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‘People need cool stuff.’ Inside three unique stores on the Cape.

Stores on Cape Cod evoke the era of the headshop, with hand-made tie-dye, used records, incense, and lots of crystals

Buttons at the Earth House.Tinker Ready

Hey, man. You going to the Cape this summer? In need of tie-dyed shirts, energy crystals, antiwar bumper stickers, or dancing bear onesies? On Cape Cod, shops with these goods come in different varieties: the environmental, the mystical, and the musical.

The Dead Zone store (1196 Route 28, South Yarmouth) sits in a half-occupied shopping plaza. On a gray spring day, the door opens to a burst of color and a whiff of incense.

“Growing up as a hippie, there were a lot of little fun stores to shop in. As I got older, there wasn’t,” said founder Patty Martin, a lifelong Deadhead. She started her shop in Rhode Island more than 30 years ago. “I was like, ‘People need cool stuff. I’m going to open up a shop.’” She has since moved the shop to Chatham and then to South Yarmouth.


The place is packed with all things Dead. A rack of tie-dyed baby shirts fills the front room, where the walls are covered with stickers, patches, and buttons of dancing bears, rose-crowned skeletons, and Rastafarians. In back, display cases offer Volkswagen bus keychains, mood rings, and crystal jewelry. There’s an overstuffed display of Indian print, tie-dye, and batik shirts and dresses. The faces of Jerry Garcia and Bob Marley are displayed on bags and banners, and dreamcatchers hang from the ceiling.

Martin — who said she saw the Dead about 130 times before Garcia died in 1995 and still goes to shows — had worked as a waitress, an oyster harvester, and a plumber by the time she decided to open the shop.

“I had never worked in retail. I just figured it out,” she said. “I didn’t know what I was doing, but I was going for it.” Since then, she said, she’s gotten pretty good at it.


Another cool Cape destination is a little yellow house on Route 6A — the Earth House. For years, a life-size drawing of the Beatles in their Sgt. Pepper gear sat in the front window to greet drivers on their way to Orleans. A husband and wife set up shop there more than 30 years ago — actually, four small shops.

An Earth House display.Tinker Ready

Outside, there’s a flag with the earth on it. Inside, former Provincetown DJ Dylan Stanton sits beside what is billed as the world’s largest lava lamp and divides pansies into little cups to give away on Earth Day. He brought his record store down from the Outer Cape, renamed it Instant Karma Records, and tucked it into the Earth House.

His wife, Robin Sullivan — a Natick native, former stained glass artist, and gallery owner — runs the part of the house stuffed with bumper stickers, buttons, crystals, vintage toys, cards, T-shirts, and Indian and indigenous bags, batik skirts, and Baja jackets.

Robinson said she was inspired by a Wellesley shop she went to in the 1970s called George’s Folly. “It was when I was a kid,” she said, noting that she was the youngest in a large family. “And I just remember going in there — the smell and the tapestries.”

But Sullivan thinks the Earth House (121 Route 6A, Orleans) is less about the hippie lifestyle — whatever that is — and more about being aware of what’s happening to the planet, both environmentally and politically.


Everyone who visits gets a free bumper sticker: “EARTH HOUSE / ONE EARTH, ONE PEOPLE, ONE SHOP.”

At the same time, like the Dead Zone, the Earth House has been around for more than 30 years, which means they didn’t actually spring from the ‘60s.

Outside Earth House.Tinker Ready

“We were just coming out of the Reagan era,” Sullivan said as she sat behind the counter on a Sunday afternoon. She said they didn’t like where the people and the government were going. So, they started selling what she called “Earth-friendly” items, and her business just grew organically.

Today, the back room contains a wall of bumper stickers and buttons that call for peace and justice in a hundred different ways: “Fight Racism,” “Wage Peace,” “Freedom means choice,” “Truth has no agenda,” and “Love your mother.” Buttons include photos of Greta Thunberg, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr., and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, plus slogans like “The oceans are rising and so are we.” Rotating racks offer postcards with similar messages.

Stanton, a tall man with spiky white hair, runs the rest of the shop — the record store, a poster and rock ‘n’ roll merchandise shop, and a funky basement thrift shop with notable Star Wars, Elvis, and Kennedy family merchandise. The rack of cassettes down there is alphabetized.

One thing you won’t find here or at the Dead Zone is weed, but the Dead Zone carries papers and a product to clean pipes.

A display at the Dead Zone.Tinker Ready

Once you hit Provincetown, you’ve made it to Shop Therapy (286 Commercial St.), the self-described “world-famous alternative lifestyle emporium.” Owner Ron Hazel made it his job to challenge laws barring head shops that sold bongs and other pot-smoking paraphernalia. Calls to the phone on their website go unanswered, as does an email. The shop, located at the edge of town for years, recently moved to downtown Commercial Street. Roomier than the others, it is packed with tie-dyed everything. (Shop Therapy has always offered something the others don’t — a wide selection of sex toys.)


For those who seek crystals in a more minimalist setting, head back to Route 28. A store called Instant Karma (327 Route 28, West Yarmouth) — not to be confused with Instant Karma Records — advertises itself as a “hippie boutique” and offers an alternative spelling of “tye die.”

Wares like crystals and incense sit on shelves or in glass cases, and a neat rack offers tie-dyed clothes. You can get a combo tarot card reading and a Reiki treatment, per their Instagram site. The shop also offers CBD and an herb called kratom, which promises “a more natural alternative to pain relief.”

The stores have some social media presence and a few static websites. So, no online shopping, but most are open all year. And for those who miss the now-closed Christmas Tree Shops, you can always get a Deadhead dancing bear with a Santa hat.