Fantastic Umbrella Factory, Charlestown, RI, is located between Watch Hill and Matunuck, off of Route 1's Ninigret Park/Tourist Center exit. It is at 4820 Old Post Road in a rural area of this small southern New England state. It is found in a town with just over 8,000 inhabitants.
Contrary to the name, this is neither a factory nor does it produce or even sell many umbrellas. Rather it is a small farm where various quirky shops can be found with affordable novelty goods, jewelry, handcrafts, clothing, drums, toys and all kinds of stuff from different places, near and far. A local artist has her gallery here and crafts work includes hand blown glass jewelry.
This emporium opens from 9 AM to 5 PM daily, although all of the stores may not be open every day, especially during the colder months as much of the business is based on the tourist season at nearby beaches.
Aside from the alternative shopping opportunity that a visit here provides, the property, amidst the woods, has garden areas and has always hosted a variety of animals ranging from the average farm inhabitants to peacocks and emus. The animals have dwindled in recent years due to predatory fisher cats having migrated into the area in recent years.
For thirty five cents some food can be purchased to hand feed some of the furry and feathered creatures that still remain. The abundant plant life and petting farm elements make for a low stress, low pressure shopping experience far afield from the modern malls.
The "Factory'' has been operating here since 1968, when this farm was purchased by Robert Bankel and Evan Nickles. The antique car sitting alongside the barn may have been here since that time or earlier.
The New Beginnings Caf,, formerly the Spice of Life Foods Caf, offers a break from shopping. Spice of Life had been a Rhode Island rarity as there have been few other eateries in the state that specialize in vegetarian cuisine. The new restaurant, which took over in late 2006, does not maintain the Spice of Life vegetarian tradition as it serves chicken and tuna on its menu.
The Fantastic Umbrella Factory, Charlestown, RI, provides an environment where children can be entertained passing their time as well as adults.
The gardens and nurseries, which sell plants, have a broad variety of flora to offer interested gardeners, including the only native New England cactus variety and the Native Wood Lily that no longer can be found naturally growing in New England. The nursery is open from mid April through September.
The farmhouse where this marketplace has settled in is said to have been in continual use since 1760.
The Fantastic Umbrella Factory, Charlestown, RI, has stayed open for more than 40 years despite a dramatic fire and the turnover in its eclectic community of vendors.