Although I’m not a shopaholic, there are certain places that I’ve been going to for years when I needed to buy something, and they were located not too far from where I live. 1) Haddonfield, NJ: I have heard people describe Haddonfield as “gracious” and “charming,” and one look at this town of 18th-, 19th-, and 20th-century buildings and red-brick sidewalks may find you giving similar descriptions. Inside of these building in the downtown area are many different kinds of upscale retail stores, restaurants, and banks as well as beauty salons/barber shops, real estate offices, and travel agencies, etc. My favorite is the English Gardener Gift Shop selling both edible and non-edible merchandise from the United Kingdom. Across the street is my favorite place to eat: The British Chip Shop. Guess what kind of food they serve? 2) Camden, NJ: I’ve been working in downtown Camden since 1998, and one place that I usually took a light lunch break at was the Starbucks in the Barnes & Noble bookstore on the campus of Rutgers University. While the books available to the general public are limited (They mostly sell college textbooks.), there are plenty of items and clothing displaying the logos of the three nearby institutes of higher learning: Rutgers University, Rowan University, and Camden County College as well as stationary and office supplies. The rest of this area of Camden has seen better days, and the only other retail shopping comprises of a few convenience stores, grocery stores, and pharmacies as well as a few restaurants. 3) Woodcrest Shopping Center, Cherry Hill, NJ: It’s a strip mall, but I’ve been eating at Herman’s Deli in this location for years, and there is a good sized Dollar Tree store where I almost always end up buying something. There are other places to eat at in this shopping center, and other stores, especially an Indian super market. 4) Westmont, NJ: This downtown has some interesting areas of shops, but there are also empty lots in between those different areas of shopping. The powers-to-be had planned to build up the downtown, but the economy went down the tubes before they could do anything. My favorite place to eat here is the Westmont Diner, and my favorite shops are a hobby store and the McMillan Bakery. 5) Voorhees Town Center (the former Echelon Mall), Voorhees, NJ: Before the economy took a tumble in late 2008, the company that owned the former Echelon Mall had planned to make this a new upscale shopping center containing the former mall and an outdoor shopping plaza. Nowadays, the enclosed mall is about ¾ full with different kinds of mostly standard mall stores and a food court that is also around ¾ full, with the anchor department stores being Macy’s and Boscov’s. As for the outside shopping plaza, there is very little retail, and most of the businesses are service related. 6) Cherry Hill Mall, Cherry Hill, NJ: Fortunately, this, one of the oldest shopping malls in NJ (opened in 1961), did their remodeling before the economy crashed. With the anchor department stores being Macy’s, Nordstrom, and JC Penny, Cherry Hill Mall comprises many different kinds of moderate to upscale stores, a few restaurants, and a midsized food court. Now, if they would only decorate during the holiday season like they used to in the 1960s, 70s, 80s, and 90s. 7) Collingswood, NJ: Here was another place that the town planners built up before the economy went downhill, and it shows. Collingswood offers several blocks of retail shops from low cost to upscale, restaurants, and a farmers’ market certain times of the year as well as an active small theater district, different events throughout the year, and other businesses downtown. I really can’t name a favorite store or restaurant because there are quite a few that I like. Overall, I can’t decide if Collingswood is a big town or a small city. 8) Clementon, NJ: My former hometown and the town that I spent my first 18 years of life in once had a few blocks of shops, restaurants, and other businesses in buildings mostly dating from the 1920s. Much of the merchandise was priced from discount to moderate, and I had memories of eating in the luncheonettes, buying items in the 5&10 store, and going to the weekend matinee at the local cinema. Then, in the late 1960s, those running the town decided to turn the downtown into an upscale shopping district. Therefore, in the name of “urban renewal,” they ordered most of the existing buildings torn down—but they ran out of funds before they could build anything else. Throughout most of the 1970s and 80s, the downtown mostly contained empty lots with a few buildings here and there. Then in the 1990s, developers build a modern strip mall. Although the downtown is only a shadow of its former self, this strip mall is better than an empty lot. I did find an interesting store containing second-hand merchandise at cheap prices and a discount-clothing store as well as a few cheap eateries and other businesses. It’s a start, but it is very different from the Clementon I knew in the 1960s!