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The Sono Collection

South Norwalk's New Mall Opens in the Face of the "Retail Apocalypse"

November 7, 2019

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The Sono Collection

Modern Art is the unifying feature of the SoNo Collection.

Modern Art is the unifying feature of the SoNo Collection.

Megan Streeter

Modern Art is the unifying feature of the SoNo Collection.

Megan Streeter

Megan Streeter

Modern Art is the unifying feature of the SoNo Collection.

In 2019, a mobile device and a credit card quite literally means the world is at your fingertips. Companies like Amazon provide faster-than-ever shipping, popular stores are constantly updating their websites with online-exclusive deals, and online-only retailers are ever increasing. These advances serve to the advantage of the shopper, who enjoys a wide range of easily accessible products from the comfort of their home. Price checkers and coupon sites ensure the best deals, and making a return is as easy as unpeeling a sticker. However helpful these innovations may be, they continue to wreak havoc on the retail industry.

The rise of online shopping, along with the decline of the once-great titan of retail, the department store, has been sparking many to lament what the business world is calling the “retail apocalypse.” Stores like Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s have expressed intent to close over 100 stores. Traditional mall-anchor retailers, like Sears, have filed bankruptcy, joined by more mall classics such as Forever XXI and Claire’s.

This public space comes with a currently beautiful view of I-95 North, if I may say so myself.

With brick and mortar foot traffic on the decline, it came as a surprise to many when, in 2017, Brookfield Properties announced the construction of the SONO Collection. Now, two years later, the new mall is open for business. Located just 15 minutes from DHS (an efficient 7 minutes from my place, for those wondering), the SONO Collection provides an interesting alternative to the Stamford Mall. It has long been whispered that Stamford’s shopping center, which has visibly suffered from this ‘retail apocalypse’, will be sold, or else closed. Interest in the mall has declined as stores have closed and upkeep has deteriorated. Now, with the SONO collection finally complete, DHS students must wonder: how is it different?

I took it upon myself to explore the new mall, which is billed as a “luxury” destination. While not all of the individual stores have opened their doors to the public, the building itself is accessible, as well as the “vast array of local, national, and international artwork” on display.

Entire store-sized rooms, scattered throughout the mall, all dedicated community spaces.

This was my first view of the mall, immediately after stepping off the escalator. My first instinct was to cringe for the carpeting- good luck making it through the winter!

 

The SONO collection is billed as a community space, and if there is one thing it has, that’s space! Without kiosks splitting the wide hallways in half, they feel wide and unsettling empty.

Most of the seating is movable, which may lend itself to a chaotic mess. But an Amazon store? Now thats cool!

While this may be due in part to light foot traffic and closed shops, it is not all bad. Work spaces featuring abundant natural light, comfortable seating, free wifi, and charging ports are free for the taking! Next time you’re looking for a change of scenery, try posting up in SONO to grind out that paper.

Movable puzzle-piece seats, while cool, will inevitably lead to untamable chaos…

Perhaps my favorite aspect of this strange new take on the classic mall experience was the artwork. The SONO collection delivered on its promise to display local and international art, yet still managed to defy expectations. It seems that each and every wall is plastered, floor to ceiling, in unique and oftentimes interactive art. The wide range of style and color should read as busy, but, though I preferred certain pieces, I felt the art as a whole came together to form a memorable viewing experience.

We’ll begin with my favorite installation. This nook is my childhood dream: bright pink lights, comfortable chairs, and PacMan. Who could ask for more?

Former DHS student Jack Kavey poses in the second coolest chairs at the SONO collection.

 

Murals, light fixtures, and sculptures litter the walls and ceilings of every hallway.

 

 

More concrete than garden, this rooftop location is accessable by foot or car.

The SONO collection further differentiates itself from other malls in its decision to forego the traditional food court. Their lack of a central watering hole, so to speak, is made up for by abundant food-friendly space, and a variety of restaurants. In the warm weather, the mall is welcoming a variety of food truck vendors to the property. I paid a visit to Knot Norm’s seafood truck, the mobile location of a beloved SONO restaurant, for an afternoon snack. I decided to take the food up to the rooftop garden, yet another designated space for socialization.

 

Grand finale: the first coolest chair in the mall. Check out the Neirad Instagram to see them in action!

Overall, I enjoyed my experience at the SONO Collection. I have been awaiting its opening since construction was announced over two years ago, fascinated at the prospect of the country’s only new mall under construction just minutes away. While many aspects of this new shopping center seem strange and foreign, the SONO Collection seems confident in its success. Wether for shopping, eating, studying, or simply spending time with friends, I would suggest checking out the SONO Collection. Even in our age of technology, there is still something to be said for supporting a face to face shopping experience. More so than that, the SONO Collection is a fascinating place to explore. See for yourself!

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