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DISCOVER THE HEART AND SOUL OF CONNECTICUT IN ITS SMALL SHOPS, INTIMATE BOUTIQUES AND UNIQUE STORES

With Holidays on the Horizon, Now's the Time to Take a Weekend Shopping Spree

HARTFORD --- October 31, 2005 --- Foreign Cargo, the Wave Gallery, The Bowerbird, United House Wrecking: these are not brand names typically found in shopping malls. They do, however, reflect an extraordinary diversity of shopping experiences in Connecticut - stores that not only offer distinctive, often unique products, but capture a friendly "home town" local character that greatly enhances any shopping expedition.

Whether the quest is for an authentic British tea service (Mrs. Bridges Pantry in Woodstock, 888-591-5253), antique jewelry (Pauline's Place in Kent, 860-927-4475), hip, contemporary arts and crafts (Wave Gallery in New Haven, 203-782-6212), treasures from Mexico (Saga in South Norwalk, 203-855-1900) or all things pertaining to buffalo (Creamery Brook Bison Farm in Brooklyn, 860-779-0837), a shopping trip through the state's small towns, Main Streets and downtown urban centers provides the perfect way to discover Connecticut's heart and soul, while finding a bargain or two along the way.

This is not to say that the state is without superlative shopping malls and outlet centers. There are dozens of them that can compete with any in the country for quality, variety and price (see sidebar). But, to really soak up the flavor and appreciate the economic vitality that make Connecticut's local communities unique, there's no better way than by visiting their locally owned, independent or unusual shops and boutiques. And, with the winter holidays fast approaching, now's the time for a weekend getaway combining a shopping spree with fine dining and choice accommodations. Here's a sampling of unique shopping experiences in Connecticut suggested by those who know the shopping scene best: some of the more shopaholic residents of the state:

What better place to start than The Connecticut Store in Waterbury (800-474-6728) because who knew that the Wiffle Ball was local? Founded 114 years ago, The Connecticut Store is the flagship outlet for many of the state's most famous products, including Woodbury Pewter, Bovano glass enamel creations, Liberty Candles, even Waterbury Buttons, PEZ candy and, of course, Wiffle Ball.

If home-grown quality is the preference, Connecticut's leading artisans and craftspeople are who to turn to. There are five major, non-profit craft centers in the state where the finest work being done in all disciplines of arts and crafts may be purchased. These include the nationally known Brookfield Craft Center in Brookfield (203-775-4526); the Creative Arts Workshop in New Haven (203-562-4927); the Farmington Valley Arts Center in Avon (860-678-1867); the Guilford Handcraft Center in Guilford (203-453-5947) and Wesleyan Potters in Middleton (860-347-5925).

How about some home furnishings? Fair Haven Woodworks in New Haven (203-776-3099), with three floors of furniture, toys and gifts, including an art gallery, puts the emphasis on demonstrating how furniture and furnishings can make a difference in shoppers' lives. Klaff's, with stores in South Norwalk, Westport and Danbury, is the nation's largest independent upscale home design retailer, with showrooms for everything from kitchens to lighting (203-866-1603).

John Steinbeck, in Travels with Charley, calculated, with tongue in cheek, that, based on the quantity of antiques available today, the population of colonial New England must have been three times greater than it is now. Visitors to Connecticut certainly will find no lack of antique shops to browse in. In Litchfield alone there are more than a dozen, including Bradford House Antiques, noted for its silver and American coins (860-567-0951) and the Old Carriage Shop Antiques Center, with 20 dealers offering an extensive array of quality items (860-567-3234). In Stamford, the Antique and Artisan Center (203-327-6022) features more than 130 dealers. One of a Kind Antiques, in Essex (860-767-2150) offers antiques from around the world as well as vintage and estate jewelry, coins, furniture and decorative objects. It is representative of the dozens of antique shops in the area. And United House Wrecking, also in Stamford (203-348-5371), in the business of reclaiming treasures from estate sales and historic homes, everything from stained glass doors to cupolas and weathervanes, is a Connecticut landmark.

Shoppers looking for fine art and crafts will also be delighted in Connecticut. The Wave Gallery in New Haven (203-782-6212) prides itself on offering one-of-a-kind pieces, including contemporary crafts, paintings, sculpture and jewelry. Connecticut River Artisans in Chester (860-526-5575) is celebrating its 25th anniversary and features a craft co-operative and art gallery showcasing the works of its many members. The Cooley Gallery in Old Lyme (860-434-8807) specializes in fine American paintings and other works from the 19th and 20th centuries, including the Hudson River School and Connecticut Impressionism, which originated in the area at the turn of the 20th century. Scranton's Shops, in South Woodstock (860-928-3738) features 90 local artisans and antiques in the charm of an early New England blacksmith shop. And, Mystic Seaport (800-331-2665) is typical of many of Connecticut's outstanding museums in offering a museum store that features the highest quality art, home décor, clothing, jewelry, gifts and books.

Speaking of books, the bibliophile will be thrilled to browse through Connecticut's many, many independent book shops, each with its own distinct personality. Among the most distinctive: Bloodroot, a feminist bookstore and restaurant in Bridgeport (203-576-9168); Diane's Books in Greenwich, with the largest collection of family books in the country (203-869-1515) and Just Books, the smallest but oldest bookstore in Greenwich (203-637-0707). R.J. Julia Booksellers in Madison (203-245-3959) is one of several independent bookstores known for its author signings and other special events. Atticus Bookstore and Café in New Haven (203-776-4040) and the Yale Bookstore, one of the largest book outlets in New England (203-777-8440), are representative of the unique personalities of book stores in college towns. One of the newest stores in the state is The Alphabet Garden, a children's bookstore located in The Watch Factory Shoppes of Cheshire (203-439-7766).

Finally, there is the almost infinite variety of specialty stores throughout the state. Mitchells, in Westport, and Richards, in Greenwich (203-622-0551), both owned by the same family, are considered by many area residents to represent the finest in impeccable clothing for men and women, with outstanding personal service as well. Foreign Cargo, in Kent (860-927-3900), offers gifts, clothing, art, furniture and decorative items from Asia, Africa and the Pacific Islands, while The Bowerbird, in Old Lyme (860-434-3562) is one of coastal Connecticut's most unique gift shops, offering toys, cards, bath and home furnishings, rainy day games and gourmet food. Not far away is The Christmas Barn in Woodstock (860-928-7652), with 12 rooms of country and Christmas items open all year round. And, for specialty shopping in a highly specialized setting, there are the dozens of shops and boutiques at Mohegan Sun Resort (888-226-7711) and Foxwoods (800-FOXWOODS), two of the largest casino/entertainment resorts in the country. They offer everything from jewelry and fashion to electronics and shoes.

For further information about the 52 Getaways to Connecticut, restaurants, resorts, country inns, B&Bs and other places to stay in Connecticut, please call 888-CTvisit (888-288-4748) or log on at www.CTvisit.com. Connecticut offers visitors a multi-faceted wealth of attractions, historical, cultural and recreational activities, diverse and beautiful natural landscapes, parks, beaches and wilderness sure to fulfill any getaway need.

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Connecticut's Shopping Malls
In contrast to small shops and intimate boutiques, Connecticut's shopping malls and outlet centers think big, bigger and biggest. Some of the favorites include:

Westfarms Mall in Farmington, with 160 brand name stores and independent companies (860-561-3024)

Clinton Crossing Premium Outlets in Clinton, with 70 brand names in an outdoor village setting (860-664-0700)

Trumbull Westfield Mall in Trumbull, with big name stores and small shops (203-372-4500)

Stamford Town Center, with a mix of 112 specialty shops and large department stores (203-324-0935)

Danbury Fair Mall, with 180 stores, one of the largest and top-producing malls in the country (203-743-3247)

Olde Mistick Village in Mystic, a New England-style village of small shops and boutiques (860-536-4941)

Tanger Outlet Center in Westbrook, 65 national branded manufacturers and design companies (866-665-8685)

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