There are pros and cons to operating a restaurant inside a shopping venue, says Cavalcante, who opened her lunch-only café inside the antique mall two years ago. The upside, of course, is a built-in customer base of people who are already wandering through the well-stocked building -- the former Herbert Woolf horse barn. They might not have planned to stop for a bite, but they plop down at one of her tables for lunch or coffee and dessert anyway.
The downside? "Well, I don't have my own entrance," Cavalcante says, "which means customers have to make an effort to walk through the building to find me."
That's not such a chore if people know precisely where to go, but the first level of this two-story mall is arranged like a maze, and the staff at the front desk can sometimes be as brusque as prison guards. However, for a well-prepared and reasonably priced lunch -- with table service! -- Bloomsbury Bistro is closer in spirit to what a department store tea room was like half a century ago. Now it's the rare big-name store that offers a place to take a break from a shopping frenzy; Café Nordstrom at Nordstrom in Oak Park Mall (11143 West 95th Street in Overland Park) is one of the few throwbacks to that more gracious, civilized era.
With the advent of discount stores, consumers traded gentility for value: Good-bye, formal tea rooms and tray shops; hello, food courts. The latter, which don't even offer the culinary variety of old drugstore lunch counters, are often operated by corporate fast-food outlets and designed as quick stops for a soft drink or a slice of pizza.
But in today's fast-paced world, shoppers don't want to stop and eat. If they're hungry, they might just dig into the merchandise. Recently, a clerk at Brookside's Tuesday Morning complained about how some patrons had ripped into packages of cookies and candy without paying for them. How tacky! It's so much easier to go to Costco and wolf down the free samples.