For the past several years, Morrisville’s sidewalks have featured a painted green line that people can follow to visit two dozen different historic locations in the downtown village.
These days, as more people move to the bustling burg, that green line might as well represent cash flowing into merchants’ coffers. With a holiday shopping economy far removed from a year ago, local merchants are banking on local money.
Jen Hubbard, an artist and owner of Moss Boutique on Portland Street, said her store has only been open for about two years, but she can tell peoples’ spending habits have changed since last year.
“People were coming out of lockdown, and they had all this money saved, plus pandemic stimulus money. The stock market was really great, and they were ready to treat themselves,” Hubbard said. “This year has been way different. People aren’t spending money on themselves anymore.”
‘Tis the season to spend on others, though. Black Friday and Small Business Saturday are this week, and let’s not forget Procrastinator’s Eve, about three weeks from now.
And if the next few weeks are vitally important for merchants hoping to nab some of the money flowing from peoples’ wallets, they might be in luck — there are simply more wallets in the village.
Morrisville has seen a surge of new multi-unit housing projects in the past couple of years, and with all that new housing — much of it apartments or duplexes — has come more people eschewing their cars and hoofing it around the small downtown.
Peck’s Flower Shop has been around for more than half a century, long before current owner Emily Locke was even born — for decades it was located on Winter Street, still part of the village but removed from the business district. Locke hung her shingle on Portland Street five years ago and has had a front-row seat to see once-vacant buildings fill with businesses, to the point where it’s rare to see an empty storefront now.
“I’ve seen more people walking around. There’s definitely a lot going on in town,” Locke said. “Business definitely picks up this time of the year.”
“I’ve noticed we’re delivering more to these little apartments,” she added.
More people walking around also means more exploratory drop-ins at shops.
Chuck Riffenburg owns Rogue Herbalist, located in a historic building next to the modern Morrisville Co-Op. His store is an apothecary, and if you’re wondering what that means, you’re more than half the way to entering the store, even if just out of curiosity.
Rogue sells all kinds of herbs, teas, tinctures and supplements — Riffenburg estimates he has “probably a couple hundred” different types of herbs on hand and he said many of his customers are regulars or those who know what they are looking for.
He enjoys and relies on their business, but he said he may enjoy working with new customers even more.
“We get a lot of people coming in for their first time, and I enjoy when people learn something,” he said.
Hubbard is keen to see her fellow merchants succeed this season — it would be a good indicator to her that there’s a vibrant homegrown economy. She surmises that, unlike touristy Stowe, the people shopping at local brick-and-mortar stores in Morrisville are frequently local folks she recognizes out and about. Stowe may be a mere nine miles down the road, but it’s often the end of the road for out-of-towners taking Exit 10 off Interstate 89.
“You have this economy that’s happening over there, but its back is turned to the rest of the county,” Hubbard said, talking about her decision to open a shop in Morrisville instead of Stowe. “I suspected that there was a really underserved population that wasn’t being catered to, and all I really had to do was be in this town facing that way and capture all of that, and without much competition.”
The bulk of the locally owned retail shops in Morrisville surround the municipal parking lot located between Portland and Pleasant Streets.
Shops on Portland Street include:
• Moss Boutique, Hubbard’s store, which sells carefully curated items from handblown wine decanters to Mexican hot chocolate whisks to kid’s games, puzzles and books.
• Peck’s Flower Shop, Locke’s shop, which sells small gifts as well as the expected florist shop standards.
• The Snail Shop, a gift shop with a hippie vibe on the outside, selling things like crystals and tarot cards and tie dyes.
• Morrisville Engraving and Trophy sells awards, plaques and trophies, and can personalize those items in-house.
• Power Play Sports sells sports equipment — for team-based, hobbyist and outdoor recreational activities — for all seasons, which means a whole lot of hockey and skiing/snowboarding gear at this time of the year.
• Guy’s Farm & Yard, for the green thumbed set, sells garden and home improvement items.
• rk Miles, a lumber yard at the end of Portland Street, just before Oxbow Riverfront Park, sells building supplies
• Federated Auto Parts sells, you guessed it, auto parts.
Pleasant Street may only be a block long, but it has a trio of places for local shopping.
• Rogue Herbalists, Riffenburg’s business.
• Mo-Co, the Morrisville Food Coop, which is celebrating five years, and has tougher-to-find things for the pantry or wine rack.
• River Arts, a nonprofit art gallery that also has a gift shop stuffed with hand-crafted items.
Other places in that downtown nucleus — read, not much more than a few hundred feet away from the municipal parking lot — include:
• Chuck’s Bikes on Bridge Street sells and services, you guessed it, bicycles.
• Black Cap Café on Lower Main Street, which offers gifts and cards in addition to hot and cold beverages.
• Second Chance, a consignment shop run by the Copley Auxiliary, sells old things for new homes, out of a labyrinthine space on Brigham Street.