Image: Todd Spoth

Like much else in The Woodlands, Market Street, which a public relations professional introduced to Houstonia as a “pedestrian-friendly retail environment,” proved almost eerily cohesive. Not unlike what you find at, say, the Galleria, every last store here contributes to a similar, heavily branded vision of conspicuous consumption—one perhaps best represented by Kate Spade, Calypso St. Barth, high-end strollers, and $100 pairs of yoga pants from Lululemon. The Master Planners continue to augment and update this vision, with Kendra Scott and Trina Turk set to join the party this year. 

While there is little on Market Street and the adjacent Woodlands Mall that isn’t already available at the Galleria, there are a few reasons why a Woodlands shopping spree is worth the drive. On almost every level, from parking, to customer service, to air quality, to cop-on-horse density, Market Street is going to be a more pleasant shopping experience. There are also a few stores available to Woodlandians (Woodlandites?) that are not available to inner-loopers.

Among these is Touché, a Colombia-based brand with as sleek and well-designed a bathing suit collection as you’ll find anywhere in the US, and a small selection of high-end lingerie and sleepwear. The Woodlands seems particularly interested in luxurious sleep, which perhaps makes sense given the pace of the place; one of the few stores original to Market Street is the entertaining P-Jammies For Girls. The store has an admirably narrow focus, which as far as we can make out involves outfitting girls for swanky sleepovers in animal-themed items, from monkey pillows, to frog slippers, to sleeping bags, to owl bath robes, to zebra-print Laura Dare nightgowns with matching zebra gowns for their American Girl dolls. 

Market Street also houses two independent gift shops, one of those being Zulee’s, which carries wine-scented candles by Rewined and kitschy personalized bags from the San Antonio–based brand Jon Hart Design. At Maggie’s, we found ourselves intrigued by a display of glazed plates stamped with inspirational quotes by literary heavyweights Aesop, Emily Brontë, and Diane von Furstenberg. 

But by far our favorite Market Street curiosity is the Vineyard Vines, the only one in the Houston area. The store promotes so unsubtle a vision of life in Martha’s Vineyard that we found ourselves first offended (having more than a passing connection to New England), then amused, then positively thrilled by the endless succession of whale-themed canvas belts, lobster-themed hair accessories, crew-themed ties, pastel club shorts, pink polos, and toddler-sized fleece. Fantastically, the store has displayed a signed letter from Arnold Schwarzenegger thanking some people in Connecticut “for the wonderful elephant tie.” It is our opinion that for this caricature of Cape Cod life, Texas owes Martha’s Vineyard a boutique replete with armadillo trinkets, spur-themed accessories, and boot-shaped mugs.  

Upon leaving the store, we found, much to our satisfaction, what we took to be an instance of a real-life Woodlander resisting the Master Planners’ latest addition to the master plan. An elderly woman and her husband strolled past the Vines window display, where a pair of khakis covered in tiny blue trout hung bright and clean, like a fresh catch from the Atlantic. “Fish pants,” she sniffed to her husband in a deep Texas drawl. “You would not wear those.”

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