Well, it turns out our friends in bedroom-community Mebane and the surrounding Alamance County can at least put in a stake for an invention of their own. (No, not the truck stop, though I-40/85 certainly is full of them.)
Alamance's contribution to history? The outlet mall.
"Tanger Outlets has a proud North Carolina heritage dating back to 1981 when my Father, Stanley K. Tanger pioneered the Outlet Industry by building the country's first authentic outlet shopping center in Alamance County," stated Steven B. Tanger, President and Chief Executive Officer of Tanger Factory Outlet Centers, Inc. "This was the beginning of a thriving retail venue -- the Outlet Industry, which has grown to hundreds of outlet centers worldwide today."
No, I didn't know that, either. But now Alamance County is coming full circle, with next Thursday's groundbreaking of a new Tanger Outlet Center in Mebane.
The center, set to be about 20 miles east west of Durham at exit 154, will be the third Tanger-operated center in the state; the Greensboro-based firm operates 33 other locations nationwide.
Alamance has certainly been no stranger to retail destinations, most of which of late settled along the interstate highway corridor. Retail mega-developments play an important role in local taxation outcomes, as the surge of Durham's sales tax base with the opening of Southpoint shows.
Of course, a regional mall draws shoppers from other counties, creating leakages for their own sales tax base. And an outlet mall will certainly draw some Durham shoppers, one might expect.
Saks Fifth Avenue will operate an outlet store at the new Tanger center, as will J. Crew, Coach, Banana Republic, Michael Kors and more.
Of course, the architectural description is a bit ironic, given that greenfield developments like this one can contribute more to the decay of historic Southern towns and districts than they support -- ask Burlington how its retail strip is doing now that all the mall traffic's moved down to the Alamance Crossings megadevelopment:
Inspired by Tanger's North Carolina roots, the new Tanger Outlet Center in Mebane will welcome shoppers with the quaint architectural touches of an old, historic southern town that has been built up over time. Shoppers will stroll down meticulously landscaped sidewalks flanked by Main Street-type shops.
The center will open in fall 2010 and is expected to employ 800.