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.

The Flower Angels Thrift Store: A Must-See for Bargain Hunters in Yarmouth

Charming floral arrangements set in a teacup have warmed the spaces and spirits of lonely seniors in residential care homes for nearly a decade. To date, more than 55,684 of these individually handcrafted bouquets utilizing over 104,799 volunteer hours have been assembled and twice weekly delivered by The Flower Angels, a self-funded project of Community Connections, an organization that provides day habilitation, a wide variety of life and vocational skills, and social engagement opportunities and programs to individuals with disabilities, the Flower Angels began its mission to address the isolation and loneliness felt by elderly patients in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, hospice centers, and hospitals.  Before the challenges presented by the COVID pandemic, Individuals enrolled in Community Connections programs were very active in the flower deliveries, and as restrictions begin to lift in the facilities the hope is that the Community Connections group will once again be able to take on the enriching and involved roll in the community that they so enjoy.

In the meantime, volunteers gather on Mondays and Thursdays at the workshop to pick apart and artfully reassemble the bundles of buds and blossoms generously donated by local grocery stores, wedding venues, and funeral homes, and adhere the teacups with the complimentary saucers that will serve as the base.  Adele Lally, Workshop Coordinator, also manages the team of committed volunteers who come week after week.

Like the workshop, the Flower Angels Thrift Store in South Yarmouth is made possible by contributions of gifts and donations from the community. The Flower Angels Thrift Store opened in June of 2022 and recently celebrated its Ribbon Cutting Ceremony with the Yarmouth Chamber of Commerce. Often landmarked by its colorfully illustrated namesake van parked in the front of the lot, the thrift shop/workshop combo is conveniently located on Rt. 28 in the Lighthouse Landing Shopping Plaza. Though it is clearly visible from the street the shop, while swiftly approaching its first birthday, is still a pleasant surprise to many who walk through its doors.  

Thrift Store Manager Tara Weatherbee says, “I feel like a lot of people still don’t realize that this is a thrift store.” She elaborates, “We are here to support the amazing mission that the Flower Angels do. And it’s shopping for a great cause! I think it’s still not out there that the thrift store exists.” It makes sense. While the Flower Angels are locally renowned for the heartwarming arrangements handmade in the adjoining workshop, they don’t yet seem to conjure the collective minds of bargainers on the hunt for an exhilarating thrift. Nevertheless, it has begun to gain traction with a small following of dedicated shoppers who stop in regularly to peruse the store and lay claim to the newest trinkets that adorn the shelves. What you won’t find at the Flower Angels Thrift Store is junk. Each piece selected to be put out for sale is ready to be gifted or enjoyed on display at home. Much of what can be found here are boutique-quality items for genuine thrift store prices.

This seemingly secret-in-plain-sight thrift store contains such an unexpected bounty it’s easy to lose track of the minutes spent browsing and chatting with the friendly staff. It has a cottage-chic meets favorite-auntie’s-closet vibe, with lots of framed wall art, and a rack of tenderly used pocketbooks and clutches. Silk scarves, table linens, and beautifully presented hydrangeas and azaleas are displayed for sale amid vintage garden-themed coffee table books and magazines. Unique pieces of sparkling costume jewelry are tucked away like Easter eggs amongst milky pastel glass vases, decorative baskets, and lacey doilies. A family of gently worn gnomes sits in wait amongst a display of garden tools, ceramic and terra cotta planters, and seed packets.

Tara mentions plans to expand the thrift store space to make room for more home highlight pieces. “Right now our main focus is going to be adding accent piece furniture, we are looking for small furniture pieces as well as gently or new garden items. Fairy garden stuff, gnomes, flowerpots, and any kind of gardening tools that are gently used. That’s what we’re focused on.” She goes on to say, “We do normally advertise what we’re looking for on social media, our Facebook page.

New items pop up as quickly as they disappear off the shelves. “People will call me or they will just show up during the hours that I’m open and they just bring in donations,” Tara mentions, as a customer carrying her chosen creamy leather handbag boasting a $7 price tag in the crook of her elbow, eyeballs a blue whale glug pitcher still with its original tags, and an additional handwritten price tag of $3.50. Minutes later Tara rings up the purchase and hands the smiling patron their carefully packed paper bag of merchandise. The bells hanging on the door jingle on her way out, and a breeze flutters the sheer curtains of the front window as it closes behind her.

Visit the Flower Angels Thrift Store

851 Route 28 #3, South Yarmouth, Massachusetts

Current Thrift Store Hours are Wednesday- Saturday 10-3

Starting Mid-May the hours will be Tuesday-Saturday 10-4

Do you want to support the cause? Donations to the Flower Angels are always welcome.

The Flower Angels are delighted to present another “Flowers After Hours” event on May 22nd from 5:30 pm -7:30 pm at the workshop.

At this event, you will make a floral arrangement to bring home for yourself or a loved one. The Thrift Store will also be open for shopping during this time. Tickets are limited and available for purchase.

(Britt Skinner is a freelance writer.)

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

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.

Shop Local this Holiday Season

Yarmouth is the perfect place to do your holiday shopping! Here is a list of local retailers you can support during the holiday season:

Salty Sally on the Shelf Contest

This holiday season we are promoting our local businesses by having Salty Sally visit various shops in Yarmouth!

Starting on December 10th, a picture of Salty Sally will be taken each day leading up to Christmas and will be posted on social media! You will have the opportunity to guess where she is each day. Every time you guess correctly, you will be entered to win a gift basket full of Yarmouth goodies!

Be sure to follow and like our Facebook page!

Thank you sponsors

Yarmouth retailers learn from COVID-19 hardships

shopping bags

Online ordering, curbside pickup, virtual merchandising, and personally reaching out to loyal customers are some of the creative strategies used by Yarmouth retailers to buoy their sagging bottom lines during the COVID-19 shutdown. And now that Massachusetts businesses are reopening, some local merchants say they will retain the strategies into summer and beyond.

First-year trial for Cape Cod Toy Chest

Matt Barbo, owner of the Cape Cod Toy Chest on Route 28 in West Yarmouth, says he was hit particularly hard by the pandemic because he had only been in business for 10 months when he was forced to close. But loyal patrons stayed with him during March and April, thanks to a combination of online marketing and old-fashioned customer service.

Barbo said the Cape Cod Toy Chest has an informational website, which doesn’t feature a shopping cart for online purchases. So customers would visit the website, see something they liked and then call the store to make their purchases. “When customers arrived at the store, they would call from their vehicles and I would make eye contact and wave to them through the window,” he said, “just to make sure it was the right person.” Barbo would then put the items outside the door for pickup, so there was never any face-to-face contact.

He also used social media and text messaging to communicate with customers, sending photos and suggesting items, like birthday gifts for a nephew who collected Batman toys. And he moved his most popular items to storefront-window displays, posting signs with instructions on how to make purchases.

Now that the Cape Cod Toy Chest has reopened and employees are back to work, Barbo said he will continue taking telephone phone orders while reinventing some of the fun promotions he sponsored before the pandemic. The store had quickly gained support (and a reader award from Cape Cod Life) for its hands-on style — hosting family parties, events, games, and even creating an activities area where visitors could experiment with art supplies. That kind of personal interaction is no longer allowed under social distancing requirements, so Barbo converted the activities area to additional display space and began hosting a Facebook Live bingo tournament. (The bingo games are being taken over by the Yarmouth Library now that the store has reopened, he said.)

Barbo watches the number of people inside the store (his limit is 16 people including staff). There’s also a heightened focus on cleaning surface areas, and he pays attention to items that customers handle, then he follows with sanitizing supplies. A detailed description of how the store is handling its Phase 2 opening can be found on the Cape Cod Toy Chest’s website.

The decision to continue policies that helped customers during the shutdown is a way of thanking people for their business, Barbo explained. “Every little bit that people reached out for something, it helped bridge the gap.” The shutdown was still a major setback, he said, “but it was a little less of a catastrophe because people kept me in their minds — which was fantastic and flattering and humbling.”

Innovative Customer Service at Adrene Jewelers

Todd Mendes, co-owner of Adrene Jewelers, had already closed his doors a week before Gov. Charlie Baker’s March 24 shutdown of nonessential businesses. Mendes was banking on the e-commerce generated by the store’s website, which makes up 30 percent of Adrene Jewelers’ income. He was also taking appointments with customers for specific jewelry items or to replace watch batteries.

But after the shutdown business was slow, including online commerce, Mendes said. So he followed the advice of his wife and business partner Amanda Mendes, who suggested he create virtual showcases of the store’s merchandise. Mendes used social media to let customers know about the service.

Those who want to check out Adrene Jewelers’ inventory can contact Mendes to set up a session on FaceTime, Google Meetings, Zoom, or most any other video conferencing application. He cited the example of a gentleman who wanted to purchase a pair of diamond earrings for his daughter’s graduation.

“I just did a FaceTime with him and showed him what I had in stock for diamond earrings,” Mendes said. He made the sale, took credit card payment over the phone, wrapped up the graduation gift, and then personally delivered it.

As businesses open up in Yarmouth and across the state, Mendes says he will continue to use traditional and social media to reach customers. He’s still working part time at the store, and arranging meetings for repairs, watch batteries and customized work. His business is less than 1,000 square feet of retail space, which would accommodate eight people under state guidelines. But he noted that he has so many display cases that he only allows two customers in the store at a time, which allows ample space to remain 6 feet away from others. He has chairs outside, and he will work with customers who aren’t comfortable coming indoors.

Mendes says he will continue to create customized jewelry while keeping an inventory of his top sellers — LeStage Convertibles and Cape Cod Jewelry. He is also holding monthly drawings for a $100 gift certificate to the store. And those who don’t win go into a database and receive $25 gift certificates on their birthdays.

Being flexible and finding innovative ways to keep your customers satisfied are keys to running any business — especially a small, family-owned store like Adrene Jewelers, said Mendes, who strives to provide a level service that a person will always remember and later describe to others.

 “Word-of-mouth advertising is a very powerful tool,” he noted.

Back in the swing at Fit to a Tee golf shop

Keeping customers safe and comfortable is an ongoing concern — especially after the recent spike in COVID-19 cases across Florida, Texas and other states that mishandled their openings. Meticulous attention to safety is now part of the daily routine at Fit to a Tee Golf Shop on Route 28 in South Yarmouth.

Massachusetts golfers began hitting the links as soon as Gov. Baker allowed courses to reopen on May 7. The move released pent-up enthusiasm for the sport, said Fit to a Tee owner John Perrone. So business has been steady, as those who love the game got back outdoors and into the swing.

During the shutdown, commerce was at a standstill, Perrone said. The store and adjacent driving range at Bass River Sports were closed, and lessons were canceled. But as restrictions eased, John and his father, John (Jack) Perrone, helped customers return to the sport while working to ease concerns about safety, cleanliness and social distancing.

“I wipe down just about everything that customers can touch,” John Perrone said. “You do as much as possible to keep people comfortable and safe.” Face masks are de rigueur, and maintaining adequate space for customers and staff to remain at least 6 feet apart is mandatory.

Fit to a Tee is a full-service pro-shop, offering repairs, regripping, club fitting, and lessons via an indoor golf simulator and an outdoor section of the Bass River Sports driving range. The outdoor facilities provide plenty of open space for lessons, Jack Perrone said. But personal protective equipment is still required. (A post on the store’s Facebook Page reads: “I’m a Golf Pro not a politician so let’s wear a mask and stay at least 6 ft from each other and be safe.”)

The result? Business has been better than expected. “It hasn’t been great, but it’s been steady, and that in itself is great,” John Perrone said. He added that more people are entering the sport so there’s a greater demand for lessons.

Customers have responded well to the safety measures, too. “Everybody seems to be cognizant of what they should do, Jack Perrone said. “And even though we’re not a big, big, store, they seem to understand the 6 feet of space. And we also try to direct traffic,” he said.

In the coming months, the owners say they will continue to work with customers, keeping both patrons and employees safe. John Perrone is the resident golf pro, and he is back to giving lessons by appointment, said his father, Jack. To make an appointment, call John Perrone at 508-398-4653 or visit fit-to-a-tee.com for more information.

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