December 2, 2015
Guest Blogger Anita Rafael
Just Browsing, No #
Driving through Wilmington,Vermont this week—and full disclosure, that's how I usually think of this small, quaint Southern Vermont village, as a five-minute drive-through on the way to someplace else I need to be—I decided on impulse to stop. It was an overcast afternoon, looked like snow but not yet cold enough for flakes to fall, and inside the shop windows here and there I spied bits of sparkle and twinkling lights that were just enough to tempt me to pop into a parking space on Main Street and get out of the car. I live about 20 miles north of the village crossroads, and I had the impression that I had "done" Wilmington's twenty or so shops enough times already to no longer be enticed. Wrong. Just plain wrong.
In two hours, I browsed through nine different shops. (Ok, one does not actually browse through Ratu's Liquor and Market, but I was torn between buying the ingredients for maple liqueur-spiked eggnog and pomegranate Prosecco punch.) At Bartleby's Books, I solved two tricky Christmas gift problems with one best selling novel and one beautiful cookbook. At Pickwell's Barn, I couldn't decide on anything just right for someone else on my gift list, but I did make a list of three or four things I definitely want for myself. Note to Santa.
Then, at The Incurable Romantic Gifts—it's not easy to impress me just by decorating a tree in a corner, but in the first room of this multi-room boutique, I stood in front of the spectacular beribboned and bejeweled tree for a very long time before I even started to browse the merchandise around it. You know how in some boutiques, you just want everything? Apparel, jewelry, décor, leather, all of it. I left with one gift for a friend (luxurious faux fur handwarmers) and something that I needed (those hard-to-find unscented tall green candles for the Christmas Eve dinner table.)
And I continued—up one side of Main Street, down the other, and around the corner and back again. The 1836 Country Store (two cookie cutters and a box of rich, dark fudge), Norton House (a yard of holly-printed fabric to sew a holiday table runner), and of course, I could not not go into Chapman's Antiques (a vintage eggbeater). And more shops, for two enjoyable hours. I ooh-ed and ahh-ed with fellow shoppers over things bling and things baby alpaca and cashmere, I schmoozed with the shopkeepers, I tossed my packages into the back of my Outback and walked over to Dot's Restaurant for coffee. I ate pie. Seriously Mayberry.
Then, it hit me. I actually was a hashtag. This one: #shoplocal. Visitors from New York, New Jersey, and southern New England drive hundreds of miles to the Deerfield Valley villages to do what I just did—walk up and down the sidewalk, and go in and out of locally-owned shops, and browse and poke as if the internet, big box stores, and malls had never been invented.
My last stop, which probably should have been my first, was the toasty warm and cheerful Southern Vermont Deerfield Valley welcome center. Living under my rock over in my village, the info had not filtered out to me about the Wilmington Works sponsored Coupons and Raffle Rewards. Here's how it works: save your receipts from participating local stores (not the chains and franchises) and bring them into the welcome center at 21 West Main Street. The friendly folks there will give you $5 shopping coupons, depending on how much your receipts total, and free raffle tickets, too. So, I received three $5 coupons since I had three separate receipts each over $20 from three stores. Then, I also was given free raffle tickets, too, since my total purchases made me eligible to win one of several assorted prizes to be drawn on December 20th. The coupons were an instant reward just for shopping, when I wasn't even planning on it. And, the raffle prizes already on display on the counter at the welcome center were most desirable.
The road home for me, scenic byway Route 100, runs through the Dover business district - of course, I made a few more stops along the way.
I have almost finished my shopping list, and I had a hassle-free good time doing it. So, hashtag whatever shopping you want, just don't forget to Shop Local.
Anita Rafael is a writer living and working in Wardsboro, Vermont. She posts and maintains a website about her town at www.wardsborovermont.com.