The Luster of Littleton

The walkable downtown of Littleton is a joy to shop



The retro Just L shop.

Photo by Susan Laughlin

Art to Go, Gallery & Salon owner Kate Goldborough has changed the concept of her store several times, from fine art gallery to Mexican art to its current state as art gallery, jewelry shop, clothing store and salon. She also sells her favorite hairdressing products and makeup lines that are not harmful to the user -- an important part of her philosophy. Check out the locally created headscarf/neckscarf combos that don't crush your ''do" but keep the wind at bay. ($60 to $89)

Saranac Street Antiques used to be on Saranac Street in the Tannery Marketplace, but now the shop offers three floors of fascinating antique furniture and artifacts in the former Masonic temple. Find hoosier-style kitchen cabinets, a room of '50s kitchenware, and upstairs, less-antique items on the main floor of the Masonic hall, stage and all.

Stop in at the vintage Littleton Diner for a cup of coffee. The counter is not too comfortable, but the booths are charming. Arrive for breakfast (served all day) and you can find pancakes made with flour ground by the grist mill just 1,000 feet down the road.

Pop in the Village Book Store for that bestseller you have been looking for or check out their great toy selection downstairs. From the lower-level find an adjoining door to the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen shop filled with heirlooms of tomorrow, from fine furniture to woodsy prints by Matthew Brown. Also, their Mill Street Littleton Studio School offers classes and workshops in everything from watercolor to jewelry making to throwing clay pots for kids and adults.

Consignment shops abound on Main Street and one of the newest is Emma & Company Children's Consignment. It's tiny but packed with bargains on clothes that kids grow out of quickly.

Mid-century modern is classic Mad-men style for those of you who weren't around for the original take. Just L is a step back into that time - all that's missing is Don Draper with his bottle of Canadian Club Whisky. Fine examples of Danish modern teak furniture are interspersed with funky retro frills including troll dolls and dangling lamps from the '70s. Time travel, indeed.

It's almost impossible to step into tiny Pentimento and not leave with a gift for yourself. Actually, that's owner Phillia Evans' motto: "Gifts for others that you'll want to keep for yourself." One half of the shop sparkles with crystal jewelry and hair accessories, while another small room harbors some of the smartest and sassiest greeting cards to be found this side of Hallmark.

Hungry? Have lunch at Miller's Café and Bakery. In good weather the deck is the best seat in town. Stop in for a martini at Bailiwicks beneath the historic Thayer Inn, open for lunch and dinner. Enjoy fine dining at Tim-Bir Alley near the Opera House. All this food and fun is within an easy walk on Main Street.

On your way out of town check out the Littleton Co-op, an amazing member-supported grocery of locally sourced and high-quality products. You don't need to be a member to shop. If you prefer a bargain for your produce, try Big Papa's Fruits and Vegetables on Meadow Street. On Thursday produce is the freshest and each day it is marked down a bit, until Saturday at 2 p.m. when lots are auctioned off.

It took me all afternoon to explore just the south side of Main Street. There's more retail on the north side and don't forget the riverfront shops just down the hill from Main Street, including Admac Salvage at 111 Saranac St. for architectural re-use if you happen to need the proverbial kitchen sink or claw-foot tub. New is Fiddleheads art gallery, featuring American crafts, located near Miller's Café and Bakery at 16 Mill St. Don't forget to stop at the Littleton Grist Mill next to the café for fresh-ground whole-grain flours.

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