FROM SPAG’S TO KITTERY–A SIMPLE LEAP
Kittery. Kittery Maine is a beach town, rocky and cold but very peaceful. With lobsters, lots of lots of L-O-B-S-T-A-S . It is also a destination for those in need of retail therapy in the form of outlet store bargains. Lots of B-AH-G-U-N-S.
Bargain shopping is in my blood. You see, I grew up in Worcester—where we had Spag’s. Founded in 1934 by Anthony “Spag” Borgatti, it was the most wonderful store. At Spag’s, “where cash buys more,” you could by a can of paint, a wrench, or a 5-lb. jar of peanut butter. You could visit with friends and neighbors who were buying everything from grass seed to work gloves to vacuum cleaner bags—with no plastic. In fact, at Spag’s, there were no bags or shopping carts. You put your stuff in your own bags or in empty cardboard boxes found around the store. And every part of the store had its own smells. Bread. Shoe leather. Fertilizer. But always the fragrance of paper dust and just-cut cardboard. Spag’s may have closed a dozen years ago, but the retail lessons learned there will never fade. For me, the name of the game was—and still is—“the best deal for the best price.” We learned that from our parents and from Spag himself before the missiles were photographed in Cuba. And then, we taught our children “Spag’s Mentality.”
So, for me, when Kittery became an outlet store mecca, the leap from Spag’s to Maine was not a painful one. At Spag’s, Wrangler jeans, piled by size on shelves, had cost less than $10 a pair. Now, the Lee Outlet in Kittery offers a dozen different colors and cuts for prices ranging from $39 to $100, a definite bargain in today’s market.
During my years as the mother-of-the-bride, treks to Kittery became marathon. The drive north on New Year’s weekend was one of the favorites. Sets of handcrafted holiday ornaments in really nice boxes made great gifts for my daughters but also served as bridal shower gifts for their friends. Serving pieces from Lenox China likewise. Pyrex casseroles and OXO utensils were legion.
At about that time, I turned a walk-in closet into a storage space that my girls referred to as “The Store.” With four long shelves and six feet of closet rod, it became the resting place for good bargains. Fancy candles. Blankets and throws. Mirrors and holiday items. When my mother’s health impeded traveling to stores, she would do her birthday and holiday shopping in “The Store.”
My mother and I never shopped together in Kittery, but she had taught me well during the Spag’s years. No, my most diligent shopping partner was Betty, who loved a bargain every bit as much as I did. On one trip, she managed to score one of her greatest finds ever—an entire set of dishes to match the blue walls and red ceiling border of her newly renovated kitchen. Her very favorite trip, though, was our first venture to the When Pigs Fly bakery. Talk about aroma. Forty dollars later, we returned to the car where the “coup de gras” rested in my trunk—a tray, napkins, a knife, and a pound of butter. It was the most perfect January day–the sun was shining, there was no dirty snow in the parking lot, and the temperature was hovering in the mid 50’s. We sat on the tailgate and relished the baked goods and the moment. Her freckled smile is preserved in my memory.
With the arrivals of the boys, my grandsons Brady and Henry, my addiction to cute pajamas and overalls propelled me to the Carter Outlet where I would spend $30 on tiny tee shirts and rubber pants, and then take away a free umbrella stroller. The boys have outgrown Carter’s, and their new shirts–complete with dinosaur and sport themes–now come from full-price sporting goods stores, and of course, the vendors near Fenway.
So, here are a couple of tips for shopping at the Kittery Outlets. Use your VISA card as you drive north and your MasterCard when you head south, going home, to avoid straining either one. During the month of August, avoid the crowds of frantic mothers and unhappy kids altogether. Go to the beach. Eat lobsta and whole belly clams by day, and drive home at sunset. The crazy shoppers don’t tend to hit the road until the outlets close at 9 p.m.
Shopping at other beaches? The Outer Banks? Monterey? Key West? Sure, but it’s just not the same. You can’t find lobstas or whole belly clams, and if they have coupons, I have yet to see one.
I stopped my treks to Kittery when I retired, had lost forty pounds, and was shopping in good consignment shops that could accommodate my changing sizes and tight budget. In my heart, though, Kittery shopping ended five years ago when my dear Betty died. How could those trips bring me happiness when my faithful shopping partner was no longer there to ride shotgun? She is in my heart always, as is my mother who trained me at Spag’s.
Shopping with family and friends can be a distraction during times of stress or unhappiness. From big box stores to outlets to coastal gift shops, finding the perfect item for someone special and giving it with love is key. The warm smile delivered in return is the best kind of retail therapy there is.
Former English teacher and health care professional Lydia Bogar joined BOLLI in the spring of 2016 after returning home from a stint in South Carolina where she dipped into another OLLI program.