FALMOUTH — Scarecrows lined Main Street and merchants were advertising half-off dancing skeletons and orange glow sticks. Halloween was still two days away, but Heather Shepley had nearly finished her holiday shopping. And she did most of it in the quarter-mile stretch of Main Street between the Village Green and the library.
“I absolutely try to do as much as I can in town, and what I can’t do in town I try to keep on Cape Cod,’’ the Falmouth resident said, browsing the shelves in a Main Street gift shop. “And the best part is, when I wander around, I get a lot of great ideas.’’
Unlike much of the Cape, Falmouth is a year-round destination. And it hosts a surprising number and range of downtown shops, from clothing and jewelry to home decor, gourmet foods, fine art, books, and toys. Add big display windows, friendly salespeople (often the shop owners), good restaurants, and free parking, and it’s not surprising that the area is busy during the holidays.
Independent bookstore Eight Cousins (189 Main St., 508-548-5548, www.eightcousins.com) will build its holiday window display around staff picks of the best books of 2012. Long a children’s bookstore, it now carries titles for grown-ups as well. Try out the “Alphabet Throne’’ at the entrance; the bronze sculpture by Falmouth artist Sarah Peters is a chair formed of letters of the alphabet.
Shopping for toys can be daunting. Pick up the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association’s “Best Toys for Kids 2012’’ at Kaleidoscope Toys (208 Main St., 508-548-5635, www.ktoysonline.com). Independent toy stores tend to depend less on electronics and more on board games, building projects, and crafts, said Elizabeth Marderosian. Trains are still big, she said, as are toys from Melissa & Doug, Zoomer, and Magformers. Ty’s newest entry into the stuffed animal, or “plush,’’ market is “Beanie Ballz,’’ soft, round, big-eyed creatures that range in size from backpack clip-ons to chandelier-scale room decor.
Caline for Kids (149 Main St., 508-548-2533) carries classic baby and children’s clothes as well as trendy collections such as Kicky Pants, an all-bamboo line, and Magnificent Baby, with magnetic closures instead of buttons or snaps. Sizes range from newborn to girls 14 and boys 10.
It seems you can find nearly anything at Treasure Chest (233 Main St., 508-540-5000, www.treasurechestgifts .com). Large by downtown standards, the store carries women’s clothing from casual to evening wear in regular and plus sizes, jewelry, glassware, home decor (including seashell-designed mirrors by Cape Cod artist Robin Pierson), and fine art.
Designer clothing for men and women is the specialty at Maxwell and Co. (200 Main St., 508-540-8752, www.maxwellandco.com), where the motto above the door is “Good clothes open all doors.’’ Dries Van Noten and Etro are the most popular vendors, said sales associate Ellen Goode. The store, which has been on Main Street for 27 years, also carries hard-to-find Kiehl’s skin care products.
At the Mad Hatter (261 Main St., 508-548-1037) you will find fun and funky hats, designer hats, socks, mohair scarves and gloves in sherbet colors, and “Old Guys’’ T-shirts.
On a budget? Check out Bella (155 Main St., 774-255-1955, www.bellaofcapecod.com),
where every item — jewelry, fabric belts, handbags, and scarves — is $25 or less. “Designer-inspired’’ handbags are very popular, the salesperson said, setting her $200 Longchamps handbag on the counter beside the store’s nearly indistinguishable $25 knockoff.
Several stores offer eclectic collections of home decor, accessories, and jewelry, many with coastal themes. Mermaids are popular at Homespun Garden (174 Main St., 508-457-4441, www.homespungardenonline.com). Twigs (178 Main St., 508-540-0767) sells a lot of fair trade items, including scarves, jewelry, and ornaments. We liked the reasonably priced ship models and fish-etched stemware at Touché (234 Main St., 508-495-0598).
One of the things that draws plan-ahead shoppers like Shep-ley to Celebrations (210 Main St., 508-457-0530, www.celebrationsofcapecod.com) is its year-round Christmas boutique, including Byers’ Choice, Christopher Radko, Margaret Furlong, and Old World ornaments, along with wooden village pieces by Cat’s Meow made exclusively for the store.
Local yarns, hand spun and dyed in Falmouth, make distinctive gifts for knitters, said Jen Heinlein, owner of Sage Yarns & Notions (263 Main St., 508-457-9513, www.sageyarn.com), especially since crafts-people “don’t tend to splurge on themselves.’’ The large shop also offers unusual shawl pins made by a local jeweler and buttons made by a local potter.
Gourmet food store Bean & Cod (140 Main St., 508-548-8840) will assemble your choice of items, such as artisan cheeses, gourmet vinegars, sauces, and local jams, into a custom gift basket. You can also take a lunch break in its bistro.
This year’s Holiday Stroll, sponsored by the Falmouth Village Association and the Falmouth Chamber of Commerce, will be held Dec. 1, from 6 to
8 p.m., to coincide with the lighting of the Village Green at 7. Wreaths and garlands will decorate Main Street buildings and lampposts, stores will remain open until 8, and many merchants will offer light refreshments.
Even after she has finished shopping, Shepley says, she still likes to go downtown. “I spend a lot of time . . . wandering up and down Main Street just because it’s so pretty. It gets you in the spirit.’’