Archive for November, 2010

Hannah Grimes Marketplace, Keene, N.H., Focuses on Locally-Made Products

Monday, November 29th, 2010

Hannah Grimes Marketplace, Keene N.H. (photo by Eric H.)

They just don’t make them anymore like the Hannah Grimes Marketplace in Keene, N.H.

Bringing together buyers, sellers and the market that connects them, Hannah Grimes offers myriad locally and lovingly crafted and grown products. This one-of-a-kind marketplace beautifully celebrates the creativity, productivity and business spirit of hard-working New Hampshire folks. From honey and maple syrup to hand-made earrings and clothing, you’ll never know what you’ll find here. What is apparent, though, is the quality and integrity of what is being sold. As a catalyst of the non-profit Hannah Grimes Center, this marvel of entrepreneurial spirit is a vital part of Keene’s vibrant downtown scene, the Monadnock Region and New Hampshire, in general.

Hannah Grimes Marketplace
42 Main St.
Keene, NH
Tel. (603) 352-6862

Renys, an Authentic Locally-Owned Maine Department Store

Monday, November 29th, 2010

Article by Eric H.

Reny’s is a thriving Maine department store chain — noteworthy, given the sad demise of stores of this type in New England.

This Maine-based chain has been around since 1949.  Renys feels like a locally-owned mom and pop business, but goes well beyond the norm by keeping up- to-date with the latest retail trends while never letting go of its traditional shopping presence. What this means is you’ll find merchandise from quality companies like Columbia, Carartt, Woolrich, New Balance, Osh Kosh and Timberland while receiving down-to-earth customer service from staff that you’ll most likely see again and again. That’s the beauty of a locally-owned store: you not only buy things but also build a relationship with those that work in the store. Visiting Renys often feels like your best friend opened a store!

Renys packs a lot of clothing into a modest space, as well as footwear, toys, food and beverage, Maine products, electronics and domestics. You’ll also find factory closeouts.

Renys has locations in Bath, Belfast, Bridgton, Camden, Damariscotta, Dexter, Ellsworth, Farmington, Gardiner, Madison, Pittsfield, Saco and Wells. Log onto Renys for more information on this fabulous locally-owned store!

The Seasons Four Brings “Christmas City” to its Lexington, Mass., Store

Monday, November 29th, 2010

Article by Eric H.

The Seasons Four in Lexington, Mass., lives up to its name as a four-season store selling “outdoor living” merchandise and featuring a comprehensive gardening center.  For many of us, however, the Seasons Four is best known for its Christmas offerings during the holiday season.

Tucked away at the bottom of a hill off Massachusetts Ave. (right near a section of the Minuteman Bike Trail), the Seasons Four might not have the high-tech sheen of other Christmas retail stores, but you’ll definitely feel like you’re in the Christmas spirit when shopping here. Its “Christmas City” sells fresh and artificial trees and greens, a whole lot of ornaments, conventional and innovative lights and various gifts. The layout is pleasing on the eye and will have you singing “Jingle Bells” all the way, in no time flat.

Many people think that an independently-owned store in upper-class Lexington would not offer good value, but the opposite is true. There are good deals all over the store and, of course, customer service is always top-notch. Yes, some of the outdoor merchandise is pricey but overall, the Seasons Four offers something for all budgets — especially around the holiday season.

Growing up in neighboring Arlington, I always enjoyed the holiday spirit at the Seasons Four during the 1970s. It’s probably even better now for kids with myriad events during the Christmas season, anchored by visits from Santa and Elmo:  http://www.seasons-four.com/2010_holiday_events.pdf.

There’s something ultimately heartwarming about a locally-owned store putting in a big effort to transform its business into a Boston area travel destination for the holidays. All of this, however, would be to no avail if the merchandise was sub-par and anemic in quantities. The Seasons Four almost comes across almost as comprehensive as a chain store’s holiday set-up, but with the added layers of truly knowledgeable customer service and pride of ownership. Through the generations, the Seasons Four has become somewhat of a retail Christmas gift for locals that love to shop local for the holiday season.

The Seasons Four
1265 Massachusetts Ave.
Lexington, MA
Tel. (781) 861-1200

Jeremiah’s Antique Shoppes in the Heart of the “Antique Capital of New England”

Sunday, November 28th, 2010

Jeremiah's Antique Shoppes, Putnam, Conn. (photo by Eric H.)

Jeremiah’s Antique Shoppes in Putnam, Conn., with more than 40 dealers under one roof, is more down-to-earth than many of the antique stores you see charging so much money on rare high-end items. While they do have expensive one-of-a-kind antiques and collectibles, you will also find a high amount of merchandise for under $10.00 — including books, doll dresses, memorabilia, toys, baseball cards, lunch boxes, etc. The main dish of Jeremiah’s, however, seems to be dishes — lots and lots of them!

The atmosphere at Jeremiah’s is also opposite some of the snooty stores of this ilk, with a laid-back, down-to-earth feeling and some very helpful customer service.

Putnam is known as the “Antique Capital of New England,” with around 50,000 sq. ft. of antique shopping amongst several different businesses. While each store deserves a lengthy visit, we would certainly recommend Jeremiah’s near the forefront of your antiquing experience.

Jeremiah’s Antique Shoppes
26 Front St.
Putnam, Conn.
Tel. 860-963-2671

Editor’s note: Log onto our VisitingNewEngland.com Putnam page for more information on this fascinating New England town.

Our Favorite Independent Book Stores in the Boston Area

Monday, November 15th, 2010

Porter Square Books in Cambridge, Mass. Reprinted with permission from Porter Square Books.

Article by Eric H.

Everyone loves a good book , and, for that matter, a good local book store.

Make no mistake, the superstores like Barnes and Noble and Borders are tremendous book stores.  But there’s something so wonderful about a community-oriented, neighborhood book store where you can get to know the owner and staff and find the latest books and hard-to-find publications. Like no one book is the same, no local book store is the same — what a nice feeling!

Here are some locally-owned book stores that we have been to, and highly recommend:

Blue Bunny Books, 577 High St. (Dedham Square), Dedham MA. Tel. 781-493-6568 – Owned by  children’s book author/illustrator Peter H. Reynolds, Blue Bunny Books is an amazing resource for children’s books, art supplies and toys. Nice, family-friendly atmosphere and a good store layout!

Porter Square Books, 25 White St, Cambridge, MA. Tel. (617) 491-2220 – Porter Square Books is a true independent book store with a dedicated community patronizing this friendly, modestly-sized book store  packed with books. With a cafe, and a fantastic, knowledgeable staff, this is a great place to hang out without feeling pressured to buy something right away. Porter Square Books also features myriad events, too, including author visits and workshops.

The Shire, 305 Union St., Franklin, MA. Tel. (508) 528-5665 – Located in a huge turn-of-the-century mill building with an astonishing 100,000-plus books and comfortable sofas and lights for a cozy reading atmosphere.

Park St. Books, 25 Park St. Medfield,, MA. Tel. (508) 242-3083 – Formerly Walpole Books in Walpole, Mass., Jim James took his business to neighboring Medfield and turned it into a local destination (especially on Saturday mornings when families frequent this hidden gem of a store). Well-stocked in all categories, Park St. Books is especially impressive in selling used books for children.

New England Book Mobile Fair, 82 Needham St., Newton, MA. Tel. (617) 527-5817 – Famous landmark started more than 50 years ago by former Harvard University trained chemist-turned bookseller, the late Louis Strymish. The Mobile Fair is not a pretty sight, but you’ll find everything here and with nice discounts and some excellent customer service. New England Book Mobile is, unfortunately, up for sale, so we’re hoping that a dedicated owner can purchase this fantastic book store to carry on the tradition.

Visiting Ashburnham Market Place, a Locally-Owned Grocery Store

Sunday, November 14th, 2010

Ashburnham Market Place, Ashburnham, Mass.

Article and photo by Eric H.

The Ashburnham Market Place, located in the beautiful small New England town of Ashburnham, Mass. (near Fitchburg), remains a thriving community grocery store in an age where larger supermarkets dominate the landscape.

Tucked away in a parking lot behind a bank and shops in downtown Ashburnham, the Ashburnham Market Place will remind baby-boomers (and their parents) of the local markets many of us used to shop when growing up in New England. The rustic-looking Farmers Market-like outdoor produce area leads to a plain but pleasant-looking indoor market where staff always seems to offer the proverbial wink, a smile and assistance — and where you can pretty much find everything you need. The store is nowhere as large as the current supermarket prototype, but that’s fine — it makes for a more intimate, relaxed setting that results in locals easily finding each other  to “say” hello.

With a wonderful aroma of rotisserie chicken and excellent produce, a meat department,  beer and wine selections, and a comprehensive deli counter, the Ashburnham Market Place validates that a locally-owned grocery store can survive quite well in a small New England town.

Ashburnham Market Place
50 Main St.
Ashburnham, Mass.
Tel. (508) 827-5945

It’s Play Time in Arlington, Mass., for Arts and Crafts Supplies!

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

Article by Eric H.

The name Play Time emanates from this downtown Arlington, Mass., store’s original presence, over 50 years ago, as a toy store. It was a great one, packed with everything from the wildly-popular Electroshot Shooting Gallery to harder-to-find board games  like “Smess” (a variation of chess with the “ninnies and the “brains” battling it out for board domination).

The same can be said about Play Time’s shift to, exclusively, an arts and crafts and hobby store.  With two good-sized floors — also packed to the ceilings — you’ll find modern-day and hard-to-find arts and crafts supplies, models, party supplies, stationary, decorative, and holiday and gift ideas. Whether it’s scrapbooking supplies, candle-making or paper doll kits, or paints (four isles!), Play Time is a work of retail arts and crafts!

Play Time definitely has as much as the chain arts and crafts stores, plus the advantage of owner Carol’s warm personality and encyclopedic knowledge of the sometimes hard-to-navigate store merchandise. Her late dad ran the original toy store quite well, but with all due respect, Carol has enhanced this “Mom and Pop Store” landmark a notch above by simply improving her inventory and prioritizing customer relations through the years.

At Play Time, you’ll feel like a kid in a toy store –given the maze of items for sale here. Expect to spend at least an hour at this fantastic, locally-owned and operated arts and crafts store!

Play Time
283 Broadway
Arlington, MA 02474
Tel. (781) 648-3230