For two days last summer, photographer Charles Sternaimolo and I explored Chatham’s lovely Main Street. We traveled from end to end, from the Chatham Lighthouse in the east to Main Street’s western culmination at the Harwich line. Naturally, we spent the majority of our time downtown, interviewing and photographing business owners, tourists, and locals—and lots of dog walkers. It was early September, it was warm, and the colorful skies were worthy of a postcard.
During our time in town, we stopped in a number of Main Street’s fun shops and art galleries, and enjoyed great meals at local restaurants. We marveled at Fleurcita’s Clock, an attractive German time-teller outside In the Pink. We met an English couple that was excited to take a whale-watching trip and chatted with Lina Watson of Bulgaria who was selling Chatham gear at Soft as a Grape. We met travelers from Switzerland dining at Wild Goose Tavern, and then a woman from Oklahoma who was checking out the varieties at Chatham Cheese Company. What brings all these far-flung folks to Chatham? I’ll let summer resident Joan Casabian provide the answer. “It’s our passion—this place,” she says. “We come as often as we can. We cross the bridge, and it’s like . . . ahhhh!”
Head west for historic homes, Baker’s Hardware
Laura and Guy Mangs live on the west end of Main Street—almost in Harwich. They own a “half cape”—the style of home features a door with two windows on one side—and Laura says the neighborhood is the only place on Cape Cod where there are three “half-capes” in a row. The house was built in 1712 and the couple has been told the kitchen came from Nantucket, where it had served as a fishing shack. What do the Mangs think of Main Street? “It’s absolutely beautiful,” Laura says.
“It’s busy, but in a good way.”
We also met Bob Baker whose father, Cyrus, founded Baker’s Hardware in 1950. A stylish 1929 Model A Ford pickup greets visitors in the front yard. “It’s a nice walking town,” Baker says of Chatham. And what about this area, in particular? “You’re in South Chatham now,” he says. “It’s a big difference.”
The Candy Manor—and two Cooks in a coffee kitchen
At Chatham Candy Manor, we spoke with Kimberly Marsh who was busy dipping Oreos into milk chocolate. “These are one of the most popular things in the summer,” she says. “We can’t keep up with them.” Later, we met Susan Carroll who has been with the company for nearly 40 years. “I’m very happy with my job,” Carroll says, whilst making vanilla butter creams. “It’s a really fun place to work.” Her next assignment: non-pareils!
At Monomoy Coffee Company we met Pierrette and Rachel Cook, the mother-daughter ownership team. The café serves breakfast sandwiches, muffins, and more, and offers outdoor patio seating. “It’s fabulous,” Pierrette says of the location. “You get to see everybody.” Sip on this: the staff prepares “ice-coffee ice cubes” to serve in customer’s ice coffees. As the cubes melt, the drink dilutes not—and the extra caffeine comes free of charge.
Pleasant sights, signs, and memories
The view from the bluff overlooking Chatham Lighthouse Beach is breathtaking. During our visit, the sky was light blue, the clouds were moving above, and seals could be spied at a distance. Residences nearby—including many that had been captain’s homes in the 1800s—were attractive, too, with white picket fences, flowers, and porches. Many of the homes also sported clapboard signs with mood-setting phrases like “Ocean View” and
“Dawning Day,” and don’t forget “Time Out.”
By Chatham Light we met Robert and Julie Westergard of Pleasant Valley, New York. They were walking their rescue dog, Molly. It was very windy that morning—and they nearly needed to make another rescue. The couple had stayed in Eastham and their Cape Cod vacation was coming to a close.
“We’re going home,” Rob says, “but we don’t want to leave.”
Beautiful work and in abundance
The number of art galleries on Main Street—especially downtown—is stunning, and we browsed in a few of the galleries. Inside Chatham Fine Art we met a family from Long Island that was reviewing the collection, including a colorful rendition of the Chatham Bandstand.
Up the road apiece, we stopped in Forest Beach Designer-Goldsmiths, where company co-owner Steve Wardle says customers don’t need to worry about finding “SOS” at his shop—same old stuff, that is. A native of New York, Wardle owns the company with his wife Barb Knowlton, who hails from New Jersey. The couple showed us their inspired jewelry creations, and to further spark our interest, Steve fired up his welding torch so we could watch him work on a gold ring mount.
Homes to write home about
Main Street in Chatham boasts many beautiful homes.
In 2015, The Orpheum Theatre screened Steven Spielberg’s 1975 epic Jaws for four weeks—and it was likely the cinema’s top seller for the summer. Assistant manager Geoff Bassett talked about the Jaws phenomenon. “We have people that now make it a yearly tradition to come and see Jaws here,” he says. “It’s become an expectation.” The cinema’s two theaters together offer seating for 135, and the massive mural in the foyer features more than 100 well-known movie characters and film directors.
We found enthusiastic volunteer Bill Cullinane, 83, set up in the Chatham Chamber of Commerce’s tourist shack on Main Street. In the role, Cullinane helps get tourists where they want to go. He says the questions he fields most are: What can we see? Where can we eat? Where are the seals? And where are the sharks? “It’s a fun job,” he says, “It really is. People are often surprised they don’t have to pay for parking on Main Street.” One visitor who stopped in for a map and suggestions was Mady Gorman of Queens. “I love it,” she says of Chatham. “It’s like small town 1950. Everything is beautiful, green, and well-kept.”
In Chatham, there’s a lot to choose from
Canterbury Leather sells a variety of hats, shoes, sandals, socks, boots, belts, pocket books, and backpacks. Working when we visited, then-assistant managers Aimee Erickson and Kim Jerauld modeled some hats and chatted with us about the community. Chatham is a family friendly fishing town, Erickson says, with lots of shops and culture. “This time of year,” she says, “the adults come down who don’t have kids. It’s nice here through September.”
We stopped in Chatham Hardware at 624 Main St. to check out the colorful mini-cars in the window. The cars are for 2- to 5-year-olds and the staff puts them together in house. There’s a police car and a taxi, but store president Michael Colecchi says the fire engine is the most popular style; all have functioning lights. The cars range from $325 to $675 and the store sells more than 100 per year. Colecchi says some of the cars are for international customers who like them so much they’re willing to pay the expensive shipping fees. “It usually costs twice [the price of] the car to freight them,” he says.
Yankee Ingenuity is a wondrous place with gift items I’ve never seen anywhere else. The shop has a jaw-dropping selection of shark-themed gifts, including a coffee mug that’s decorated with a serene swimming scene; when you pour in a hot beverage, though, a shark that was hidden in the picture emerges—and is ready for breakfast. A gift I decided not to further investigate was simply called “Bug Eyed Skeleton Bank.” Withdrawing, I passed a pint-sized porcelain shark sculpture that was eerily realistic-looking and seemed to be grinning at me. “Greetings, chum,” I imagined it saying.
We stopped in the Cape Abilities retail shop on Main Street. It’s hard to miss; it’s the lime green building a few blocks from the lighthouse. Employees Aaron Fiero and Ann Marie Campbell showed us some of the store’s different products, and Andrew Todoroff, the organization’s director of business development, told us about the blueberry pie-eating contests held at the store on Wednesday nights in summer. It’s open to the public and trophies are given out. Hint. Hint.
How much is that ducky in the window? In 2015, then-owner Cynthia Muenchow celebrated Ducks in the Window’s six-year anniversary. This duck shop has a fun origin story. Originally, the business was called The Corner Toy Store, and then one day Muenchow put ducks in the window. They were so popular Muenchow decided to sell only duck-related toys. Under new ownership, today, the store ships across the country and internationally. They even sell a “Duckinator” model with shades and a t-shirt that proclaims, “I’ll be Quack.”
Located in the “East End” of downtown Chatham, is Mermaids on Main. What’s the allure of mermaids? “They get away with things we might not be able to in real life,” says shop owner Tara Owen. Inside, customers can find a variety of mermaid artwork and décor items and other unique products. The company celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2016.
In addition to the works of local authors including Lisa Genova and Alice Hoffman, store manager Joanie Goodrow of Where the Sidewalk Ends Bookstore says adult coloring books were a popular item last summer. The store has a regular core of reading customers, Goodrow says, and is also dog-and stroller-friendly. “We are a family,” she says. “Chatham is a little off the beaten path, so when people get here they want to stay in town.”
We cooled our heels with 2 great meals
During a conversation earlier in the day, Chatham resident Guy Mangs recommended we dine at The Chatham Squire, where he particularly enjoys the veal and mussels. “It’s a fun place,” Mangs says. “It’s always packed.” Taking his lead, we enjoyed a meal fit for a knight indeed, including Caesar salad, wine, and a shrimp and chicken stir-fry.
The Red Nun is a great place to watch a game. There’s lots of sports memorabilia on the walls, including a Chatham Anglers’s jersey as well as one formerly worn by Patriots lineman Matt Chatham. The décor also features a ship’s wheel, a lobster claw, and lots of foreign currency. Also, it’s a two-minute walk from the Chatham Anglers’ home field!
The ever-charming Chatham
During our time in Chatham, we chatted with Cathleen Sulli of Ridgefield, Connecticut, who was visiting family on the Cape. “It’s my favorite place,” she says of the town. “I like to take photos, I like to garden, and my daughter likes to shop.” Another visitor we met, Mary Ella Walker, hails from Shaker Heights, Ohio. She, too, is enchanted with Chatham. “There’s a charm about it,” she says. “It’s one of my favorite places in the world.”
Main Street Chatham Photo Gallery
Photography by Charles Sternaimolo