Best of New England 2006 Shopping

By Christie Matheson, editor | |

Best Shopping Streets

CONNECTICUT
Greenwich Avenue, Greenwich

Greenwich Avenue boasts a strip of stores more reminiscent of SoHo than southern Connecticut. Cases in point: Scoop NYC, an arbiter of high fashion for women; Petit Patapon and Best & Co., two purveyors of precious kids clothes; and Lynnens, a home to high-end bedding and luxe towels. There are easily enough retail retreats to keep the area’s multimillionaires happy (and close to home).

MAINE
Main Street, Freeport

Searching for shoes? Crazy about new clothes? Need something homey for your abode? Look no further than Freeport’s Main Street, Maine’s ultimate one-stop shopping destination. You’ll find camping supplies, couture collections and cookware, at mostly discount prices. Foodies flock to the Wine Cellar for fine wine and cheese, while fashionistas hone their classic Brit style at Burberry. Though the crowds intensify during peak shopping seasons, Freeport is always worth a trip because, nine times out of ten, you’ll find exactly what you’re looking for—whatever it may be.

BEST IN NEW ENGLAND
MASSACHUSETTS
Newbury Street

Boston’s Newbury packs more retail punch than any other street in New England. Marc Jacobs. Chanel. Kate Spade. And those are just the national names. The sunny Back Bay byway is also crammed with sophisticated stand-alone couturiers and shops (Stil, Dress, Matsu), hair salons (James Joseph, G Spa, Umi) and beauty boutiques (Fresh, Remedix, Michaud Cosmedix)—all in one eight-block stretch. On hand, too, are home accessories havens, bridal shops and specialty stores such as Trident Booksellers & Café. Shopped out? Hop into one of many day spas for a massage, or sip a cocktail—there’s a wealth of watering holes nearby.

NEW HAMPSHIRE
Market Street, Portsmouth

The seaside city of Portsmouth has more to it than pretty architecture and a picturesque harbor. It also has a healthy share of boutiques, such as the women’s shops Beju and Angelica’s Muse. Les Cadeaux and Caprice Boutique and Gift Shop sell tokens of affection and affordable art. There are noteworthy art galleries and a delicious gourmet food and kitchen goods store, Attrezzi. After a full day of shopping, grab a bite at Bella Luna. And before heading home, don’t forget to take in the sweeping coastal views for which this adorable city is best known.

RHODE ISLAND
Thayer Street, Providence

Once strictly a college hangout, Thayer Street has sprouted more than a few stylish shops, including Zuzu’s Petals, Berk’s, Details and Cargo for outdoor and travel gear. Bohemian-minded Brown University coeds cruise in and out of Foreign Affair looking for vintage clothing and Beadworks for jewelry-making inspiration. After a buying spree, settle at one of many sidewalk cafes for coffee and snacks. Not sure which one to pick? Follow the students. They know where to go.

VERMONT
Church Street, Burlington

For a quaint college town in northwest Vermont, Burlington has a staggering number of shops. The bulk of them are on pedestrian-friendly Church Street. You’ll find discounted designer frocks at A Little Glamour, perfectly fitted undergarments at Bertha Church Intimate Apparel, gorgeous crafts by local artisans at Frog Hollow and colorful colanders at Kiss the Cook. Buy a sparkly cocktail ring at Von Bargen’s Fine Diamonds & Jewelry or abstract art from Ice Coast Gallery and bring a little bit of Burlington back home.

Other Shopping Awards

ANTIQUES SHOW
Ellis Antiques Show

New England hosts hundreds of small fairs each year, but the 47-year-old Ellis Antiques Show is the true cream of the crop. For four days in Boston, collectors converge to browse antiques from all over the world. Exhibitors hail mainly from the Northeast and display everything from English porcelain and Asian pottery to American folk art. The Castle at the Park Plaza Hotel & Towers, 158 Columbus Ave., Boston, MA, 617-248-8571; www.ellisantiques.com.

ANTIQUES SHOPPING ROUTE
Rte. 7, Berkshire County

Practically every mile of western Massachusetts’ Route 7 yields another antiques depot filled with finds waiting to be discovered. Favorites include Charles L. Flint Antiques in Lenox and Bradford Galleries in Sheffield. And with more than 50 stops on Route 7 alone (and many more on local side streets), you’ll have plenty of antiques to occupy your time.

ART CENTER
Southern Vermont Arts Center

Laid-back artists at this 407-acre mountainside art collective welcome wannabe creative types of all kinds. Color-blind? Tone-deaf? Who cares? At this center, free thinking prevails. There’s something for everyone, including on-location workshops in landscape painting, children’s theater groups, regular performances and exhibits and plenty of opportunities to discover new artists. The stellar gift shop makes buying something little a snap, so it’s okay if you don’t want to commit to a big artistic investment. West Road, Manchester, VT, 802-362-1405; www.svac.org.

ART SHOPPING STREET
Church Street

Practically hidden along the Connecticut coast is the surprisingly impressive art scene in Guilford. Walk down Church Street and you’ll stumble upon galleries such as Artful Eye and Chroma, which sell all types of fine art, including sculpture, paintings and stained glass. Keep your eyes peeled for the Guilford Art Center—which has a large gallery, offers art classes and hosts an annual crafts expo—and even more galleries on adjacent blocks, too. Guilford is a must for New England art lovers.

BEACH ACCESSORIES
Wind’s Up!

Because our drugstore folding chair wasn’t cutting it. Because bath towels weren’t meant for the beach. Because we submitted ourselves to one too many unflattering department store fitting room mirrors before finding the perfect bikini here. But mostly because the seasoned staff at Wind’s Up! makes shopping for a day at the beach exactly that. 199 Beach Rd., Vineyard Haven, MA, 508-693-4252; www.windsupmv.com.

BOOKS
The Bookloft

Remember the heyday of intellectual independent bookstores? The Bookloft does. Still successful long after the rise of book superstores and Amazon.com, this cozy literary location in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, is packed with books of every persuasion. New, used, children’s, young adult—the store has sections for each, not to mention calendars, notebooks and greeting cards. Walk in and browse six tall wooden shelves filled with staff picks (the employees here read what they sell). And if you can’t find what you’re looking for in stock, the Bookloft will special-order it. Barrington Plaza, Rte. 7, Great Barrington, MA, 413-528-1521; www.thebookloft.com.

CANDY
Sweet Rexie’s

We’ve all had our Willy Wonka fantasies. What could be better than a house with lickable wallpaper, a chocolate pool and bubble gum for dinner? For kids of all ages who never lost their sweet teeth, more than 200 varieties of candy—including 21 shades of M&M’s, jelly beans in more flavors than we can count and a veritable gummy zoo—make Sweet Rexie’s the golden ticket. 136 Washington St., South Norwalk, CT, 203-853-2513; www.sweetrexies.com.

CLOTHING, KIDS’
Petit Patapon

If it’s true that we dress our kids to look like ourselves, there’s no better go-to than Petit Patapon, with its tiny tweed dresses paired with knee-high suede boots, rugged jeans topped with wee corduroy peacoats and hipster-in-training Puma trackies, all at reasonable prices at three U.S. locations in New England. We’d shop at Petit Patapon too, if they carried our size.
25 Central St., Wellesley, MA, 781-235-8909; 66 Post Rd. E., Westport, CT, 203-227-8987; 271 Greenwich Ave., Greenwich, CT, 203-861-2037; www.petitpatapon.com.

CLOTHING, MEN’S
Riccardi

On the list of life’s pleasures, shopping doesn’t rate high for most men. For reasons beyond their better halves, males would generally rather have a root canal than step into a clothing store. Riccardi is the exception. This über-chic Boston spot sports enough cool clothes to appeal to any guy. Prada, Paul Smith, Dolce & Gabbana, Dsquared2—it’s all at this shop, along with tons of dress-down duds from True Religion and Nineteen48 denim, as well as Etro and Great China Wall hoodies. The selection is so well-edited and the staff so well-informed that men can be in and out and still get what they want—before the anesthesia wears off. 116 Newbury St., Boston, MA, 617-266-3158; www.riccardiboston.com.

CLOTHING, VINTAGE
Tova’s Vintage Shop

History repeats itself, and students of style know that even the most cutting-edge designers find inspiration in the past. But it takes serious dedication to sift through thrift clothes without a guarantee of real reward. Tova’s beautiful vintage selection is different. With new (old) items arriving daily, like decades-old designer clothing, shoes and jewelry, it promises a payoff for your pawing. 1330 Boston Post Rd., Old Saybrook, CT, 860-395-1955.

CLOTHING, WOMEN’S
Dresscode

New England’s suburbs are more stylish than ever, and Dresscode owner Amy Finegold is a big reason why. Her hip, chic Andover boutique is proof that high fashion isn’t the sole domain of big cities. Dresscode caters to snazzy shoppers with gear by Diane von Furstenberg, Ella Moss, Vince, Charlotte Tarantola and Isabella Fiore. Cropped jackets, flirty frocks, distressed denim and funky jewelry are all on display in carefully chosen—and utterly accessible—collections. 2 Elm Sq., Andover, MA, 978-470-0300; www.dresscodestyle.com.

FOODIE SHOPPING AREA
Railroad & Main Streets

Culinary stores and outstanding eateries have turned Great Barrington, Massachusetts, into a gourmet getaway. The Chef’s Shop sells every instrument a cook could need, while Gorham & Norton and the Daily Bread have specialty wines and fresh-baked loaves, respectively. Nearby, Rubiner’s Cheesemongers & Grocers is a sophisticated shop with artisan cheeses and cured meats, and Domaney’s Wines and Liquors sells fine wines (often at a discount). For a perfect prosciutto-and-tomato-tapenade sandwich, visit Bizalion’s Fine Food. Or check out Bizen Gourmet Japanese Cuisine and Sushi Bar—it rivals any big-city sushi spot. And if you crave Italian, Verdura is first-class.

FURNITURE
Thos. Moser Cabinetmakers

Furniture fads come and go, but the team at Thos. Moser takes a different approach to style. Rather than building edgy home furnishings, they concentrate on quality and lifespan, with a result that is at once classic and contemporary. Influenced by Shaker, Scandinavian and Japanese designs, Thos. Moser turns out sophisticated cherrywood pieces such as ottomans, bed frames, bookcases and home accessories. Not looking to make a mega investment? Shop the Freeport store for smaller home accents, including rich Swans Island Blankets and Simon Pearce glass bowls. 149 Main St., Freeport, ME, 207-865-4519; 19 Arlington St., Boston, MA, 800-708-9031; www.thomasmoser.com.

GALLERY, CONTEMPORARY
Aucocisco

There’s always something worth seeing at Portland, Maine’s Aucocisco. Stylish, cutting-edge works by mostly Maine artists dominate this gallery in a variety of mediums—photography, works on paper and 3-D paintings. Aucocisco is a strong anchor to Portland’s thriving arts district—drop by for the First Friday Art Walk every month, 5-8 p.m. 615 A Congress St., Portland, ME 207-775-2222; www.aucocisco.com.

GALLERY, TRADITIONAL
David Winton Bell Gallery

Dedicated to promoting both classic and emerging art with rotating shows, lectures and educational programs, the Bell Gallery, within the List Art Center at Brown, has become a leader in showing fine art, both at home and abroad. The gallery’s 5,000 permanent works include prints and drawings by Rembrandt, Goya and Matisse as well as Frank Stella and Andy Warhol. Regular exhibits of new and emerging artists keep Bell current. 64 College St., Providence, RI, 401-863-2932;
www.brown.edu/facilities/david_winton_bell_gallery.

GIFTS
The Vermont Country Store

We all have a special someone who’s impossible to shop for. With an overwhelming assortment of items—you can find candles, cheese, clocks and kids’ clothes—the Vermont Country Store is the perfect place to start looking. We love the kitschy “Tired Old Ass Soak” mineral bath, but you can also find a sophisticated floral Lanvin fragrance. So whether you need a silly stocking stuffer or a substantial token, make your way to this surefire source. 657 Main St., Rte. 100, Weston, VT, 802-824-3184; www.vermontcountrystore.com.

MOST ENTERTAINING STORE
Arcadian Shop

Done antiquing? Plenty of invigorating fun is in season at the Arcadian Shop. This outdoor specialty store borders 180-acre Kennedy Park, home to countless public trails. Rough-and-tumble mountain bikers can rent and buy gear inside and drop directly onto exciting terrain. Prefer a quiet kayak cruise? Let the knowledgeable staff select you an appropriate craft (they’ll even pick you up along the Housatonic River). Whatever sport you choose—hiking, skiing, snowshoeing, cycling, camping—the Arcadian Shop has the guides and the goods (from Arc’teryx, Trek, K2 Sports, Merrell, Patagonia and Cannondale) to get you in gear, including bike repair. 91 Pittsfield Rd., Lenox, MA, 413-637-3010; www.arcadian.com.

MOST NEW ENGLAND STORE
Zeb’s General Store

Warning: Die-hard New England fanatics will become obsessed with Zeb’s General Store, a sprawling shop devoted to regional wares. This historic–looking landmark boasts more than 5,000 locally made items. From knickknacks and coffee beans to soaps and salves, Zeb’s claims to purvey more locally produced goods than any store, anywhere. Sort through shelves of canned goods to find Bee Tree Farm honey (native to New Hampshire) and Stonewall Kitchen roasted garlic mustard (made in Maine). Zeb’s even has its own line of hot sauce and branded foods to “make your own gift basket.” Thankfully, the thoughtful staff turns what could be total chaos into what they call “organized clutter.” 1915 Main St., North Conway Village, NH, 800-676-9294; www.zebs.com.

NONTRADITIONAL MALL
46 Waltham Street Studios

We’ve seen it before: An old warehouse is converted, often into trendy lofts. But in Boston’s South End, something different has happened to one city-block-wide brick building. At 46 Waltham St., developers designed hundreds of small studio spaces that now house shops and designers. Jewelers, sculptors, photographers, furnishers and clothiers all share the address. You might have to make an appointment to visit select studios, but all are welcome at the annual South End Open Studios (www.useaboston.com), during which guests are free to roam the building, buying one-of-a-kind creations and watching master artisans at work. 46 Waltham St., Boston, MA.

SPORTING GEAR, SUMMER
L.L. Bean

It was 1917 when Leon Leonwood Bean, inventor of the Maine hunting shoe, moved his operation from a tiny basement to a storefront on Main Street in Freeport, Maine. Almost 90 years later, L.L. Bean’s massive flagship is bulging at the seams with outdoor inventory. Whether you’re a backpacker, paddler, biker, hunter, angler or camper, you’d be remiss not to step inside and throw down your credit card. And you can do it any hour, any day of the year. The store never closes. Ever. 95 Main St., Freeport, ME, 877-552-3268; www.llbean.com.

SPORTING GEAR, WINTER
International Mountain Equipment

For winter mountaineering or ice climbing, go with a guy who knows plenty about cold weather. That guy is Rick Wilcox, owner of International Mountain Equipment in North Conway, New Hampshire. Have any doubts? Well, Wilcox has climbed Everest. Snowshoes, crampons, ice axes and sleeping bags with negative 20-degree Fahrenheit ratings are mainstays of his seasonal inventory, and most items can be rented, if you only need them for one chilly adventure. 2733 Main St., North Conway, NH, 603-356-7013; www.ime-usa.com.

SWEETEST GENERAL STORES
Alley’s General Store, Dan and Whit’s General Store

With its graying shingles, screen door and wide front porch, Alley’s General Store (1045 State Rd., West Tisbury, MA, 508-693-0088) on Martha’s Vineyard is as inviting as it is quaint. The 150-year-old institution serves as a central meeting spot for residents of the teeny town of West Tisbury (far from the tourist throngs of Edgartown and Oak Bluffs), many of whom visit daily for morning coffee. Inside, you’ll find fresh fruit, basil, homemade jam, candles, suntan lotion, greeting cards, housewares and so much more. Variety is the hallmark at the outwardly no-frills Dan and Whit’s General Store (319 Main St., Norwich, VT, 802-649-1602; www.danandwhits.com). Their motto? “If we don’t have it, you don’t need it.” The one-stop shop carries life’s most practical items (grain for farm animals, kerosene, paint and coyote urine—it’s an animal repellant), as well as an intriguing assortment of wines, local eggs, fresh fruits and veggies and sweet cookies and pies. You can even order mementos online.

TOYS
Stellabella Toys, Cambridge, MA

You won’t find the usual collection of ho-hum toys at Stellabella, where the stock is as creative as the staff. Shelves are brimming with craft kits, fantastic puppets, puzzles, intricate costumes and just about everything in between (except guns; toy firearms are verboten). Playtime here is as much about community as it is products. Drop by for the regular art and music classes, Saturday morning sing-alongs and new parents’ coffee hours. 1360 Cambridge St., Cambridge, MA, 617-491-6290.

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