Aug. 24 2011 10:06 AM

Here are some good spots for picking up backpacks, notebooks and lunchboxes

The bento-box-style laptop lunch box

The bulk of the children in San Diego County go back to school in a little more than a week, which means one thing: All those kid-friendly bars in town will have considerably fewer children running underfoot at the twilight hour. Oh, and people are in the market for school supplies. I love school supplies. Actually, most girls love school supplies—it’s just one of those genetically programmed things, like our obsessive love for rainbows, Hello Kitty and boys with sideburns.

Practically every big-box store has basic folders for 10 cents, so you may just have to brave the picked-over aisles for those sorts of plain ol’ paper products. But for everything else—backpacks, lunchboxes, pencil sharpeners shaped like animals or food—it’s better to seek out the smaller shops, or at least the less-traveled big stores.

• Backpacks: With the exception of the fancier malls, every shopping center has at least a few generic shoes shops that stock the same Converse and the same Vans. Mission Valley is no exception, but one personality-free sneaker store in particular prominently features backpacks and reminds me of the sort of store where I shopped as a teen in Florida. Robert Wayne Footwear (Mission Valley Mall)—the name conjures up style, doesn’t it?—has a ton of backpacks, all cheap and full of soulless (but in a good way), ’80s-era personality. And while it’s a school, and reasonably crowded right now, SDSU’s Bookstore has a great selection (saw a very cute reversible pack), not to mention a full aisle of eco-friendly recycled paper goods and highlighters in every flipping color imaginable. (It also inexplicably has a MAC makeup counter.) But if I were 12, I’d wanna buy my backpack at morning Glory (4646 Convoy St., Suite 114, Kearny Mesa, 858-495-0480), located right next to O’Brien’s Pub—that’s how I found it. morning Glory isn’t chock-full of backpacks, or full of anything, really, and it may be the worst parking lot in all of San Diego, but it’s worth the struggle if your little one (or you) love hard-to-find characters like Pucca or Totoro. (Update: Since this column ran, morning Glory's closed shop.)

• Papers, Pencils & Notebooks: Stay in Kearny Mesa and you can hit up Marukai (8125 Balboa Ave.,) for cute erasers, pencils and shaped sharpeners. But steer clear of the notebooks—the paper isn’t the same size as the U.S. standard.

Teacher supply shops are a great place to shop for school stuff, and Lakeshore learning Center (7510 Hazard Center Drive) will make your kids squeal with delight (unless they have nightmares about the whole back-to-school experience, that is). Or hit up the South Bay version, called GW School Supply (510 Broadway in Chula Vista.)

• Lunchboxes: They took all those metal boxes off the market when I was in my teens because some kid whacked another kid upside the head with one. Most schools won’t say a word if your kid shows up with a vintage Sigmund and the Sea Monsters box, so if you can talk them into carrying one, I say hit up At press time, there was a How the West Was Won box for less than $10. Mork & Mindy was going for $14. Of course, my kid wouldn’t be caught dead with something that old in her hand, so I picked her up a brand-new Laptop Lunch—a brightly colored bento box with individual compartments for each food group that fits snugly in a neoprene faux laptop case. They’re all the rage— just ask your child. Whole Foods carries them, but they really are priced right at Ecotopiia in Encinitas (543 S. Coast Highway 101), which also carries cloth snack bags—handsewn, washable Velcro-closing bags that you can fill with almost anything you’d put in a Ziploc, but without endangering the environment (except all that water and soap it takes to wash them every day, but never mind, it’s still better than plastic).

And not to keep tooting its horn, but South Park’s Progress (2225 30th St.) has some individual, non-plastic lunch containers, plus the newest thing in water bottles (again, just ask your kid). The brand is Vapur (the “anti-bottle”) and it resembles a giant juice bag. Oh, how the little girls love ’em.

Write to