Yes, there were a empty storefronts for rent, and one building, built by Wm. Laack in the late 1800s, was awaiting restoration. But unlike many of the small town main streets I’ve explored, these vacancies were the exceptions, not the contiguous rule on both sides of the street. It was no surprise that there wasn’t a national franchise among the welcoming businesses that reflected the personality of their owners, not some corporate marketing plan.
Maggie’s Closet displayed prom dresses in its window. Inside, push-pinned to the wall above a rack of necklaces was a diagram showing which styles complimented the necklines of different tops and blouses. The wall, which does not reach to the pressed tin ceiling, divides what was a JC Penney store in half. On the other side is Red Rooster, which seems to be shared by a number of antique dealers. At one of the booths my wife found a stoneware vase that was both attractive to her, and heavy enough that the cats wouldn’t knock it over when they feasted on the fresh flowers it would serve them. Equally inviting are the murals that decorate the exteriors of 21 buildings in town, most of them on Mill Street. Capturing Plymouth’s rich business history, 160 artists from around the world created them in four days in June 2011.
At Book Heads, the owner made a proud point that hers was an independent book store. She’s been in business for more than a decade. She carries current titles, and if a customers can’t find what they are looking for, Book Head will order it and have it in their hands in a day or two. As I browsed the shelves my wife and the owner started talking about several authors they both enjoy reading. After sharing news of Sue Monk Kidd’s forthcoming title, they discussed the merits of the two books that preceded it. The first was better than the second, but the initial reviews on the third were promising.
Down the street, past the Plymouth Brewing Company, was Dear Old Books of Plymouth, which carries a wide variety of used books with a tantalizing collection of rare and out-of-print titles. When I entered, the clerk, a woman in her late teens wrapped in a cardigan against the rainy day’s chill, was reading Ron Power’s biography of Mark Twain. She found it fascinating because the author told the story of Twains life rather than “listing all the facts and dates” like a PowerPoint presentation. I was happy to find a paperback copy of David McCullough’s The Great Bridge (for $6.50) and a selection of Montaigne’s essays. Having never before read his work, I was sold by the first sentence of the first essay, That the Relish of Good and Evil Depends in a Great Measure Upon the Opinion We Have of Them: “Men (says an ancient Greek sentence) are tormented with the opinions they have of things and not by the thing themselves.” The price? $1.
The Plymouth Brewing Company is a nano-brewery that opened a year ago. As many craft breweries do, it started several years previously when the brew master’s wife got him a home brewing kit for Christmas. What was amazing that his compact brewery creates one barrel at a time, and he manages to keep five different brews on tap at the same time, followed by a half-dozen taps from other Wisconsin craft brewers. He has plenty of time to brew because the tap room is open Thursday from 5 to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 5 to 11 p.m. That seems to be perfect balance of time, and the slogan on the back of the t-shirt my wife bought me says his beer is “Unfiltered. Unpasteurized. Unsucky.” I couldn’t agree more, and his coffee stout, milk stout, and not-so-pale ale were all worth another trip to Plymouth.