While working on our series of great places to shop local back in December, we felt guilty about not including stores from small towns and rural America. As there are something like 34,000 towns in the U.S. with less than 25,000 residents, we were sure the odds would be in our favor that there are thousands of great small towns that are great shopping destinations. Turns out we were right! We know of a few, ourselves, as some of us grew up in them.
Yesterday, we featured small and rural business expert Becky McCray’s 2014 Trends for Rural Small Businesses. Her post inspired us to revisit some of small businesses we had on our list of great rural and small towns in America where you can enjoy local shopping all year long. Thanks to Becky and others for their suggestions of towns to include. If you’d like to suggest a town, add a comment to this post on Facebook or tweet us at @SmallBusiness. We will be featuring more such towns–and visiting them, also–in the future. (Note: We’ve got 11 on this list, but since our series is called “10 Great” and we couldn’t stand cutting one, please forgive the under-counted great places.)
1. Luling, Texas
(Photo via theDaytripper.com)
Once known as the “toughest town in Texas”, Luling was established in 1874 from the construction progression of the railroad. Today it is a small town revered for its brisket barbecue, extensive inland paddling trail, Huber Package Store (the oldest liquor store in Texas) and the annual watermelon festival and competition held in June known as the Watermelon Thump.
2. Astoria, Oregon
(Photo via citydata.com)
If you have ever seen the Steven Spielberg classic, The Goonies, you might have taken notice of the setting: a small foggy fishing town in the Pacific Northwest–Astoria Oregon. Though the real town doesn’t have buried treasure, pirates, or shady crime families (that we know of), Astoria is still an incredible town to visit. Placed at the mouth of the Columbia River where it meets the Pacific Ocean, Astoria is a fisherman’s dream. Although, over-fishing over the last hundred years has hurt the local economy, proud Astorians are making efforts to revitalize the sleepy fishing town. If you have the good fortune to visit Astoria (its a recurrent stop for cruise ships), downtown on Commercial Street you can stop to see a collection of eclectic cafes and boutiques and other small businesses that will greet you with a warm welcome (despite the cold weather there this time of year).
3. Hanover, New Hampshire
(Photo via hanovernh.org)
Home to Dartmouth College, Hanover rests in the upper valley of the Connecticut River, surrounded by the many lakes and mountains that make up the greater New England wilderness. With snow on the ground this time of year, Hanover possesses a cozy and intellectual feel. And with this feeling is a downtown full of boutiques, book stores, and cafes of the local variety. If you are seeking the regions renowned maple syrup, we recommend the Hanover Co-Op.
5. Taos, New Mexico
(Photo via RamblingReflections)
Another great small town is Toas, New Mexico. At the feet of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Taos, New Mexico is located next to Taos Pablo the native American village of which the small town derives its name. Because of its positioning and connection many artists and craftsmen have been attracted to Taos for its rich native American culture and beautiful landscape. As a result the town is home to the Toas Art Colony.
6. Georgetown, South Carolina
(Photo via SCFiasco on Flickr)
Settled perhaps as early as 1526, Georgetown rests at the edge of the Winyah Bay and as a result has been used as South Carolina’s second largest seaport throughout its history. Abundant in South Carolinian, Lowcountry culture, Georgetown’s historic front street is home to unique small businesses that will clothe, feed, intrigue and entertain you. Though its one street off Front Street, you should visit the Kudzu Bakery for fantastic baked goods and the best tomato tart you have ever had.
7. Fairhope, Alabama
(Photo via cofairhope.com)
Sitting up on a bluff overlooking Mobile Bay, Fairhope at first appears to be a European village. Over the last century, the town has become a sanctuary for artists and writers who have found the area inspiring and in return conrtributed to the community. The downtown is spotted with artist galleries and dozens of antique stores.
8. Mangum, Oklahoma
(Photo via travelok.com)
Mangum, Oklahoma is home to several award winning artists that have set up shop in the downtown area called Artists Alley. Artist Alley features three main art studios: Darka Designs, Rockin T’ Studio, and Ok Cowboy Art along with plenty of other shopping and dining options.
9. Sonora, California
(Photo via wikimedia commons)
Settled in 1848 by Mexican miners during the California Gold Rush, Sonora was a center for commerce as well as the mining and timber industries for the region. Though it still holds onto to its historical roots, the town’s economy has shifted and is now primarily supported by tourism. Located just seventy miles from Yellowstone National Park, Sonora offers tons of outdoor recreational opportunities. The town is also a cultural hotspot for film, having been featured in more than 300 films and television series.
10. La Grange, Kentucky
(Photo via John Day on Flickr)
If you have an interest in traveling by train, La Grange offers unbeatable convienance as more than thirty trains travel down its Main Street daily. Fortunately, the trains cannot exceed more than ten miles moving through town and the towns array of small businesses such as the 1887 Corner Store and Mercantile On Main will probably offer enough diversion to keep you off the streets when the trains are rolling by.
11. Irvington, Virginia
(Photo via tidesinn.com)
Located in the Northern Neck, a peninsula off the coast of Virginia that is bordered by the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay, Irvington is a small village of approximately 670 people. The town’s history, beauty, and quaint size has turned it into a weekend destination for visitors all over the country area. Irvington’s businesses are pricey because they deliver unmatched quality. Other attractions include the Steamboat Era Museum, two different golf courses, and four vineyards to choose from.