Let Augusta have its big-box stores — the shops along Hallowell’s historic Water Street are an expo of the curious, cozy, and hyper-local.
[dropcap letter=”T”]hink Hallowell is a bedroom community for Augusta? Think again. Augusta is Hallowell’s office. The little city on the Kennebec isn’t just where state government workers live; with restaurants, pubs, and music venues it’s long been recognized as the nightlife capital of central Maine. Turns out, it’s lively by day too, making for a fine afternoon of shopping.
Lynn Irish at WhipperSnappers Quilt Studio; the stacks at Merrill’s Bookshop; Howard Solomon assemblage at Harlow Gallery; an antique chair at Hallowell Antique Mall.
A Water Street fixture for 55 years, the Kennebec Valley Art Association’s gallery reopens in a bigger, spiffier space in March with Young at Art, a show of children’s art. Coming up: exhibits by the late sculptor Sasson Soffer and painters Natasha Mayers and Kenny Cole. 100 Water St. 207-622-3813.
You’re likely to see owner Lynn Irish at the longarm quilting machine in front of the display window of this airy shop. In addition to finishing customers’ quilt tops with batting and backing, she makes quilts on commission and offers a large selection of contemporary fabrics and notions. 103 Water St. 207-622-3458.
Looking for a first edition of Alice in Wonderland? A signed copy of Joe Louis’s autobiography? John Merrill estimates he’s got 60,000 books, from a rare 1755 Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language ($20,000) to a paperback copy of Agatha Christie’s Appointment with Death ($2). Rows of floor-to-ceiling shelves in three rooms make Merrill’s a claustrophobe’s nightmare and a bibliophile’s dream. 134 Water St. 207-623-2055.
A rainbow of fabrics drapes the ceiling, strings of jawbreakers festoon the light fixtures, and hard-to-resist bonbons overflow turquoise tables. Head straight for the back wall though, where you’ll find our favorites: chocolates handcrafted by mother-and-daughter owners Kim and Hilary Davis. 136 Water St. 207-621-2900.
A life-size sculpture of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Leonardo presides over this family-friendly (think PG) shop selling comics dating from the 1940s to last week. The 1968 pinball machine works — plus there’s a station to play retro-console video games. 210 Water St. 207-200-7559.
This labyrinth of dealers’ booths runs the gamut from tidy, themed displays to seemingly random piles of stuff reminiscent of your grandparents’ basement. The mall, comprising two sprawling buildings, is known for furniture, jewelry, coins, and plenty of baby-boomer nostalgia triggers, like Ginny Dolls and strap-on metal roller skates (alas, no key). 191 Water St. 207-430-8315.