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NewEnglandville | The Town of Our Dreams

Shopping Scene

A Real Super Market: Roy’s Market
When the 2008 ice storm slammed through New England, Roy’s weathered the conditions and the lack of electricity by keeping its doors open. For a good week, as tired customers streamed through the market, employees greeted them with flashlights and a guiding hand to help shoppers navigate the store’s six aisles. Those same employees packed customers’ carts and bagged their goods. They set up charge accounts for those who couldn’t pay in cash, and then, as is customary here, the Roy’s crew walked shoppers back out to their cars, grocery bags in hand. Unusual perhaps, but not unexpected for a small-town market that has specialized in big-time service ever since opening its doors in 1956. 20 Main St., Peterborough, NH. 603-924-3101

Treasure Hunt: Wilbur’s Antiques
As far as we’re concerned, the best antiques stores remind us of old locked trunks: mysterious, slightly musty, with the possibility of forgotten treasure inside. A healthy dose of clutter helps, too, and a knowledgeable guide–like Rena Wilbur, who leads you through her jam-packed kingdom of clawfoot tubs, fire hydrants, and vintage bottles with the cheerful enthusiasm of an expert tour director. Prices are reasonable; the marital advice is free. 11 Key Hill Road, Greene, ME. 207-946-5711

Anything You Need: The Willey’s Store
In this age of over-specialization, it’s just about impossible to find a proud generalist–which is why NewEnglandville requires a solid, family-run general store that isn’t all tarted up to merely look New Englandy. With a traditional meat counter plus bread, cheese, local produce, rugged clothing, cast-iron bakeware, an epic candy aisle, lawnmowers, wine, hunting and fishing supplies, gas pumps, bulletin boards, and more … In other words, it’s the heart of a small town, the place where folks meet up over a bucket of washer nuts, and reason enough to keep Walmart at bay. 7 Breezy Ave., Greensboro, VT. 802-533-2621 (grocery), 802-533-2554 (hardware);

Come Together: The Alternative Food Co-op
Whoosh, there goes Brendan, the roller-skating cashier, right at home in a co-op that’s been around since 1970, when even Bob Dylan was fresh. Friendly manager Rosemary sets the welcoming tone in this little brick storefront, one of New England’s oldest co-ops, and a fine example of how we all come together over food. 357 Main St., Wakefield, RI. 401-789-2240;

The Right Stuff: Lahout’s Country Clothing & Ski Shop
Winter survival, or at least comfort, is all about the gear. Fortunately, we’ve got America’s oldest ski shop to keep us tricked out in the latest Spyder, Patagonia, and North Face paraphernalia, plus skis, boots, and bindings. Herbert Lahout emigrated from Lebanon in 1899, opening his first drygoods store 20 years later. He probably wouldn’t recognize his early roots in this ski shop, which evolved to serve Bode Miller and other local Olympians in the shadow of the White Mountains, but today’s country store is still proudly tax-free, and its “10 Golden Rules of Business” could revitalize any enterprise anywhere. (By the way, you can also visit the orignal Lahout’s on Union Street in Littleton, plus other Lahout’s locations in Lincoln.) 99 Main St., Littleton, NH. 603-444-0915;

Good Bindings: RJ Julia Booksellers
As far as we’re concerned, a great independent bookstore is the glue that holds a town together, especially in the winter. Nothing beats coming out of the cold, glasses foggy, to browse floor-to-ceiling burnished wooden shelves, as they curve and meander from fiction nook to bio to fantasy, liberally dotted with employee-reviewed suggestions. This 22-year-old institution joins readers and writers with a fierce commitment reflected in more than 300 events a year–plus a cozy cafe attached where visitors can read and sip. There isn’t a Kindle in the world that can come close. 768 Boston Post Road, Madison, CT. 203-245-3959;

Getting Playful: The Toy Shop of Concord
Anyplace that quotes the French philosopher Montaigne when talking children’s games takes play (and toys) seriously. In NewEnglandville we want a toy shop that’s friendly, fun, and old-fashioned–but not stuffy. The pretty little exterior of this 70-year veteran, the first specialty toy store in the country, is trimmed with fairy lights and holiday wreaths. Unwrap it–it’s filled with “active play” toys (jump ropes, Frisbees, yo-yos, and so on) plus Legos, arts and crafts, and all manner of stimulating, quality toys. The ultimate toy test: It’s a blast for everyone concerned. 4 Walden St., Concord, MA. 978-369-2553;

For Whatever Ails You: Baker Pharmacy
We like our prescriptions with a hint of nostalgia, so a classic 1867 village pharmacy with a working soda fountain is just what the doctor ordered. Whoever dreamed up that particular combination of drugs and sweet-and-creamy confections would be well served with a scoop of Snow’s Ice Cream, fresh from the local creamery, and a chance to spin on an old-fashioned soda-fountain stool. 52 Bridge St., Shelburne Falls, MA. 413-625-6324

Arts, Culture & Entertainment

Tropical Getaway: Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory & Gardens
When summer is a dim memory, the brush of butterfly wings and a little jungle vegetation can be more warming than a hot toddy. The air inside this 8,000-square-foot indoor conservatory is set to tropical perfection–80 steamy degrees–and it’s filled with nearly 4,000 flying colors, both exotic and domestic. “Flight attendants” are on hand to help with butterfly identification and to check you for hitchhikers as you leave. The only downer is picking up your parka on the way out. 281 Greenfield Road, South Deerfield, MA. 413-665-2805;

The Blessings of Liberty: Old Brooklyn Meetinghouse
From the high pulpit and spare wooden pews of this historic white-clapboard edifice, the conscience of a young nation took shape and found its voice. Built in 1771-74 as the town’s civic meetinghouse and Congregational church, by 1822 it had evolved into a Unitarian parish. Here Israel Putnam, a hero of Bunker Hill, once served as sexton; here the great Unitarian pastor Samuel May preached abolition and defended Prudence Crandall in her fight to educate young women of color; here the nation’s first female Unitarian minister, Celia Burleigh, was ordained, in 1871. Devastated by the Hurricane of 1938, this venerable house of worship was proudly rebuilt and restored. Today Rev. May’s legacy endures: “No man nor body of men … [has] the least authority given them by God or Christ to dictate to the humblest individual what he shall believe.” Jct. Routes 6 & 169, Brooklyn, CT. 860-779-2623;

Strike It Rich: Big 20 Bowling Center
You didn’t think the New England town of our dreams would forgo bowling, did you? Of course, by bowling we mean the real thing: small balls, no finger holes, cylindrical pins. And by candlepin we mean the Big 20 Bowling Center in Scarborough, Maine, where converts have been made and the same maple-built lanes have induced strikes–and gutter balls–since 1950. With a soundtrack and an atmosphere that haven’t changed all that much in six decades, the nostalgia runs high. But “old school” doesn’t mean unchanged. Along with the usual assortment of burgers, fries, and pizza, Big 20 recently opened a full-service bar, made from scraps of the maple lumber that never did make it into those original lanes. And after 60 years, the Anton family, who opened the place so many years ago, sold to a new set of candlepin fans: Mike Walker and Rick Jones. On Friday and Saturday nights, bowlers who like to add black lights and a little music to their game turn out for Rock-N-“Glow” Bowl. What hasn’t changed is this: For a few bucks you can spend the night out with friends, building memories, and maybe, just maybe, showing the rest of us what it takes to take out the hi-lo-jack. 382 Route 1, Scarborough, ME. 207-883-2131;

Feeling Cultured: The Music Hall
Vaudeville breathes through the walls of this glittering, restored landmark theater and arts center, which hosts live music, dance, films, plays, and the acclaimed Writers on a New England Stage series. We love having options that include scary-funny Margaret Cho, celebrated writers like Salman Rushdie, and a riveting performance by the Shaolin Warriors, not to mention unexpected indie-movie first-runs. Victorian audiences would applaud or faint. 28 Chestnut St., Portsmouth, NH. 603-436-2400 (box office);

At Home with the Masters: Sterling & Francine Clark Art Institute
Unexpectedly audacious in the scope of its collection, the world-class Clark surpasses every expectation of a small-town art museum. We’re in Impressionist heaven here–colors bursting from the walls, the perfect antidote to winter’s doldrums. This mecca for art lovers is currently undergoing a major expansion, or, should we say, renaissance. 225 South St., Williamstown, MA. 413-458-2303;

Please Note: This information was accurate at the time of publication. When planning a trip, please confirm details by directly contacting any company or establishment you intend to visit.

Updated Friday, December 14th, 2012

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