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.

In the holiday season, even in a pandemic, we are alive with local makers and creative people…

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 open studio we stumbled on in September, remember? We were looking for somewhere to take a walk in the woods, and we saw the sign and stopped there 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 in the forest in Savoy and got lost, and came out on that old wood road near bog pond. The dragonflies were iridescent blue …

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

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Image courtesy of Mass MocA

Mass MoCA

Mass MoCA is now the largest contemporary art museum in the country, and one of the largest on the planet. Artists from across the U.S. and the world have come to show their work in a former mill North Adams along the Hoosic River.

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Photo by Kate Abbott

Cheshire Glassworks

In her studio, Jill Reynolds is making glass beads. She melts a rod of colored glass over a flame until it runs like taffy and then catches the strand of glass it around a thin metal wire, turning it …

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Photo by Kate Abbott

Chocolate Springs

Joshua Needleman makes his own chocolate from scratch in Lenox. Dark chocolate caramelized hazlenuts. Melting bars of ganache flavored with raspberry or spice. Chocolate Springs is half kitchen and a wizard’s lair. And it is also a café.

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Photo by Kate Abbott

Lost Lamb

Croissants sit on the counter next to chocolate tortes with mint whipped cream … Claire Raposo came home to the Berkshires to open the Lost Lamb, but she learned her patisserie in Paris.

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Photo by Rebecca Guanzon

Wild Soul River

On a winter night, the lights are warm. The walls are lined with jars of rose petals and spearmint, gentle herbs, and chairs sit in a circle by the window inviting you to put your feet up and sip your tea.

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Photo by Kate Abbott

Arrowhead

Herman Melville and his family were living in the Berkshires, in a farmhouse in Pittsfield, while he wrote ‘Moby-Dick’ in the 1850s. From his desk, he could see the outline of Mount Greylock above the surrounding hills, and it reminded him of a sperm whale’s back in the water, when the whale came up to breathe.

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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.

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Courtesy of the Williamstown Farmers Market

Williamstown Farmers Market

Duck egg tacos with hot sausage and greens? Baklava and fresh moussaka? The Williamstown Farmers Market brings Farmers, food producers, artists and artisans to Spring Street from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday from May to October.

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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.

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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.

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Photo by Kate Abbott

Berkshire Mountain Café

French toast from sourdough chocolate bread, with local maple syrup; cherry pecan French toast with sweetened goat cheese and honey … imagine the possibilities. Aura Whitman, former owner of Café Reva, has joined forces with Berkshire Mountain Bakery’s pizzeria and café — and they are forces of nature.

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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.

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Photo by Kate Abbott

Stationery Factory

An old brick mill in the heart of Crane & Company territory has been renovated into space for arts and small businesses. It has a mainstage with professional sound and lighting, and often hosts live music on Saturday nights.

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Photo by Kate Abbott

Shire Breu-hous

Andrew Crane and Nick Whalen have opened the Shire Breu-Hous in the Stationery Factory in downtown Dalton and turned a corner of the old mill into a restaurant and microbrewery — they have a dozen brews on tap.

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Hancock Shaker Village

Hancock Shaker Village

From 1783 to 1960, a Shaker community lived and farmed here. Today the village is a living history museum known for its Round Stone Barn, with farm animals and CSA gardens, art and craft, and dinners and music.

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High Lawn Farm

High Lawn Farm

You can stop in for ice cream or farmstead cheese and sit at a picnic table, looking across the field where the young calves are out to pasture — High Lawn Farm in Lee now has its own creamery store.

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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.

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GreylockWorks

GreylockWorks

Karla Rothstein and Salvatore Perry have renovated a 240,000 cotton mill on Route 2 near the North Adams / Williamstown line into GreylockWorks, a center for local food and events.

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