Summer is the time for visiting the shore. Many of our co-workers head to the beaches in Maryland, Virginia, and the Carolinas. One of the activities that they look forward to is shopping. From their conversations, the “outlet mall” industry appears to have grown near vacation locations. We are not into sun worshiping nor shop ‘till we drop. Yet, when we travel, we like to find local shops where we can find items that we might not come across at our usual locations. When we travel to Linda’s family home in Rhode Island, our shopping destination is the Village of Wickford.
As with many New England towns, Wickford has maintained many historical homes along a couple of placid streets. The building extravagant and out-of-scale homes of the 1990’s and 2000’s marred the outskirts of towns and some water-front lots, but most of the builders and buyers stayed a few miles away in developments, where like-minded want-to-impress-the-neighbors types could one-up each other near their big-box stores. Wickford did develop a boutique shop atmosphere, which is not always practical for the residents who need to buy toilet paper or lightbulbs. Yet, we are tourists for the weekend, and wish to stimulate the local economy. Here are a few of the shops that we usually check while visiting (though a dozen others await your explorations).
First, drive through town to the Town Dock at the end of Main Street. Park here and walk a few blocks past fishing boats, Gardener’s Wharf Seafood market, and many homes built in the 18th century. As you approach Brown Street the shops begin to appear.
Canvas Works has bags, purses, and nap-sacks of many styles. You can also start collecting your Rhode Island T-shirts and hats. While Linda investigates those, I check into the toy section for puzzles, books, and other childhood amusements. Hey, when was the last time you pulled out your Spirograph and made those mobius loop style geometric designs?
Village Reflections and the Different Drummer share a wall. Linda seeks fashion in the first, and I cards and other shimmering things in the second. I am expected to check in occasionally for consultation on this vs that style or color at the changing room. Hmm. Is this really an opinion request or select the right answer test. Such is the quandary of husbands. Meanwhile, I wanted one card to send to someone and came out with five because I could not decide which would do. I have no difficulty writing to five friends instead.
Crossing the street to travel along Brown Street we pass a nice bookstore and antique shop, neither of which were open at that hour of the morning, to get to Green Ink. One issue about shopping is that most stores with clothes cater to women. Green Ink is kind to put a couple of chairs and an interesting variety of books up front for husbands, at least I took it this way, while the ladies shop. I browse through books on art, gardening, pets, and ship building history, while they browsed through racks of tops, bottoms, and everything dazzling in between.
Half way down the street is Wilsons of Wickford. This might be the equivalent of the “anchor” store at the mall, with clothes for both women and men. Unfortunately, the two other “anchor” stores’ local owners sold, Ernshaw’s Drug store sold to a national chain drug store, and Ryan’s Market closed up between the recession and people buying groceries on the periphery of town. Without shops for the residents, the other stores must rely more on tourists. I make an effort to find a couple of shirts, socks, etc. while Linda enters the “confessional” (i.e. side-by-side dressing rooms, with her mother in the other, as they converse back and forth about what they have on). My only regret about Wilson’s men’s clothing is that men in our society keep getting bigger, thus I can never find pants for us skinny guys. They used to have pants down to 32” waist, but this time the closest that I found to my 30” waist size was 34”. Well, I cannot expect them to stock pants in hopes of my annual shopping trip there. But, I did find a great Tilley Hat for our safari trip!
A few doors along Brown Street, we step into Yes, Gallery, which used to be JW Graham’s across the street, though that store is still there but specializes in jewelry. Yes, Collectables is full of fascinating eye-candy stuff for your table, walls, desk, and garden. Every time we visit, we say “Oh, we forgot to check which light switches needs these fabulous face-plates.” The sales lady had the answer and gave us a printed piece of paper with a grid of the styles of face plates (you know, single, double, triple switches vs dimmer switches, vs plugs) so that we could survey our home and bring back during our winter vacation! Now, there is a smart merchant generating return business of absent-minded tourists.
Shopping local has become a mantra for farmers’ markets, locally owned shops, and anti-globalization consumers. The argument is that international companies may be able to sell you products for less, but they provide less income to the local economy (they only hire transportation, stocking and sales people at lower wages), less to the manufacturing workers (because factories are set up in high population density countries where the supply of workers and lack of government regulation allow for shoes to be made for a couple of dollars), and skim off more of the profit to return to the corporate office (and off-shore banks). Locally owned stores keep the money at home. If they can find locally, or at least regionally (e.g. my Tilly hat is made in Cananda at least) produced products, then those folks have the money to spend in their communities. If the products are made within a day’s drive to the store, less energy is spent delivering the items to the store. I’m not an economist, but I like to know that the stained glass items in the Different Drummer are hand-made by a friend and the sale’s men at Wilson’s have that as their last name. I’ve never run into Sam WalMart myself.
Where can you shop locally?