Beyond the Basic Souvenir: Shopping the Cape for that perfect find
For many people, part of the appeal of visiting a new spot is picking out something special to bring home, a lasting reminder of a favorite trip. From stunning glass vessels to finely crafted furniture to hand-cooked potato chips, there are a slew of exceptional products made on Cape Cod. Here are just a handful of the places where you’ll find them.
At the gateway to Cape Cod, just over the Sagamore Bridge, Cape Cod Specialty Foods features authentic regional confections including Bog Beans: native cranberries dunked in different types of chocolate; as well as sinfully delicious Cape Cod Fudge, made from an old-world recipe cooked on the premises in antique copper pots. Also in Sagamore, you’ll find Pairpoint Glass, America’s oldest operating glassworks founded in 1837. Today, the facility is world-renowned for its handmade traditional and contemporary glass and crystal. Time it right and it’s possible to actually see the pieces being made. Their showroom features a range of extraordinary items including candlesticks, vases, stemware, sun catchers, and lamps.
Down in Woods Hole you’ll find several potters’ studios. One of the standouts is Flying Pig Pottery where children’s illustrator Tessa Morgan creates functional white stoneware decorated with dark blue sgraffito, an ancient technique where the paint is actually scratched to give pieces depth and character. Her bold graphic designs are inspired by the marine life surrounding Cape Cod as well as whimsical creatures of the imagination: mermaids, flying pigs, and dancing fish.
McDermott Glass Studio in Sandwich is another must-see. The studio is known for their vibrant, uniquely-shaped glass vessels, created by owner David McDermott, whose work has been commissioned by six U.S. Presidents, Henry Kissinger, and Pope John Paul II. Other pieces on display include the softly designed contemporary glasswork of McDermott’s wife, Yukimi Matsumoto.
At Oak & Ivory in Osterville Nantucket Lightship Baskets, the long recognized regional treasures, are made right on the premises. The shop also specializes in miniature gold versions of these famed baskets, scrimshaw, china, and Cape-Cod inspired home accessories. Another artful treasure you’ll encounter here are Sandy Moran’s sailor’s valentines—intricate symmetrical designs composed entirely of tiny seashells encased in handmade wooden cases—based on the gifts brought home from a sailor’s voyage for his loved one during the 19th century.
At West Barnstable Tables Dick Kiusalas and Steve Whittlesey salvage antique lumber from dismantled buildings, boats, and other items—even pianos—and turn it into cupboards, chests, tables, and chairs. Pieces are beautifully crafted and possess unique character, with the wood still bearing interesting traces of its former life. The company, approaching its 40th year, also creates whimsical lamps and tables with new hardwoods including cherry, birdseye maple, and black walnut.
Just down the road, also in West Barnstable, you’ll encounter one of Claire Murray’s seven Cape Cod shops (other locations include Chatham, Mashpee, and Nantucket.) While she’s a now national brand, her designs are wholly inspired by the Cape and Islands. Among the colorful array of products are handmade rugs, needlepoint pillows, cotton throws, furniture, and decorative items that portray the essence and beauty of the region’s natural landscape.
Cape Cod Potato Chips began as a small storefront in Hyannis in 1980. The kettle cooked chips made by Steve and Lynn Bernard had universal appeal, and it wasn’t long before the business grew and a worldwide love affair began with their all-natural snacks. The factory, still located in Hyannis, has been open to the public for years, and visitors are welcome for free tours, complete with samples of the crunchy, hand-cooked chips.
You'll encounter dazzling gold, platinum, and sterling silver jewelry designs at Ross Coppelman Goldsmith in the north-side village of East Dennis. Coppelman, who’s been honing his craft for three decades, creates pieces showcasing gemstones in striking settings. Pendants feature sapphires arranged as constellations, pins are decorated with diamond sunbursts, and gold bracelets are adorned with shapes inspired by ancient Egyptian, Aztec, and Roman designs.
With origins dating back to 1910, Cape Cod Braided Rug produced the first machine made rugs in the United States based on the braiding process used for manufacturing shoelaces. Today, the showroom features an extensive selection of artful wool braided rugs in an array of styles and colors. Tours are offered at the manufacturing facility in Harwich, where the machinery and process have changed little over the company’s nearly 100-year history.
Another Harwich company with a historic presence is Cape Wind & Weather. In 1939, the company began designing and producing wind speed and wind direction indicators to aid boaters. Over time the company has expanded its products, made of brushed silver and polished solid brass, to include a marine barometer and a Cape Cod Clock with a hand that measures Atlantic Coast tides.
A landmark since the 19th century, Snow’s Home & Garden continues to be owned and operated by the Orleans family who opened the store there in 1887. Today, the expansive store offers locally made and Cape Cod-themed items including dinnerware, table linens, and throws in addition to an extensive selection of hardware, gardening tools, kitchen equipment, and much more.
At the tip of Cape Cod, local artisans handcraft each bar of soap and bath product made by Provincetown Soap Works. All products are made from pure essential oils and botanical extracts. The luxurious soaps with names like Beachcomber (containing lemongrass and vetiver), Tradewind (frankincense, powdered myrrh, and cinnamon), and Snug Harbor (sweet orange and cocoa butter) are available at Good Scents in downtown Provincetown.
When it comes to finding a well-made, one-of-a-kind memento sure to bring back memories of great vacation, Cape Cod is simply unsurpassed. There are just so many local artisans and family-owned businesses working to create such a variety of beautiful things here, visitors often find it nearly impossible to go home empty-handed.
Cape Cod Specialty Foods: 11 Cranberry Hwy., Sagamore; 508-888-7099
Pairpoint Glass: 851 Sandwich Rd., Sagamore; 800-899-0953
Flying Pig Pottery: 410 Woods Hole Rd., Woods Hole; 508-548-7482
McDermott Glass Studio: 272 Cotuit Rd., East Sandwich; 508-477-0705
Oak & Ivory: 1112 Main St., Osterville; 508-428-9425
West Barnstable Tables: 2454 Meetinghouse Way, West Barnstable; 508-362-2676
Claire Murray’s: 770 Main St., West Barnstable; 508-375-0331
Cape Cod Potato Chips: 100 Breeds Hill Rd., Hyannis; 508- 775-3206
Ross Coppelman Goldsmith: 1439 Rte. 6A, East Dennis; 508- 385-7900
Cape Cod Braided Rug: 4 Great Western Rd., Harwich; 508-432-3133
Cape Wind & Weather: 335 Lower County Rd.; 508-432-0970
Snow’s Home & Garden: 22 Main St., Orleans; 508- 255-0158
Good Scents: 351 Commercial St., Provincetown; 508-487-3393