When I go searching for gifts, I want to be outin milking parlors with wheels of blue cheese, and greenhouses with the sweet sharp scent of balsam fir, and barns full of chocolate molds and glass jars with bulb bottoms. They’re places that feel like they belong somewhere.

The pandemic has complicated that quest in some ways. Local shops are adapting, and I will be looking carefully for possibilities this holiday season. I’ll let you know what I’m seeing. This will not be a comprehensive list, because there are hundreds of possibilities and one of me — it will be curated to share places I know and enjoy.

Some towns and markets are expanding outside. If you are comfortable walking in, some local shops are often still open with precautions, masks and hand sanitizer and very few people at a time. You can often order ahead or set up curbside delivery. And if you are not comfortable coming in person, more and more local shops are expanding online.

In holiday season in a pandemic we are alive with light shows, local makers online, outdoor performances and festivals of trees …

In my family, some of the fun of finding gifts is where you find them. That doesn’t mean they cost a lot. It means we’re giving the experience that comes with them.

This came from that studio we stumbled on in September, remember? We were looking for somewhere to take a walk in the woods where the lot had an open space or two, and we stopped just on impulse, because how often have we had the chance to do anything on impulse this year? You kept coming back to the spun-glass beads.

Then we hiked the forest in Savoy and got lost, and came out on that old wood road near bog pond. The dragonflies were iridescent blue. And we found that cafe with the names of teas written on the wall and picked Karelian maple just because we liked the sound of it. And you told me you had never tried clotted cream before.

The experiences are still there, just as the people are, and a taste or a scent can bring them vividly back.

Local shops and artisans

filter by location or type
Photo by Susan Geller

Whitney’s Farm Market

From spring to fall, Whitney’s Farm Market on Route 8 is open with greens, fruits and vegetables, pick-your-own berries in season, deli sandwiches and ice cream, and the garden center carries perennial and annual flowers and more.

Photo by Kate Abbott

Tunnel City Coffee

A college hangout and an anchor on Spring Street for decades, Tunnel City roasts its own coffee and has a loyal following — it roasts its own blends locally in the renovated Norad Mill in North Adams.

Photo by Kate Abbott

Norad Mill

Moresi & Associates has drawn more than 40 local businesses to the renovated Norad Mill — artists and artisans, coffee and local wines, vintage records, yarn shops and even rocks and minerals.

Photo by Kate Abbott

The Bookstore

The Bookstore in Lenox has been ‘serving the community since last Tuesday’ for more than 40 years with contemporary fiction and a deep collection of poetry, Judaica, science, history … and readings in the Get Lit wine bar.

Photo by Kate Abbott

Northshire Bookstore

I’m standing by a pyramid of hardbacks in Northshire Bookstore in Manchester. I’ve wanted to come here for years, and it’s living up to the anticipation. The shelves are almost twice as tall as I am.