Always in style

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Just wanted to share this article with you. It's about my all time favourite shopping centre on the planet, the Bal Harbour Shops in Bal Harbour, Florida. (Near Miami) It is just heavenly! It's breathtakingly beautiful with amazing stores. Neiman Marcus at one end, Saks at the other end, and in between, every designer store you can imagine. Fendi, Louis Vuitton, Versace, Chanel... while I can't afford much, when I go, I try to get at least one big ticket item! Also, my favourite Italian restaurant is there, Carpaccio's... yum! I can smell Bal Harbour from here and can't wait to go again! The first time we went, we were in awe... and every time we go, we love it even more. It's so peaceful, and truly, I am so happy when I'm there! The shopaholic in me, I guess...

More than 40 years after its grand opening, Bal Harbour Shops remains one of the most popular fashion destinations in the country

U/Miami News Service

Bal Harbour Shops is home to nearly 100 luxury boutiques, such as Dolce & Gabbana, Chanel, Cartier, Fendi and Louis Vuitton.
''There's no other comparable place like Bal Harbour Shops anywhere else in the world,'' said owner and developer Stanley Whitman. ``My pride and joy is what I have been able to contribute to the community.''
With 16 top-line brands such as Bulgari, Piaget, Tiffany & Co., Chopard and David Yurman all in one place, the center abounds with world-class jewelers.
The 500,000 square feet of retail space, at 9700 Collins Ave., have been filled with success. In 2005, revenue in sales per square foot was $1,573, compared to the national average of $336 per square foot.
Plans are in place to continue enhancing the shops by adding another 200,000 square feet of retail space and another facility for charity and special events.
The shops have a long history of service to the Beaches.
The upscale mall opened in December 1965 on 16 acres that were transformed from what once were World War II army barracks into the first outdoor luxury shopping center. It started with 30 New York-based tenants, and became home to the first Neiman Marcus location outside of Texas in 1971.
''Bal Harbour is one of the most prized addresses in the world,'' said Neiman Marcus spokeswoman Jonie Sabo-Schmidt.
Palm trees, fountains and the sound of running water make for a tranquil atmosphere. Some shoppers say this is what keeps them coming, even if it means a long drive.
''I love the atmosphere,'' said Molly Bishop of Fort Lauderdale.
Some retailers believe the personal service they offer their customers is like no other. Stores will even stay open past closing in order to give customers time to complete their shopping.
''Our goal is to get to know our customer very intimately. The personal service makes us different here,'' Sabo-Schmidt said.
Since the Shops opened, business and tourism have been on the rise in the area. The Sea View Hotel and the Sheraton Bal Harbour Beach Resort are just across the street.
The Regent Bal Harbour will be the first new hotel to be built in the area in 50 years. The 18-story building will have 124 suites and a presidential suite and its grand opening is scheduled for the spring.
These hotels were among the first buildings to line the coast and they have attracted celebrities and royalty for decades.
''We get many tourists from Argentina, Mexico, Brazil, Chile and Europe,'' said Sea View sales manager Sonnia Valverde.
Muriel Bachmann of Switzerland is one of those tourists.
''I like Bal Harbour Shops and the outdoors,'' she said. ``All the famous brands are in one place.''
Not only can famous brands be easily found, but also celebrities. In recent months, sightings have included model Cindy Crawford, performers Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony, and singer Shakira.
To satisfy the appetite of celebrities and other visitors, the Shops has 11 fine restaurants that offer diverse cuisine. They include Carpaccio, a sophisticated Italian eatery; Lea's Tea Room & Café; and the newest addition, La Goulue Christian Delouvrier, a Manhattan-based French bistro that opened in October.
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