I’ve been coming to Nantucket for over 25 years and even though it is more crowded and built up than ever, it is still an island paradise. Thirty miles out to sea, it is a small place, only 3-1/2 miles wide by 14 miles long with over 40% of the land protected by the Land Trust.
Nantucket is also steeped in history – over 800 houses predate the Civil War. And it’s no accident that there aren’t any eye sores among the enchanting gray shingled homes that populate the island – any new structure has to pass the approval of the HDC (Historic District Commission) which reviews all exterior changes and new construction on the island. With over 82 miles of gorgeous beaches and a charming town of cobblestoned streets with attractive shops, Nantucket is many things to many people. Artists, writers, golfers, sailors and boaters, nature enthusiasts, and vacationers who just want a taste of this island’s famous allure, have all found something unique here. This includes many of the stores’ proprietors, some of whom started out as either vacationers or summer residents themselves. In the 19th century, Nantucket’s shopping district was known as Petticoat Row, so named for the women who traditionally ran the town of Nantucket and the stores, while their whaling husbands traveled the seas for years at a time. A form of this tradition continues today as many women own shops in town. I spoke with two such shop owners, both leaders in the business community, each representing an esteemed woman-owned establishment. Each long-standing store carries distinctive merchandise that embodies what I consider the quintessence of traditional Nantucket style.