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

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

What’s Open in Yarmouth

Arts and Culture




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.

Think outside the bogs for cranberry culture

Autumn is cranberry-picking season in Yarmouth and much of Cape Cod, as the tart-flavored berries ripen to brilliant hues of scarlet and burgundy. If you enjoy colorful photos, think of the bright red berries floating en masse on blue water that reflects the even bluer October sky. Spectacular!

Cranberry Bogs

Unfortunately, local cranberry festivals have all but disappeared this year due to the social distancing requirements needed to prevent the spread of COVID-19. But that doesn’t mean you have to miss the colorful harvest. You just have to think outside the bogs.

Glenn Van Wickle, manager of the Route 6 Visitor’s Center in Barnstable, says people from around the U.S. are constantly asking him where they can see the cranberry bogs — even in spring and summer months when there’s not much to look at. When harvest season arrives, Van Wickle advises visitors to check out two of his favorite cranberry viewing spots in Yarmouth.

One of his choices is located just north of Route 6, near White’s Path, where Mayflower Terrace / Knob Hill Road veers off North Main Street. The road runs parallel to the Mid-Cape Highway at the southern end of the bog, offering unobstructed views of the crimson acreage.

Another spot is located on West Yarmouth Road, near the intersection of Buck Island Road. There’s a small pull-out on West Yarmouth Road near the northern end of the bog where a few cars can park, Van Wickle said. There’s also ample space for walking around the bog, and the owner allows visitors as long as they stay off the bogs and avoid areas where people are working.

You can also access adjacent bogs via the Raymond J. Syrjala Conservation Area, a 15-acre wooded parcel with a main trail that begins along Plashes Brook. It follows a fence to an opening that leads to the bogs, where hikers are allowed to stroll, as long as they keep their pets on leashes and respect the workers who are tending to the bogs. Find more about the Syrjala Conservation Area at the Town of Yarmouth website.

Unfortunately, growers typically don’t share the date of their harvests, Van Wickle said.

Cranberry Bog Tours

If you want to learn everything you’ve ever wanted to know about cranberries and take a tour of a working bog, check out Cranberry Bog Tours in Harwich.

Leo and Andrea Cakounes own the 50 acre site, where they tend to some livestock and manage 20 acres of certified organic cranberry bogs. They also host guided bog tours covering the myriad techniques that cranberry growers employ from January through December.

Tours are still operating this year — albeit under restrictions required to protect customers and employees from the spread of COVID-19. Vehicles equipped to carry 20 passengers now carry  just 10-12 people, so slots fill up quickly and space is limited, he said.

Plan on a two-hour visit, which includes the 90-minute tour, along with some time to check out the farm’s livestock. Cranberry bog tour reservations are mandatory.

If you’re hoping to watch workers flood the bog and use booms to corral and harvest the berries, you’re out of luck here. That’s not part of the tour, Cakounes explained. He said the work involved with harvesting berries is intensive and over quickly. On days when workers are harvesting, there is too much activity at the bog to host a tour.

Find out more about the tours and pricing (and book a reservation) at the Cranberry Bog Tours website.

Did you know?

Maybe you already knew that cranberries are not grown in water — even though bogs are often flooded for harvesting and for cold-weather protection. If you’re curious about other cranberry facts, here are some items from Ocean Spray growers cooperative:

  • The first recorded cranberry harvest was in Dennis, Massachusetts in 1816.
  • There are nearly 1,000 cranberry growers in America, with most of the berries grown in five states: Massachusetts, Wisconsin, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington. Massachusetts has more than 14,000 acres dedicated to cranberry production.
  • Americans consume about 80 million pounds of cranberries during Thanksgiving week, which is about 20 percent of the 400 million pounds of cranberries the U.S. consumes in a year.
  • Cranberries are picked using both dry and wet harvesting techniques. The fresh cranberries that you buy bagged in grocery stores are dry-picked, while the berries used in juices, sauce, and for dried cranberries are picked via wet harvesting.

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

Fall is Prime Time for Fishing in Yarmouth

The summer sun may be fading, but the saltwater fishing is still heating up.

Early autumn is a sublime time for fishing around Yarmouth and much of Cape Cod, with stripers and bluefish feeding in schools before heading southward to warmer waters. There’s also plenty of action on the bottom, if you want scup, tautog, black sea bass and flounder – all feeding and fattening up for winter. Yes, all those “little ones” that were tossed back during June and July because they were too small, are now bigger and fatter. After Labor Day, the piers and boat launches are less crowded, too – especially on weekdays.

Yarmouth has plenty of great fishing spots where the big ones are biting – off the piers, off the jetties, along the beaches and even around the 127-acre man-made reef – a “haven” for sea bass, scup, tautog and other bottom-feeders.

Well I’ll be… an ‘Albie’

All the varied habitat in Yarmouth makes for intense rod-and-reel action. But the biggest prize for autumn anglers is the electrifying strike of an “albie” or its close relative, the bonito. False albacores (“albies” for short) and their cousins, bonito, show up with flashes of splashes along Yarmouth’s warm-water shorelines every September, chasing silversides, peanut bunker (menhaden), and other small bait fish. Those who hook into one can look forward to the fight of a lifetime, with long, line-stripping runs that put both your fishing gear and your biceps to the test.

The fast-moving fish can show up anywhere along the jetties or shoreline of Yarmouth’s south-facing beaches, especially in the early morning and evening, says Garrett Kinnen of Rivierview Bait and Tackle in South Yarmouth. He recommends following the birds to find the fish, then casting epoxy jigs or small “metals” with a fast retrieve.

jetty fishing

You’ll also need more finesse than when fishing for bass or blues. Bonito and false albacore have outstanding eyesight and will ignore lures that are clipped to the end of a conspicuous steel leader. The most successful fishermen use light tackle and tie their lures directly to a nearly invisible fluorocarbon leader.

Stripers and bluefish are still active into October, so keep a rod rigged for those prime gamefish, too. Find out more about albies, bonito and other fall fishing targets, along with the best gear for catching them by contacting Riverview Bait and Tackle.

Reef fishing in Nantucket Sound

If you’re more inclined to fish the bottom with baited hook, try Yarmouth’s man-made fishing reef – aka the Tire Pile. Of course you’ll need a boat, as the site is located roughly 2 miles due south of Bass River.

The artificial reef was created in 1978, using cement-filled tires that were strapped together to prevent them from drifting, said Yarmouth Director of Natural Resources Karl von Hone. More materials have been added to the reef in recent years, but now the debris is limited to environmentally-approved materials like clean concrete and granite, he said.

The water in Nantucket Sound is about 35 feet deep, and the bottom is flat and sandy, von Hone explained, noting the artificial reef creates shelter for baitfish and marine invertebrates, which in turn attract the bigger fish that feed on them.

What kind of fish? Not only tautog, scup and other bottom-feeders, but occasional stripers, bluefish and false albacore. One fisherman even reeled in a Spanish mackerel at the site, he said.

The added structure at Yarmouth’s fishing reef only raises the bottom by 4-5 feet, so it isn’t a navigation hazard, von Hone said. Similar reefs have been created in Massachusetts waters since Yarmouth’s pioneering effort, including structures in Dartmouth, Boston Harbor and nearby Harwich. Learn more about Yarmouth’s fishing reef here.

Yarmouth also has public fishing piers along Bass River at Wilbur Park and Smuggler’s Beach. There’s easy access and parking, especially at Smuggler’s Beach (aka Bass River Beach). Find more information at the Town of Yarmouth website. Or check out a statewide map of fishing piers and boat landings here.

Party boat fishing is less crowded

If your vision of deep-sea fishing is a crowded gunwale with frazzled deckhands untangling crossed lines, think again.

When recreational fishing boats were allowed to operate this year, they had to follow stringent guidelines for social distancing amid the COVID-19 pandemic. That meant limiting the number of passengers (fishermen) on board, which ensured plenty of space for safe social distancing. A side-effect of the state policy is a whole lot of elbow room.

Hy-Line Cruises operates two popular fishing excursions from the Ocean Street Dock in Hyannis. There’s a six-hour trip, which uses a 49-passenger boat, and four-hour bottom-fishing trips that use a 65-person boat, said Pat Conklin, operations manager for fishing and sightseeing at Hy-Line. This year, the 49-passenger boat is limited to16 fishermen and the 65-person boat carries just 20 customers, Conklin said. The result is plenty of space for social distancing and even more elbow room for fishing.

“People are just ecstatic about having the extra room,” Conklin said.

The trade-off for so much space is a higher price per person, as operators adjust the math to cover their expenses. But the trips are still a bargain at $80 for four hours and $125 for six hours – especially when you consider that the price covers tackle, bait, expert advice, and even cleaning your catch on the ride back to shore. Plus, the fishing boat captains know where the big ones are biting, and boats are equipped with the latest fish-finding equipment to ensure a more successful excursion.

Safety is a top priority on board the deep-sea fishing boats, Conklin said. Customers are required to wear face coverings while using indoor areas, and surfaces are cleaned and sanitized on every trip.

Conklin said Hy-Line will be running its fishing trips through September, but you’ll have to check the Hy-Line’s website for the latest information. The site also lists rates and offers brief descriptions of fishing trips.

You can also find deep-sea fishing excursions with Helen H Deep Sea Fishing, which operates five boats out of Hyannis. The company offers trips to local waters, as well as longer excursions to Georges Bank for cod and haddock, according to its website. Find more information, including vessels and descriptions of trips at

Specialized fishing trips

Yarmouth and surrounding communities also support a number of fishing guides, who can take you on a more personal adventure. You’ll pay more for the privacy of fishing in a small boat with an expert guide, but the experiences are certainly memorable, according to testimonials from repeat customers posted on the guides’ websites.

Private guides provide diverse experiences – from chasing bonitos and false albacores with light tackle to fly fishing for stripers or testing your strength and stamina fishing for giant Bluefin tuna and sharks.

Depending on the guide and type of trip, you may be charged by the day, the half-day or the hour. Many boats are large enough to accommodate a small group – allowing a family outing or a few friends who can pitch in to share the cost. It’s best to contact several guides to find the right person who can take you on the fishing trip that suits your wishes. Also, check with individual companies for their COVID-19 policies.

Here are a few individual charter companies in Yarmouth to help you get started: Bass River Fishing Charters at 10 Pleasant St., South Yarmouth; Emmajack Cape Cod Fishing Charters with Captain Mike Harney, also at 10 Pleasant St., South Yarmouth; Pythias Sportfishing with Captain Damon Burden at 7 Captain Chase Road in South Yarmouth; and  Shark Shark Tuna with Captain Shane Quenneville, at 17 Neptune Lane in South Yarmouth.

Find other outfitters in Yarmouth, Dennis and nearby communities, and check websites for prices, trip descriptions and testimonials by using your favorite search engine to locate “Yarmouth fishing guides” or a sport fishing website such as Fishing

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

Yarmouth ice cream shops offer sweet escape

In a summer marked by face masks and social distancing, local ice cream shop owners remind us that ice cream is still ice cream – a quintessential summertime treat that can melt your troubles away.

The 2020 season began in May for most Yarmouth shops with reduced hours, emergency workflow changes and fears about the spread of COVID-19. Business owners say they have adapted to the hardships and scooping is now steady. Shops use recommended health protocols, including some take-out windows and outdoor dining to protect customers and employees. And patrons have been mostly cooperative as they venture out for a break from work or a sweet reward after a long day under the sun.

Cape Cod Creamery’s treats

Cape Cod Creamery owner Alan Davis operates shops in Yarmouth, Dennis and Hyannis, and he said business has been different at each one. The recently opened Dennis location, 716 Main St., (Route 6A) has seen steady traffic this year – mostly from the year-round residents and those with summer homes, he said. Business has also been brisk at the Hyannis shop in the Christmas Tree Shop Plaza on Iyannough Road (Route 132). That shop features a lunch menu and is normally open year-round, he said, but like many restaurants it was closed in March. He re-opened in mid-May and business is now steady but still tracking behind previous years. Cape Cod Creamery’s main location at 1199 Route 28 in South Yarmouth is typically its busiest, Davis said. But this year it has felt the biggest impact from COVID-19, as it relies on customers from the hotels in South Yarmouth, which were slow in getting started this summer.

While there are no takeout windows, Cape Cod Creamery stores have separate entrance and exit doors, so customers don’t pass each other going in and out, Davis explained. The company also made changes to the interior layouts to protect both customers and employees. And all employees wear masks and gloves, he said.

“We just thought, if we outfit the store correctly, we can have people come in and everybody would be safe,” he said. “I think people got to the point where they wanted to get out, and coming in the store knowing that we had set it up safely, they were happy with that.”

Cape Cod Creamery makes its ice cream for all three shops at the Yarmouth location, and Davis said employees have been working on two shifts, seven days a week and 14 hours a day churning out gallons of Sandy Neck Snickers, Cummaquid Coconut, Hyannis Heath Bar, Chatham Chocolate and roughly two-dozen other enticing flavors. While America’s favorite ice cream remains old-fashioned vanilla, Davis says the Cape Cod Creamery’s best seller is Orleans Oreo, with Allen Harbor Almond Joy another top pick.

The key to making any great ice cream flavor is to start with good vanilla, which is the basis for everything, Davis said. Cape Cod Creamery uses Madagascar vanilla, considered the best in the world, along with Colombian coffee and gelato flavorings from Italy, he said. Find a full list of flavors at

The Hyannis and Yarmouth locations also sell “real ice cream” soft-serve, and all locations have gelato and sherbet choices. You can even find Cape Cod Creamery ice cream at local supermarkets, but Davis said he recently cut back on sales to off-Cape grocery stores after opening the Dennis shop.

Beyond the highly rated ice cream, Cape Cod Creamery’s greatest assets are the 40-plus young employees, trained to treat each customer with courtesy and care, Davis said. Customer service is always important, but even more so with COVID-19, he explained.

“If people are coming out and they’re coming to our shop, we need to bend over backwards to say thank you to them,” he said. “They’re making the effort to come to our place. So as good as our service was before, we need to bring it up, even a notch further, so that these people really understand how thankful we are for supporting us.”

Gelato at the window

At Caffè Gelato Bertini, co-owner Cindy J. Duby said business has also been steady after a slow start. The shop opened at the end of May – a few weeks later than normal, and she and her husband Tom plan to remain open until the end of October.

The small indoor area at Caffè Gelato Bertini has remained closed to customers this summer, and all commerce is handled through the new take-out window. Fortunately, the business already had a large window, which was easily converted for take-out, she said.

While scooping has been steady, it’s not as robust as in previous seasons – a trend she attributes to fewer guests at beachside hotels. Caffe Gelato Bertini is located along South Street – the main drag to South Shore Drive, Bass River Beach and some 1,500 hotel rooms. If occupancy is down in the area’s hotels, she explained, “we’re all bound to feel it.”

While Caffé Gelato Bertini has cut back its hours of operation this season, the owners still make more than 100 different gelato flavors, Duby said. The website only lists 24, but when one flavor sells out, it’s often replaced by a new one, she explained. Customer favorites include Stracciatella (a cream-flavored gelato drizzled with dark Italian chocolate) and Zabaglione (a custard-gelato with the taste of Marsala, pine nuts and orange). Her own favorite is lemon, with a little tartness to complement the sweetness.

Duby says most customers have been respectful of requests to wear masks and practice social distancing, and the cafe now has a sign advising customers: “No mask, no service.”

All is chill at Penguin’s Ice Cream Igloo

Patricia Kent-Friedman, owner of Penguin’s Ice Cream Igloo, said she was understandably nervous before opening for business this spring, finding it hard to imagine how things “would play out.” But the Igloo started scooping on May 8, with strict adherence to safety protocols – social distancing, constant sanitizing and setting up the shop’s outside area for safe business.

Penguins, located at 519 Route 28 in West Yarmouth, operates one window for money and credit cards and another window to send out orders, helping to keep a safe and orderly flow for customers.

“It has worked out so beautifully and effectively,” Kent-Friedman said in an email, noting that the sweltering temperatures this summer have spurred customers to cool off with old-fashioned ice cream. The result: business has been “pretty much the same or better” than previous seasons.

Penguins sells more than 60 flavors of hard ice cream from Bliss Dairy in Attleboro, along with soft-serve, sorbets, sherbet, frozen yogurt, and more. Vanilla is still the No. 1 flavor, she says, but Grape Nut, Oreo and Extreme Chocolate are gaining ground. And most everyone loves their ice cream served in a waffle cone.

Customers have been wonderful in accepting the safety protocols – wearing masks, keeping their distance and being patient. And she said they are extremely grateful that “we are able to provide them with some form of happiness, which ice cream does.”

Penguins will also deliver ice cream to vehicles when customers call in advance. “We do whatever we can do,” she said. “I am so blessed that I can provide a lot of smiles … and offer something that people feel safe doing.”

Penguins Ice Cream Igloo does not have a website, but you can find information on the shop’s Facebook page, @penguinsicecreamigloo.

Last but not least…. the Lil’ Caboose

Mary’s Lil’ Caboose Ice Cream and Hot Dogs on Route 28 in South Yarmouth opened on Mother’s Day weekend this year and has seen steady business throughout the summer, according to owner Mary DeSimone.

All food items are served through the take-out window, and tables are spaced at least 8 feet apart, she said. Cleanliness has always been a priority, but now it’s more like an obsession, as she or a staffer cleans and sanitizes all the counters, benches, picnic tables and other surfaces every hour, she said.

The Lil’ Caboose serves soft and hard ice cream, along with sherbet, sorbet, frozen yogurt, shakes, Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs and soft pretzels. All told the Caboose has more than 50 ice cream flavors, including fat-free, sugar-free, dairy-free and vegan choices. Roughly 90 percent of the ice cream is purchased from Gifford’s of Maine. DeSimone explained that she likes to keep her customers satisfied, and there are a few flavors that Gifford’s doesn’t carry. So she gets her Grape Nut ice cream from Bliss and her Rum Raisin from Creative Creamery.

So what are the top choices at Mary’s Lil’ Caboose? Peanut Butter Caramel Cookie Dough and Sea Salt Caramel, along with the standard coffee, chocolate and vanilla, which is often used in the Caboose’s specialty sundaes. This summer, Lil’ Caboose has been selling three times as many sundaes as cones, DeSimone said.

Find a full list of flavors, along with sundae toppings and business hours at

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

New Yarmouth Drive-In Set to go ‘Live’

After successfully opening with popular movies, operators of the Yarmouth Drive-In are now launching live performances at the Route 28 venue.

Comedian Iliza Shlesinger will kick off the drive-in’s outdoor shows on July 31, followed by folk singer Livingston Taylor and other music and comedy acts during August and September. An Aug. 18 show with stand-up comedian Bert Kreischer has already sold out, and a second show was added Aug. 17. Find a full schedule on the Yarmouth Drive-in website.

The 22-acre drive-in theater site in West Yarmouth is owned by the town and has been used for festivals in the past. It reopened on July 12 as a pandemic-safe entertainment facility after extensive construction by Chicago-based performing arts company Innovation Arts and Entertainment (IAE). While operators say the first two weeks were promising, the coming months will bring a greater variety of programming.

“We never wanted to stick exclusively to movies because we think that the best and the biggest impact that we can have to support local businesses is to provide something that’s really not being done anywhere else,” said IAE’s founder and CEO Adam Epstein, who owns a home on Martha’s Vineyard.

Big, Bright Screens Make a Big Impact

The difference between Yarmouth Drive-In and other outdoor movie sites is the quality of the video, Epstein explained. IAE invested roughly $500,000 to develop the site, erecting three high-definition LED screens, similar to the massive digital scoreboards at Fenway Park and Gillette Stadium. Sandwiched between two 1,000-square-foot screens at the front of the venue sits a festival-sized stage, where bands will perform while IMAG video cameras capture the action and transfer it to the 40-foot by 25-foot jumbotrons. A third big screen is located farther back to ensure that everyone can see the performances clearly. High-definition audio is transmitted via low-range FM radio tuned to a local frequency (105.3).

Epstein explained that the high-definition (1080p) LED screens are bright enough for viewing in full sun, so the drive-in is capable of hosting performances day and night. The technology also makes for crystal-clear viewing at sunset, which isn’t possible at places that rely on projectors and traditional screens, he said.

Red Sox, Bruins and Celtic Games

In addition to bands and comedy acts, the summer lineup features live-streamed pro sports events, including a Red Sox Opening Day Watch Party tonight, (Friday, July 24). Because Fenway Park will be empty for the long-awaited showdown with the Orioles, this will be the largest Red Sox Opening Day spectator event “in the world,” Epstein said.

Multiple screens also permit viewing of two sporting events simultaneously, which is the plan on Sunday, Aug. 2, when the Celtics vs. the Trailblazers will be showing on one screen while the Bruins battle the Philadelphia Flyers on another. Audio will be transmitted on two frequencies. The games are scheduled for 3 p.m., in full daylight.

New Shows Mean New Jobs

Live performances will also bring more jobs to Yarmouth, Epstein said, noting that concerts require 42 employees on site, compared to the 12 to 15 staffers working at movie showings. Pricing for live performances will be different as well, depending on the artist and the position of each vehicle’s parking space.

The drive-in has three sections for its live performances, with higher prices for spaces closer to the stage. Livingston Taylor tickets, for instance, range from $70 to $90 per car with up to four occupants in each vehicle. Movies are general admission, priced at $30 per car with added fees for more than four people. IAE leases the property from the town, covers related expenses and pays Yarmouth a fee for each vehicle in attendance ($1 per car during July to $2 per in August and September). The company has applied for a license to operate through Oct. 31.

During the opening weeks, attendance at movies numbered around 110 to 130 cars per show, which Epstein said was encouraging, given that vehicles generally had two or more occupants and that most people had already seen the second-run blockbuster films being shown. Local traffic moved efficiently, Epstein said, with three lanes that split into 10, permitting up to 10 ticket-takers. When shows are over, he said, the entire place can empty out in 15 minutes.

Wide Spaces and Social Distancing

The new drive-in was designed with COVID-19 safety measures in mind, adhering to Massachusetts COVID-19 guidelines, as well as recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Each parking site is 12 feet wide, which allows ample space for social distancing. Attendance is limited to 459 vehicles, and when patrons leave their cars, they are required to wear face masks. During the movies, Epstein said customers seemed to have no problems adhering to the safety guidelines, which are published on the Yarmouth Drive-In website.

Improvements to Come

In addition to live shows, the future will bring better food and drink options, Epstein said. Current concessions are limited to standard movie fare, popcorn, drinks and candy, he explained. But IAE is seeking the right combination of vendors to “develop a great food program.” The company is also applying for a license to serve alcoholic beverages, he said.

Also in the works: a policy that would allow patrons to sit outdoors on lawn chairs inside their designated parking spaces. Those with pickup trucks are already allowed to sit outdoors — albeit inside the trucks’ beds.

You can also expect to see bigger-name acts as word spreads. “The more we do this,” Epstein said, “the more positive experiences we provide to artists and audience, bands will say: ‘Oh, it’s not just an old-time drive-in; this is an actual concert site.’ ” he said.

“We want to break free of people’s notions of what a ‘drive-in’ is,” Epstein explained, noting that he prefers to call the venue a “drive-on” because customers drive onto the site and have a great experience in their designated areas.

“Everything we’ve done here is really driven toward that goal — delivering a great audience experience,” he said. “That’s why we put the money and effort into the high-quality screens. … We really wanted to make sure that Yarmouth had something special.”

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

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 for more information.

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

Cape Cod’s Sand Sculpture Trail is back again

Yarmouth’s popular Sand Sculpture Trail is back again this summer, with an assortment of new creations by world-famous street artist and sand sculptor Sean and Tracy Fitzpatrick of Fitzysnowman Studios.

This year’s project was scaled back to 17 sculptures, due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. But the attractions are all located outdoors, making them safe for viewing, snapping selfies, and admiring the family-friendly themes – as long as you practice safe social distancing.

Viewing the sculptures is a passive thing that people can do at their leisure, said Fitzpatrick in a cellphone interview from the Yarmouth Chamber of Commerce (YCC) headquarters, where he was wrapping up a 10-ton rendering of a girl and her grandpa boating on Bass River. “From a safety standpoint, there couldn’t be a safer activity on Cape Cod,” he said.  

The Yarmouth sand sculptures are created one at a time, typically in a single day. Work usually begins in late May and continues throughout the month of June. This year’s final creation is expected to be finished on June 26, Fitzpatrick said. Completed sculptures are already standing at many public locations, including the YCC offices on Route 28 in West Yarmouth and at Strawberry Lane in Yarmouth Port.

Each massive sculpture is built with finely ground quarried sand, which has sharp edges and stacks like sugar cubes, Fitzpatrick said. Beach sand, by comparison doesn’t stick together as well because it is often rounded by wave-action and includes bits of oddly shaped seashells, he explained.

As Fitzysnowman Studio artists work, they moisten the sand and pack it down to remove air, creating a remarkably strong structure. Finally, the finished creations are sprayed with a mix of water and Elmer’s Glue, which seals the exteriors and makes them resistant to erosion by rain and wind.

How strong are they? Last year’s 33 sand sculptures survived the 110 mph winds wrought by two tornadoes that hit Cape Cod in July, tearing the roofs off buildings and leaving a path of destruction through Barnstable, Yarmouth and Harwich.

This spring’s weather has been perfect for building the sculptures, Fitzpatrick said, with lots of warm, sunny days and very little rain. As in previous summers, the artwork will remain on display through Columbus Day weekend, drawing interested residents and visitors to participating businesses throughout the summer season.

“We are so excited to be able to host this year’s Sand Sculpture Trail again in Yarmouth, given our current situation,” said Jenn Werner, Marketing, Communications, and Events Director for the Yarmouth Chamber. “This is a great activity that people can do safely.”

Werner noted that the Yarmouth Chamber’s popular photo contest will return this summer as well, running until Labor Day. Participants can enter up to three photos and compete for gift certificates from local businesses. Winners will be chosen in three categories: Most Creative Photo, Sand Sculpture Selfie, and Best Location Photo. Find entry instructions and more information on the photo contest at the YCC website.

The Yarmouth Chamber also provides a map of the Sand Sculpture Trail, which will be available at YCC Visitor Centers when they reopen. Meanwhile, you can download an online copy of the 2020 map here.

Local businesses participating in this year’s Yarmouth Sand Sculpture Trail include: Aiden By Best Western, Bass River Golf Course, Candy Co., Dunkin Donunts, Hearth ‘N Kettle, John G. Sears & Son, Just Picked Gifts, Kinlin Grover, Salty’s, Seafood Sam’s, Taylor Bray Farm, The Cove Resort, Today Real Estate, Yarmouth Town Hall and Wendy’s.

The project is partially funded by the Town of Yarmouth’s Tourism Revenue Preservation Fund.

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

Photo Credit: Serena Severini Photography