***Just in time for your holiday shopping consideration, I start a new series focusing on independent retail & dining establishments found in pedestrian-friendly areas of the Triangle. Bring along friends & family and spend a day exploring our cities on foot while supporting local small businesses.***
It may be surprising to some to learn that Cary has a downtown. It does, and the Heart of Cary Association invites us downtown for a Holiday Open House this Thursday, November 8th, 4 – 8 pm, to visit forty establishments participating with specials, treats and general merriment.
Along a half mile stretch of West Chatham Street (and side streets), visitors to downtown Cary will find art galleries, retail shops and diverse dining options. At the corner of West Chatham and South Academy Streets, lies a cluster of restaurants and shops in Ashworth Village, anchored by Cary’s long-established drug store, Ashworth Drugs. Since 1957, this “old timey” store has provided pharmacy services and items one would expect to find in a typical drug store. In addition, shoppers can get a bite to eat and an ice cream treat at the store’s soda fountain. Additional shops and studios like Cary Gallery of Artists, Chamber Arts and Beautimous Beads lend a creative edge to the corner shopping center.
One of the newer shops in Ashworth Village is Warm ‘N’ Fuzzy, a cozy yarn shop that is quickly becoming a knitter’s haven and gathering spot, and I can see why. The inviting space is brightened with colorful hanks of yarn, many of which are made in small mills in the United States, or are hand dyed by skilled craft persons, reflecting the owner’s view on sustainability. Delight the yarn enthusiast on your shopping list with a gift purchased at Warm ‘N’ Fuzzy. The knowledgeable staff will help with selecting the right items. In addition, novice knitters can take any number of classes offered in the shop, focusing on beginner skills as well as projects and techniques. Have you ever wanted to participate in “yarn bombing“? Warm ‘N’ Fuzzy currently is seeking able-bodied yarn bombers to help create works of yarn art that will decorate light posts along Chatham Street in downtown Cary in the new year. Find shop hours and more information about the yarn bombing event at their website.
Just a couple of doors away from Warm ‘N’ Fuzzy, shoppers can spend quality time browsing the vintage jewelry, accessories, furnishings and antiques at Vintage Vogue, a collection of items accumulated by the shop owner over many years. I spied a crystal decanter set that I think my father would like, as well as a few sparkly brooches and beaded hand bags for friends that appreciate unique, vintage items not found on every store shelf. Know a future bride looking for something old, something blue? A stop at Vintage Vogue might help check those items off the list.
Near Vintage Vogue, shoppers will find the darling stationery and gift store, Cute Buttons Gift & Paper Boutique. For those in need of holiday cards and gift wrap, as well as personalized items, a stop in Cute Buttons is a must. Find Cute Buttons on Facebook too, to stay current with new items arriving at the shop, as well as gift, party and decorating ideas. I see they’ve recently received some travel accessories (like luggage tags, cosmetic bags and pencil cases) that would make a great gift for stylish jet setters.
Venture outside Ashworth Village, across Chatham Street and walk about one block west, to find Peak Olive Oil Co. inside the Sorrell building (easily identifiable by the civic-themed mural painted on the building side). If you’re a cooking enthusiast (or someone near and dear to you is), you’ll find a vast selection of flavored and premium extra virgin olive oils, as well as flavored, aged balsamic vinegars, in a tasting bar arrangement. Shoppers can “try before they buy”, sampling the oils and vinegars, reading oil and vinegar pairing recommendations, as well as recipes to put those ingredients to good use. While at Peak Olive Oil, be certain to check the refrigerator case for jams, fruit curds and other spreadable-on-a-scone treats from Chapel Hill based The Blakemere Company.
Though I wasn’t able to visit LuckyPie Gallery during my walk along West Chatham Street, I plan to make a return visit to the area just to see what’s in the “upcycled” home furnishings and decor gallery.
Continue walking further west (about another block) on Chatham Street to find Chocolate Smiles, a chocolate shop crafting hand-made, small batch chocolates for the last 28 years. I recommend taking a deep breath (inhaling all the lovely chocolate aroma) before perusing the cases filled with truffles, nut clusters, barks, cremes and seasonal specialty chocolates. I understand the solid chocolate turkeys are a popular Thanksgiving item and I was intrigued with the description of a “turkey leg” confection (a pretzel rod, caramel and chocolate combination). There’s something for each chocolate fan on your list, whether the preference be for dark, milk for white chocolate, as well as sugar-free items. Products can be purchased by the pound, or in boxed selections, and advance ordering is never a bad idea during the holiday season.
You may need some sustenance to maintain your shopping energy level, or you might want to find a comfortable venue to relax for a bit. Breakfast at Once in a Blue Moon Bakery (in Ashworth Village) can start shoppers on the right foot with a cup of coffee and fresh pastry. Serendipity Gourmet Deli (also in Ashworth Village) is a nice break for a casual lunch. At the end of the shopping spree day, dining choices include Unwined Wine Bar, Klara’s Restaurant and The Havana Grill, each along the same section of downtown West Chatham Street. Interested in sampling more dining destinations in downtown Cary? Try one of the walking food tours from Triangle Food Tour (learn more on their website here).
For those not familiar with downtown Cary, you’ll find helpful travel and parking information at the Heart of Cary website and more details about upcoming events like the “Ole Time Winter Festival” planned for December 1st.
Do you use the Foursquare app on your smart phone? I’ve put together a list of my favorite spots in Cary (including all of the above and more) and you can find the list here. Feel free to save the list (and share with friends) for reference next time you visit Cary.