10 Things To Love About West Stockbridge
By Pamela Dreyfus Smith
Even in the dead of winter, there are a surprising number of reasons to explore West Stockbridge. A cross section of interesting artisans, BSO musicians, fine artists, filmmakers, foodies and collectors have gravitated to this part of the Berkshires to live, work and enjoy the lifestyle. These transplants are now many of the café, gallery and shop owners broadening West Stockbridge’s character and charms in all seasons.
1. Lovely Walks: West Stockbridge, which was built on both sides of the Williams River, is a romantic place to stroll. Surrounded by beautiful hills and lakes, you can walk across bridges and through remnants of the old mining companies and mills, then explore the cafes, restaurants, art galleries and shops that sell local goods as well as the exotic.
2. Café Society: In this town coffee is treated like wine and the customers are warmly welcomed. Six Depot Roastery Café is in the old railroad station and Shaker Dam Coffeehouse is next to the river dam. Both offer very different sensibilities in coffee making, design and atmosphere. Shaker Dam, located in a bright yellow Shaker house, serves up coffee from around the world, discovered by co-owner and National Geographic photographer John Stanmeyer. One of the specialties is the Kyoto Cold Brew system, which makes a very low-acid coffee. Drink it by the warm fire in a café that looks and feels like a world traveler’s living room. A contemporary take on the coffee bar, Six Depot offers carefully aged and personally selected international coffee beans that are roasted right on the premises. There’s a bustling community that gravitates to the big open spaces flooded with light and the warmth of loving owners Lisa Landry and Flavio Lichtenthal., who was the chef at Gould Farm in Monterey prior to opening Six Depot. The adjoining gallery space is gaining popularity as a showcase for artists, films and live performances. Their affogato (espresso and SoCo Creamery ice cream) is shown above.
3. Restaurants and Foodie Shops: Rouge (shown right) is well known to the RI region for its authentic fine French food and wine dinners. Around the corner,Truc Orient Express is a favorite for delicious Vietnamese food (open in summer). The aforementioned Six Depot Café serves breakfast and lunch until 4 p.m. Argentinian Chef Flavio often includes specialties from his native country on the menu (local, fresh, and organically grown whenever possible). West Stockbridge Public Market on Main Street is a country store that had a makeover last year by new owner Tim Walch, previous owner of restaurants in the Virgin Islands and Seattle, WA. Hearty, delectable take-away lunches are home cooked by Tim’s sister on the premises and include pot roast, pulled pork and other deli fare. There are also plenty of organic choices on their grocery shelves. Queensboro Wine and Spirits, also on Main Street, carries domestic and imported beer, wine and spirits, with a special interest in rare, handmade wines. The Nook & Cranny Restaurant is a sandwich shop at the other end of 102 known for its great sweet potato fries.
4. Art Galleries: Besides the aforementioned Shaker Dam and Six Depot Galleries, West Stockbridge also is home to Hotchkiss Mobiles, featuring the creations of Joel Hotchkiss, who supplies objects for museum shops, most notably MOMA and the Guggenheim Museum. (A Hotchkiss mobile, shown right.)
5. Shopping Adventures: The town is home to several alluring and curious shops that will surprise and delight. Charles H. Baldwin & Sons, best known for its famous vanilla extract (made using only the finest bourbon vanilla beans from Madagascar), is the producer of a collection of other fine extracts, as well as “Mr. Baldwin’s Proper Bloody Mary Mix,” table syrup and Bay Rum aftershave. Visit this historic establishment to find a treasure trove of nostalgia including an old photo booth machine and a cash register that dates back to 1888, the year they opened. Zoftique, a woman’s clothing store, offers sizes into the plus range. Equator Antiques and McGrory’s Oriental Rugs are in connecting stores on Main Street and fascinate the eye with dazzling color. Robin Greeson’s Equator carries clothing and textiles from Victorian times through the present, and is a collection of wearable items that could double as home décor. Clothing, quilts, shoes from the 30s and 40s, American Indian dresses and jewelry of all kinds… There’s such variety, quality of preservation and quantity here — every corner is a new adventure.
6. Rare and Collectible Books: The Bookloft, currently situated above The Floor Store, is the sister-store to the one in Great Barrington but is special in that it offers only rare, collectible and used books. The store is preparing a move to a bigger and more accessible space across from Six Depot.
7. Artisans: Peter Thorne, furnituremaker and one of the founders of The Berkshire Woodmakers Guild, creates beautifully crafted furniture and cabinets in his workshop up the hill and behind his house. Anderson & Sons Shaker Tree Furniture builds reproduction Shaker furniture and objects. Also of interest are Margie Skaggs Ceramics, Hoffman Pottery and Sarah Thorne Design (Interiors). Out of Vietnam is part of Truc Orient Express and sells Vietnamese hand-crafted items (summer only, shown right).
8. The Farmers’ Market and The Zucchini Festival: The West Stockbridge Farmers Market, held every Thursday from mid-May through the first week in October in Merritt Green opposite the post office, offers an enticing array of freshly grown or lovingly made products from local farmers and small specialty companies. There are musical performers and activities for children to enjoy. The Zucchini Festival, a town tradition in early August, celebrates whatever you can imagine when it comes to this over-producing vegetable: A costumed pet show competition, “zuch” races in the Williams River, zucchini car races, and prizes for zucchini-related activities i.e. a zucchini catapult, weigh-off and “weirdest looking” contest. And, of course, there’s good food to eat based around the vegetable—baked, fried, roasted and iced. (Note: At the time of this writing, the future of the Zucchini Festival is unknown.)
9. West Stockbridge Historical Society: TheWSHS presents chamber music concerts in the Congregational Church (shown right) performed by BSO musicians, and history tours through the village. The Society will reside in the town hall, in the old public library space, after the current renovation is complete.
10. Trails to Explore: The town is in close proximity to many hiking trails: Flat Brook Wildlife Management (West Stockbridge), Ice Glen, Laura’s Tower (Stockbridge/Housatonic), Burbank Trail, Steven’s Glen (Richmond), Shaker Mountain, (Hancock), Shadowbrook (Lenox), Goose Pond, October Mountain (Lee), Harvey Mountain and Beebe Hill just over the border in Austerlitz, NY.