Finding high style and one-of-a-kind items in a valley (thankfully) low on chain stores
There was a time when it was difficult to do any substantive shopping in the Mad River Valley. I don’t mean necessity shopping, like
underwear or sneakers, but more the thrill-seeking, depression-smashing splurge shopping made famous by the likes of Carrie
Bradshaw in Sex and the City. You’d still be hard pressed to find Manolo Blahniks here (but seriously, when and where could you
actually wear those in Vermont?). However, the Valley has a coterie of stores that pack some punch in their areas of expertise: art, jewelry, sportswear, and play. And what you purchase here won’t be seen staring back at you from urban window displays in every city you visit.
Here’s my list of go-to stores:
The Artisans’ Gallery (Bridge Street, Waitsfield, 802.496.6256) represents over 150 Vermont artisans whose work ranges from photography and watercolors to handpainted bird houses and pottery. I covet the hand-painted wooden fish by artist and fisherwoman Rachel Laundon. Woody Jackson’s iconic Holstein cows appear on brightly colored oil and watercolor canvases, and, more affordably, on giclée prints. Gary Eckhart’s watercolor scenes of rural Vermont evoke emotions ranging from calm serenity to unease. Multi-sized wooden bowls (originally created by Peggy Potter, now made by Cobalt & Curry) painted in rich colors like eggplant and lime green make the perfect wedding gift. And items like woodpecker door knockers, hand-wrought iron fireplace tools, and earrings made by glassblowers and metalsmiths are tempting too. Open daily: 11 a.m.–6 p.m.
Whether it is the wide pine flooring, the big sunny windows overlooking Bridge Street, or the complimentary miniature coffees from their Illy espresso machine, a sophisticated sense of style permeates 4orty Bridge Boutique (Bridge Street, Waitsfield, 802.583.4022). Discover unusual items for your wardrobe: a Mongolian lamb purse; Italian scarves in solids and designs; cashmere sweaters with whimsical phrases (“Pray for Snow”); cozy striped wool socks; and gorgeous handmade silver necklaces, earrings, rings, and bracelets with precious and semiprecious stones made by owner Sheri DeFlavio. Open daily: Sun.–Wed., 11 a.m.–5 p.m.; Thurs.–Sat., 11 a.m.–6 p.m.
I think of The Collection (Mad River Green Shopping Center, Waitsfield, 802.496.6055) as my occasion store—Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, birthday parties, and Christmas gifts. Their back room is dedicated to kids—crafts such as face-painting kits and art supplies, LEGOs, temporary princess tattoos, “paper” dolls (actually made from wood), stuffed animals, and classic board games (remember those?). Unique home and gift items range from vintage ski signs to moose and bear pillows to hooked floor rugs. The snorting you hear in the background? That’s Lily and Miska, the resident pugs, who add some character to an already whimsical shopping experience. Open daily: Mon.–Sat., 9:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m.; Sun., 10 a.m.–5 p.m. (until 3 p.m. in the summer).
Whippletree Designs (Mad River Green Shopping Center, Waitsfield, 802.496.9694) embroiders anything, from colorful tote bags and tea towels to baseball caps and sweatshirts. I recently admired a plush white toddler bathrobe embroidered with the child’s name on the chest, as well as a stack of white chef’s aprons inscribed in red thread with the bride and groom’s names and engagement party date, to be given as party favors. Initials, family crests, farm logos, favorite animals— you name it, Heidi will embroider it. Open daily: 9:30 a.m.–5 p.m.
Do you have memories of a favorite toy store, with a wooden doll house in the corner whose tiny family was at work making dinner, a perfect stack of blocks decorated with farm animals, and a back room filled with a small selection of children’s books? Peanut & Mouse (Mad River Green Shopping Center, Waitsfield, 802.583.3669) is such a place. Owner Jill Rickard stocks eco-minded children’s items—trucks made from recycled plastic, kid-sized watering cans, play food like petit fours and bananas made from felt, bath toys, junior-sized picnic baskets, and made-in-America all-cotton dresses and shirts. She even has a small book collection that includes my all-time favorite Easter book, The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes. Open daily: Mon.–Fri., 9:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m., Sat.–Sun., 9:30 a.m.–3 p.m.
Before Cheryll Patty, the owner of Sportive (Main Street, Waitsfield, 802.496.3272), reveals her charming Australian accent, you’ve already noticed her impeccable sense of style. Her store is a reflection of that: timeless, ageless ski and après-ski wear made by some of the world’s finest designers. Fur-hooded jackets, cashmere sweaters and hats, and tech layers from the likes of Bogner, Kjus, Toni Sailer, Sportalm, and PJ’s. You may see some of the same merchandise in the storefronts at Beaver Creek, but priced far higher than what you’ll find right here in Waitsfield. Open daily 10:30 a.m.–6 p.m. in winter; weekends and limited weekdays off-season.
Everyone knows the Warren Store (Main Street, Warren, 802.496.3864) for their “Number Six” turkey sandwich, the “Long Trail” cookies, and Lawson’s Finest beer, but the treasures found Upstairs are unexpected. Beaded bracelets, colorful leather clutches, embroidered belts, and unusual sweaters for women; plaid shirts, cotton Ts, leather gloves, and ties for men; and bright Zutano outfits and classic toys for children. Gift items include pottery coffee mugs and bowls in luscious colors, reusable lunch bags, and hand-crafted candles. Open daily: Mon.–Fri., 10 a.m.–6 p.m., weekends and holidays, 9 a.m.–6 p.m.
The display at Mad River Glass Gallery (Main Street, Waitsfield, 802.496.9388) will blow your preconceptions of blown glass
out of the water. The Fish Vase collection presents orange clown fish and pink and yellow angelfish literally swimming out of tall, slender blue vases; the Kyoto Lantern series includes a lantern that’s a red rectangle with thin and wavy horizontal black stripes sitting on four black legs, topped by a small bundle of black twigs and illuminated from within. Owner/artists David and Melanie Leppla’s Sea Urchin, Sea Fan, Safari, and Cairn series offer further unbelievable twists on conventional blown glass. Open daily: 10 a.m.–5 p.m.
LOCAL SKI AND RIDE SHOPS
Alpine Options (Sugarbush Access Road, Warren, 888.888.9131): Member of America’s Best Bootfitters for alpine and backcountry
boot fittings. Here you’ll find rentals, try-before-you-buy demos, and junior lease programs, as well as a large selection of outerwear for the whole family. Brands include Arc’teryx, Eider, Hotronic, Lange, Marmot, SCARPA, Völkl, and many more. Open year-round: daily 8:30 a.m.–6 p.m. in winter (expanded hours on Fridays and Saturdays); 10 a.m.–5 p.m. in summer.
Clearwater Sports (Main Street, Waitsfield, 802.496.2708): Equipment for telemark and backcountry skiing, snowshoeing,
and rocket sledding. Full line of outdoor gear needs, including headlamps and climbing skins. Seasonal guided tours on snowshoes, sleds, kayaks, and canoes. Brands include Patagonia, Teva, prAna, and Merrell. Open year-round: Mon.–Thurs., 10 a.m.–6 p.m.; Sat., 9 a.m.–6 p.m.; Sun., 10 a.m.–5 p.m.; closed Wednesdays in late spring.
Farmhouse Rental and Repair (Lincoln Peak, Sugarbush Resort, Warren, 802.583.6504): Friendly, veteran staff specializing in rental and demo skis and snowboards for all abilities and conditions. Wintersteiger equipment provides a factory-edge tune. Demo skis from Völkl, K2, Head, Elan, and Fat-ypus; demo snowboards from Burton, K2, and Never Summer. Rental skis from Elan and Head; rental snowboards from Burton. Open daily from mid-November through early May, half hour before lifts open to half hour after lifts close.
Infinite Sports (Mehuron’s Shopping Plaza, Main Street, Waitsfield, 802.496.3343): Rentals, demos, and junior seasonal lease program. Custom boot fitting and Wintersteiger tuning equipment. Vast selection of outerwear for the whole family from Spyder, Ibex, 686, Hestra, Oakley, and CandyGrind. Skis from Dynastar and Scott; boots from Dalbello and Lange. Open year-round: Sun.–Thurs., 9 a.m.–6 p.m.; Sat. and Christmas week, 9 a.m.–8 p.m.
Mountainside Ski Service (Mountainside Drive, Warren, 802.583.9299): Members of America’s Best Bootfitters providing full assessments for alpine, telemark, backcountry, and snowboard boots. Full-service ski and snowboard tuning; alpine daily and seasonal rentals; alpine demo center for Rossignol, Elan, Dynastar, and Head. Open daily during ski season: 8 a.m.–6 p.m.; closed nonholiday Wednesdays, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day.
Splinters Boardshop (Sugarbush Access Road, Warren, 802.496.7441): A dedicated snowboard shop run by snowboarders for snowboarders, providing equipment, outerwear, clothing, and accessories for the whole family. Brands represented include Vans, Burton, Volcom, Dinosaurs Will Die, and CandyGrind. Open daily in winter: 9 a.m.–6 p.m.
Vermont North Ski Shop (Sugarbush Access Road, Warren, 802.583.2511): Run by professional skiers (Vermont North Pro Team), specializing in Dynastar, K2, Rossignol, and Kästle skis; Poc and Smith goggles; and Flylow, Obermeyer, Scott, and Helly Hansen outerwear for the whole family. Also stocks Ski the East and bigtruck. Open Columbus Day through Easter: 8 a.m.–6 p.m.; closed non-holiday Wednesdays.