Customers have a choice of where and how to spend their hard-earned dollars. But local businesses are an investment in everyone’s future.
As we embrace another holiday season here on the Cape and Islands—putting checks next to names on our shopping lists—the hunt for meaningful and unique gifts doesn’t have to involve online shopping carts and free shipping, by drone or otherwise! The region is full of business owners who have invested in our local communities, and have spent deliberate effort to offer and promote products created by creative individuals throughout the area. With the increasing wave of commitment to “Shop Local,” flooding the airwaves and our collective conscience across the country, our unique coastal environs have an advantage when showcasing various interpretations of why the Cape is so special. Our local streets in our local villages are filled with crafts, jewelry, art and food staples that have been influenced by the special lifestyle people strive to enjoy. Successfully finding gifts and products that are thoughtful for ourselves and the ones we love can also directly be an integrated element of making our local businesses healthy and sustainable.
The holiday season kicks off the local strolls and fairs hosted by many of the town’s chambers of commerce. There is no better time for the local merchants to shine and welcome shoppers to their businesses. Cyndi Williams, executive director of the Harwich Chamber of Commerce, says that it is a unique time for businesses to showcase their stores to customers that might not otherwise take the time to stroll, sample and select items for the people in their lives. “It is always festive and fun,” she says, “but more importantly it is a time for businesses and residents to really connect.”
Making progress on your gift list can pose a bit of a challenge sometimes when it comes to those that are perceived to be “hard to buy for.” Across the Cape, we are lucky to have the benefit of a few invaluable resources such as Maxwell & Company on Main Street in Falmouth, offering luxurious clothing and accessories for both men and women; Puritan Cape Cod, with locations on the Main Streets of Falmouth, Hyannis and Chatham, as well as in Mashpee Commons, also offering fine clothing as well as outdoor wear and gear for active lifestyles; and Watson’s Men’s Store on Main Street in Orleans. Owner Dan Eberly says that with over 80 brands in the store, they are unequaled in their selection across New England. Offering Carhartt work wear and tuxedos within the same store, against a backdrop of a casual coastal vibe, Eberly says customers are always saying shopping with them is a very pleasurable experience, making the tagline “There is no place like Watson’s” ring true. All three stores are proud of the customer service that has helped them build their business decade after decade, and they each say that you just can’t replace the experience of seeing, feeling and appreciating the items they sell with ordering online.
The online experience is also called into scrutiny when discussing the value of a local business with Michele Chagnon-Holbrook, owner of Casabella Interiors in Sandwich. “When people shop with us, if they don’t know it at the beginning, they do by the end—you get a whole team,” she explains. “Not only are you supporting a local business, one where you can look the people directly in the eye, but also, we use local people to deliver our furniture and local workrooms to create our upholstery and drapes. It is so much more than just an owner; it is an entire network that truly makes us a part of the community.”
Local artisans also benefit from the shop owners that are committed to advancing their work. From Oceana in Orleans to The Drawing Room in Marion, the Cape is home to stores that carefully curate their collection of products in order to provide a unique shopping experience. “I look for artisans and work that is unique, in that it isn’t seen elsewhere, is well-made, and represents the region,” explains Anthi Frangiadis, owner of The Drawing Room. She also makes a point to provide opportunities for her customers to meet and experience her artisans, preferably while creating their art. “We have a fairly robust calendar of events where we will offer trunk shows, workshops or even our annual Holiday Design Market, where we will have scores of artisans in attendance.” Jane Williamson, owner of Oceana, says, “We get excited when we find new, local talent. We are so proud to sell the work of so many regional artists, and we feel that’s what helps make Oceana a truly unique shopping experience. Our customers love taking home a piece of Cape Cod, and we love supporting the local artists and craftspeople.”
Gift shops are one of the best places to find something for most everyone, and two on the Cape that have been perennial favorites with Cape Cod LIFE “Best of” voters through the years include The Potted Geranium in Harwich Port, and the Plum Porch in Marstons Mills. New owners Samantha Leonard and Corrie Mays say that the locally produced items are some of their top sellers. “We have one artist who will personalize items in a way that no one else can,” Leonard says. Lindsay Hopkins-Cox is that artist, who creates one-of-a-kind mailboxes and wall slates with local scenes painted upon them or, most popularly, the family pet, beautifully recreated and placed in an endearing Cape Cod setting. The Potted Geranium features local artist Midge Dey, who creates whimsical framed art out of the treasures she collects along Cape Cod beaches—what is more local than that?
Some innovative and entrepreneurial souls have been diligent and creative enough to produce products that clearly and simply brand the region as well as claim a stake-hold in some competitive industries. Case in point, Cape Cod Beer, a wave-making brewer located in Hyannis was the first of several breweries crafting a locally influenced line of beer. Sharing the campus of Cape Cod Beer’s facilities and making suds of a different kind is Summer House Soaps. Ann Miller, owner and founder, says that she started making soap almost 20 years ago and moved to the Hyannis location, where she produces over 25 varieties of soap, with names, for the most part, inspired by Cape Cod. Her two most popular scents, Summer Hydrangea and Ocean Scrub, are available in bar, liquid and lotion forms. Miller says, “It doesn’t matter if you are visiting and you want to take something that will remind you of the Cape home with you, or if you live here most of the year, people really respond to something that is authentically from the Cape.”
So, given a choice of how and where to spend our dollars, the ones spent here in this community are an investment in a thriving future for Cape Codders today and tomorrow. The shopkeepers of colonial times really weren’t that much different from today’s Cape Cod business owners; identify a product people need and want and provide a positive experience for them to support you, and the transactional relationship will become one of neighbors working with neighbors.