By Anne Archer
It’s another day in Manchester, Vt. — mountain views, clean air and plenty of shopping. And while there is hiking in the surrounding mountains, there are stores to explore in town.
So how does one get the most out of a leisurely shopping day in Manchester?
A great place to start your adventure is at the iconic Northshire Bookstore located in the center of Manchester’s historic downtown.
Now go join a few locals at the Spiral Press Café, located in the same building as the bookstore, for a cup of coffee or a large Tazo chai latte. If you arrive before the bookstore opens at 10 a.m., enjoy the coffeehouse ambience. Take in the interesting mix of classic rock and alternative ’90s music as you look at the local art displayed on the café walls.
When you’re done, browse the family-owned and operated bookstore. You’ll feel the stocked shelves come alive with every genre ever written. Warning: With so many nooks and corners filled with knowledge, it is easy to lose track of time.
But there’s more than books. You may find yourself trying on a dress or wearing a pair of headphones while you listen to the latest CDs from current performers.
Whether you’re a parent, a grandparent or a singleton, you must visit the children’s department that takes up the entire second floor of the building. There, you will find the latest selection of children’s books, toys and games, along with some classics. It is truly a paradise for children.
Once you are done browsing the bookstore, head down to the Marble Mill on Depot Street. There, you will find high-end designer outlets like Armani and Eileen Fisher.
A newly constructed building, Marble Mill offers outdoor space to sit and review your shopping list. Pull up a rock on either of the two patios that are surrounded by manicured landscape. The serene setting will make you feel like you’re sitting in the backyard of a Vermont bed and breakfast.
When you’re ready for more shopping, check out the Armani Outlet. Inside, you’ll find chic must-haves — like that little black dress or the men’s equivalent, a classic-fit wool suit. And if you can’t afford Armani (you’re not alone), it is still fun to look at the latest fashions.
If casual outdoor wear is more your style, Eddie Bauer is right next door. It is a well-designed open concept store with concrete floors, exposed ductwork and all the outdoor gear you would need should you decide to hike the Appalachian Trail, which is only minutes away from Manchester by car.
Colorful backpacks, a variety of hydration bottles (including a Happy Hour system) and outdoor clothing for all seasons line the walls at Eddie Bauer.
Have a question? Ask any friendly staff member. They want to help.
When asked what are the best parts of her job, Teresa Hall replies: “The customers and the products.”
The assistant manager of the Manchester Eddie Bauer, Hall says, “Our customers are doing great things.”
Once you’ve seen all the shops at the Marble Mill, take a stroll down to Depot 62, a Turkish rug and furniture store, for lunch. Yes, lunch. Depot 62 has an amazing bistro with traditional Turkish cuisine.
Alp Basdogan, owner of Depot 62, describes the place as a bridge between Europe, Turkey, New York City, and Vermont.
The establishment is a bridge, but it is also a sensory delight — touch the quality wool of each hand-woven Oushak rug, smell the hunger inducing Turkish cuisine, and feel a sense of kindness.
What’s the Depot 62 experience?
“Spreading love. Connecting people,” Basdogan says.
While you wait for your food, browse and talk with those folks around you.
Then, when your food arrives, take your taste buds on a thrill ride.
Now that you’re feeling the love, go across the street to Manchester Square for a scoop of Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food or a Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough sundae. Sit on a bench and watch Manchester go by.
When the ice cream is gone, stroll through Helmholz Fine Art. It’s like visiting a notable art museum for free.
Looking for something pink? Step into Vineyard Vine’s where you can find pink clothing — along with other brilliant, cheery colors — for men, women and children.
Once you’ve brightened up your wardrobe, step across the hall to Clarks Bostonian Outlet for a new pair of shoes at a very good price. The contemporary music that plays throughout the store will have your foot tapping in no time.
A friendly staff member tells you about the sales and helps you find what you are looking for.
When it comes to working at Clarks, store manager Corey Patterson says it’s all about “the people.”
“All kinds of people from abroad,” he adds, with a hint of amazement in his voice about all the folks who come through the door.
Now, with your hands full of purchases and a belly full of Turkish cuisine and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, a walk to your car is in order.
On the journey back, you’ll pass more stores like Above All Vermont, which is an old-fashioned general store specializing in New England products. And there’s Crabtree & Evelyn. And Kitchen Collection, too. And don’t forget Polo …
If you have the energy, stop in and shop. If not, there’s always tomorrow.
6 helpful hints while shopping In Manchester
- Most stores are open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
- Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, in Manchester Square, is an alfresco shop. If it’s raining, treat yourself to a cookie indoors at Depot 62.
- There are clean public restrooms at Manchester Square.
- In Vermont, drivers stop for pedestrians standing in crosswalks. So don’t be afraid to use the the crosswalks.
- Feet hurt? Stop in to The Mountain Goat, located on Historic Main Street, and talk with the owner Ron Houser. He’s an American Board-Certified Pedorthist, which means he can fix your feet.
- Pop into Manchester’s new Visitors Center. The volunteer staff, made up of local business owners, can answer all your questions about Southern Vermont. And they do it with a smile.