you what J.Crew has to say about any of this because my 4 separate calls over the past week resulted in only some version of “someone will get back to you.” I promise to tell you if someone ever does! Let’s just say I don’t think I’ll have time to rush to a J.Crew cash register until someone does find the time to call me.

Now, back to my main point: Since I’m sure you noticed many of the folks in the accompanying photos are in long sleeves and/or coats and, considering my hair is once again frizzy wavy from the return of our humidity, what is new and exciting at University Mall?

Over a period of several weeks this spring, de Leon tells me, the mall will have welcomed the following stores and restaurants: Red Bowl Asian Bistro, Skate Hard (certain to attract a hip crowd!), Toots & Magoo, Seagrove Pottery and Jewelworks. He also emphasized the many special events held at the mall- which will be the subject of an upcoming column.

This Savvy Spender wants to hear from you about these additions and others you’d like to see.

Send a note to or comment below with your thoughts about how to keep this sort of luscious GREEN in town. And remember, if you are (or know of) a business opening, expanding, adding a high level of chocolate to its wares, etc., please tell me ASAP!