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In the News: Newburyport Shoppers Urged to Go Off the Beaten Path

Colleen Secino

The Newburyport Daily News did a feature story on the new breed of destination shopping spots located off the beaten path here in our fair city. PORT•SACKS is proud to be a part of such great company. (Read the complete article below.)

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NEWBURYPORT — Visitors and local residents alike know that if you’re in the mood to do some shopping or simply browse in the downtown, the places to go are State and Pleasant streets. There are also the shops at The Tannery, a few blocks away on Merrimac Street. 

But along downtown side streets, there’s a wide range of businesses off the beaten path that provide customers with a shopping experience they might not get at the usual places. And pretty soon, there will be a map highlighting these businesses.

“People want to buy from people, they want to hear their stories,” Angry Donut owner Tom Quill said.

Quill and five other small-business owners converged Thursday inside a small Harris Street studio, home of Port Sacks, where people can buy and create one-of-a-kind handbags. 

They discussed the advantages of opening businesses off the main drags and some of the challenges they face.

Among the challenges, as Paula Estey of Paula Estey Gallery on Harris Street phrased it, is getting eyeballs on their businesses. The owners agreed that most of their business comes not from out-of-towners, but locals who just happen to hear about them.

Businesses on State and Pleasant streets have the advantage of a seemingly limitless number of foot traffic from tourists taking day trips to the city. But that comes at a hefty price in terms of monthly rent. That forces businesses to remain open every day, all day, and hope for good weather.

“I don’t think I could have made it if I was on Pleasant Street,” Estey said.

Estey said part of her goal is to create a relationship between herself and clients. That typically involves buyers coming back multiple times before handing over their cash or credit card. But Estey said the effort pays off and in August, she sold more than a half dozen pieces. 

"That's important to build," Estey said.

As a way of helping lesser-known businesses expand their footprints, the Greater Newburyport Chamber of Commerce & Industry is close to unveiling and distributing a map that highlights those businesses.

“It’s always good to get people off Pleasant and State Street and walk around,” Chamber President Frank Cousins said, moments after surprising the business owners at their Thursday morning meeting.

Port Sacks owner Colleen Turner Secino said choosing a space off the beaten path was a conscious decision to make the shopping experience more intimate and immersed.

"People want an experience and they want a good experience," Secino said. 

Pam Older of Pam Older Designs at 42 Merrimac St. agreed.

“We’re really trying to make it personal,” Older said.

Visit Pam Older Designs and you could find yourself watching Older and her staff create jewelry on the spot.

It's all part of the mantra she and others espoused, going the extra mile for customers. And that is what they believe they have over the higher-traffic stores, the ability to add that personal touch to a shopping experience. 

Stop by Salt & Grove at 7 Prince Place and you might see owner Katie Rocheford and Sarah Landry of Sarah Jayne Photography collaborate on a project for a client. By setting up shop in a collaborative studio space with Landry, Rocheford saves money on rent. 

Rocheford, who specializes in floral arrangements, said her aim is to make shopping more fun, spread good vibes, and allow shoppers to take a break from hectic schedules. 

“Really just enjoy yourself,” Rocheford said, adding that Newburyporters are always looking for cool niche businesses. 

Gretchen Desautels, owner of Grassroots Antiques at 8 Prince Place, said local shoppers crave more choices and her shop and others provide that. 

"There's a lot of the same stuff now," Desautels said.