Romance and Retail in North Conway
North Conway is captivating
Kiss a frog and he may turn into a prince but don’t waste your time puckering up for Spunky, the frog who lives at the Toy Chest in North Conway. Spunky is 26 years old and, while he is lovable, he’s pretty happy where he is; he’s been on the counter for 26 years and plans to stay there. But Spunky isn’t the only reason to visit North Conway. This little village is full of romance and retail. Begin your journey with a hearty breakfast at Priscilla’s Country Kitchen. Shop and explore and then park yourself at May Kelly’s Cottage, the infamous pub where you’ll find live music, great food, cold beer and a room full of men all called Patrick.
Ladies, you heard it from me. It’s time to drop the letter “C” from your handbag. Indulge in a real handmade leather bag made in North Conway at Beggar’s Pouch Leather. This artisan workshop/retail store is full of beautifully crafted leather bags, wallets, belts (have one custom made) and more. You’ll also find hats, leather vests and jackets and other biking wear. The owner does all the leatherwork himself and doesn’t mind an enthusiastic audience. The tunes in the shop will take you back to the ’60s and ’70s, as will the prices, which are amazing.
So, you think those “beautiful” people you stand in line with at the slopes have all been in the Alps shopping? Think again, sister — they are on to Spruce Hurricane. And guess what? It’s not an exclusive club. This upscale, sophisticated, yet so-not-stuffy boutique is a gem. Look for real fur headbands that can be worn as coat collars, warm winter jackets from M. Miller (out of Boston) and comfy après-ski clothes from Tribal. Don’t miss the incredible amazing cowboy boots from Old Gringo; I’m just sure your significant other would want you to have them as a token of love for Valentine’s Day. Right?
Alas, that cold weather sure can damage your skin but there’s help and it can all be found at The Funky Bubble. Look for organic healing products from K&M Kearsarge Mountain as well as Ahava skin products that contain minerals from the Dead Sea. The Sugar Whips (cupcake, Tahitian vanilla and grapefruit) from Primal Elements are a treat. Scoop a sample, rub your hands together under water and voilà, you’re a new person. This busy little store also offers socks, snoozies and more. You might want to pick up a little lip gloss for all that kissing you plan to do on Valentine’s Day.
Say goodbye to the snack counter at your favorite gas station and say hello to North Conway House of Jerky. That’s right, this is an entire shop dedicated to jerky. Beef jerky shops are the trend (especially in the South) and, according to the folks who run this shop, consumers are called “jerkies.” The charm is that the snack is all protein, no fat or sugar, and contains no preservatives or chemicals. Hikers and skiers are lining up for the pricey little packs (expect $5.50 per 2 oz.) that come in an array of varieties, including beef, venison, kangaroo, alpaca, salmon, tuna, shark and many more. The maple pork is a shop favorite.
When it comes to wine tasting, it’s always 5 p.m. at White Mountain Winery. This micro-winery makes between 40 to 50 different wines with grapes from around the world. The most popular wines are the dry whites and reds, but there are plenty of others to savor. The wine tasting bar can get busy, and the guests here are fun and not “clenched jaw” intimidating. Bottles of wine range from $14 to $16 and can be bought in larger quantities. Buy a White Mountain Winery wine glass and get four wine tastings to go along with it.
If you want to own a pair of jeans that look as if they were designed just for you, take the time to visit Assets Jean Co. and ask for help. The staff here are jeans experts and can fit pairs (from some of the top designers) to flatter all shapes. Look for BB Dakota sweaters, tops and coats from Desigual and more. Ask about the Gretchen Scott line — you will fall in love with the designer simply because of the sewn-in label. And, by the way, there is nothing like a pair of Frye boots to go with those awesome jeans and fortunately you can get them here.
Tired of looking at your same old walls and dusty furniture? Perhaps a visit to The Design Bungalow might be therapeutic. This darling upcycled shop bursts with color, imagination and warm hospitality. Look for shabby chic furniture painted in colorful and popular chalk paint. The prices are amazingly affordable so bring the SUV; you might want to pick up a couple of pieces. Custom window work and upholstery is the mainstay of the business but the shabby chalk paint classes are also becoming very popular on the weekends.
Burning Love is what you’ll find at Soyfire Candle, where pleasant aromas wrap you like a big, warm hug. These candles are made from soy, they’re organic, contain no toxins (no messy black soot) and they burn and last longer. Look for jars of candles (without “that” thick top) in popular sizes for a fraction of the price of similar candles. Wonderful scents include salted caramel apple, vanilla lace, blueberry muffin and the year-round favorite winter evergreen. The store offers unique candleholders and a nice selection of thoughtful greeting cards.
If traveling with children, then beware of Zeb’s General Store — it’s going to cost you. Zeb’s is like being in the Land of Oz for people of all ages. Look for penny (OK, maybe not-so-penny anymore) candy jars along the walls, specialty foods, fudge, pickles, snacks, chips and more foodie items. The selection of Moxie and Coke items (remember those small bottles?) is fabulous. Upstairs you’ll find gifts, toys, games, stuffed animals, bath and body products, home décor and more. Bring your sense of humor (bacon-scented mustaches, $4.99) and a big, fat wallet.
Old Village Bakery, tucked behind Seavey Street, is simply amazing. Everything here is organic, made from scratch and with ingredients found locally. You will never find a better scone; here they’re thick, full of crunch and bursting with flavors like chocolate chip, lemon coconut and mixed berry. The croissants will leave you with a French accent. Known for their breads and pastries, this little shop also features a basic rectangular-shape pizza slice that packs the flavor. The owners are full of personality.