Five Places to Visit in Provincetown, Mass., with John Derian

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John Derian, the designer and home goods retailer.


Provincetown, Mass., the artsy beach town on the frothy final wisp of Cape Cod, swells with sandy-toed visitors in the peak summer months. With autumn upon us, the crowds have all but disappeared. But John Derian, the New York City-based designer and home goods retailer, says he loves this time of year in P-town. Since 2007, he has decamped to his getaway home, an antique of a house built for a local sea captain in 1789. An outpost of his flagship New York store, John Derian Company, is in his property’s carriage house. After the tourists are gone, Provincetown is “beautiful and quiet,” Mr. Derian said. “It’s a small town that’s also like a city. I can walk out of my house and get a coffee.”

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CreditStephen Kent Johnson

The designer has made a career out of resuscitating paper — turning antique illustrations and postcards into decoupaged glass plates and more. It’s perhaps not surprising that Mr. Derian is at home here, having grown up in Watertown, Mass., spending two weeks of every childhood summer on Cape Cod. He shares his five favorite spots.


“Every town needs a used bookstore like Tim’s; its authenticity adds a layer only a used bookstore can,” Mr. Derian said of this shop in an 1840s house with weathered signage and a well-trod brick walkway. In a community known for its sizable gay population — the city says 66 percent of the population identifies as LGBTQ — the shop also has a large gay literature section. Most books are $5-and-under beach reads, though the proprietor, Timothy Francis Barry, said the store also has a healthy stock of signed books from local legends, including Mary Oliver and Norman Mailer, who were frequent customers.

242 Commercial Street; 508-487-0005, no website


“You’ll walk in the library, have no idea anything is going on, go up one flight and there’s a model of the Dorothea!” said Mr. Derian, referring to a 66-foot-long replica of a schooner that in 1907 won the Fisherman’s Race in Massachusetts Bay without a fore-topmast (a major feat in the sailing world). The library holds some 40,000 volumes and is housed in an 1860 former Methodist church. Ascend to the mezzanine level for a view of Provincetown harbor.

356 Commercial Street; provincetownlibrary.org


Victor Powell, a local artist, started making custom sandals (starting at $280) here in 1974, when there were 21 leather shops in Provincetown; he’s since outlasted them all, and done a runway show for the designer Michael Kors and made footwear for Cardinal O’Malley, the leader of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston. Mr. Derian has two pairs and considers the shop, where your feet are traced and sandals are made by the next day, a “magical, very hippie place.” Leather choices range from English bridle to snakeskin and alligator. Shoes range from $280 to $600.

323 Commercial Street; victorpowellsworkshop.com


This fount of beach-ready picnic fare in Provincetown’s West End does “the best frosting on a cupcake ever — you want to ruin any diet, you just have to have one,” Mr. Derian said. Everything from the vegan, gluten-free brownie to the gazpacho-to-go is made in the kitchen of the early-19th-century building in which it is housed. “I feel like they should do a book; they have such a great twist on all their baked goods.”

93 Commercial Street; ptownrelish.com


“Ninety percent of the time, you’ll see whales” from this 1816 lighthouse, which is open for tours until mid-October. Climb 41 steps to the lamp room, which has used a LED lantern since 2014 — and you may spot humpback, right and minke as well as finback whales circling in the deep waters below. Mr. Derian recalled seeing “20 whales and dolphins jumping” when his flight once passed over the lighthouse.

Race Point Road; racepointlighthouse.org



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