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Friday, July 8, 2011

Many Canadians are making a run to the U.S. border to Great Lakes Crossing in Michigan

   (c) By Jim Fox

   AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - When Great Lakes Crossing opened in 1998 in suburban Detroit, the shopping centre was a trendsetter.
   And, it's still on the leading edge with an innovative design and concept that blend values with entertainment.
Great Lakes Crossing, a 160-outlet shopping centre in Michigan, is adding new stores in a makeover that will attract many Canadian shoppers. (Jim Fox photo)

   Mall owner, Taubman Centers Inc., soon realized the outlet prices and amenities were a big draw for Canadians who make a run for the border for a shop 'til they drop and fun getaway.
   Now, 12 years later we found it's getting a makeover with new stores launching on the past Canadian Thanksgiving weekend.
   "Great Lakes Crossing has become a most-popular destination for Canadians and at times make up to 40 per cent of our visitors," said Karen Mac Donald, Taubman's communications director.

This Kenneth Cole New York outlet is at Great Lakes Crossing in Michigan.
   It's Michigan's premier shopping centre with many stores not found in Canada let alone the state and many big names are being added to the list, said Kimberly Savona, general manager.
   Home to more than 160 stores, restaurants and entertainment options, it has a "single-level, easily accessible racetrack design" where you start at one spot and keep walking to end up in the same place 1.6 kilometres later.
Great Lakes Crossing, a 160-outlet shopping centre in Michigan, is adding new stores in a makeover that will attract many Canadian shoppers. (Jim Fox photo)
   Happy Thanksgiving, eh!
   Great Lakes Crossing celebrates the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend in October and Columbus Day with giveaways, entertainment, special discounts and more," said Melissa Morang, marketing director.
   Last year, early-bird shoppers making up the first 1,000 people at Entry One each day received a $20 gift card and tote bag (age 16 and older).
   There were also "retailer discounts and special offers exclusively for this celebration," entertainment including music, crafts and children's events.

   Shopping tips
   We found many stores had discount prices they then further reduced.
   Staff members were knowledgeable about their products and made it a point to thank us for shopping with them.
   It's best to obtain U.S. funds in advance as there was just one place exchanging Canadian dollars, Gateway Newstands and at a premium. Credit and debit cards worked well.
   A big bonus was the extra discount provided at about 90 stores and eateries through the Visitors Savings Pass available free for Canadians and anyone from at least 80 kilometres away.
   It saved us another $35 on shoe purchases at the Clarks store and did I mention the meagre Michigan sales tax of only six percent?
This lonely mechanical bull is waiting for riders at Toby Keith's I Love This Bar & Grill at Great Lakes Crossing. (Jim Fox photo)
   Shop, shop, shop and ride 'em cowboy
   This is Michigan's first indoor regional value-shopping centre and entertainment venue that includes manufacturer outlets, themed restaurants, a 1,000-seat food court with merry-go-round and a 25-screen theatre megaplex.
   New arrivals include Banana Republic Factory Store, Bar Louie, Calvin Klein Company Store, Chico's Outlet, Coach Factory, Crocs, Dakota Watch Company, Forever 21 and HUGO BOSS Factory Store.
   There's also Lik Gelato Bar, Lord & Taylor Outlet (first outside New Jersey), Michael Kors Outlet, Movado Company Store, Olga's Market Fresh Grille, Polo Ralph Lauren Factory Store, Stride Rite Outlet and a Talbots Outlet.
   We enjoyed a visit to country singer Toby Keith's I Love This Bar & Grill for a margarita, pulled pork on a bun and live show but passed on riding the mechanical bull.
Jan Zandboer of Whitby, Ontario is shown beside the carousel in the 1,000-seat food court at Great Lakes Crossing shopping centre. (Jim Fox photo)
   Sleep Eat Shop
   Make the most of a getaway and return with more duty-free loot by staying over on a shopping package.
   We overnighted at the Holiday Inn Express Hotel and Suites right at the Great Lakes Crossing property with packages from $159.99 U.S. that includes a $50 gift card, tote bag and free shuttle.
   The hotel has an indoor pool, whirlpool, fitness centre, room refrigerators, free Internet and breakfast. http://shopgreatlakescrossing.com/visit/visitors; (248) 322-7000

   Mall at Partridge Creek; Courtyard in Utica
   We also stayed at the Courtyard by Marriott hotel in nearby Utica, giving us an opportunity to check out Taubman's Mall at Partridge Creek.
   The hotel has deluxe guest rooms with the "new Courtyard luxurious beds," indoor pool and whirlpool, exercise facility, free Internet and a cafe for a hot cooked-to-order breakfast buffet ($7.95 U.S.).
   Courtyard's "Escape! Shopping Package" to Partridge Creek from $97 U.S. nightly includes a $25 gift certificate and breakfast for two. www.marriott.com; (586) 997-6100.
Canadian visitors to Great Lakes Crossing can pick up the free Savings Pass for extra discounts at about 90 stores and eateries. (Jim Fox photo)

   Any liquor, cigarettes?
   We crossed at the Sarnia-Port Huron border without incident but everyone in our line had U.S. customs officials checking their trunks for weapons, meat sandwiches or people hiding there.
   Returning to Canada was easy and we were asked the routine question about any cigarettes and liquor purchases.
   Being away for more than 48 hours, let us return with $400 each in merchandise and 1.14 litres of wine and liquor duty free. After 24 hours there's a $50 limit with no liquor and seven days or more is $750 with the same booze ration. www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca


   If you shop:
   Great Lakes Crossing is at 4000 Baldwin Rd., Auburn Hills, MI, off I-75 between Baldwin Road (Exit 84) and Joslyn Road (Exit 83). It's 30 minutes north of Detroit and about 45 minutes southwest of Port Huron.
   Store hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Saturday; 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. www.shopgreatlakescrossing.com; 1-877-SHOP-GLC.


(This column first appeared in newspapers in September 2010)

Jim Fox can be reached at onetanktrips@hotmail.com

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