I hate shopping.
Don’t get me wrong; I like HAVING things, I just don’t like the tedious process of selecting the items I want from the dauntingly numerous racks and shelves of other things. I’m this way, I have self-diagnosed, because a large percentage of my younger years were spent tagging along behind my mother, who is a Super Shopper. In fact, my disdain for the activity might really be a defense mechanism that evolved from a fear of getting left behind and lost in the mall.
As such, I’m not influenced by the hype around Black Friday, or Cyber Monday. (I’m ok, incidentally, with Giving Tuesday and Twofer Tuesday.)
But this story isn’t about any of those days. It’s about a regular old Saturday in November. And a day of shopping that might have changed my perspective about…shopping.
Bulking up for Winter
Last Saturday, I decided to attend the annual Farmers' Market and North Country Artisans Craft Fair, held each year at the school in Willsboro. A beautiful, sunny day for a ride along the Adirondack Coast of Lake Champlain, I thought it would be more of a social activity than "shopping," good to support the local vendors there, and knew I’d probably run into some friends, too. So after I ate my breakfast consisting of some eggs from our local CSA (community supported agriculture), Full and By Farm in Whallonsburg, I headed to Willsboro. Never go shopping when you’re hungry, they say.
I arrived to see a fairly busy parking lot, and once I entered, I wasn’t prepared for how MANY vendors there were, and for the variety of shiny things there to catch my attention.
My first stop was to say hi to a familiar face. Aerobie Fields Pottery artist Meredith Johnston was there with her amazing artistic creations. I have a few, highly prized pieces of hers at home that we received as gifts. (Meredith was at one time an art teacher of mine, and always remembers that I am the one that made a tennis player on a court for a sculpture project.) I chatted with her for a bit, and she pointed me in the direction of the person who organizes this event every year, Charmaine Flynn, so I went to her booth to say hi.
Charmaine had a number of different vegetables and other crafts in her booth - including one root veggie I had never seen that is derived from sunflowers, apparently - a Jerusalem artichoke. She said that the Fair had grown larger every year, and she tried to maintain a good balance of crafters and farmers. The event is always held on the weekend prior to Thanksgiving, and always has plenty of vendors interested in participating. All proceeds from the booth space go to the school. Admission was free, leaving me with all of the cash in my wallet to spend on very necessary locally made and grown things.
As I walked around, I DID run into several friends - some shoppers, some farmers, some food vendors, some jewelers, and all local Adirondack folks. I left about an hour later with an awkward-to-carry assortment of jams, jellies, some hot mustard (awesome) and an irresistible apple pie. I also left with a smile on my face - after such an enjoyable experience buying things I absolutely needed from people in my North Country neighborhood. (Yes, I needed pie.)
I headed south to Essex, and saw that the Pink Pig Cafe had an open flag out. I stopped in to say hi to Debbie Schrodt, the owner. She’s open year round, despite the seasonality of this historic gem of a town. Locals appreciate the breakfast and lunch fare she provides in a narrow, comfy space next to her store, the Pink Pig, which offers cottage furnishing, antiques and vintage finds. This is a must-stop for all who trust my advice and/or are within 300 miles of Essex.
I left the Pink Pig and on my way south stopped at Dogwood Bakery in Wadhams! A fave of ours for Friday night pizza, we love their wood-fired artisan breads. I picked up a loaf and chatted with my friends, including Caroline, who was filling her jugs with their new offering, Kombucha probiotic tea.
I promised to return with my own refillable container, and headed to Westport. There were some people talking outside the Bessboro Shop, so I stopped to check it out. Bessboro has been there “forever,” named after the original name for the town, and owned and operated by Westport resident Juianne Sherman for the past 25 years.
After she said goodbye on the front step to two townsfolk who had stopped in, I walked into the store and entered into conversation with Julianne about the latest Westport news and browsed around the shop. I’ve been there countless times, as I grew up in Westport, and when I asked about how the winter season goes for her, she said that she has regular customers who come from Plattsburgh, Keene, Ticonderoga, Vermont, and even farther. As I was now on a roll, I selected some Woolrich socks for my husband and some of those fingerless gloves that convert into mittens for me.
I headed south again, and instead of going home, remembered that the Gunnison’s Orchards store was still open. It’s open into December, and I have to remember to get there on non-workdays during their open hours to get apples. I got a half bushel of Honeycrisp apples and some cider donuts. And two maple-glazed, maple-creme donuts for good measure. And two pieces of maple sugar candy. And then I hightailed it out of there before I was drawn to the incredible display of pies.
The day had flown by - and I headed home. Just one more stop, at Celloti’s Liquor and Wine store in Port Henry to make sure we had red wine, you know, in case of visitors.
I spent an entire Saturday indulging in shopping.
Not hiking, not biking, but SHOPPING. My mom will be impressed - I think. I’m certainly no Super Shopper, but I still had cash in my wallet and I didn’t get lost. And I had a wonderful day, resulting in the acquisition of lots and lots of locally made and locally grown goodies and some really nice warm gear.
Notably, while at the Pink Pig, I had a great conversation with Debbie about the importance of shopping local, and the growing trend toward a buying local and locavore culture. Though the Lake Champlain region is a largely seasonal destination for visitors, those of us lucky enough to live here year round benefit from the existence of the quality retail stores, farm stands, and restaurants that attract all those travelers in the warm months. We’re especially lucky - I know exactly where my chicken and kale comes from, and the lines at the cafe are shorter this time of year.
And I think I’ve gotten a handle on this shopping thing after all these years. I stuck to responsible, smart purchases of quality, locally made goods.
Yes, responsible. After all, I COULD have gotten that maple-filled, maple-glazed donut WITH bacon.
Check out these upcoming events - lots of opportunities to shop local on the Adirondack Coast!
- Kim Rielly is the director of communications for the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism.
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