The Made in Humboldt branding campaign seeks to promote what is unique and special about products grown or made in our area. Those producers know they can’t compete head-to-head on price with national brands sold by retail chains across the country. They capitalize on something different, which can’t be found in every medium sized city in the nation.
A catalogue landed in our mail box last week from the Vermont Country Store, a vender which has chosen its own niche in the retail ocean. The company leans on the reputation of the thrifty old Yankee to characterize its merchandise, but the core concept is clear. The Vermont Country Store sells nostalgia, at a premium price.
When Hostess announced it was closing its bakeries, people who hadn’t eaten a Twinkie or Ding Dong in decades raced to stores to scoop some up. The pages of this catalogue feature Walnettos ($29.95 for a 1.5 pound tin,) Bit-o-Honey ($12.95 for a 1.5 pound bag,) Turkish Taffy ($12 for eight 1.5 ounce bars) and Coconut Watermelon Slices ($12.95 per pound.)
Pickling used to be a basic skill for homemakers, and the Vermont Country Store is ready to pick up the slack for those who lack the time, patience and equipment. It offers mustard pickles, pickled garlic, sausage, eggs and fiddle heads, for just $9.95 per 16 ounce jar, except the pickled sausage, which comes in a 9 ounce jar. The copy says the products are made in small batches and packed by hand.
The catalogue reminds me of a thrift store on steroids. The difference is that instead of a random assortment of castoffs, the shopper can pick from specific items. The tradeoff is price.
The classic electric percolator would be perfect as a prop for a 1950’s play, but at $99.95, the set dresser would never be able to afford it. Old fashioned drinking glasses are about four times as much as they cost at a dollar store, but if the exact style is what you want, maybe they are worth it. My mother had a set of jewel tone aluminum tumblers, but I sincerely doubt she paid the equivalent of $16.95 for a set of short ones or $26.95 for the tall ones.
Modern phones have their advantages and disadvantages, but if you long for the days of the Princess Phone or even a clunky black 1930’s desk phone, you can buy it here. The phones look like their predecessors at first glance, but are outfitted with push buttons on the dials and can handle modern features such as caller ID and call waiting. They are $59.95 and $69.95.
Household gadgets make up a large segment of the catalogue, including cotton mops from Fuller Brush, a company I thought had long since collapsed. It apparently morphed into a more modern supplier of cleaning aids, including a bright red mini vacuum for $44.95. For only $16.95, you can get a set of pants stretchers, for perfect creases in your jeans every time, with no ironing.
Reproduction fabrics evoke a trip down Memory Lane. Bed linens made of seersucker in prints from the 50’s, chenille in patterns from the 40’s and sheets printed with sock monkeys cost up to twice as much corresponding products from the store which Shall Not Be Mentioned. But the clothes look like they came straight out of the back of your grandmother’s closet.
Here’s the ultimate blast from the past – seersucker pedal pushers. At $29.95, they are the bee’s knees. The Vermont Country Store stocks all kinds of muumuus – long, loose and comfortable dresses. Some of the colors are pretty blinding, but at least you wouldn’t get lost in the fog while wearing them.
The human sense with the most accurate memory is supposed to be smell, and for those longing for Joy ($99 per ounce,) Evening in Paris ($49 for 1.6 ounces) or Wing Song ($26.00 for 2.6 ounces,) this is the place to find it. On the men’s side, 4711, an old favorite, is $48 for 6.8 ounces.
But by far the most remarkable item in the catalogue is a latex rubber swim cap, the likes of which I hadn’t seen in a very long time. It comes with multicolored attached flowers or in one of six “fetching” colors. It looks just as miserably uncomfortable as the last one I wore; I have no idea why anyone would take it as a gift, much less pay $22.95 for it.
There was nothing in the Vermont Country Store catalogue I wanted, but it was great, free entertainment. And if you do want any of those things, I’m pretty sure you won’t find them for sale locally. In addition to the printed catalogue – call 800-564-4623 – there is a website – www.vermontcountrystore.com – and even some QR codes. After all, you never know when you’ll need a cotton fabric handheld folding fan, for just $21.95.
(Elizabeth Alves never liked seersucker or chenille. Comments and suggestions are welcome care of the Press or to firstname.lastname@example.org.)