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Tour de Fry’s

December 2nd, 2003 · No Comments

Saturday we got a tour of the new Fry’s in Renton – and what a marathon it was, a lengthy athletic event requiring endurance! – as well as shopping at a few other stores…..

Our start line in Seattle began at University Village . That was actually the second leg, after assembling the family together and taking the 9:40 ferry from Bainbridge. First the girls and I ran into OfficeMax to buy some envelopes for Christmas cards. We met Ted and Elisabeth at the Apple store , quite the shopping experience.

Employee: What brings you to the Apple Store today?
Me: My husband is in here somewhere.
Employee: That’s a good enough reason.

It was what you would expect from an Apple store – fancier though than what I remember of the one that I once visited on Infinite Loop – with a feel of luxury and space, high celings, white with simple photos, fonts and mottos, black, silver and red accents, appealing to creativity, sight and sound, a little theater with rows of black chairs, lots of toys to touch, a “Genius Bar”, teasing ads with red ribbon wrapped around Powerbooks, enticing “someone in your life loves ….”, and a table for kids with eMacs and fun chairs. Here’s the girls enjoying the Curious George programs.


Believe it or not, Ted didn’t buy anything there, our only souvenir the girls’s iPod stickers…So we went to the Gap .

What I liked about shopping at the Gap: Since I already knew what size and style I wanted, from an old pair of jeans I had, I went straight to the shelf and got it. Perfect fit. Took maybe ten minutes total.

What I didn’t like about the Gap: They don’t carry Ted’s sizes any more. This is a change since we last shopped there. It seems they only carry certain sizes for men, a bell curve of sorts, so extremes, like my husband, are forced to order on-line. Now to get Ted into a Gap store, or any clothing store, is an accomplishment, and we were disappointed to discover that they didn’t have his jeans. It seems that they are encouraging on-line over in-store. ( Tonight Ted posted his own experience and opinion on the Gap, Fry’s and our other adventures. )

The girls though were happy with the lip gloss scratch and smell stickers, accumulating a collection through our shopping trip. To buy my jeans I used a gift certificate someone gave us when Abigail was born. For years now I’ve looked at Gap Baby clothes, wondering when to spend the certificate, but I have a hard time spending money on a new outfit that baby will only wear a few times. Instead I figured it’s okay to buy myself new jeans that I need as a mom.

Next leg meant driving back downtown. Our stop was the Tom Bihn store, almost a literal hole in the wall. I waited in the van with the girls, but Ted says I saw most of the tiny store from the street. He was happy to get a new bag that fits his new Powerbook.

Then we headed to the waterfront to get some food. Time for re-fueling. We ended up at Ivar’s Fish Bar , eating fish and chips at a corner table, outside but sheltered. Looking down at the floor we could see a strip of sea green, the ocean beneath us. A circus of sea gulls, sparrows and pigeons competed for crumbs. Ships and ferries crossed the Sound. Elisabeth had fun with the fries, and so did Abigail and Michaela. A special treat and it was fun to people watch too, looking at all the other families enjoying fish and chips under the same roof. It’s a classic Seattle experience – but not one we do often by ourselves; the kind of thing you save for when relatives visit and its time to play tourist. And it’s great to be able to use the bathrooms in the restaurant: key for our family! We made the stop using up the exact amount of quarters we’d coughed up into the parking meter. Wish I had taken a photo but my fingers were too greasy….

Final stop was Fry’s , but this was no sprint. We were there a total of more than 2 hours. I confess I was curious. We used to shop at Fry’s all the time when we lived in Silicon Valley, especially since one of the stores was within walking distance of our home in San Jose. I never liked shopping there. I used to say that I showed Ted I loved him by going to Fry’s with him. It wasn’t fun for me.

For Ted it’s like being a kid in a candy store, with compartments of components instead of jars of jawbreakers. It’s hard to get him to go home. When we moved to the Valley, Fry’s was one of his favorite places, and it’s been one of the things he’s missed most since we moved. He’s been drooling over the ads in the Seattle Times, dreaming of the Renton store since it’s inception.

We even have a photo in Abigail’s baby book, when we took her to Fry’s for the first time: our first child in the parking lot at Fry’s, wearing the NASA outfit our neighbor gave us, Ted holding her up proudly in front of the red neon sign.

So this time, for Michaela and Elisabeth’s first visit, I took a picture of them in the parking lot in front of the Fry’s sign. The girls were excited, Abigail squealing as we went into the store “I get to go to Fry’s!” The volunteer ringing the Salvation Army bell at the kettle, a large man, laughed at our daughter’s joy.

I should say that I liked this store better than the one in San Jose. The floor is clean and very shiny stone, granite and marble. The aisles have nice carpeting. It’s not like shopping at Costco – it feels neater than that. Items on the shelves seem mostly organized. No dust in sight – yet.

Yet it still feels like a warehouse, but a tidy and new warehouse. Maybe a little like a lab, with white walls, white ceiling, and lights. But with a cafe – like Barnes and Noble meets Costco. Sepia Boeing pictures decorate the walls: an artsy aerospace theme, I suppose – more gentle, not the Egyptian or other extreme character themes of the Valley ones. It has the same basic layout as the San Jose store, printers and computers in the back, audio and TVs in a cluster in the back corner, Apple in the middle. This store didn’t give me the cluttered claustrophobic feel as the other one. I think the San Jose one with it’s Egyptian theme felt dark and strange in some sense, bizarre and foreign. But this Renton one felt clean, bright and nice. But still a bit boring..

First we went down an aisle and Ted looked for some tools, examining various packages hung on the pegs. We were like a train, me with the double stroller and my husband with a cart. Not knowing what else to do, as we were stopped in the aisle, I looked around and counted the lights on the ceiling. They were big lights, in a simple style that spoke both “science” and “warehouse”. 26 lights one way and 27 the other, on the ceiling. Yeah, I know it seems they should be symmetrical, the same each way, but believe me, I tried to count them at least a few times….

After twenty minutes of wandering through the aisles, looking at tools, walking past various components one could use make a case with glowing cathode colors, wall displays of charts and chips, stacks of boxes, Ted, concerned about the kids said, “Now it starts to get boring.”
“It STARTS to get boring?!” I repeated. By then I had already counted the ceiling lights several times, confirming my calculations. The girls were getting fussy.

We kept going for a while longer, admiring photo printers – on our like-to-buy-one-someday list, and then we went and looked at the audio equipment. Ted, with the help of Consumer Reports, selected a new receiver for our broken stereo system.

Then the girls and I headed for the cafe to take a break. I was amazed by the variety of sandwiches and drinks served: I had been expecting stale scones and sodas. We split a chocolate milkshake and munched on crackers. I was surprised at how tired I felt, especially in my feet. Got to get better shoes for these endurance events! Elisabeth spilled water on me a few times, and on her own pants too. Drinking from a regular cup was amusing her a lot – and that was important, after several hours of shopping – but being wet was no fun. When I tried to call Ted though I found his cell phone wasn’t ringing. So we prayed and waited until he stopped by. It was nice to have a place to eat and rest – it probably rescued us!

At this point we had been in the store almost two hours. Ted needed to do a little more shopping. The girls and I were fading fast. When Ted headed to the checkout line, we went to the van. Here’s the store as we exited – already dark…..


Then, for dinner, we headed to Crossroads , where Ted indeed used the wifi to check his email while we waited for our friends to come join us. It was fun for me to see the mall again after reading (and blogging ) the article about its redemption in the Times. After eating at Chili’s and having a long conversation, a good time, we headed to the ferry, missing the 9:45 boat by 5 minutes…..This last leg may have been the hardest. While waiting almost an hour in the darkness for the next boat, we all were tempted to lose our tempers….but it was worth it to have had the time with our friends.

The Tour de Fry’s finished after 11 pm when we pulled into the driveway and put the kids into bed. Exhausted! Time for champagne and trophy but we just tumbled into bed, tired. Don’t know when we’ll be heading back to Renton but it was worth making the stop, just to see it…..

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