Shopping the Cape: An INNsider’s Guide to Unique and Unusual Gift Items

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Whenever Rich and I travel we like to bring back something unique and unusual, something we would never find on Cape Cod, to remember our trip by. On many occasions that has been native art or a local craft item. We have Aboriginal art from Australia, batik from Bali, and Inuit art from our latest trip to British Columbia. In my former life working on board cruise ships, I collected tee shirts from all over the world. Unfortunately, tee shirts do not have lasting value, as I found out after multiple washings.

At any rate, guests of our Cape Cod bed and breakfast inn often ask where to shop for locally made items. Having spent the past seven years searching the length and breath of Cape Cod seeking items to carry in my own little gift cupboard at the inn, I have a fairly comprehensive list of shops that I think my guests might enjoy. Though not an exhaustive list by any stretch, the following is a sample of unique and unusual gift items you might consider bringing home with you to remember your Cape Cod vacation.

Cape Cod Specialty Foods, 11 Cranberry Highway, Sagamore

Just over the bridge from the “mainland” in Sagamore, you’ll find Cape Cod Specialty Foods. For a true taste of Cape Cod try their Bog Beans, native cranberries covered in chocolate, or the old-fashioned Cape Cod Fudge that they make on the premises in antique copper pots.

Pairpoint Glass

Pairpoint Glass, 851 Sandwich Rd., Sagamore

Pairpoint Glass, the oldest operating glassworks in America, has a worldwide reputation for fine hand-blown glass and crystal. One of the last U.S. companies to manufacture cranberry glass, each item is crafted individually by local artisans.

McDermott Glass Studio, 272 Cotuit Rd., East Sandwich

This glassworks studio is known for its unique glass items created by owner David McDermott, whose work has been commissioned by six U.S. Presidents. His wife, Yukimi Matsumoto, designs more contemporary pieces, which are also on display.

Oak & Ivory, 1112 Main St., Osterville

Sailors Valentine

If you’re looking for authentic Nantucket Lightship baskets, they are made right on the premises at Oak & Ivory. Also on display are traditional Sailors Valentines. In the 19th century, sailors used to fashion intricately symmetrical designs out of tiny seashells to bring home to loved ones after long days at sea. These beautiful art pieces are extraordinary examples of fine craftsmanship.

West Barnstable Tables, 2454 Meetinghouse Way, West Barnstable

Right around the corner from our inn, owners of this fine woodworking establishment create one-of-a-kind furniture pieces from antique lumber salvaged from dismantled buildings, boats, and other items. Also on display are quirky lamps and tables crafted from cherry, birdseye maple, and black walnut.

Cape Cod Braided Rug, 4 Great Western Rd., Harwich

This showroom features an extensive selection of artfully braided wool rugs in an array of styles and colors. Cape Cod Braided Rug produced the first machine made rugs in the United States based on the braiding process used for manufacturing shoelaces. 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.

Cape Wind & Weather, 335 Lower County Rd., Harwich

Guests often comment on the wind and weather instruments we have in our Great Room.

Made by Cape Wind & Weather of brushed silver or polished brass, they measure wind speed, wind direction, and barometric pressure. Their unique Cape Cod Tide Keeper indicates Atlantic Coast high and low tides. As a student of weather, Rich insisted on having them to assist our guests.

Summer House Soaps, Barnstable

Made from all natural ingredients, Summer House Soaps are handmade locally in small batches using a cold-process method that best preserves the beneficial qualities of the ingredients. Featuring a variety of unique and interesting scents like summer hydrangea, beach plum, and vineyard lilac, I carry a small selection in my small gift cupboard at the inn.

Flying Pig Pottery, 410 Woods Hole Rd., Woods Hole

Flying Pig Pottery

You’ll find a number of local potters on Cape Cod, but one of my favorites is Flying Pig Pottery. Children’s illustrator Tessa Morgan decorates white stoneware with dark blue sgraffito, an ancient technique where the paint is actually scratched to give pieces depth and character. Inspired by the marine life surrounding Cape Cod as well as whimsical creatures of the imagination such as mermaids, flying pigs, and dancing fish, her bold designs are truly original.

So if you are looking for a well-made, one-of-a-kind memento to bring back home with you, Cape Cod offers a plethora of local artisans and family-owned businesses to suit your fancy. With so many unusual items to choose from, you’ll find it nearly impossible to go home empty-handed.