The Best Places to
Brown and Hopkins Country Store in Chepachet, RI -- the oldest continuously running country store in the United States (established in 1809). Photo by Eric H.
by Eric H., lifelong New England resident
New England is often thought of as a place for enjoying the ocean, the mountains, a lobster dinner and small charming towns with village greens, but shopping has become an integral part of the region's matrix. The country and general stores and locally-owned downtown shops still play a big role in the fabric of New England shopping. Cities like Boston, MA, Portland, Maine and Providence, RI, offer all the cosmopolitan shopping that we have come to know in world-class cities, while suburban shopping malls like the Emerald Square in North Attleboro, MA, bring indoor shopping to the next level with modern, clean surroundings with updated and fully stocked chain stores.
Whatever your retail cup of tea, New England's shopping scene is as diverse as its wonderful topography. Near the mountains, beaches, country roads, suburbia and the cities resides a shopping experience that ranges from the familiar to the unique. In a nutshell, there's shopping for every taste, every generation and every need in New England.
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A sampling of the unique character of New England shopping
The classic Mom and Pop country stores that have made New England famous in the retail world like the Vermont Country Store, of Weston, Vt., help make New England a truly one-of-a-kind place to shop. This famous but still true-to-form country store sells clothing, candles, kitchen gadgets, furniture, Vermont maple syrup, old-fashioned New England fudge and sharp Vermont cheddar cheese and so many hard-to-find items from yesteryear in an authentic, large, creaky country store setting. Brookfield Orchards in tiny Brookfield, MA, is a rural hidden gem located in the middle of nowhere and offers a treasure of candles, antiques, collectibles, candies, jams, maple products, a book area, crafts, maps, toys, Vermont Cheddar Cheese and hundreds of more items. And here, you can enjoy a famous and delicious apple dumpling during this quaint shopping experience! Sort of like a neat, organized Woolworth's, Lord's Department Store in Medfield, Mass. has a great toy section, cards and stationery, housewares, Medfield clothing and, wow... a real luncheonette called Coffee Sensations! It's a great place to sit on a stool at the counter, order a burger or bacon and eggs and feel like you're back in the 1950s. Lord's has been in business over 60 years, a testimony to the power of local business run properly. Putnam, Conn., is known as the center of antique shopping in New England with 17 shops totalling 50,000 sq. ft. of merchandise The most comprehensive place to antique shop in Putnam is the Antiques Marketplace, at 109 Main St. (860- 928-0442), with four floors of over 350 booths, showcasing more than 50,000 pieces of antiques spanning three centuries! Brown and Hopkins Country Store in Chepachet, R.I., is a living piece of retail history, being, possibly, the oldest continuously running country store in the United States -- dating back to 1809. It's a great country store with penny candy, locally produced maple syrup, Vermont cheddar cheese, candles, braided rugs, hand made country decor, art prints and historical prints. Zeb's General Store at 2675 South Main St. in North Conway, N.H., is the ultimate country store with its "organized clutter" of more than 5,000 inventory items. It's wildly popular, but has maintained its old-time, authentic country store feel with candy, crackers, jams and jellies, pickles, maple syrup and furnishings. It's a real trip down memory lane!
But wait, there's more...
Honoring the hard-working New England business owner
The shops above represent New England quite well, so we decided to let you know about these great locally-owned stores by taking it a step further. We, at VisitingNewEngland.com, started the Shop Local, Buy Local New England! blog to inform readers of the myriad locally-owned businesses in the New England states of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont. We are, ultimately, huge proponents of quality independently-owned businesses, knowing that “small business” is a lifeline to economic prosperity in our country. At Shop Local, Buy Local New England!, you'll also find incredible Groupon "Deals of the Day" that taps into locally-owned stores, restaurants, travel attractions and other businesses.
Please click on the link above to read more about these fantastic locally-owned businesses in New England. You can also find more local shopping opportunities recommendations at our best shopping in New England section.
We also welcome you to share your favorite locally-owned stores to shop during the Christmas holiday season.
Charm, history and preservation meet shopping, New England style
Faneuil Hall in Boston, Mass. (also known as Quincy Market), consists of the original 1742 building and two other restored buildings that house nearly 100 retail shops, restaurants, bakeries and ice cream stops. With its old brick look and outdoor dining opportunities, Faneuil Hall feels like the "hub" of Boston travel to many visitors.
The revitalized Port Exchange in Portland, Maine, features a mix of wonderfully restored 19th century architecture. With lots of bricks (sidewalks, buildings) Port Exchange offers locally-owned, unique stores (one store sells only moose merchandise), well-known but high quality regional places like Stonewall Kitchen and a good variety of restaurants and cafes. Add some skilled street musicians (with the exception of a few), making the gas lamp-lit Port Exchange a New England destination you'll want to return to again and again.
Premium Outlets, Clinton,
Conn. - Seventy outlet stores, including Banana Republic,
Barneys New York Outlet, Brooks Brothers, Calvin Klein, Coach, Cole
Haan, Dooney & Bourke, J.Crew, Kenneth Cole, Michael Kors,
Nike, Polo Ralph Lauren and Saks Fifth Avenue.
Freeport, Maine, Outlets, Freeport, Maine -Freeport, the home of the original L.L. Bean (still thriving and greatly expanded), now has more than 200 stores. The outlets essentially comprise the downtown, making it a shopper's paradise.
Kittery Premium Outlets, Kittery, Maine -- One of the oldest outlet shopping complexes in New England is also one of the best. More than 65 stores, and with close proximity to all the southern Maine coast has to offer, including beaches and seafood dining. Stores include Aeropostale, Izod, Adidas, Jones New York, Nike Factory Store, Bose and Yankee Candle. One of the most impressive outlets after all these years!
Prime Outlets, Lee, Mass. -- Near the New York State border, this outlet shopping center in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts (and right off Route 90) features more than 65 outlet stores, including Cole Haan, Michael Kors, Nike Factory Store, and Under Armour. Not the highest profile outlet complex, but a darn good one in an area starved for shopping opportunities.
Wrentham Village Premium Outlets, Wrentham, Mass. -- Without a doubt, the most impressive -- and extensive -- shopping outlet center in New England with more than 170 outlet stores. Very well-designed with a nice layout and landscaping, the Wrentham Village Premium Outlets include Banana Republic, Barneys New York, Burberry, Coach, Elie Tahari, Hugo Boss, J.Crew, Kenneth Cole, Lacoste, Nike, Polo Ralph Lauren, Saks Fifth Avenue Off 5th, Salvatore Ferragamo and Sony.
Settlers' Green Outlet Village, North Conway, N.H. -- Located in the beautiful White Mountains town of North Conway, Settles' Green Outlet Village features over 60 stores, including Brooks Brothers, Carter's, Harry and David, Lindt, Stonewall Kitchen, Talbots and Zales Jewelry.
Tanger Outlets, Tilton, N.H. - A solid outlet shopping ceter featuring around 50 stores, located in the Lakes Region (not too far from beautiful Meredith and Wolfeboro). Stores include Coach Factory, Liz Claiborne Skechers, PacSun, Rue21 and OshKosh B'gosh.
Manchester Designer Outlets, Mancester, Vt. - Manchester Village is one of New England's prettiest towns. Enjoy the classic Vermont feel here first and shop second. Manchester Designer Outlets doesn't have the high number of stores that others do, but seem to have all right places to shop, including Ann Taylor, Crabtree and Evelyn, J. Crew, Kenneth Cole, and Yankee Candle.
Making a return to the open air shopping destinations we grew up with -- but with a very modern, relevant touch
The Shops at Prudential, Boston, Mass. (800 Boylston St.) -- The 75 stores at the Shops at Prudential may be smaller in number than the suburban malls, but is more than made up for by the quality of shops and the urban flair that only a city could offer. Anchored by Saks Fifth Avenue and Lord and Taylor, The Shops at Prudential Center is beautifully designed (a welcome change from the outdoor shopping days here), has more than 60,000 visitors daily, and has great dining options including Pizzeria Regina, Boston Chowda, Legal Sea Foods, and Ben and Jerry's. Other stores include Barnes & Noble, Lacoste, and Sephora. You can really feel the pulse of the city when shopping at the Shops at Prudential, making it a very different experience than shopping in suburbia.
Legacy Place, Dedham, Mass. (950 Providence Highway, Route 1) -- Looking like a mix of a modern outdoor shopping complex and a downtown business district, Legacy Place features a smart layout -- network of sidewalks, ambiant lighting, excellent landscaping, plenty of parking and well-defined cross walks. The largest Whole Foods Market in New England anchors this impressive work of modern retail construction that also includes P.F. Chang's Chinese Bistro, L.L. Bean. King's 26,000 sq. ft. bowling alley and entertainment complex (amazing!), J.P. Licks ice cream, Borders book store and City Sports.
Patriot Place, Foxboro, Mass. (Route 1) -- Located at Gillette Stadium -- home of the New England Patriots -- the Patriot Place shopping and entertainment provides an extremely appealing and attractive outdoor presence. There's an upscale movie theater (Cinema de Lux), several restaurants (Skipjack's, Davio's, Tavolino, Red Robin, Bar Louie, CBS Scene, etc.), The Hall at Patriot Place (celebrating Patriots and New England football history), a great variety of shops (Bass Pro Shops, Victoria's Secret, Christmas Tree Shop, Reebok, Patriots Pro Shop, etc.), the Renaissance Boston Hotel and Spa and Brigham and Women’s /Mass General Health Care Center.
Derby Street Shops, Hingham, Mass., (92-98 Derby St.) features a very pleasant open air environment with beautiful landscaping, walkways and 78 retailers including Whole Foods Market, Ann Taylor, Apple Store, J. Crew, J. Jill, Joseph A. Bank, Williams Sonoma and Yankee Candle.
Mansfield Crossing in Mansfield, Mass. (School St.), is a sprawling, outdoor 400,000 square ft. shopping complex with a pond, wrought-iron benches and, or course, top-of-the-line stores including L.L. Bean, Coldwater Creek, Kohl's, Chico's, Ann Taylor Loft, Best Buy, Sports Authority, Borders Books, Linens 'n Things and Michael's (arts and crafts). For dining, there's Bertucci's, T.G.I. Friday's and Papa Gino's. Mansfield Crossing is definitely a work in progress and not as attractive as Patriot Place or Legacy Place, but there's currently enough attractions --especially L.L. Bean -- to make for a very good shopping experience.
I remember when the Burlington Mall in Burlington, Mass., was just a farm field with cows. How times have changed. Over the past 30 years, indoor shoppings malls have become a retail staple of New England shopping. Many indoor shopping malls feature well over 100 stores on two or more levels, including the aforementioned Burlington Mall (185 shops at Mall Rd.) and...
Copley Place, Boston, Mass., (100 Huntington Ave. App. 75 stores). Anchor stores: Neiman Marcus, Barney's New York
Natick Mall, Natick, Mass. (Route 9. App. 200 stores) Anchor stores: Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Sears, Macy's, JCPenney, Lord and Taylor
South Shore Plaza, Braintree, Mass., (250 Granite St. App. 180 stores). Anchor stores: Filene's Basement, Lord and Taylor, Macy's, Nordstrom, Sears
North Shore Mall, Peabody, Mass. (RT-128 N and RT-114 E. App.120 stores). Anchor stores: Nordstrom, Macy’s, Macy's Men' s & Home Store, JCPenney, Filene's Basement and Sears
Emerald Square Mall, North Attleboro, Mass. (Route 1 South. App.155 stores). Anchor stores: Macy's, JCPenney, Sears, Macy's Home Store and Macy's Men's Storeor stores:
Cape Cod Mall, Hyannis, Mass. (Cape Cod). 769 Iyannough Rd. Anchor stores: Macy's Apparel, Macy's Men/Home and Sears, Best Buy, Marshalls and Barnes & Noble
Mall of New Hampshire, Manchester, N.H. (1500 South Willow St.). Anchor stores: Macy's, JCPenney, Sears and Best Buy
Pheasant Lane Mall, Nashua, N.H. (Daniel Webster Highway. App. 130 shops). Anchor stores: Sears, JC Penney, Macy's, Target
Providence Place, Providence, R.I. (One Providence Place. App. 170 stores). Anchor stores: JCPenney, Nordstrom, Macy's)
Westfarms Mall, Farmington, Conn. (213 Westfarms Mall #204A. App. 160 shops). Anchor stores: Macy's, Nordstrom, Lord and Taylor, JCPenney
The Maine Mall, Portland, Maine (364 Maine Mall Rd., South Portland. App. 140 stores). Anchor stores: Sears, JCPenney, Macy's, BestBuy, Sports Authority
Burlington Town Center Mall, Burlington, Vt. (48 Church St.). Anchor stores: Macy's, Old Navy
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