A roadtrip to Mercer is a nice time with friends
For some, the six-week holiday season that extends from Light Up Night to New Year’s Eve is an unending succession of parties and celebrations.
While not all of us will spend every weekend wining, dining and dancing, we’re likely to have one or two events on our calendars with a dress code that calls for a little glitz and glimmer.
If your strappy-spike heeled shoes are looking a little down at the heels or your best-beaded dress is becoming unstrung, now is the time to spiff up your wardrobe with some sparkly replacements.
Assemble a posse of friends in a similar situation and head north on a day trip to Mercer County, where you can indulge your inner pageant queen and still have money left to put presents under the tree.
Two locally owned stores in Sharon — Reyers and The Winner — had the big-box concept down to a science long before the national chains started attracting customers. There’s also some nifty options for lunch and snacking.
Start the day by assembling your gal pals at your favorite spot for late-morning muffins and coffee. Look for a place where you can conveniently leave some of your cars and car pool to Sharon.
The 70-mile trip from Pittsburgh is a good opportunity to catch up on gossip and plan your strategy for the day.
First stop is The Winner, which bills itself as the world’s largest off-price fashion store. Whether that claim is valid or not, we’ll leave to others to decide.
What makes this store worth the journey is the dazzling array of nearly 5,000 evening gowns spread out over department-store sized three floors. Sizes range from 0 to 28 and many are discounted by as much as 70 percent.
Whether you’re looking for a full-skirted and strapless tulle and rhinestone ball gown, a wedding dress, something sedate for the mother of the bride or a short and slinky cocktail dress worthy of the Oscar night red carpet, there’s a wealth of options to choose from.
There’s also an interesting array of casual wear, cruise-wear and swimsuits in stock year-round in case you find a mid-winter tropical vacation in your Christmas stocking.
The Winner, 32 West State St., Sharon. Hours 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sundays. Details: 724-346-9466 or here
Stow your purchases in the trunk of your car and follow the aroma of fried chicken east on West State Street, crossing the bridge over the river to Chestnut Street, to the home of Quaker Steak and Lube. There’s now a slew of these restaurants around Western Pennsylvania, but this is the original.
You’ll recognize it right away by the vintage gas pumps outside the entrance. The interior is filled with kitschy bits of automotive and motor sports paraphernalia, most notably some racing cars that cling to the ceiling.
There’s also an abundance of TVs broadcasting sporting events and a menu filled with hamburgers, fried veggies and a selection of salads for the nutritionally sensible.
But wings, the restaurant’s specialty, are the way to go, especially if you’re part of a foursome. The full bucket ($28.99) is generous enough for sharing. For 99 cents you can have your order split into two different sauces.
We like the Cajun, garlic, barbecue-sauced Louisiana Lickers and the hot sauce, which offers the pleasant fire of traditional buffalo wings without being suicidally hot.
If you’re looking for all the flavor and fun of hot wings without the deep-fat frying, try an order of the Grilled Boneless Wings ($8.99), grilled chicken tender strips tossed in the sauce of your choice.
Quaker Steak and Lube, 101 Chestnut St., Sharon. 11 a.m. to midnight Sundays to Thursdays and 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays. 724-981-9464 or here
Now that you’re rested and restored, it’s time to find some shoes to go with that glam wear you purchased.
Claiming to be the world’s largest shoe store, Reyers stocks more than 100,000 pairs of shoes in its 36,000-square-foot store. Designer and name brand shoes come in women’s sizes four to 14 and widths from super slim to super wide. Men’s shoes range from size 6 to 22 in widths from narrow to 6E.
Many shoes are offered in lots of color options. If you can’t quite find something to match your new fabulous evening wear, there’s a wide variety of shoe styles available for custom coloring.
One of the advantages an actual shoe store has over e-commerce options is you get to try on the shoes before you buy them. The responsive staff helps make sure the shoes you choose are comfortable and the proper size.
The store also carries a nice selection of evening bags and sparkly, special occasion costume jewelry.
Reyers, 40 South Water Ave., Sharon. Hours: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays. Details: 724-981-2200 or here .
Time to begin heading for home.
On the way out of town stop at Daffin’s Candies at the intersection of East State and East Silver streets. Three generations of the Daffin family have been making hand-molded candies and holiday-themed treats, such as white or dark chocolate snowmen as well as chocolate Christmas trees and toy soldiers.
Don’t leave without checking out Daffin’s Chocolate Kingdom of oversize chocolate animals and buildings that include a 400-pound chocolate turtle and a Ferris wheel constructed from chocolate.
If you purchase the one-pound assortment of light and semi-sweet chocolates with filled centers ($15.50) and eat them on the way home, who’s to know. As long as you buy your companions’ silence by sharing the bounty.
Daffin’s Candies, 496 East State St., Sharon. Hours: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays to Fridays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays. 724-342-2892 or here .