Mid-Week Blog: Shopping List Mania

When it comes to downtown shopping district, there's no doubt – and we'll admit to being biased here – Chatham has the best on the Cape. And perhaps beyond, an opinion we apparently are not alone in sharing.

Lsst week USA Today released its “10 Great American Shopping Streets,” and sharing the list along with shopping districts in Columbus, Ohio, Delray Beach, Fla., Pasadena, Calif, and Denver, Colo., was little old Chatham.

Robert Gibbs, an urban planner who teaches at Harvard's Graduate School of Design, came up with the list of his favorite downtown districts and calls Chatham “the nicest and most authentic small town on Cape Cod.” The beaches, lighthouse and weekly band concerts contribute to making Chatham “very Norman Rockwell,” he says. No arguments here, though the Rockwell association with “quaint” and “quintessential New England” is a bit tired.

Chatham's downtown, the paper goes on to state, features “300 specialty stores selling shoes, apparel, art, and sporting goods, and even has old-fashioned department and hardware stores.” While we don't quibble with the description, the number may be a bit off – our informal count puts the number of shops in the downtown area liberally defined as the Crowell Road/Main Street traffic lights to 400 Main St., at closer to 150 – and even that estimate, based, we admit, on a quick count using memory and Google Earth, is probably generous.

Is Chatham's Main Street a better shopping area than Broughton Street in Savannah, Ga., or Phillips Avenue in Sioux Falls, S.D.? I have no idea; I've never been to those places, or to Lake Street in Petoskey, Mich., or Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena, Calif. But you've got to wonder, based on the somewhat inflated description of the one place on the list I have been, exactly how “great” the other shopping districts on the list are. Yes, this will give Chatham something of a boost, it gets the town's name out there, and will no doubt make chamber of commerce officials happy, but to me it simply represents another artificial list – like the “Best of” put out by self-serving magazines and other publications that give awards to the best candlemaker in town when there's only one (or maybe none) – that nobody asked for.