One of my Facebook friends says that she’s “going to America” when she goes to the mainland, a phrase I love. Nantucket really is so un-American. For example:
Chris and I think that living here is about as close to living in Europe as you can get in the US: there are small boutiques instead of big-box retail stores, a lot of people ride bikes or walk, we have universal health care, and there are very strict construction codes that keep everything looking like it did in the 1800’s (think Paris’ height restriction). It’s a whole different world from the corporation-driven mega sprawl that is the rest of the US – even “quaint” Cape Cod has been taken over by retail giants and strip malls.But not Nantucket. On April 4, 2006, at a town meeting, Nantucket voted to ban chain stores from downtown, which effectively banned them from the whole island given the cost of land and the small year-round population to support a store without downtown’s seasonal foot-traffic.
As someone who tries very hard to think local first and support small businesses over corporations, the ban makes Nantucket an ideal place to live. We know that our money is staying in our community. We know we are getting better costumer service and often better quality merchandise. But, there are also challenges, too. Retail rents are high, so product costs are high; the shops cater to the average vacationer, who has a lot more discretionary income than we do. There are some staples that just can’t be bought on the island (men’s athletic socks, for example) and there are other things that can be bought but are not within our budget (there are plenty of clothes…if you can spend $50+ on one shirt). Chain stores have a lot of negatives, but they can also help to keep prices down and make more things available. I won’t lie, I miss Target.
This summer, I got really into yard sales, the thrift shop, and the take-it-or-leave-it. We also had visitors who brought us things we couldn’t find (socks for Chris, clothes and things for Nora). We ordered quite a few things online. But, we were still in need of a big shopping trip. Chris hadn’t updated his wardrobe since our move to NY, three years ago, and though I had bought some clothes more recently, nothing fit. So yesterday, Chris finally had a weekend day off and we decided to take a quick trip to America. We hopped on the high speed ferry and waved goodbye to Nantucket.Then introduced Nora to shopping.It was actually cheaper for us to walk on the ferry and rent a car in Hyannis than to bring ours over for such a short trip. We had thought we might take taxis, but with all the places to which we wanted to go and all the baby stuff we had to lug around, it made more sense to rent a car. We ended up going to Babies R Us for a few toddler staples, Lowes and Target for some stuff for the house, TJ Maxx, DSW, and Old Navy. We bought a lot of clothes, and I am happy to say, I no longer look like a saggy-butt teenage boy. Hurray! (In size 2 jeans, no less. Holy smokes.)
We wanted to get back to Nantucket in time for Halloween festivities and forgot that on Sunday some places don’t open as early, so we had quite the busy morning/early afternoon rushing from store to store. We ended up going out to Wareham, which is 45 minutes from Hyannis, so we got a little drive in, too, which made it all the more American.
Even with the rushing around, we had a good time and we managed to get everything we needed. Plus a little more. Funny how that works, huh? But it’s hard to say no to a kid who loves books when the board books are displayed at the check out.
Next time we go off island (which probably won’t be until the spring), we’ll make sure to do it when we have a full day. We just barely made it back to the ferry – as in, they had already pulled up the gangplank when we got there. It was the quickest of quick trips and it might have been fun to marvel a bit more at America (I really wanted to go through a drive-through and have some Starbucks, but there wasn’t time). But, the ferry waits for no one.
Heading home, I couldn’t help but think that the thing about America is: it’s a great place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there. Maybe it’s more convenient to have stores open later than 6 and pretty much anything available immediately, but in reality it is all unnecessary. And having everything available now doesn’t do much to build patience. Not to mention, some poor person has to work those late and early shifts. I like the slower pace our “isolated” Nantucket life takes and I’m so glad that this is going to be Nora’s normal — as opposed to this: