On the Cape, Chatham makes for festive shopping

By Kathleen Pierce
Globe Correspondent /  December 1, 2012

During the holidays this popular summer village is rife with retro elegance. Lights twinkle up and down Main Street. Inside the varied independent boutiques and galleries, you’ll find Christmas music and jolly salespeople. “A cup of hot, spiced cider while you shop?”

Why not?

“Every single shop is unique and affordable; you don’t have to go anywhere else,” said Lisa Franz, executive director of Chatham Chamber of Commerce.

In the last several years Cape Cod has established itself as a holiday shopping alternative to jostling at the malls.

Falmouth, Mashpee, and Provincetown are magnets this time of year, but for my money, Chatham, with its walkable and friendly downtown, captures the spirit of the season. Think Nantucket sans the ferry. Visit midweek for the best experience.

One of the first things I noticed, beyond plentiful parking, was a lack of chain stores. Chatham is one of those increasingly endangered towns that promotes local at every turn. “We have the Black Dog and that’s about it,” said Franz.

For something less ubiquitous, hound lovers should make tracks to Chatham Beach Dog. Canine gifts, from a Boston Celtics bowl to mouth-watering elk antlers, will elicit wags around the tree.

For the hard-to-shop-for Brahmin on your list, visit Tale of the Cod. At the tasteful home gift and decor shop you’ll find everything from Simon Pearce glassware to furniture wrapped in nautical themes. Need a little Christmas right away? Scoop up some vintage ornaments before heading out the door.

There are a number of women’s boutiques in town, but I had the most success at the spacious and nearly empty Sundance Clothing. Entering to browse, I fell for a Joseph Ribkoff dress and a fun skirt on the sales rack. Trying them on without the fitting room frenzy was a holiday miracle.

Next door I picked up a copy of “The Outermost House” at Yellow Umbrella Books. Henry Beston’s year on the National Seashore is the ultimate beach read. The 1928 naturalist novel is one of many Cape-themed books lining the shop.

Across the street, the festive Kate Gould Park glows bright.

Need another reason to point your sleigh to the Cape’s elbow this time of year? Temperatures can be mild in the winter, making walking off all that merriment a tad easier.

If you haven’t checked everyone off your list, visit the Atlantic Workshop and Gallery. This artist cooperative puts a modern stamp on antique furniture with repurposed bureaus and chairs in splashy hues. During the stroll, a woodworker will be carving Christmas ornaments by an outdoor firepit.

To keep your stamina going, pop into Carmine’s Pizza for the best pie this side of the Bourne Bridge. This is a no-frills joint that turns out exceptional pizza with a cornmeal crust and a bevy of toppings.

Now you’re ready to hit Fisherman’s Daughter. Cape Codder Taylor Brown altered what it means to be a sea hag with her modern, eco styles. Striped fingerless shucking gloves and striking dresses made of organic cotton are far too original to be found in a mall.

Finally, because it is the season of bling, visit The Chatham Bag to accessorize. The small boutique with sparkly swag became a hit this summer with its Chatham shark gear. Pick up a mug or shirt “for those with discriminating tastes.”

Chatham is a lovely town to walk around and for an extra easy side trip, head to the Chatham Lighthouse just off Main Street.  Best of all, Chatham is an easy drive from the Sea Meadow Inn.

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