Chatham County cures the longing for the dusty streets of Old Europe's shops, the find of a rare artifact from days past, and the pleasure of watching the craftsmen put on the final touches.
Shoppers will find every taste satisfied from fine wine at the five-star restaurant at Fearrington Village to burgers from the malt shop, S & T's Soda Shoppe, decorated in full '50s regalia. What they might have trouble finding, however, is anything that is not utterly unique.
Shopping here becomes less of a purchase and more of an experience as merchants tell a story for each piece they sell - perhaps of the local artist who created it, of its historical owner or even of its voyage from the heart of Africa.
Scores of tourists and locals alike renew their spirits amidst the award-winning gardens of the European Inn-style Fearrington Village. The famous black and white "Oreo" cows graze near the silo as visitors drive in to this dairy farm dating from the 1700s. Nestled in the woodlands, this community of 1,500 features a five-star restaurant in its award-winning Country Inn, a must for any native North Carolinian. Expect English afternoon tea by the fireplace, or, if you prefer, on the sun terrace.
Luxurious fabrics, marble vanities, heated towel racks, canopied beds, in-room Jacuzzi tubs and pine flooring from a workhouse along the Thames are but a few of the personal touches that have made Fearrington Village honeymooner heaven.
Regularly included on every "best of" list in the state, shops here present hand-carved jewels, Egyptian cotton linens, nationally celebrated pottery by local artists, a farmerŐs market and a "Potting Shed" offering Fearrington's breathtaking floral array to any homeowner.
The Fearrington House Restaurant and Country Hotel is a member of the international organization Relais & Chateaux, and is also a recipient of AAA's prestigious Five Diamond Award and Exxon Mobil's Five Stars - the only establishment in North Carolina to receive these accolades and one of only a handful in the country. The restaurant is housed in the Fearrington family home place, which was built in 1927.
The Fearrington House is also part of Classic Inns of the South and continually takes such awards as CitySearch's The Best of the Triangle, Best Southern Food, Editors' Winner for Best Restaurant, Audience Winner for Best Romantic Restaurant and Audience Winner for Best Chef.
As a world-class tourist destination in and of itself, reservations are recommended for lodging and fine dining at Fearrington Village, located in Pittsboro. But any Chatham County resident or guest is always welcome to meander through Fearrington's avenue of charming shops and stroll through the unparalleled gardens.
Fearrington Village is not the only stop savvy shoppers will need to make in Pittsboro, the county seat.
This old Southern town is highlighted by a vibrant and bustling city center in a time when many downtowns are struggling under the weight of big business. Its anchor is the historic courthouse, surrounded by an antiquer's paradise of one-of-a-kind wares.
The mythical good old days are part of real life in Chatham County, and shopping and dining here allow visitors to bask in that feeling.
Local artisans' weaving, glassware, paintings, furniture and other modern creations are discovered alongside doorways into the past, opening to more than 25,000 square feet of antiques.
Satisfying a hunger for the past is the specialty of dozens of restaurants in downtown Pittsboro, aptly described as "the storefronts that time forgot." The Pittsboro General Store & Cafe's colorful, circa-1940s enamel-topped tables serve up everything from organic wine to homemade soup. The chef's renowned Green Chili Burrito is a must-try menu item.
Those eager to race back to modern times after an afternoon spent rummaging in stores akin to grandma's attic will find the perfect dinner at the Pitt Stop Cafe & Race Shop. Observe NASCAR mechanics on the job at this home of the Busch Team. The driver and crewmembers of the race team often stop off at the cafe for a meal.
No Chatham County visit would be complete without a tour of the Southern Supreme Fruitcake Factory in Bear Creek. This factory, North Carolina's largest fruitcake producer and an international mail order sensation, began in the garage of a local beautician.
Nearly 1.5 million visitors - annually attracted to Chatham County by the presence of North Carolina's central recreation location, Jordan Lake - invariably find themselves entranced by the shopping here. Traveling the scenic byways of Chatham County leads to one historic downtown after another such as that of Goldston, Siler City and Pittsboro.
Rare, cultural shopping experiences are available around every rural bend including an eclectic mixture of art studios and the gemstone mining and gold panning at The Rocks in Moncure. The Rocks boasts an on-site gift shop where you can purchase mineral specimens and custom jewelry.
Agro-tourism is also big business in Chatham, reflecting the roots of the people who still sell their homegrown goodies at numerous small farms, wineries and nurseries such as Hickory Mountain Plant Farm in Pittsboro.
An extensive collection of nearby malls and outlet centers are within a half hour of Chatham County in the nearby cities of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill. Commercial shopping centers are also in the works for Pittsboro. Currently, Pittsboro has two shopping centers, Siler City has four and rural Chatham County has three. Some stores here include Hudson Belk, Cato's Fashion, CVS, Wal-Mart and Lowes.
With its prominent location in "The Heart of North Carolina" and its mix of shopping alternatives, visitors find everything they want in Chatham County and everything they want that they never knew existed.