By Kelly Bevan Mcllquham
It’s that time again — time to start thinking about heading back-to-school. And what better way to kick off the school year than with a shopping extravaganza that ends with a bag full of souvenir games, toys, crafts and school supplies courtesy of the Berkshires?
North Adams and Pittsfield), and Tom’s Toys (Great Barrington) are great stops to kick off your day of shopping. Then with their bags full and faces smiling, it’s time to get serious.
When talking school, Where’d You Get That!? in Williamstown is a must-stop spot on your back-to-school shopping agenda. Fresh off the annual Massachusetts Teacher’s Association visit to Williams College, the shop is stocked full of educational items. From silly pencil toppers and unique canvas backpacks (specially sized for the first-time school goer) and lunch totes, to top-of-the-line workbooks, strategy games and fun art kits such as looms for weaving bracelets out of silicone, this Berkshire retailer has it all — and you can’t find these unique items on department stores shelves.
We really try to make learning fun and entertaining here and set high standards for the products we bring in,” said Michele Gietz who owns the store with her husband.
Area museums — Berkshire Museum, The Clark, MASS MoCA and the Norman Rockwell Museum —are also a great resource for filling back to school wish lists. A recent stop at the Berkshire Museum shop had my kids browsing through science kits, books by local authors, museum pencils, art supplies, games and more.
Let’s not forget the new school clothes. There are plenty of small shops in the region where kids can find unique and comfortable pieces to accent their back-to-school wardrobes. The Peace Train in Lanesborough carries signature Berkshire t-shirts and sweatshirts, or kids can create their own designs for school, while Jack’s Country Squire in Great Barrington offers “quality clothing for the whole family,” with popular brands such as Timberland, Woolrich, NYDJ, New Balance, Columbia, Smartwool and Keen Merrell. Teens with a more sophisticated style may be able to pick up a signature piece or two at Ruby Spark’s in Williamstown or some classic accessories such as scarves, bags, belts or shoes in hip designs.
Speaking of shoes, a back-to-school shopping trip wouldn’t be complete without the purchase of shoes, and for the stylish teen in your house Shooz in Lenox will have just what they’re looking for. Carrying various colors and styles of Fly London, FIDGI, Hobo and more, you’re teen will be rocking the wardrobe, with the shoes to boot, this fall after shopping in the Berkshires.
Looking for some new electronics to start the school year? For all things Apple check out Mad Macs in Pittsfield, the areas only Apple sales and service specialists, carrying Apple computers, iPads, iPods and accessories.
If you want to stay on top of all the current Apple electronics there is no better place to be than Mad Macs on North Street in Pittsfield,” said dad, author and Big Head Books founder Ty Allan Jackson. “Besides the great selection of Apple products and accessories, they have the best customer service in the county before, during and after the sale.”
Wrap up the day with a stop in Lee’s Retro Pop Shop where kids can browse the cool retro memorabilia from your past with vintage signs, collectibles and memorabilia (a great back to school gift for their room), and sample some homemade Scooped ice cream. Or better yet, take some sweet and unique treats home for your kids’ lunches after a visit to Robin’s Candy Store in Great Barrington, where candied scorpions, giant gummy bears and a sampling of mom and dads favorite candy from childhood (remember Bit ‘O Honey?) are commonplace.
Oh, and don’t forget to swing by Berkshire Frame Works in Pittsfield, where you can grab a unique frame, so when you capture that first day of school photo this year, you’ll have just the place to keep it.
For more back-to-school retailers, visit http://berkshires.org/business_category/specialty-retailers/.
Kelly was born and raised in the Berkshires and is now living and raising her three children, Max, McKenna and Shea, with her husband Mark in Hinsdale. She is the founder of Berkshire Family Focus, the one-stop online source for family activities, events, information and more in Berkshire County.