The Bass River Mercantile

Bass River Mercantile

A Long-Standing Presence in South Yarmouth

If you’ve ever spent much time in Yarmouth, Massachusetts, you’ve probably seen the building. Or maybe you’ve missed sight of it, but have driven by countless times, leaving it peripherally in the rearview as you gauge the queue of cars on the Bass River Bridge and count your lucky stars, (or shake your fists to the sky, respectively), at the visual oracle of impending traffic and time. If you are generationally local to Yarmouth, chances are your grandparents, great-grandparents and even great-great-grandparents had memories of the beautiful old building, as it has resided in that spot for 230 years. Making its way through time as a rope factory in the 1790s, a general store, a post office, a gathering place for whispers of Victorian-era ghost stories, and eventually an established spot for local goods, crafts, and treats. By the existence of steam-powered cars, the timeworn building had already been settling its bones for nearly a century, presiding over the metamorphosis from the dusty, horse-cloven streets of Olde Cape Cod, to the pavements bustling with the honking horns and fleeting pop songs of vehicles passing by.  

Although it overlooks one of Yarmouth’s most notoriously busy traffic stops, intersecting Rt 28 and the North and Old Main Streets at the bridge, once inside the goldenrod building with its front porch trimmed in scalloped forest green, the door closes behind you and the roadside din of Cape Cod summer fades into a comfortable hum. Your eyes adjust from the brightness of the mid-afternoon sun, and you take in the warmly worn wooden floors, the nickelodeon, shelves of old-timey candies, clove gum, and glass bottles of moxie, walls adorned with hand-carved silhouettes of mermaids, ships, and captain’s wheels, and the heavy beams still proudly holding it all together strong and steady for hundreds of years. The longer you look the more you realize that you are standing in the belly of a historical monument to Yarmouth. If you linger in the room off to the right, (and it’s hard not to), where it’s adorned year-round for Christmas with decorations and ornaments, you can imagine its layers of time ago when it was still a post office and general store, and families would walk in after church for penny candies and brown paper parcels tied up with twine.  

Equally as intriguing as Bass River Mercantile’s historical influence in Yarmouth, is the seemingly endless array of things to look at. Most of what they carry is locally sourced, discovered at farmers’ markets and fairs, or brought in by Cape Cod entrepreneurs, but each item has a unique draw with its story, be it the connections to the Cape or its altruistic causes, from saving the turtles with The Turtleman Foundation to cleaning up coastlines with 4 Ocean. Every shopper will find something to take home here, whether it’s your first visit to the Cape or you’re a long-time year-rounder who likes to support local artists and businesses. Among the ample shelves of specially branded soaps, ornaments, and sodas, are lines of vintage model cars. Organic, lotions and lip balms, and scented candles are presented with a nautical backsplash of fishnets and glass floats.  

Here you will discover local treasures you won’t easily find in the typical beachside tourist shack. Shoppers who enjoy the thrill of an exceptional find will be elated with the racks of Cape Cod-inspired jewelry of silver and sea glass and pearls. The Original Cape Cod Chokers is a small family-owned, woman-founded business based in Barnstable, best known for its simple beach-inspired leather and pearl pieces.  In the front of the shop is a small stack of copies of Dead Tide, the debut novel of young Orleans author Jane Marks. A handwritten sign welcoming local soap maker, Michele Montalvo is displayed over generously cut artisan soaps in scents of Cranberry Pomegranate and Cherry Almond, gift-wrapped in tulle bags and silky ribbon. The Lighthouse Keepers jams, jellies, and mustards are in the back room with jars of honey and jerky and coastal-themed woven trivets. Lovely individually crafted pottery, mugs, and bowls made by a Chatham artist are laid out on tables and shelves amongst an assortment of hydrangea.

The Bass River Mercantile manages to combine the unassuming charm of an old-fashioned general store, with what patrons are looking for in 2023: Quality craftsmanship with community roots that won’t break the bank. Stop in from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm any day of the week. From the ubiquitous to the unique, you’ll find just what you didn’t know you were missing from your Cape Cod Shopping experience.        

The Bass River Mercantile:

2 North Main Street

South Yarmouth, MA 02664

Phone: 508-760-1888

(Britt Skinner is a freelance writer.)

Photo Credit: Britt Skinner

This blog is funded through the Town of Yarmouth’s Tourism Revenue Preservation Fund.

Holiday Shopping: Gifting Outside the Box

christmas shopping

We’ve all been there. As the days draw shorter and colder the autumn begins to slip away from us, and before we know it our pumpkin spice and bright foliage give way to peppermint sticks and frost just when we have begun to recover from our turkey and stuffing comas. As the winter holidays sneakily but steadily approach, our calendars fill up with family get-togethers and end-of-year celebrations with friends and colleagues. Our children begin their wish lists of newly advertised games and gadgets, (that will inevitably wind up at the bottom of the toy box by the new year), and they remind us of the gifts they need for their teachers, friends, and bus driver. Our Great-Aunt has decided on a last-minute Yankee Swap. Our parents, notoriously hard to shop for, tell us not to worry about them and that they don’t need a thing. Seemingly in cahoots with St. Nicholas, Father Time does his work and the second week of December hurries upon us when we aren’t looking.

Black Friday deals have come and gone, and as what is arguably the most shopped holiday of the year draws near, parking lots become scarce. Storefronts that brim with holy and fir garlands of bells and lights accommodate patrons who fill the aisles, busily surveying for the best deal. While the festive tunes and snowy afternoons may put us in the mood for spiced egg nog and gift-wrapping by the fire, we don’t always have the perfect gift in mind, and we don’t always have the time or luck to drive all over to look for the very perfect thing. What if our favorite people are minimalists? What if our kids just don’t have the space on their shelves for another football or Lego set? What do you get that special someone who has it all? What is a Secret Santa to do?

Gift Baskets can be thoughtfully personalized in countless ways to surprise your giftee, and on any budget. Selecting the “basket” is the first step. Make sure your gift-holding vessel of choice is big enough for cushioning material on the bottom, (tissue, shredded paper, confetti- the possibilities are endless!), and 5-7 items for a robust and visually attractive presentation. For a more customized gift choose a basket and filler that can be used as part of the gift. To finish, wrap the basket in a coordinating color of cellophane and ribbon. Want to support local businesses? Here are some gift ideas that you won’t need to leave the Yarmouth area for!

Gift Ideas from Local Yarmouth Businesses

clothing gift

Wicked Thrift and Pop Rock Vintage, in South Yarmouth, was Cape Cod’s best of the best winner for 2022, boasting new arrivals daily, all year-round. Featuring vintage and designer clothing, shoes, jewelry, and accessories, Wicked Thrift is an exhilarating shop to peruse the racks for that rare find. Or you can shop online for local pickup or discount shipping! A vintage handbag containing jewelry and a gift card will certainly put a smile on the faces of your fashionista friends. Can’t narrow down your choices for that special someone? Electronic and traditional gift cards are available for online and in-store use. You can visit Wicked Thrift Thursday through Saturday 10 am- 6 pm, and Sundays 11 am- 4 pm. Wicked Thrift, 1094 Route 28, South Yarmouth MA 02664. Phone: 508-648-5902

Old King’s Coffeehouse, established in 2019 is open 7 am – 3 pm year-round 7 days a week. A coffee mug containing a t-shirt and gift will energize the coffee lover in your life. Old King’s Coffeehouse, 44 Route 28, West Yarmouth, MA 02673. Phone: 774-470-5808

Ritual is your one-stop shop for the spiritual soul in your life. A small cast iron cauldron can be stuffed with an assortment of crystals, incense cones, talismans, and oracles. Gift cards are available to your pal to register for a workshop, or pick the goodies that speak to their soul. Ritual Cape Cod, 939 MA-6A Unit B, Yarmouth Port, MA 02675. Phone: 774-994-8358

Gift an Experience in Cape Cod

Gift an experience: bowling

Experiences are a hot gift-giving trend this year, for recipients of all ages! Prolonging the excitement of the season with the promise of a fun experience can be even more valuable than the trinkets and consumables that are more traditionally chosen as gifts. It’s the perfect treat for the loved one in your life that has it all! You don’t have to travel far and wide to gift an experience, nor does your giftee!

Ryan Amusements has locations on Cape and beyond for bowling and games. The South Yarmouth location offers bowling, cornhole, and for those over 18 years old- axe throwing! Special offers are available at select locations, and of course, gift cards are perfect for stocking stuffers for the whole family! Ryan Amusements, 1067 Route 28, S. Yarmouth, MA 02664. Phone: 508-394-5644

Cape Cod Gymnastics offers classes for kids of all skill levels in various sessions throughout the year. Register your child for 2022 Holiday Vacation Mini Flips Tuesday, Dec 27th through Friday, Dec 30th, and keep them busy during vacation! Cape Cod Gymnastics, 5 Corporation Rd – Yarmouth Port, MA 02675. Phone: (508) 744-7751

Whydah Pirate Museum is hosting children’s events during the last week in December and Saturdays in January and is included with admission. Gift certificates and cards are available for ticket purchase and the gift store. Take a look at the calendar and plan a visit! Whydah Pirate Museum, 674 MA-28, West Yarmouth, MA 02673. Phone: 508-534-9571

Cultural Center of Cape Cod’s mission is “to serve the entire Cape community and visitors to the area by offering instruction, entertainment, and exhibition in the visual, literary, and performing arts.” Buy tickets for the Winter Magic Antiques Show, or treat someone special to an upcoming class for them to discover a new hobby, or learn techniques for an existing favorite! Upcoming classes include Pastel Painting: Still Life and Interiors-Painting the familiar with Betsy Payne Cook, Introduction to Wheelthrowing, with Holly Heaslip, and “The Art Spirit” with Susan Overstreet. Winter Magic: A Quality Antiques Show on Sunday, January 1, 2023, from 10 AM – 3 PM. Cultural Center of Cape Cod, 307 Old Main St, South Yarmouth, MA 02664. Phone: 508-394-7100

Happy Shopping and Happy Holidays!

This blog is funded through the Town of Yarmouth’s Tourism Revenue Preservation Fund.

Photo credit: Britt Skinner

(Britt Skinner is a freelance writer.)

Yarmouth residents light up the winter skies

The great conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter isn’t the only light show in town this Christmas. Residents across Yarmouth, and presumably Cape Cod and beyond, have gone to extremes in making their properties merry and bright — with the emphasis on BRIGHT!

Thoroughfares, side streets and cul-de-sacs are ablaze with the colorful glow of lawn ornaments, giant snowmen, and brilliant LED lighting. 

“People need this in 2020,” said Adam Long, whose home at 32 Powhatan Road is festooned with hip-high candy canes, snowmen, polar bears, dazzling icicles and colors so bright that passing drivers often slow down to admire the display.

He and his wife, Alicia Wyatt, decorate their home every Christmas, but this year the couple got into the spirit earlier than normal — putting up their lights on Nov. 1 instead of waiting until after Thanksgiving. The first night he lit them up, he said a neighbor came over to thank him for giving people a reason to smile.

“That’s exactly the message I wanted,” Long said.

He’s noticed that more people around town have decorated their homes this season, and others agree.

At Anchor Ace Hardware on Route 28 in South Yarmouth, more customers came in to purchase lights this year than in past seasons, says Matt Tremblay, who handles store deliveries. Anchor Ace had a large inventory of holiday decorations to begin the year, and many of them have been sold, he said. LED strings are especially popular, because they save on electricity and the colors are so vibrant.

Local Realtor and Yarmouth resident Emily Shimansky has also noted the increase in holiday lighting, and she has her own theories about why.

More people are staying in Yarmouth year-round this year, she said, so there are more homes lit up for Christmas. Shimansky also posits that fewer people are traveling for the holidays, and because they stayed home, they got busy decorating. Her own parents opted not to go to Florida this year, so her dad, who used to decorate the family’s home, went to town with decorations this season.

Shimansky, who administers the Best of Yarmouth Facebook Group, has created a Google map of Yarmouth’s decorated homes to help others find the Christmas spirit. She said friends private-messaged her with the addresses of especially well-decorated homes, and she used their information to create the map’s destination points.

The map has more than two-dozen entries, with a few homes that are especially electric — one on Trophy Lane, another on Forest Road near the corner of Old Townhouse. Last weekend, she posted photos on the group’s page after taking a tour of her own map. Most people keep their lights on through the New Year, so there’s still plenty of time to catch the colors.

Shimansky’s suggestion: Make yourself some hot cocoa or a cup of coffee with peppermint in it; put some Christmas music on your car stereo; and take your household for a little drive. “It’s beautiful!”

Andy Tomolonis is a textbook author, travel writer and freelance multimedia journalist.

Great holiday gift ideas from Yarmouth shops

So you want to do the right thing and shop locally to support small businesses. But without the Yarmouth Port Stroll or another big holiday event on the calendar this year, you might be searching for a place to begin. And time is getting tight.

Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

With some pre-shopping research, we’ve compiled a list of great local gift ideas — each one memorable, unique, and available from a Yarmouth-area business. Plus, the stores we’ve highlighted here all provide COVID-safe shopping — whether indoors with social distancing measures, through online sales, or via telephone and curbside pickup. So deck the halls, check your list, and shop local.

Owl betcha they like this!

Got a bird-lover on your gift list? Head straight to Wild Birds Unlimited in South Yarmouth for feeders, foods, bird-bath heaters and other habitat helpers.

One of this year’s hottest items is a screech owl house, said retail associate Patty Donohoe. Owls typically choose their nesting sites before the winter, so right now is the perfect time to set up a nesting box, she said. Donohoe cautions that you’ll need a ladder, as the owl boxes should be placed in a tree, between 8 feet and 20 feet high.

It may take a while for the owls to locate your nesting box, but if you’ve heard the birds in your neighborhood, that’s a good sign, Donohoe explained. As the name suggests, Eastern Screech Owls will shriek at night. But they also make a haunting whinny, much like the sound of a distant horse.

Because screech owls are common on Cape Cod, Wild Birds Unlimited keeps the cedar nesting boxes in stock, says store owner Tom Thompson. The owl homes come with a bag of wood shavings and sell for just under $75. Call the WBU store at (508) 760-1996 or visit the Wild Birds Unlimited website for more info. Or drop by the shop at 1198 Main Street in South Yarmouth.

Crystal power at Instant Karma

Maybe you want to help a friend fight off the creeping negativity. Then consider giving the gift of earth energy with a crystal from Instant Karma of Cape Cod.

The new-age gift shop stocks amethyst, opalite, tourmaline, quartz and “things you could look at for hours,” says Daniel Thibodeau, an associate at the West Yarmouth location.

He says a geode can make a great centerpiece on the living room coffee table, but there are also stones you can carry around in your pocket for personal energy. “Each stone has a different kind of property.”

Thibodeau recommends a free-standing quartz or amethyst cluster, which are relatively inexpensive — priced in the $20 to $50 range. “They’re also the kind of thing that any person is going to stop and look at and appreciate,” he said. “They really do take your breath away.”

Instant Karma also has CBD products and a hippie boutique. Check out the options online at instantkarmacapecod.com.

Something sparkly from Harvest of Barnstable

Put some magic into your holiday gift bag this year, with a glittering home decor item from Harvest of Barnstable.

The Sparkle Tree is a 14-inch acrylic tree, complete with a silver base and star on the top. But the real magic lies in the battery-powered LED lighting, which illuminates the glitter floating inside.

The trees sell for $49.95 and are a big item this year, says store owner Pamela Parker.

Harvest of Barnstable also stocks locally-made wreaths, wall designs and floral arrangements, along with jewelry and bath items. “We make all of our wreaths and baskets and arrangements,” Parker said. “So we’re really pretty unique.”

Call or visit the store at 89 Willow Street in Yarmouth Port, 508-362-4595 or order online.

Gifts from local artists at Design Works

Looking for something completely different — like maybe a set of mussel shell tree ornaments, a Sandy Neck beach towel or musky-scented Sea Clay Soap from the Atlantic Sea Co. in Falmouth?

You’ll find a wide assortment of locally made gifts at Design Works. Shopping local is important, says store owner Margaret Hill, and buying local items made by local artists is even more so. The Yarmouth Port shop stocks hand-made ceramic bowls, hand-painted holiday ornaments, platters, mugs and other gift items — made by New England craftspeople, she said.

Because of the pandemic, local artists who typically sell their ware at craft fairs and festivals haven’t had the same opportunities this year, she explained. There have been some virtual festivals, but people like to actually see the pieces they buy, she said, noting that the small store allows them to do just that.

If you’re short on gift ideas, The Design Works website features a gift-buying guide, as well as items in its Holiday Collection. Visit the shop at 159 Main Street, Yarmouth Port, or order online.

Need more local gift options?

If you still haven’t found the right gift, here are a few more suggestions.

  • Find something in green at Agway of Cape Cod, 686 Route 134, South Dennis. The farm supply store stocks wreaths, trees and myriad items for the gardener on your gift list. If you want a gift that will be cherished for years, consider a dwarf citrus tree, which can be grown indoors during winter months and placed outside during the summer. Meyer lemon trees are especially productive and easy to grow, with aromatic white blossoms followed by large and flavorful fruit.
  • For friends with a sweet tooth, try the Toffee Sampler at Robin’s Toffee by the Sea, 12 White’s Path in South Yarmouth. The “deliciously addictive” toffee is made from a family recipe by Robin Costa. The toffee sampler includes original toffee, plus dark chocolate sea salt toffee, Vienna coffee toffee, peppermint toffee, and more. Check out other options at Robin’s Toffee by the Sea website.
  • If you’re looking for a special toy, head to Cape Cod Toy Chest, which is running a month of Black Friday specials. Deals include 20 percent off books for kids, as well as 20 percent off items from Mellissa & Doug, Learning Journey, and Wild Republic. Check out the options online and visit or call the store at 529 Route 28, West Yarmouth, 508-593-8699. Finally, don’t forget to grab a Toadally Funky Frog, free with any purchase.

For even more local gift ideas, check out the Yarmouth Chamber of Commerce’s Shop Local directory, with a listing of local stores and links to their websites.

Beginning Dec. 10,  participating stores will receive visits from Salty Sally, with daily photos posted on social media. Guess the location correctly, and you’ll be entered to win a gift basket of Yarmouth goodies. Be sure to follow and like the YCC’s Facebook page.

Andy Tomolonis is a nonfiction author, travel writer and multimedia journalist.

Halloween Fun by the Carload

Looking for a way to give your children a treat this Halloween — without putting their health and safety at risk?

Check out the Yarmouth Halloween Spooktacular event — a collaboration between the Yarmouth Chamber of Commerce, Yarmouth Recreation and the Yarmouth Drive-In. The event — set for the afternoon and early evening of Halloween at the Drive-in on Route 28 — will feature costumes and a sing-along with the popular Toe Jam Puppet Band, trick-or-treats and a Halloween movie.

The cost is $15 per carload, with a maximum of six people per vehicle.

The idea came about via an eerie coincidence said Yarmouth Chamber of Commerce Marketing, Communications, and Events Director Jennifer Werner. She explained that the Chamber and Yarmouth Recreation were brainstorming about a way to provide safe Halloween experiences for Yarmouth youngsters and were considering a town-owned facility for the event. But in mid planning, they were contacted by representatives of the Drive-in, who also wanted to offer a safe Halloween event so the three organizations decided to partner together.

The Oct. 31 fun begins at 3:30 — as the Yarmouth Drive-in gates open and cars begin arriving and parking, Werner said. From 3:30 until around 4:15 as cars park and settle into their vehicle suites, the Toe Jam Puppet Band will perform live on stage — with all the action streamed to the Drive-in’s towering high-def screens.

As cars arrive, the children will all receive a gift packet containing coloring books, stickers, and temporary tattoos to keep them busy while vehicles settle into their spaces, Werner said.

The Yarmouth Drive-in was planned with social distancing in mind, and each parking area has ample room for remaining at least 6 feet from other patrons. Attendees are required to wear COVID-19 approved masks and to stay in their vehicle suites unless they are using the restroom. There will also be a mobile video camera operator roaming around the Drive-in grounds, capturing the children’s costumes and streaming them to jumbotrons — like you often see at sporting events, Werner explained.

Trick-or-treating will begin around 4:30 p.m., with the assistance of volunteers dressed in costumes and wearing COVID-19 masks, along with disposable gloves. The volunteers will roam from car to car, passing out candy to the children. Werner said the treats will likely be generous handfuls of candy, under the assumption that children will not be going out for their traditional door-to-door trick-or-treating. Werner said all the candy was purchased by the Yarmouth Chamber of Commerce to ensure that it is all individually wrapped and that nothing could be tampered with.

Around 5 p.m., when the trick-or-treating has ended, the Drive-in will show the animated children’s movie, Hotel Transylvania.

The 91-minute, animated film features is rated PG and features the voices of Adam Sandler, Selena Gomez, Steve Buscemi, Fran Drescher, David Spade and others.  Werner said the Chamber reviewed multiple titles and settled on the most child-friendly option.

The movie should end before 7 p.m., which will allow families ample time for any other Halloween activities they might want to pursue, Werner said.

Find more information about the Yarmouth Halloween Spooktacular and to purchase tickets visit the Yarmouth Chamber of Commerce website.

Andy Tomolonis is a nonfiction author, travel writer and multimedia journalist.