By  on March 11, 2011

A few years ago, the town of Fairview was unknown to most Dallasites, including myself. Situated 30 miles north of downtown Dallas, tiny Fairview only has about 9,000 residents and, well, zero claim to fame.

It might seem an odd place to plunk a 1 million-square-foot lifestyle center anchored by Macy’s, Dillard’s, J.C. Penney and Whole Foods Market, except Fairview abuts the much larger, rapidly growing communities of Allen and McKinney and is only 5 miles from Plano, the ninth-largest city in Texas.

Developer MG Herring Group has so much faith in this patch of prairie that it built The Village at Fairview as well as a value-oriented sister complex directly across the street, The Village at Allen. The Village at Allen, a 1 million-square- foot open-air galaxy of big-box retailers anchored by SuperTarget, suffered the unfortunate timing of a fall 2008 debut, but has slowly been picking up tenants.

The rambling Village at Fairview began opening in stages in mid-2009, making it one of the last major retail developments built in Texas. Macy’s set up shop in August that year, and Dillard’s followed in March 2010.

Given the difficult economy, both Villages still have noticeable vacancies, and I’ve never seen either one busy on my sporadic visits to this suburban outpost. When I turned into The Village at Fairview around 5 p.m. on a Monday, the vast parking lots were only dotted with cars, and I easily found a spot at Macy’s back door.

Full disclosure: I am a child of the Seventies who eschewed artifice and got away with not wearing makeup for most of my life. With age, however, I’ve faced the fact that I look better with a bit of coverage and color. This was probably overdue.

I walked through Macy’s to the invitingly spacious beauty department with its crisp, all-white decor of glossy tile floors and cabinetry, cubed brick columns and long block lights suspended overhead. A delicious fruity floral fragrance wafted from the Lush boutique. I did a double take because a woman was getting her hair hennaed by an associate at Lush, a service I’d never seen in a cosmetics department.

It was quiet, and a saleswoman instantly greeted me. I had a specific request—a MAC eyeliner that had been recommended by Prashi Shah, a glamorous Dallas designer whose flawless eyeliner I had admired. Prashi used to be a makeup artist, which explains her perfect application, but she insisted it was easy. Alas, Macy’s didn’t carry MAC, and the saleswoman deftly redirected me to Benefit.

Benefit’s freestanding display had approachable, double-sided access. The saleslady suggested using an eye shadow for eyeliner, applying a line to her hand and rubbing it to show that it didn’t smudge. I was impressed and could imagine having fun with the colors, but I was still thinking about that black MAC pot.

I lamented the dark circles under my eyes, and she escorted me around to Benefit’s concealers and foundations. Along the way we passed a sink in a vanity—a nice, useful touch. I perched in a cushioned high chair as she smoothly demonstrated a series of products—Porefessional primer, Sugarbomb powder and Stay Don’t Stray and Boing concealers, plus a kit called Confessions of a Concealaholic.

Chatty but professional, she was a convincing salesperson, and I was tempted both by the products and their kitschy packaging. The Porefessional primer seemed especially effective, but it distressed me to think about slathering yet another layer of goo atop eye cream, wrinkle serum, moisturizer, sunscreen....Where does it end? Stay Don’t Stray was a bit too visible for my taste, and while I loved that the Concealaholic box packed an arsenal of six (!) products to camouflage dark circles and brighten eyes, I already had three prestige concealers at home.

I looked around. Why, I wondered aloud, was the department dominated by Estée Lauder, Clinique and Lancôme? Besides Shiseido, Lush, Benefit and a small display of StriVectin, I didn’t see any other brands.

That will change soon, the salesperson told me, adding that the store is supposed to add Laura Mercier, Elizabeth Arden and Smashbox by the end of the year.

I thanked her and exited through the front door onto the esplanade.

I strolled to Dillard’s and walked in without realizing that MAC was nestled into a recess by the front door. Directed back by a sales associate, I saw that MAC’s boutique had a window to natural light—an unusual and smart asset for the beauty area of any store.

A young saleswoman pointed out the Fluidline paint pot, and I asked to apply it with an angled brush. The line I drew had only the lightest of spaces, but black eyeliner is unforgiving. I looked at her.

“That’s because you’re squinting,” she said. Patiently, she taught me to lean my head back to keep the eyelid flat to brush a solid line. Eureka! Why had I never heard of this little trick before?

“This is so much better than a pencil because half of a pencil is wasted when you sharpen it,” she noted. “You’ll never use a pencil again.”

I bought the $15 jar.

Next, I wandered into the beauty area. It was big— maybe twice the size of the one at Macy’s—with a warm decor of terra-cotta marble tile floors and counters trimmed in blond wood. Most cosmetics were showcased in traditional square bays with the exception of walk-in shops for MAC, Bobbi Brown and Clinique. There were few shoppers and a saleswoman offered to help, but by now I was just scouting, and I liked what I saw.

The store evinced a dedication to beauty. Besides the Big Three, it stocked Dior, Clarins, Elizabeth Arden, Erno Laszlo, Paula Dorf, Peter Thomas Roth, Shiseido, StriVectin, Studio Gear and two mineral color lines—Fusion and Pür Minerals. An area geared toward men featured Zirh and Aramis. Airbrush tanning and makeup tools by Luminess Air, which I hadn’t seen anywhere before, added a new dimension to the selection.

Dillard’s is bigger than Macy’s at Fairview—155,000 square feet versus 120,000. Taking the store’s smaller size into consideration, Macy’s assortment still seemed limited, though the department had a fresh look and the service was stellar. Dillard’s, on the other hand, sported traditional design but had a broader mix and attentive service.


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