So last week was a day when we all go to the Big Boxes and buy three pounds of batteries for 50 cents. Monday, today, is when we all go on line and support our favorite niche sites (see banners to the right). But I want to focus on something else. This week I want to talk about those local gear stores. If you are lucky enough to live in Utah then it is Blade HQ. For the rest of us, we have to go looking. Over the past year I did that looking and if you are in New England there are, finally, some good places to recommend. Bass Pro Shop is okay, good prices and knowledgeable folks, but the stock is decided low tier, same goes for the LL Bean headquarters in Maine. Both are more shopping spectacles than gear havens, but there are worse places to be conscripted to go to as the bag holder for your significant other. I'd go once for the spectacle, but that is about it.
Here are my four favorites (please, comment below if have others...I am always up for a trip).
Evans on the Common: No knives and only a few flashlights, but man do they have a stock of outdoor clothing. They have virtually the entire line of Filson stuff and a ton of other brands you never see anywhere else. Dave Evans is the nicest most knowledgeable person on the planet, capable of treating you to a history of Filson or suggesting the latest fabrics for high end jackets. Its really a shoe store, but the stock of jackets is the best I have seen in person anywhere. His staff is equally smart and the whole thing has an old store, New England feel. Perhaps it is the town commons on the other side of the road and the Robert Frost-esque simple church on the hill around the corner. Worth a trip, I promise you, especially if you are looking for a jacket that will last three decades.
Address: 18 Highland St., Townsend, MA 01469
Other things in the area: Bailey's is down the road and is a restaurant with a Friday's-like menu. Blah. If you can drive a little more after you reach Evans Gibbet Hill is just a quick jaunt away and has some of the best food in Central Mass. The Townsend Library is also quite charming (with outstanding, custom woodwork throughout thanks to a generous donation from the founder of Sterilite, the major employer in Townsend). Its open approximately 35 minutes a day, but if you time it right it is a cozy place.
Kittery Trading Post: This is really a site to behold, a crazy sprawling complex with things as varied as canoes to cannons. They have a decent stock of knives with knowledgeable staff. The prices are a bit high, MSRP, but they make up for that by having a really good stock of used knives. I go once in a while just to see if they have any OOP Spydercos that I have hunting. One day I know I will find a ZDP-189 Caly Jr or a Jess Horn ZDP-189 Lightweight.
Address: 301 US 1, Kittery, ME 03904
Other things in the area: Portsmouth is fifteen minutes away and there are lots of fun places to eat and you can have your significant other drop you off and she can go shopping at the outlets and you can peruse. Save your lunch budget to help you get a slightly nicer knife or light or other piece of gear and buy some fudge as your meal. Not healthy, but it is actually delicious (you can't really screw up fudge).
Sawyer's Cutlery: I went on a journey last May, taking a day off as a personal day, and driving all the way to the eastern side of Massachusetts. The stock was good (though there were lots of kitchen knives), the prices were excellent, and the store owner was great--knowledgeable and patient.
Address: 1408 Washington St, Hanover, MA 02339
Other things in the area: There is a Panera across the street, but Hanover itself is a dump. Scituate, Massachusetts is about ten minutes away and it is as picturesque a place as you find in all of New England, with plenty of good unique restaurants, a great music store (like instruments music store, though they also sell CDs and the like), and ocean views and an iron gray coast line that will be burned into your brain:
Merrimack Knife and Tool: Josh and his brother just opened the store last week and it is tucked into an office park off of 101A in Nashua, NH. It also happens to have the best stock of any store I have ever seen ever. Josh started out online only with www.PVK.com. Now with Merrimack Knife and Tool, you can see in person knives you'd never see anywhere else. He has Kershaws and ZTs, Microteches (yeah for New Hampshire's sensible knife laws) and Hogues. In an hour I handled more knives in person than I had in five years. Living in a former gear desert will do that for you. There prices are very competitive, their stock is insanely awesome, from budget to custom, to modified (ask to see the tricked out Vallottons, they will blow you away). Oh and a good thing about buying in NH? No sales tax. That Microtech UXT-70 just got about 7% cheaper. They had almost the entire line of Emerson knives and I ended up purchasing a Mini CQC7 for the site for review (giveaway coming).
Address: 2 Townsend West #8, Nashua, NH 03063
Other things in the area: There is quite a bit of tax free shopping around MKT. There is a Whole Food there (opening soon, as of December 2013, check to see) in case you want some kobe beef, but careful you might use up all your knife budget. About 20 minutes away is a great, hidden gem of a restaurant called Black Forest Cafe. Heat and eat and dine in are highly recommended.
For the next post I am going to outline what I think is the best EDC kit you can assemble with readily available stuff, provided you are not lucky enough to live in a place with good stores. Basically, this is the best you can get from the Big Box stores.