No Browsing, No Kicking the Tires: Shopping in the UV

Shop local. Support small businesses. We always try and sometimes fail. Judging from the shuttering of so many retail and other establishments on Hanover's Main Street, we may be thrust back into the days when we rural folk had to order furnishings from Montgomery Ward catalogs (now, of course, there are online equivalents) and then hope for the best.

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The year's-end closing of the Dartmouth Bookstore is beyond sad, even if it was in the end owned by the behemoth Barnes and Noble. No more browsing, feeling the heft of a book in your hand as you read a few paragraphs to see if you'll be taking it home or returning it to the shelf. No fellow book lover nodding at you and your selection, maybe with a comment like "Great book, but I liked her second one even better."

Furniture and appliances have suffered a similar fate in the Upper Valley. When my husband and I began our search for a new dishwasher and refrigerator last month, we were already aware that Central Supply in Lebanon NH--a favorite of ours for good prices and a pared-down inventory--was no longer an option. Our search started with a small, locally-owned business. Nothing to see there but a man with a computer, searching databases to find a refrigerator that would fit in our space. It was clear there were no tires to kick, or maybe, vegetable drawers to open, shelf arrangements to ponder. We left our contact information, and despite our attempts to contact them later, never received a promised phone call back.

And so it was on to the First Big Box Store, where there was one employee on the floor, a man who had little to say about the appliances other than to warn us that they contracted out their deliveries to a company that had shown itself to be unreliable. At the Second Big Box Store, there were floor models to inspect. We waited. Absolutely no one appeared to help us. Finally, we ended up at Home Depot in West Lebanon. We found many items to choose from and a very helpful and informed salesperson. Sold.

The couch springs finally gave out. Last year we had looked at Bridgman's on the Miracle Mile, but it too has closed up shop. The couch search is a short story of relative success, as we found something we liked at Brown Furniture, but of course only after bouncing on a few cushions (firm or soft?) and lying down, feet up, in simulated nap position. (Lest you think me ill-mannered, I was invited to do so by the uber-savvy, well-informed salesperson.) But what if Brown's had turned out to be a bust? Would we have been headed to Barre/Montpelier or Burlington? And already I am worried about what to do when the mattress on my bed is finally, truly over. Buying a mattress online? Beyond (my) comprehension.

Fewer and fewer stores. Little to see, much less to actually put your hands on.  Faceless, antiseptic online purchase possibilities. What's the answer here, Upper Valley? Where are you shopping?

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