Country Carriage a Longtime Favorite at the Mill Falls MarketplacePosted on May 4th, 2012 No comments
Stepping into the historic Mill building at the Mill Falls Marketplace is like taking a trip through time. The wooden floors and beams show their age and beauty marks from as far back as the early 1800s, but the old and new mingle here seamlessly, bringing a timeless quality to the shops that now inhabit this old linen mill. One of these shops seems to have been born out of the evolution of the mill, melding perfectly with the ambiance of the building. Indeed, The Country Carriage, with its rustic American theme, is the flagship store, having been here since the mill was renovated into the Marketplace in the early 1980s.
Gail Putnam has owned and managed The Country Carriage for nearly 28 years, “since before the first [Mill Falls] Inn was even built,” she says. The Mill Falls Marketplace opened with a handful of stores in 1984, and in June the following year, the ribbon was cut at The Inn at Mill Falls. “I have personally been here this entire time,” says Gail. “I think we are the first—well the only—original store and store owner.” Some of the other stores have been at the Marketplace from the beginning, but have changed hands since that time.
The Country Carriage started out in a small space on the second floor of the Marketplace, with about 800 square feet for its unique American Country gifts and décor. The store has expanded over the years with many new product lines, and can now be found on the third floor in a much larger space of about 3500 square feet. “This is pretty much as big as we’re going to get,” says Gail.
Although the store has grown, it has stayed true to its roots and still carries the distinctive country gifts and decorative accessories that have been its specialty all along, with an emphasis on American-made products. Customers can find many favorites here, such as Crabtree & Evelyn soaps and lotions, Yankee Candle and Country Junction candles, Lang calendars and paper products, Stonewall Kitchen specialty foods, Vera Bradley bags and accessories, and much, much more.
The Country Carriage was one of the first stores to carry Vera Bradley bags. The company is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, and Gail has been offering the collection of bags and accessories since 1989. Vera Bradley is one of the most popular items in the store now. The vast selection Lakeside t-shirts and sweatshirts is also very popular, especially with first-time visitors to the Lakes Region. “They love to take home a shirt that says ‘Lake Winnipesaukee,’” explains Gail.
Many locals also frequent the store for the great selection of greeting cards. For over 25 years, The Country Carriage has offered country-themed Lang cards and calendars. “They’re a company from Wisconsin and we’ve been buying from them for a long time,” says Gail. “We do a lot of business in greeting cards. People love them, and as it happens, we do have a good reputation for a selection of greeting cards that people really seem to like.”
When asked what she likes most about running her store, Gail says, “My favorite part of the business is finding new product—that’s the most interesting for me. I go to gift shows—to New York, sometimes to Atlanta or Dallas—and then there are more local shows, the Boston gift show for instance… finding new products every year is the most exciting for me… we’re adding some new baby products, both clothing and toys. That seems to be an area that is growing for us.
“I have great employees who have been with me for many years, and that’s wonderful because they know so much about the products… the more knowledgeable about the products, the better it is for me and for the customers.”
Along with the great customer service that goes along with such devoted staff, Gail is proud of her broad selection of classic as well as new items. “We have repeat customers who come every year; I’d like to think that they can come in and find something new and exciting, but they also can find the regular old standards, too,” she says. “For instance, if they want Crabtree soap, they know that they’re going to be able to find it here. I think that it’s good to have a mix: really good product that people have been seeing over the years, but also each time they come in they’ll find something new as well.”
The Country Carriage is open year round, “362 days a year,” with expanded hours in the summertime, when visitors can enjoy live music outdoors at the Marketplace on Friday evenings. “People can come and spend an enjoyable amount of time here, shopping and eating and being entertained,” says Gail. “The Marketplace is right on Meredith Bay, so people can shop by boat, and they do in fact!”
Gail says she will continue to keep her store going, with no plans to retire any time soon. “I enjoy being here,” she says.
When you visit the Marketplace, be sure to stop in at The Country Carriage and say hello. You’ll see for yourself just why this store is a favorite of locals and visitors alike, and you just might find a special something to take home with you, too!
The Mill Falls Blogging TeamMill Falls Muses Country Carriage, Lake Winnipesaukee, Lakes Region, Mill Falls, Mill Falls Marketplace
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