Almost Rodeo Drive: North Country overflows with top shops

by Karen Rose | 7/25/96 5:00am

Although Main Street is hardly Fifth Avenue, and the Miracle Mile bears scant resemblance to Rodeo Drive, the area's shopping can rank with the world's best. Hidden in the rolling hills of New England is a shopper's paradise, complete with malls, discount outlets and designer labels.

Between three miles and three hours from Dartmouth there is a wide variety of shopping meccas with enough variety to allow anyone to shop until he drops.

The Mall of New Hampshire

If you thought the Galleria was the closest New Hampshire comes to a mall, then you missed out on the state's only true mall, aptly named the Mall of New Hampshire.

Although it has only one floor, the Manchester mall features three anchor stores, a food court and a pleasant ambiance, including your typical high school aged "mall rats."

The mall is in the shape of a 'T' with three long corridors, an atrium in the center and the typical greenery and skylights.

It's most well-known stores include The Gap, The Limited, Victoria's Secret, the Body Shop, Brookstone, Record Town and Sam Goody, to name a few.

These stores are typical of those in malls throughout the country, offering up-to-date fashions as well as sales and saccharine salespeople.

One treasure is the Candy Factory, a mall sweet-shop. In addition to filling a whole wall with flavors of Jelly Belly gourmet jelly beans, the store featured everything from chocolates and salt water taffy to licorice and every species of gummy and sweet and sour candy imaginable, from bears, to birds, to sharks.

One of the mall's more original features is its food court, which is definitely atypical. Although offering national mall eateries, such as Annie's Pretzels, Orange Julius, Au Bon Pain, McDonald's, Burger King, Papa Gino's, Panda Express and Mrs. Fields, each of these restaurants has its own enclosed seating areas in addition to an open eating area in the center.

This arrangement gives the food court a more comfortable and personal ambiance than the typical huge, open food court eating area and reduced overcrowding.

The mall's sit-down restaurant is Ground Round, complete with generous portions, friendly service and reasonable prices.

Sears, Lechmere's and Filene's, the latter of which is currently under construction, are the mall's anchor stores. All three are large and offer complete selections, although limited to one floor.

What sets the Mall of New Hampshire apart is its unpretentious atmosphere. Granted, it is not the Mall of America, but it offers everything you'd expect from your typical mall in its own unique style.

Without palm trees or fountains, the mall offers shoppers a typical mall ambiance without letting them forget they are in New Hampshire.

Stands set up in the center of the corridors sell everything from penny candy and drinks to a complete selection of New Hampshire souvenirs, including t-shirts embossed with, "I'm Too Sexy for New Hampshire."

West Lebanon

The Power House Mall is a recent addition to the Upper Valley, built only a decade ago.

This "mall" does not feel like a "traditional" mall because it lacks one typical feature: a department store.

The Powerhouse Mall is often so sparsely populated it feels deserted. But it is beautifully designed, sparkling clean, and it features many upscale stores and boutiques. These include an Essentials shop for men and women, which is larger than the one in Hanover, a pricey toy store that always seems to attract wide-eyed children, a leather shop, a Green Mountain Coffee store and more.

Mink Brook Outfitters used to be the mall's largest store, before moving to the nearby Shaw's Plaza. It features a complete selection of the best outdoors clothes and equipment, including Patagonia, Nautica, Merrill and other top-of-the-line makers.

In addition to hiking packs and water bottles, the store once sold canoes, toboggans, riflery, and fishing gear. The new store in Shaw's plaza, while still featuring its selection of clothes and shows, will no longer continue such equipment.

Moving to the Power House will be Eastern Mountain Sports, which caters to a similar market, selling outdoor equipment, apparel and shoes.

EMS is well known for its durable polar fleece jackets, hats, mittens, sleeping bags, hiking shoes and other gear that the typical Dartmouth student could put to use in exploring the Upper Valley.

The store's largest store at present, before EMS moves in, is Essentials, which spans two floors, with women's clothes on the bottom floor and men's above.

Although pricey, this store feafor women, while Ralph Lauren, Giorgio Armani, and Bill Blass are sold upstairs to the men

If you are looking for sequined evening dresses, three piece suits, any sort of professional wear or cashmere sweaters, chances are Essentials will have it.

Although the mall may seem empty at times, one time when the Powerhouse has no problems attracting customers is its bi-annual tent sale which occurs once around the fourth of July and again in August.

This is something the avid shopper will not want to miss; $10 name-brand hiking boots, $20 formal evening dresses and $30 cashmere sweaters are some of the bargains offered to shoppers in the past.

Although much more upscale than the Mall of New Hampshire, the Powerhouse makes shoppers remember its rural setting. The shopping center's small eatery and stores feature views of the babbling Mascoma.

Another recent addition to the Lebanon area is the Pet Center, built just a few years ago and located just across the street from the Powerhouse Mall.

If you are wondering what the big deal about a pet store is, you have definitely never been here. The store is huge, and sells every type of pet imaginable, from cats and dogs to frogs, snakes, and tarantulas.

The store spans two floors, with cats, dogs, ferrets, rabbits, guinea pigs, birds and the like on the top floor and fish and reptiles below.

This store is always packed and feels more like a petting zoo then a pet store. Although the dogs and cats are in cages, there is a petting room, and most of the rabbits, guinea pigs, ferrets and birds can be touched.

Among the store's most interesting features is its large turtle pool on the lower level and the brightly-colored talking parrots upstairs, which sell for several thousand of dollars each.

This store is definitely worth a look next time you are driving in that direction, but, keep one warning in mind: you will definitely leave with a new pet (or desperately wanting one).

Woodstock, Vt.

to find only in Woodstock is its year-round Christmas Shoppe, which attracts holiday enthusiasts even on the hottest summer days. It features beautiful hand-crafted ornaments, cards and other Christmas paraphernalia.

Although some might not find these shops totally appealing, shopping in Woodstock is truly an experience. It is like entering a storybook town, and its intersecting roads and quaint village Green are sights that should not be missed. Although the farthest thing from the hustle and bustle of New York City, Woodstock has its own unique flair that makes it one of the country's most beautiful shopping destinations.

Quechee, Vt.

Although the tiny village of Quechee, located off Route 4 in Vermont, hardly has a main street, it is home to one of the country's best stores, Simon Pearce.

Simon Pearce, located in a historic wool mill, features hand-blown glass, pottery, furniture and clothes, may of which are inspired by Pearce's Irish heritage.

If you are looking for a gift of any sort, you can find the very best at Simon Pearce. Although somewhat expensive, each piece is hand-crafted, usually on-site.

Some of the store's more popular items include hand-blown glass bowls, vases, champagne glasses and pitchers. The prices for glassware can range from $280 for a large bowl to $12 for napkin rings.

Even if spending top dollar for premier pottery doesn't make your heart skip a beat, Simon Pearce still merits a visit. More than just a corner store, this Quechee mill is a definite must-see.

Located on the Outtaquechee River, the store offers stunning views of a waterfall spanned by a wooden covered bridge. More than just a beautiful sight, the river affords the hydroelectric power used to fuel the shop's glass mills.

There is much more to do than shop at Simon Pearce, and the store attracts customers from across the eastern seaboard.

Visitors can watch teams of workers perform traditional glass-blowing. The transformation of a glob of glass into a finished bowl or vase is a mesmerizing process open to viewers in the basement of the shop.

Just steps away visitors can walk onto a balcony overlooking the waterfall, close enough to feel its spray and explore a hydroelectric turbine. The pottery studio is also open to visitors.

Although Simon Pearce opened his store in Quechee just 15 years ago, he has since opened subsidiary stores on Madison Avenue and Soho in New York City, Newberry Street in Boston, Princeton, New Jersey, Westport, Connecticut, Windsor, Vermont and Hanover.

Outlet Shopping

With Freeport, Me., Manchester, Vt. and North Conway, N.H. all located within three hours from the College, Dartmouth is surrounded by some of the best discount shopping that can be found.

Everything from L.L. Bean and J. Crew to DKNY and Giorgio Armani can all be found within a three hour radius of the College.

When thinking of Freeport, Maine, one image comes immediately to mind: the monsterous L.L. Bean store that has floors of merchandise featuring every single item in the catalog, from canoes to Christmas wreaths.

"Double L" fans can conceivably spend days wandering the store, which is entirely possible, considering that the store stays open 24 hours a day, every day of the year. Salespeople brag about families who flock to the store at 3:00 A.M. to do their Christmas shopping every year.

Although L.L. Bean's main store is not discount, there is an outlet shop within walking distance and plenty others for those looking to shop and save.

There are two main clusters of discount shops in Freeport: the Bow Street Block on 11 Bow Street and Freeport Crossings on 200 Lower Main Street. Stores featured included: Calvin Klein, Patagonia, Geoffrey Beene, Leslie Fay, Reebok/Ellesse/Rockport, Johnston and Murphy shoes, Evan Picone, Izod, Bass, Guess, and Nike, to name a few.

Those retail stores not enclosed in a mall or center include J. Crew, Dooney & Bourke, Gap, Laura Ashley, Polo/Ralph Lauren, Anne Klein, Benetton, and Brooks BrothNorth Conway.

Located minutes from Stratton, Bronley and Mount Snow ski resorts, the shopping area offers vacationers an alternative on snowless days.

Manchester's shopping centers include the Battenkill Plaza Outlet Center and the Manchester Center located on Routes 11 and 30.

Manchester features outlet stores such as Georgio Armani,

Polo/Ralph Lauren, Movado, Cole-Haan, Donna Karan, Ellen Tracy and J. Crew.

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