Travel: Danbury (and Bethel,) CT – Shopping

Shopping!*
(Please be aware that this blog post contains Amazon Affiliate links for products I recommend.  Please check them out and if you’re interested, give them a shot!)

When traveling, you always want to find a little something that reminds you of the place you’ve been.  Sometimes, you even need to pick up some odds and ends, such as toiletries or a few pairs of socks.

Danbury has an abundance of places to shop, however, this was kind of a tough post to write simply because there really aren’t many “travel” (souvenirs, mementos) shops around anymore.  There are local shops, don’t get me wrong, however, as I discovered, they are primarily food markets that cater to the diverse cultural groups in the area, which are all pretty delightful.

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Gamer’s Gambit – 67 Newtown Road, STE 20

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Photo Credit: Gamer’s Gambit Facebook

And now my ùber-nerd is about to show.

For those of you into comic books, collectibles and card, board and retro video games, this is the place for you!

Every evening, there’s a new type of event going on, where you can meet others to play Magic: The Gathering, Warhammer 40K, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Pokemon Trading Card Game, or on Thursdays, there’s an open board game night, where you can play any of a number of in-house board games or bring your own.  (I actually used to attend Thursday Game Night and had a blast.)

For the retro gamers, they have a wide assortment of consoles up to the current generation, (though their current generation game assortment is fairly low,) and shelves of long out-of-print and hard-to-find games.  (For those of you who are interested in current generation [Xbox One, Playstation 4 and Nintendo Switch], there’s a GameStop a little further down in the plaza.)

Now, when I say “board games,” I’m not talking about Monopoly or Sorry!, but titles such as Ticket to Ride and Settlers of Catan.  Their assortment of board games is awesome.  (They even carry a game I’d brought to Game Night once called “Velociraptor! Cannibalism“! – More on that in a bit.)  Though they do carry games such as Monopoly, you’re more likely to find a themed Monopoly game over the original.

Comics!  Their comic book selection has expanded over the years from a rack of single issues to multiple bookshelves of trade paperbacks and graphic novels.

Though it’s been a few years, in the few ocassions I’ve had the pleasure of talking to owner Steve Carpenter, he’s always been incredibly knowledgable, friendly and open to new things.  As I mentioned earlier, for one Thursday Game Night, i’d brought “Velociraptor! Cannibalism” with me to play with the group of friends I’d made.  (I had originally picked it up at the PAX East gaming convention.)  Steve had questions and was interested in the game and its mechanics, asking questions and eventually saying it looked “Cool” and showed interest in selling it.  It’s always refreshing to see a business owner that’s passionate not only for the business he runs, but the clientele he serves.

UK Gourmet – 78 Stony Hill Road (Redwood Plaza), Bethel, CT

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Despite it actually being in the small town next to Danbury, I absolutely had to include the UK Gourmet!  I love this place!

UK Gourmet has been a delightful hidden gem in the Stony Hill area of Bethel for, wow, as far back as I can remember.  Though they were originally a couple miles up the road in Newtown, they moved to Bethel a few years ago, in the former location of a pet shop I used to basically live in, (so you can say I know that space quite well. :D)

Having traveled to Scotland on two separate occasions, I grew fond of the foods I ate there, such as meat pies, Tayto crisps, Jelly Babies and Jammie Dodgers, and haggis (don’t judge me) to name a few.  You can find all of them at UK Gourmet, imported directly from the England, Ireland (Norther and the Repubic of,) Scotland, and Wales.  They also sell Kinder Happy Hippos, which are chocolate and cream filled crunchy hippo-shaped biscuits.  They’re made by the same company that makes Kinder Surprise Eggs, (Amazon.co.uk for the win!) which were banned in America for a long time until they decided to market those awful Kinder Joy eggs.

The store has a freezer that contains imported frozen goods such as meat pies, sausages, bacon, haggis, pasties, and more.  A cooler by the cash wrap contains a wonderful selection of imported cheeses (check out their website for a full list with descriptions!)  Their candy selection is great – packed with Kinder, Jelly Babies, Aero Bars, Mars Bars, Nestle UK and so far, they’re the only place I’ve been able to find locally that sells Terry’s Chocolate Oranges year-round.  Obviously tea is a big thing in the UK and their selection reflects that with offerings by Lyons, Barry’s Tea, TWinings and Taylors of Harrogate.

Food aside, they also sell UK-themed souvenirs and knick knacks, as well as flags and a small selection of housewares.

Anyway, UK Gourmet is a wonderful little shop.  The staff is super friendly and though the prices are a bit high (all items are imported,) it’s a lovely little market to pick up some food for a special dinner or to try a new snack.  I’m obviously leaving out a ton of what they carry (general foodstuffs, gifts, etc.) but they do also have an online shop, where you can check out all they have to offer.

Danbury Fair Mall – 7 Backus Avenue

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I was hesitant to mention the Mall for several reasons – it’s a mall, there’s really only one “Mom & Pop” shop there, and I didn’t really know what to write about.  If I seem a bit bitter about this section, it’s because I am, both for historical reasons and personal reasons.

Known locally as “The Mall,” Danbury Fair Mall sits upon the old Danbury Fairgrounds, which from 1969-1981, was Danbury’s annual agricultural fair, covering over 150 acres.  The first fair was in 1821, using a small tent borrowed from the Barnum and Bailey Circus, but didn’t become an annual event until 1969.  It contained animal exibits featuring horses, cows, pigs, poultry, sheep, and other small animals.  In the early and mid-20th century, dog exibits were incredibly popular, (because everyone loves doggos and puppers.)  In 1929, two of the most popular attractions were horse races and auto races.

*If you’d like to read more about the old Danbury Fair, check out http://connecticuthistory.org’s page on the Fair.  I’d like to explore more about the Fair, as well as add some personal stories from my father, who remembers it fondly, in a later post.*

Nowadays, little is left of the glory of the old Danbury Fair, but the Mall does pay homage to the once great event that it replaced, by the glass canopy entrances that are reminiscent of the “Big Top” tents, the double-decker carousel, and the handful of photographs hung on the wall leading from the Food Court to the restrooms.

In all fairness, the Mall is your one-stop place for almost everything a person could need – the Apple Store from this post is there, along with a competing Microsoft Store with JC Penney, Sears, Primark, Lord and Taylor and Macy’s being five of the 10 anchor stores.  (The other five – LL Bean, Forever 21, The Cheesecake Factory, Brio Tuscan Grille, and Dick’s Sporting Goods, do not have entrances into the Mall building.  Forever 21 is the only one located inside the Mall with no outside exit.  Confusing, I know.)

As I mentioned, there’s really only one “Mom and Pop” store in the entire Mall, and that would be Level 01 Video Games.  I’ve known the owner, Herb and the manager, Nick, for years.  They’re well-versed in new and retro video games, and offer some unique Japanese import collectibles.  They also offer console repairs and hold gaming tournaments.  (Much like Gamer’s Gambit, Level 01 also competes with a GameStop a short ways away.)

I’d previously mentioned the Mall’s Food Court in my last post, when mentioning Kusulyn, though I didn’t really touch upon the other eateries.  As you’d commonly find in mall food court, there’s McDonald’s, Subway, Chik-Fil-A, Nathan’s and a Panda Express, alongside Little Tokyo (Japanese-style grill/hibachi and sushi,) Desert Moon Fresh Mexican Grille, Famous Cajun (which serves Chinese food …) and Charley’s Philly Steaks.  Further adventuring around offers up a Chipotle over at the other end of the Mall, a Red Robin underneath the Food Court and various kiosks sprinkled close by.

One recommendation I would make would be Papa Tea, located on the second level, across from the Food Court, in front of Forever 21.  My Kryptonite is bubble tea and although Kusulyn also serves it, I prefer Papa Tea’s.  They also sell Thai rolled ice cream (try the melon flavor!) and “Dragon’s Breath” – cheese (cheese balls) or sweet puffs (like cheese balls, only sans cheese,) soaked in liquid nitrogen, so when you eat one, fog comes out of your nose and mouth.  I’ll admit, it’s a really weird sensation, having cold vapor flowing out your nostrils, but it’s a super fun treat and Papa Tea’s gives you a generous amount so you can share with friends.

Shopping at the Danbury Mall is your standard faire (no pun intended … ok, maybe a little,) though over the years, more designer stores, such as Michael Kors, Arhaus, and Coach have replaced Payless Shoes, H&M, and CVS Pharmacy.  At least there’s only one Abercrombie and Fitch now … yes, there used to be two.

Again, I’m leaving tons of stuff out about the Mall, but, like many locals, I tend not to go there anymore unless I absolutely have to, mostly because I usually don’t have a reason to.  Last September, a couple friends from England came to visit and I brought them to the Mall, and one of them will (hopefully) be writing a few guest posts soon, documenting his adventures in America.

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Here are the products I linked above:
(*Note: Unfortunately WordPress won’t let me post Amazon Affiliate links with photos without me having to pay $220/yr, so until I can figure out a solution that doesn’t require me to manually upload each product photo, I will have to only post text links.)

 

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