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Advertiser Spotlight: Stonecrest a mecca for holiday shoppers
Amazing mall: Five-year-old Melanie Harper plays on the Euro Bungee during an outing with her grandmother at the Mall Stonecrest. - photo by Jessica Smith

While online shopping has some advantages — that is, if it arrives in a timely manner and is exactly what you had in mind — it just can’t totally substitute for the tactile holiday experience of shopping at a mall. And Rockdale residents have the Mall at Stonecrest conveniently located in their backyard with ample parking and numerous shopping and dining options.

There are the textures, tastes, and hum of shopping energy that can’t be replaced with a monitor and keyboard or a catalogue. In addition to five major department stores including Dillard’s, JCPenney, Kohl’s, Macy’s, Sears, 130 specialty stores and a 16-screen AMC movie theatre, there is an array of fun and unique items at the kiosks throughout the malls. Donald Bieler, with the management office, thinks these spots are a great opportunity for entrepreneurs to bring their goods and services to the marketplace.

Given the economy and that many shoppers are on a more restrictive budget this year, Beiler was encouraged by Black Friday sales and the increasing foot traffic since then. "Guests are definitely looking for value and are more conservative, but they’re still shopping," he said.

Stonecrest also offers an impressive line-up of special events. For instance, you may have heard of a little movie called "Twilight." Today, Peter Facinelli, who plays "Dr. Carlisle Cullen," in the film, is making an appearance at noon. Autographs and photos will be available on a first come, first serve basis for $25. For VIP options and more details, please visit the mall Web site.

Another special guy on hand this time of year is Santa. He will be available daily through Christmas Eve. With any picture package $25.99 or higher, the mall is adding a free 5 x 7. There’s also one more chance to have your pet’s picture taken with Santa on Dec. 17 from 5-8 p.m.

With the cold snap, Stonecrest is also a great destination to get in a brisk walk, before or after your shopping odyssey, to counter the holiday caloric intake. Mark your calendars for the mall’s Health and Wellness Expo coming up at the end of January. There will be a host of products and services highlighted with free blood pressure screenings and doctors on site.

Finally, with the approaching two-plus week school vacations looming, Stonecrest Mall has a few tricks up its’ sleeve to help entertain your children. There’s two Euro Bungees on the lower level near the mall entrance between Kohls and Sears. If you’re not familiar with this phenomenon, the kids are strapped in a bungee harness that’s suspended above a trampoline. For the younger set, the mall train rides are a huge hit.

Local shopper Aileene Simpson was pleased with her experience on Thursday. "The clerks were extremely helpful and upbeat across the board. I could feel the Christmas spirit in the air," she said.

So where else in these parts will you find Santa, a movie star, sweaters, toys, electronics, a Euro Bungee and holiday cheer under one roof? Not online.

For more information on events, a complete list of stores and even movie schedules, visit the Web site Extended holiday mall hours are Mon.-Sat. 10-10 and Sun. 12-8. During Christmas week hours are extended Mon.-Sat. to 11 p.m.