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Tuesday, March 28, 2017
 
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You Are Here: A Souvenir Shop of Our Own

Rural Intelligence StyleWhen Robin’s Candy Store opened two summers ago, many doubted that Robin Helfand’s business would see a second summer. But they did not quite understand (as she clearly did) how Great Barrington has become not only the retail-and-restaurant nexus for a large cross-section of residents from Berkshire, Columbia, Dutchess and Litchfield counties, but also a bona fide tourist destination.  “All year long, people were coming into the candy shop and asking if we sold souvenirs,” says Helfand, who decided to give the people what they were asking for—and more!—by opening a second shop around the corner from her candy store.

Rural Intelligence StyleOn April 1, she opened You Are Here on Railroad Street in Great Barrington, which features merchandise from dozens of local purveyors. “Almost everything is locally produced, sourced or inspired,” she says.  While 01230 baseball caps and BRK sweatshirts take center stage, the merchandise is an eclectic assortment that represents our region—there are vintage-style postcards that depict not only Stockbridge, MA, but also Salisbury, CT, and Millerton, NY. She has commissioned local artists and photographers to produce greeting cards and postcards. “We’ll sell you stamps,  and mail the card for you, too,” she says. “It’s frustrating if you’re shopping on Sunday and the post office is closed.” She is also selling spice packs ($2.98) from Your Spice of Life of Hillsdale, NY, which are designed flat so they can be mailed in a greeting card as a locavore souvenir. If you are thirsty, she has a cooler filled with bottles of iced tea from Harney & Sons in Millerton. “I have sixty local vendors, and I am always looking for new resources.”

Helfand has a flair for showmanship and wants the store to be a tourist destination itself. She has local favorites James Taylor and Arlo Guthrie playing on the sound system.  She has an incubator filled with quail eggs in a display cabinet. “Quails take exactly 26 days to hatch so I can time it so they arrive on Saturday mornings, which kids love,” she says. She sells handmade “bubble wand” kits ($24.99) from Asia Luna of Philmont, NY, and likes to go out on the sidewalk to demonstrate (above) how to make soap bubbles bigger than a beach ball. She has already taken 100 specials orders for the brand new Love the Berkshires quiz game by 73-year-old Phil Smith of Lee. She’s especially proud to be carrying the full-line of extracts—such as Cherry Heat, Witch Hazel, Bay Rum, vanilla—from Charles H. Baldwin & Sons of West Stockbridge, MA, which has been in business since 1888.

Rural Intelligence StyleWhile You Are Here stocks BRK and GBR European-style oval magnets and bumper stickers for your car, you can also design your own. “I invested in the technology so we can print out anything you want as an oval bumper sticker in just a few seconds,” she explains. “It’s $4.99 for one to three characters, $5.99 for four to six characters, $6.99 for 7 - 20 characters.” We made a hundred the other day with the initials of a bride and groom as wedding souvenirs.” The magnetic board shaped like the USA (above) that she had custom made for the shop by Wally Rose of Pittsfield has been so popular that she is now accepting special orders on it. “The store is really all about giving customers what they want and supporting local artisans.”

She allows that some neighbors on Railroad Street are grumbling about her cheeky neon sign with the yellow arrow pointing to the front door. “Look at the old Hotpoint neon sign across the street,” she says. “I bet there were people who complained about it a long time ago. But now it’s iconic. I hope that’s how my sign will be seen one day. I think it brings life to the street.” Her shop most certainly does that.

You Are Here
24 Railroad Street, Great Barrington; 413.528.4484
Monday - Thrursday 11 a.m. - 7:30 p.m
Friday & Saturday ‘til 9:45 p.m. (later in summer); Sunday ‘till 7:45 p.m.

 

 

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