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Attention last-minute shoppers

Union Leader Correspondent

December 23. 2013 10:12PM
Gift baskets filled with gourmet goodies and local products are available for last-minute shoppers at the Mont Vernon General Store. (Nancy Bean Foster)

Above: Dan Bellemore, owner of the Mont Vernon General Store, said last-minute shoppers have lots of options when they choose to buy local. Left: Whether it’s a bottle of wine and some caviar, a pair of fleece mittens, or jars of freshly roasted coffee beans, general stores and country markets can be a saving grace for last-minute shoppers.Nancy Bean Foster

Last-minute shopping can be a nightmare before Christmas, but country markets and general stores can offer a saving grace for procrastinators in a pinch.

Dan Bellemore, owner of the Mont Vernon General Store, is ready when the late comers to the holiday rush start to panic. Stocked on the store's shelves are gift baskets filled with gourmet goodies and local goods. Fine wines, craft beers, cheese and caviar can give the Grinch back his smile, and local goods make each gift basket a little special.

Bellemore stocks mason jars full of coffee roasted locally, pickles made by a family of farmers around the corner, soup mix, toffee and lots of maple sugar and honey, all produced within a few miles of the store."Getting a gift basket filled with local products is much warmer than unwrapping some 'iThing,'" Bellemore said.

Recently, a customer came in and purchased $800 worth of local products to ship to relatives around the country.

"We used little suitcases all filled with local stuff," said Bellemore. "His relatives really loved that everything was made in New Hampshire."

Though the Henniker Farm and Country Store could easily be mistaken as just a place to grab a bag of feed, inside it is reminiscent of an old-fashioned dry goods store where just about everything imaginable was available under one roof.

"We like to think of it as a department store," said owner Kevin Mock. "We have customers who do the majority of their shopping here."

Beyond the bags of feed and bales of hay, there's clothing for men, women and kids, shoes and boots, games, toys, kitchenware, hats and locally made bath and beauty products.

"They have everything you could possibly need, and things you couldn't find anywhere else," said customer Stacy Keene, who was doing some last-minute shopping.

Judy Herman, another customer, said she normally went to Concord to do her Christmas shopping, but decided to stop in Henniker because she'd heard so much about the store.

"Everybody raves about this place," she said.

In Hancock, Nancy Adams has the front of the Hancock Market stocked with everything from handmade aprons and fleece mittens to dozens of books written by local authors.

"A lot of small-town people like to support local businesses," said Adams, who has owned the store for three years. "They can get all the big stuff at the big stores, but they come here to buy those special local things that nobody else has because they're made right here in Hancock."

Mock said that while there are gifts for just about everyone at Henniker Farm and Country Store, the biggest seller during the holidays are socks.

"We started out with 5,000 pairs of socks this fall," he said, "and I bet we've gone through half of them."

Derry Henniker Hancock Keene Mont Vernon Photo Feature