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Winter Stroll & Great Shopping in Great Barrington

Rural Intelligence: Rural Road Trips: Excursions Image

Photograph by Stephen G. Donaldson

Chestnuts roasting over an open fire? Crêpes being made by a Frenchman on the sidewalk? The First Selectman grilling sausages? On Railroad Street in Great Barrington on Saturday, December 11? You bet. The town is pulling out all the stops for what is effectively its first Holiday Stroll (last year’s fizzled because of bad weather) and the kick-off to its 250th anniversary year. “We’re closing down Railroad Street, filling it with food vendors and lighting it with luminarios,” says organizer Carrie Herrington, who owns WearHouse, the Main Street fashion-and-home furnishings shop. “Santa Claus will make his way up Bridge Street at 4:15 to Town Hall. There will be a bonfire out back and a jazz band playing at the old firehouse on Castle Street.”

The Holiday Stroll (3 - 9 p.m.) is designed to make Christmas shopping a community-building activity, a way to demonstrate support for the independent retailers who make Great Barrington a distinctive and soulful alternative to shopping at a mall.  Local activist Mary Pat Akers has recruited students at Monument Mountain High School to dress up and create tableaux vivants in shop windows. “Scrooge and the three ghosts of Christmas will be at Tune Street,” she says. “Austin Powers and go-go dancers will be in the windows of Seeds.” Click here for the Holiday Stroll Schedule

If you can’t hit all the shops on Saturday night, here’s a crib sheet with a dozen great reasons—and there are so many more!—to return to Great Barrington for holiday shopping over the next few weeks.

1. T.P.Saddleblanket
Rural Intelligence Road TripsGreat Barrington turns into an après ski town in the winter with Catamount and Butternut only a few miles away. Step into T.P. Saddleblanket & Co. and you’ll think you’re in Taos or Aspen for there’s an extensive collection of cowboy boots and western wear as well as bedding and accessories that are perfect for a cabin or lodge. Much of what’s for sale is designed in Great Barrington by Tasha Polizzi, who spent ten-years working for Ralph Lauren. Her RL aesthetic is especially apparent in her fleece products such as reversible fleece throws—a.k.a. “cabin cozies”—that cost just $38.
304 Main Street; 413. 528.9400
2. Barrington Bites & The Chef’s Shop
Rural Intelligence Road TripsEveryone has a cook on their list, and the Chef’s Shop has something for everyone—from It Gifts like the SodaStream Slim Line ($99.99)  to a handsome set of four individual Le Creuset casseroles that come with a cookbook ($79.99). You can also order cupcakes from Barrington Bites, which has a shop-within-a-shop in the back. These bite-sized cupcakes have been known to enliven ordinary parties and make guests giddy with delight, and they come in a tantalizing range of flavors, including Red Velvet, Toasted Coconut, Vanilla Chai, Banana Peanut Butter, Gingerbread and Eggnog.
31 Railroad Street; 413.528.0135 (Chef’s Shop); 413.528.0660 (Barrington Bites)
3. Worldwide Market SquareRural Intelligence Road Trips
You can shop locally, think globally and act conscientiously at Worldwide Market Square. For the past eight years, Howard Lefenfeld and his daughter Sammy have been travelling to Nepal to bring back crafts, jewelry and housewares and working with not-for-profit groups to support struggling artisans around the world.  This year, there are some wonderful papier-mâché  birds created by survivors of the earthquake in Haiti ($125 - $250), jewelry from Colombia made of Tagua seeds ($20 - $55), colorful tissue boxes ($35) made from recycled plastic by women in Nepal, and adorable hand-knit Christmas tree ornaments from Peru ($12.) The store also carries locally made things such as jewelry from Community Access to the Arts and knit caps ($40) by Julia Baer.
308 Main Street; 413.528.6007
Rural Intelligence Road Trips
4. Berkshire Mountain Bakery
It is definitely worth going out of your way for Richard Bourdon’s Panettone ($18) and his Old World Holiday Bread. “This is the second year we’re making the panetonne,” he says. “It’s really light and simple. I think the best way to eat it is to heat it up in a 325 degree oven and then just rip it apart. Of course, you can slice it up, too.”  While Berkshire Mountain Bakery sells its bread to shops like Guido’s, you can only get the panettone at the company’s headquarters in the village of Housatonic a few miles north of downtown Great Barrington.
367 Park Street (Route 183), Housatonic; 413.274.3412
5. McTeigue & McClelland
Rural Intelligence Road TripsWhat is that yellow house wrapped up like a fancy box of chocolates? It’s a design studio and jewelry store that sells serious jewelry (if you have to ask the price . . .)  There are diamond-and-white gold earrings, platinum-and-ruby rings, gold-and-enamel cuffs that you might also see at Bergdorf Goodman in New York or Gump’s in San Francisco, which carry Walter McTeigue & Tim McClelland’s designs.
597 South Main Street; 800.956.2826
6. Bizalion’s
Rural Intelligence Road TripsLocated on the outskirts of town (between Big Y and Ward’s Nursery), Bizalion’s will be setting up a crêpe stand on Railroad Street during the Holiday Stroll. If you are looking for a gift basket for a foodie, Bizallion’s—a cafe, charcuterie and fromagerie— has several choices including a locavore basket ($85.95) that features Bola Granola and Route 7 Grill barbecue sauce or the “Emerald” basket of six imported olive oils from France, Italy and Spain ($59.95).
684 Main Street; 413.644.9988
7.  Barrington Outfitters
Rural Intelligence Road Trips

Almost everything you need to enjoy the outdoors this winter—including an all-weather ping-pong-table ($715)—can be found right here. There are Ugg Boots in assorted styles and colors, as well as Muck Boots and Blundstones.  There’s a breathtaking assortment of Smartwool socks for men and women as well as a well-curated selection of suave Ibex knitwear.
289 Main Street; 413.528.002
8. Seeds
Rural Intelligence Road TripsRobin Ban takes a lighthearted and whimsical approach to home furnishings and accessories at her Railroad Street shop, which carries candles ($39) and ornaments ($25) by the always amusing Jonathan Adler. You can find everything from the perfect kitchen clock to the perfect doormat here and during the Holiday Stroll she’ll be hosting a sample sale of jewelry by her husband, the sculptor Dai Ban.
34 Railroad Street; 413.528.8122
9. Church Street Trading
Rural Intelligence Road Trips
The most dazzling wreath in town is on the window of Church Street Trading, which seems appropriate because Church Street offers many sumptuous things. For men, there are two-ply hooded cashmere sweaters ($224) and for women the shop carries a silver fox vest ($595) and a silver fox jacket ($1,095).
4 Railroad Street; 413.528.6120
 10. Matrushka and Tom’s Toys
Rural Intelligence Road TripsA traditional Christmas requires traditional toys, and Great Barrington has two toy stores where you won’t find any video games or electronics. At Matrushka, you can find educational wooden toys like they have in the classrooms at the Great Barrington Rudolf Steiner School (this shop evolved from that school’s store). There are items that captivate adults such as the Quadrilla marble railway  and a Santa Claus Matrushka nesting doll set ($119.95). At Tom’s Toys, you will find the shelves overflowing with stuffed animals,  Bruder trucks and classic boards games but, blessedly, it’s a Barbie-free zone where toys with television tie-ins are not welcome.
309 Main Street; 413.528.6911 (Matrushka)
297 Main Street; 413.528.3330 (Tom’s Toys)

11. Rubiner’s Cheesemongers & GrocersRural Intelligence Road Trips
During the Holiday Stroll, Matt Rubiner will be selling oysters on the half shell for $1.50 each at rubi’s cafe behind his cheese emporium.  As long as price is no object, you cannot go wrong with anything on the shelves at Rubiner’s because Matt Rubiner is the ultimate connoisseur and he hand picks every bar of chocolate, box of pasta and package of crackers he sells along with his intoxicating array of cheeses and charcuterie.
264 Main Street; 413.528.0488
12. Karen Allen Fiber Arts
Rural Intelligence Road TripsIf you are looking to give a gift that is local and luxurious, there’s nothing more special than Italian or Scottish cashmere clothing designed and made in Great Barrington by the actress Karen Allen. Since opening her larger shop on Railroad Street almost three years ago, Allen has been able to offer a wide assortment of the kind of luxe bohemian clothes she likes to wear herself, including her own fingerless gloves ($70), scarves ($165 - $375), and sweaters ($495 - $725).
8 Railroad Street; 413.528.8555
Great Barrington Holiday Stroll
Saturday, December 11
3 - 9 p.m.

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Posted by Dan Shaw on 12/07/10 at 05:29 PM • Permalink