24th Annual Shopping Stroll: Something for everyoneNov. 29 - Dec. 1
‘Tis the season that email inboxes get stuffed with online shopping deals.
First there was Black Friday, then Cyber Monday, then shopping on Thanksgiving and, now as an antidote, there is Small Business Saturday. Black Friday does seem to be an ironically horrible way to describe a shopping experience. Thankfully, retailers have left Sunday alone.
Of all the options, I prefer Small Business Saturday, a day when we are encouraged to shop in local brick and mortar stores instead of at the keyboard. Judging by the hoards that disembark from the Block Island Ferry on the day after Thanksgiving for the annual Block Island Shopping Stroll that runs Friday, Nov. 29 through Sunday, Dec. 1, I seem not to be alone in thinking that this is the preferable option for every day of this post T-Day weekend.
In a store, one can feel the heft and weight of fabrics, feel their quality, (or lack thereof), read the labels for fiber contents or washing directions. (“Dry clean only” need not apply.) In a store, one may browse through a book, roll a toy along the floor, and chat with the proprietor about where the goods come from. Technology may have come up with 3-D printers, but engineers still have not come up with a way to serve you hot mulled cider and cookies while you shop.
This year marks the 24th year of the stroll, and this year it seems destined to be bigger and better than ever. Besides all of the small boutiques opening their doors for one last weekend, there are additional opportunities for shopping at the library where they will be having a Winter’s Farmer Market on Saturday. Also, on Saturday, the American Legion Auxiliary will open its doors for a special sale of donated goods.
Shopping on Block Island is not just about finding your favorite T-shirt. There is really an astonishing array of gift choices, ranging from toys, books, home décor items, natural cosmetics and clothes to fine jewelry and original works of art, much of it deeply discounted. One may find the preppy (Vineyard Vines at Mahoney’s Clothier), the hippie-dippy (all over) and the fishy (Twin Maples — home of the famous “Eat Fish” tee shirt).
On a recent Saturday, we went on a pre-stroll stroll and even found the wacky. But we’ll get to that later….
Christmas begins with the stocking and we found lots of little treasures to stuff them with. Among our favorites are the tubes of all-natural lip-balm at Island Mist on Chapel Street, as well as other cosmetics such as clay facial masks, creams and natural sun-screens — perfect for hitting the ski slopes. All of the Island Mist products are made locally by proprietor Johanna Ross and her small band of elves.
For the wee ones, there are adorable stuffed knit teddy bears and velveteen bunnies at the Block Island Trading Company, which is under the porch of the National Hotel. For under the tree, they also have an adorable little collapsible circus tent that comes with small animal performers crafted from felt.
What better way to brighten a gray winter’s day than snuggling one’s feet in colorful socks? Island Bound Book Store, up in the Post Office building, has just the right thing. Multi-colored, multi-patterned, even multi-paired, these thick cotton socks come in sets of more than two, just in case you lose one in the wash. (Do we not all, somewhere, have a pile of stray socks?) A few years ago I thought I may have been going out on a limb, purchasing these socks for my teenage daughter, but they were a wildly successful gift, and I know she wants more. This year there are not only children’s and adult socks, but mittens, both with fingers and not.
Let us not forget the old adage: Good things come in small packages. For many of us “good things” come in silver and gold. On Block Island, those precious metals may often come in unique designs celebrating the island’s iconic pork-chop shape. Designs crafted by island artists abound — some specifically for the holiday season. Jennifer’s Jewelry has a new design, just for the stroll (it won’t be available either before or after, unless you’re really special.) It is a pendant featuring a Block Island on a snow-flake, and is made of sterling silver.
And did we say we also found the wacky? For those who like the macabre, Jennifer’s Jewelry also has small voodoo dolls for sale. One needn’t necessarily stick them with pins: they would look great as ornaments on the tree.
There’s a bit of voodoo going on at Strings ‘N Things too. There you can find a voodoo cutting board — “back-stabbing knife included,” by Fred and Friends, a company hailing from Cumberland, R.I. Make sure to see what else Strings ‘N Things has from these guys. According to their website:
“We’ve got a big brick factory that’s powered by childhood memories, a strong dislike for gift certificates at Christmas, and an endless urge to find new ways to make milk come out of your nose.”
For those who have some artistic folks on their lists, or like to create their own gifts, there are stores that have just the right supplies on hand. Beads abound in many places and art supplies may be purchased at Island Bound and at the Block Island Health and General Store (aka the pharmacy).
If knitting, crocheting or weaving is your thing, head on up to North Light Fibers, located at the Abram’s Family Animal Farm. Don’t be afraid of the alpacas between the outer gate and you and the door. You will get a much heartier greeting from the yellow labs inside. Once there, be sure to fondle some of those same alpacas’ fibers, spun and dyed into glorious hues. Better yet, take some home and create a warm hat or scarf that won’t be itchy like wool, and is hypo-allergenic. They have plenty of hooks, needles, (including both double-pointed and circular) to make your dream design come true.
You may remember weaving potholders as a child — most likely on a square “loom” with teeth all around the top in which bands of fabric are stretched between two sides to make the warp, and then more bands are woven through.
North Light Fibers will host a potholder weaving class on Friday from 1:30 p.m. until 3 p.m. The cost is $30, but you get to take home your potholder, the loom, and enough extra materials to make an additional potholder. (Call 401-466-2050 to make a reservation- class size is limited.) And yes, the loom is just as you remember it, only larger, and with nicer bands of stretchy fabric. And yes, the potholder will truly insulate your hands from the hot oven as you make cookies for Santa.