Bellevue’s premiere shopping destination is worth the drive

Having seen a list of the shops at The Bravern– Neiman Marcus, Jimmy Choo, Salvatore Ferragamo, Hermes – I was prepared to be thoroughly intimidated on my first visit to this upscale Bellevue shopping center. It was with some trepidation that I did the hair and makeup thing, dressed UP, took some deep breaths and walked from my hotel to one of the two elegant arrival courts. If I’d driven, valet drivers would have safely stowed my car for a nominal fee. Or I could have self-parked on one of the seven levels of 36 acres of color-coded parking. (The Bravern provides courtesy golf cart service to your self parked car … especially helpful when you can’t remember where you parked!)

Top-notch stores, friendly service.

On first glance, The Bravern screams “bring your checkbook, gird your loins.” Actually walking into those stores could be daunting.

Don’t be! This shopping center couldn’t be more friendly, service-oriented and customer-centered. Their focus from the top down is comfort and courtesy, such as complimentary bottles of water scattered throughout its European-styled corridors.

Microsoft is a huge corporate presence at The Bravern, but its major retail anchor is Neiman-Marcus. Other high-end anchors – Jimmy Choo, Hermes, Salvatore Ferragamo – also bring many savvy shoppers from north of the border. Vancouver, B.C., is a large international target market for The Bravern. Many local shoppers do their shopping by phone with personal shoppers in most every store. In fact, the personal aspect of The Bravern is its trademark.

An anecdote demonstrating the attitude that permeates the entire Bravern staff involves a young couple celebrating an anniversary with a special dinner at John Howie Steak. After their meal, they planned another special treat – dessert at Trophy Cupcakes. Known for its early-morning, baked-fresh every-day, delicious, work-of art cupcakes, Trophy is a destination for the cognoscenti. But Trophy closes at 8 p.m. A maintenance worker on his evening shift noticed these two lovebirds, staring longingly and sadly at the cupcake window. He asked if he could help in any way. Long story short, The Trophy, after closing every evening, takes its leftover goodies to the maintenance staff room. After snaking their way through the backstage corridors of The Bravern with Mr. Maintenance, two very happy lovebirds enjoyed delicious desserts and had a great story to share.

Make a day of it

Many visitors come to The Bravern for the day as a destination adventure – six hours of free parking, no purchase necessary. They may have lunch at Neiman’s Mariposa or partake in the restaurant’s smashing afternoon tea for $23. (Pre-order one day ahead.)

For shoppers with kids in tow, The Bravern has a number of activities that will give both parents and kids a break. Little Bookworms, a story-telling program, gathers the little guys in the second-level fireplace lounge for stories, songs and snacks, including Trophy cupcakes and a bookmark; every Wednesday from 11 a.m. to noon. For the grown ups, the Neiman Marcus cosmetics department has aestheticians on staff seven days a week and offers complimentary facials/makeovers (by appointment or not) in hopes, of course, that you’ll buy some product. But what a service!

The concierge service, located on the second floor lobby just outside John Howie Steak, is staffed by three veterans from the hotel concierge scene: exquisitely trained women, all with many years of service in the hotel concierge business. They know how to solve problems and do it with the grace and smooth courtesy that will make every customer feel special and valued. They help visitors with everything from gift ideas, storing packages, hotel and restaurant recommendations, and travel assistance.

So take a day to visit this exquisite and friendly shopping destination. While your trip probably won’t involve after-hours cupcakes, it will most likely involve your own happy ending, Bravern style.

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"This shopping center couldn't be more friendly, service-oriented and customer-centered."