A tour of Cape’s general stores offers fun shopping getaway – Boston Herald

A tour of Cape’s general stores offers fun shopping getaway – Boston Herald

Didn’t holiday shopping seem so effortless in the old days? I’m talking the real old days — when one could wander down to Mr. Olsen’s general store and snag a bolt of cloth for Ma and pipecleaners for Pa and you’d be done.

In this era of cyber deals, battling for PS5s and stressing over it all, we present an alternative: the General Store Shopping Adventure trip.

There are wonderful and quirky general stores with historic back stories dotting the New England map. I’ve always loved a December visit to the daddy of them all, the Vermont Country Store.

Not able to take the time to leave the state the proper way, I was happy to discover that a General Store Shopping Adventure trip is not just doable but recommendable. Choose a region, do some digging and you’ll find you plenty of spots to head to.

I chose the Cape for my first General Store Shopping Adventure. A day trip built around a lovely drive brought me scenic moments, delicious treats, visiting some small Cape towns I’ve not been to in years and best of all, holiday gifts.

Here’s how it went down:

I headed out just after breakfast with the plan of driving all the way down the Cape to my first stop, Brewster, and then picking my way back toward the bridge with general store stops along the way.

Route 6 zipped me to Brewster and the Brewster Store (, a staple in the town since 1866 and so close to the heart of locals that it is said, “If the town of Brewster were a human body, the store would be its heart.”

I can see why. It’s a classic structure, with wood hewn floors and ceiling beams, but bright and airy. There’s a modern coffee bar tucked in the back, right across from the fridge full of classic sodas.

  • DEC. 06, 2020 – The Brewster Store in Brewster, MA. Photo by Moira McCarthy

  • DEC. 06, 2020 – Some of the toy options at The Brewster Store. Photo by Moira McCarthy

But it’s what you find there that makes it special. From the penny candy you remember from childhood to classic toys (“everyone loves a Slinky”), to Cape inspired artwork and retro posters and metal signs.

There’s the required amount of cool things too, like the spaghetti serving size tool I picked up for my girls, and things like back scratchers and unique soaps, lovely tableware, all kinds of books, cards and even some antiques.

You’ll find something for everyone, and have fun doing it. Do take one of their giant cookies with you for later. You won’t regret it.

I left Brewster and headed next to Harwich Port and the quaint Murphy’s General Store. ( Opened only two years ago, the store drew on inspiration from other classic general stores in the area and added their own touch.

  • DEC. 06, 2020 – Murphy’s General Store in Harwich Port, MA. Photo by Moira McCarthy

  • DEC. 06, 2020 – Inside Murphy’s General Store in Harwich Port. Photo by Moira McCarthy

It was clear to me that the owners have the same taste as me. Anne Taintor products, cute trinkets, gourmet cookie mixes, an Anthony Fauci tree ornament (!!) and more.

I said as much out loud to no one in particular, and another woman shopping said, “Me too!” But her taste was different than mine. I realized the beauty of a great general store is that they speak to many, not just one.

The setting is lovely too — with the classic wood such a shop demands but an open space that modernizes things. Having secured tons of treasures, I grabbed a Polar Dry Orange for the road (classic refreshment) and headed on toward Centerville.

  • DEC. 06, 2020 – The 1856 Country Store in Centerville, MA. Photo by Moira McCarthy

  • DEC. 06, 2020 – Candy display at the 1856 Country Store in Centerville, MA. Photo by Moira McCarthy

There, I was happy to wait in line to enter the 1856 Country Store ( Why would so many be hankering to get in there on a winter weekday? Once inside, I understood.

The 1856 Country Store is packed with items to discover. Their penny candy selection is worthy of my childhood memories. There are also hand-blown ornaments; cards created by local artists; old-time toys; jams, jellies and jewels; socks, stickers and scents; and more.

I found more great gifts and, yes, a few things for me.

There are countless more general stores along my Cape route, and I’ll be going back for another round, as well as hunting out stores in other parts of our state. Call it the General Store Trail, it was as fun as a pub crawl, only with trinkets and gifts instead of brews.

Published at Sun, 06 Dec 2020 10:03:24 +0000

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Written by Riel Roussopoulos


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