A Holiday Shopping Guide
Tired of putting the same old, same old underneath the tree? Then check out the nifty gifts available at these extraordinary stores- everything from to-die-for biscotti and vintage toys to Inuit artwork and a wooden sailboat. Santa would certainly be prou
A Holiday Shopping Guide
Gifts to inspire, delight — and maybe make you laugh — from some of the Valley’s most extraordinary shops and artisans
by Valerie Havas
Some of the best things about the holidays are free — the perfect elegance of a snowflake, say, or the joyful chorus of caroling children. Unfortunately, the season is rarely stress-free. Too often, this time of year brings jam-packed parking lots, picked-over shelves, and a serious dose of gift anxiety. But there’s no need to panic. If your “to buy” list is longer than your list of gift ideas, check out our sampling of what Hudson Valley shops, artists, and craftspeople are offering. Far from the maddening malls (and occasionally tucked away within them), you’ll find plenty of treasures, many of them one-of-a-kind.
67 Main St., New Paltz, Ulster
While nearby shops cater to SUNY New Paltz students (think Bob Marley tee shirts, funky ethnic fashions, and tie-dyed gear), Cocoon offers stylish, and often amusing, merchandise for all ages, with an emphasis on the home. For youngsters, there are adorably Ugly Dolls — some with one eye, others with three — for $10, as well as Paulina Quintana boxed gift sets (each with a brightly colored cotton tee shirt and hat) for $38. For older folks, there’s a slew of gift ideas, ranging from $12 vinyl vases (they fold flat) in boldly graphic patterns and attractive wooden cutting boards ($18-$55) to handmade ceramic wall hangings by New Paltz artist Liza Mills ($250-$400; commissions also welcome). For caffeine lovers, there are scores of coffee mugs, tea samplers and infusers, French-press coffee makers, and the like. And don’t forget your favorite canines: the peppermint-flavored rubber bones and balls will refresh their breath while satisfying their urge to chew (bones are $6-$14; balls, $6-$18). Mon., Wed.-Thurs. 12-6 p.m.; Fri.-Sat. 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sun. 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
6423 Montgomery Row
If you don’t think that a vacuum cleaner is a romantic gift, think again, suggests owner Heda Moghaddam. “I think that the best gift is giving the gift of a clean indoor environment,” he declares. Though his store carries many different kinds of vacuums, all of them, he says, will do much more than simply move the dirt around. They’ll also alleviate allergy symptoms, clean up after pets, and reduce the need for dusting — all of which would be welcome gifts in themselves. Vacuums range in price from the low hundreds to over $1,000. The shop also carries small and specialty appliances like coffee and espresso makers (from under $10 to several thousand dollars) and home accessories like hand-painted goblets and martini glasses ($20 and up). Daily 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
Different Drummer’s Kitchen
Stuyvesant Plaza, Albany, 518-459-7990
Just the place to pick up something for the cook in your life. Baking items are perennial holiday favorites, notes Assistant Store Manager Jay Marston, who adds that “anything in silicone is hot this year.” Serious cooks covet kitchen gear made of silicone, he says, because “it’s almost impossible to stain, it’s a thermal insulator, it’s easy to clean, and it’s nonstick.” The staff is extremely knowledgeable about culinary matters — “not your typical mall employees,” according to Marston — and free gift-wrapping is available. Mon.-Fri. 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sat. 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sun. 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Melita’s Home Furnishings
125 Main St., Ossining, Westchester
The next-best thing to winning an all-expenses paid trip to the Mediterranean just might be receiving a color-splashed ceramic piece from Melita’s. The vibrantly colored ceramics — including vases, pitchers, candleholders, baskets, and assorted tableware — are hand-made in Portugal, where they’re painted with images of fruits, flowers, and the Portuguese countryside. The shop also carries antique furniture, table linens, and quilted bedding. Prices vary: gomils (narrow-mouthed, handled jugs) are $39.95-$99.95, for example, while fruteira (fruit bowls) are $19.95-$55.95. Many of the shop’s offerings are also available on-line at www.melitas.com. Mon.-Tues. 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Thurs.-Sat. 10 a.m.-7 p.m.
Tinker Toys Too
5 Mill Hill Rd., Woodstock, Ulster 845-679-8870
“Retro is the big thing” this year, says Manager Helen Ramirez. Many classics — everything from old-fashioned Fisher-Price pull toys ($17) to Godzilla figurines ($26, complete with sounds from the movie soundtrack) to the ever-popular Monopoly ($35) — have been reissued in anniversary editions, often in their original packaging. Interspersed among the rocking horses, piggy banks, craft kits, and tiny tea sets are more offbeat offerings like the limited-edition vinyl figures designed by comic book artists and animation professionals such as Tim Biskup and Gary Baseman ($6-$10). The cartoonish figures are avidly collected and traded by teens and young adults, says Ramirez. Daily 11 a.m.-6 p.m., until 9 p.m. Fri.-Sat.
The Toy Soldier Gallery
501 Main St., Highland Falls, Orange, 845-446-6731
A military buff’s dream, this shop offers complete battle scenes, ranging from ancient Roman wars to the present-day conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. “We also have World War II, the Napoleonic Wars, American Revolution, Civil War, Crimean War, Egypt and the Sudan, and West Point figures,” notes Tony Ciccarello, who co-owns the store with his wife, Marilyn. “We sell anything from a single figure for $15 to a set of six figures for $100,” he adds. In addition to these hand-painted metal figures, the gallery sells plastic soldiers and Osprey military books. Stop by the shop, which is located just outside Thayer Gate at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, or visit the gallery’s two Web sites (www.thetoysoldiergallery.com and www.armiesinplastic.com). Tues.-Sat. 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
22 Railroad Ave., Warwick, Orange
“Iwanted to create a destination for parents, grandparents, and children,” declares Maura Peddle, who owns this charming baby-gear shop with her husband, Rick. Its stock includes custom-painted nursery furniture; all-natural California Baby bath and skin-care products; and stylish apparel for moms-to-be and the under-two set. In addition to such essentials as car seats, strollers, and diaper bags, there are plenty of just-for-fun items, including rocking horses, rocking snails, and even rocking cows ($99 to $215). Tues.-Sat. 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sun. 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
82 Main St., Cold Spring, Putnam, 845-265-6543
If you know someone who’s serious about vintage toys, this is the place to splurge. Recent offerings included a Milton Bradley Kojak board game (circa 1975) in mint condition ($85), a 1944 Tom Mix Whistle Siren Ring ($110, described as working “sometimes”), and a 1950s home pinball game ($195). Stop by the store, owner Tom Miano says, and “You’ll see everything from classic tin wind-ups and battery-operated toys to gum cards based on old TV shows and movies, to lead soldiers and Hot Wheels.” Buying old toys, he notes, can be a smart investment, as prices continue to climb, especially for items in their original packaging. And, he laughs, “It’s a lot more fun than investing in the stock market. You can look at your investment and smile.” Thurs.-Sun. 12-5 p.m. (but call to confirm), or shop on-line at www.serioustoyz.com.
50 Neustadt Lane, Chappaqua, Westchester
What do you get the person who has everything? A scrimshaw story bracelet ($290), perhaps, or maybe a dancing bear sculpture carved from polished serpentine ($495). “The story bracelet,” gallery owner Elaine Blechman explains, “has a succession of hunting scenes, one on each link, starting with the hunter walking out on the ice and ending with him bringing a seal back.” Blechman’s gallery specializes in Inuit and other native art, including sculpture, jewelry, masks, tapestries, and limited-edition prints and original drawings, as well as Southwestern Indian jewelry. Call ahead for an appointment, or shop on the Web at www.arcticartistry.com.
Locust Grove Gift Shop
located at the Samuel F.B. Morse Historic Site, 2683 South Rd., Poughkeepsie, Dutchess
“Our shop uses the museum collection as a historic resource,” says Ray Armater, Locust Grove’s executive director. Items for sale include porcelain (Morse family members collected it), Shaker boxes, toleware, silk scarves, jewelry, books on Morse and on Hudson Valley history, and educational toys inspired by Morse’s invention of the electromagnetic telegraph (i.e., magnets, compasses, and build-your- own telegraphs kits). Daily 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; closed Jan.1-May 1. Entrance to the shop and grounds is free; there is a fee for house tours.
By Hammer by Hand
593 Rte. 6, Mahopac, Putnam
845-621-1725 or toll-free 1-877-621-1725
Here’s an ironclad gift idea: a custom-made item from master blacksmith William Fitzgerald, who can help you design anything from a baker’s rack to a branding iron. Prices range from $10 for a handmade bottle opener to $2,500 for a driveway gate. The By Hammer by Hand store carries items made by Fitzgerald as well as other local craftspeople; you can also browse through the offerings on its Web site (www.byhammerbyhand.com). Tues.-Fri. 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sat. 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Barbara Israel Garden Antiques
Katonah, Westchester, 212-744-6281
Looking for a present that’s already stood the test of time? Consider one of Barbara Israel’s fabulous garden antiques. Her extensive collection includes one-of-a-kind birdbaths, fountains, sundials, urns, statues, furniture, and architectural fragments. They’re not cheap — a cast-stone animal figure might cost $1,000 or so, while a signed, marble statue of Diana the Huntress would set you back a cool $125,000. But these are treasures that will be enjoyed for generations to come. The shop, located at Israel’s 19th-century farmhouse, is open by appointment only (call Mon.-Fri. 9 a.m.-5 p.m.). You can also peruse Israel’s Web site, located at www.barbaraisrael.com.
Windham Fine Arts
5380 Main St., Windham, Greene, 518-734-6850
Shopping here is like shopping at a museum, only all the artwork is for sale. Over 40 different artists — many from the Hudson Valley — are represented by this establishment, which is situated in a 19th-century house. Visit the gallery, which stages rotating art shows every four to six weeks, or peruse the extensive on-line collection at www.windhamfinearts.com. Prices range anywhere from $400-$30,000. Upcoming shows highlight new works by James Coe and Christine Debrosky (through Dec. 11) and Ekaterina Khromin and Librado Romero (Dec. 17-Jan. 8). Fri.-Mon. 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
The Gallery Shop
204 Main St., Poughkeepsie, Dutchess
The art of gift-giving is made easy at this artist-owned gallery and retail store. Highlights include glass sculpture from Jeep Johnson (in the $1,000 range); pastels by Gene Cadore ($400-$1,800); hand-painted silk scarves by Janet Jappen ($50-$60); contemporary wooden furniture by Seth Barrett ($1,600 and up); photography ($150-$200) and wire sculptures (prices on request) from Dick Crenson; ceramics from Leigh Williams, David Levy, and Marilyn Price ($15 and up); and funky Mexican animal carvings ($3 and up). As of press time, the shop was open Thurs.-Sat. 12-6 p.m.; plans call for it to be open as often as seven days a week during the holidays, but call to confirm.
Laura Fisher Designs
Bedford Hills, Westchester, 914-242-8213
Wrap up your loved one in one of Fisher’s gorgeous hand-stenciled Toscana and Merino lamb shearling bed throws, lap robes, capes, shrugs, or jackets. Fisher dyes her luxurious-looking pieces by hand, using stencils based on katazome, an ancient Japanese technique. Pigments are mixed to complement the coloring of individual hides, and then the colors are applied in layers, creating a luminous effect. “The stenciling I do is a much richer look than silkscreening,” she declares. Throws range from $750-$5,000, depending upon the size of the throw, the design, and the decorative trim. Stoles are $650-$1,100; capes are $1,475-$1,925; and suede pillows (with stencils on both sides) are $250-$475. Fisher also stencils leather for upholstery. As of press time, a variety of collars, shrugs, and jackets were available at close-out prices, ranging from $75 to $1,150. Check out her Web site, www.laurafisherdesigns.com, or call to arrange a visit to her studio.
103 S. Division St.
“Isupport as many artisans as I can,” says Coop owner Deb Guiffre, who notes that her shop showcases the work of eight different jewelry makers, along with artwork from various artists. “It’s SoHo North, very eclectic,” she declares. “A lot of things are one-of-a-kind.” Guiffre also carries homemade soaps, lotions, and massage oils; children’s toys and apparel (including the Zutano clothing line); instruments from around the world; and novelty items (such as President Bush and Vice President Chaney finger puppets). Open daily except Mon. 10:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., with extended hours possible during the holiday season.
2 Main St., Millerton, Dutchess
There is something special about glass that is lovingly crafted by hand, one piece at a time. Many of the pieces at Gilmore would make very special gifts, including the fruit-shaped perfume bottles ($90 for a pear; $100 for an apple); festive champagne flutes ($100 each); and graceful “Ribbon” vases ($500-$800, named for their decorative ribbons of color). The shop also carries a large jewelry selection. Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Call ahead for the schedule of glassblowing demonstrations. Samples can also be viewed on-line at www.gilmorglass.com.
Harney & Sons Store and Tasting Room
1 Railroad Plaza, Millerton, Dutchess, 518-789-2121
A gift from Harney & Sons is sure to delight a tea connoisseur. These master tea blenders offer an astonishing array of teas from around the world — including black, green, white, oolong, organic, jasmine, decaffeinated, and herbal-flavored varieties. (Some are certified kosher.) The shop also offers a full line of teapots and teacups, filters and strainers. Gift ideas include the White Christmas Tea ($13), which comes in a special tin with 20 tea sachets, and the Tagalong ($9.50), which features five sachets and two types of Belgian chocolate. Know someone who needs a mini-vacation? Consider the Indulgence gift set ($64), an ivory tub packed with soothing teas like Winter White Earl Grey and Vanilla Comoro, relaxing white tea lotions and salts, a lemongrass-grapefruit candle, a Harney teacup, and terrycloth “spa” slippers. Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sun. 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Or shop on-line at www.harney.com.
41 S. Partition St., Saugerties, Ulster, 845-246-8377
Anyone who loves chocolate will adore Krause’s hand-dipped candies, which are available by the box, in gift baskets, by the bar, and in a variety of unique shapes (including race cars, motorcycles, and golf clubs). Prices vary: a chocolate golf set, for example, is $6.50; a box of assorted “Signature Line” truffles is $6.00, and a gift basket overflowing with goodies (including hand-dipped chocolates, peanut brittle, a chocolate-covered Oreo cookie, shortbread, and a Krause’s coffee mug) is $29.99. Also making an appearance around the holidays are three-foot-high Santas, which cost about $100. Stop by the store (Mon.-Fri. 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sat. 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sun. 12-5 p.m.), or shop on-line at www.krauseschocolates.com.
Apple Pie Bakery Café
Culinary Institute of America, Rte. 9
Hyde Park, Dutchess, 845-905-4500
Just in time for the holidays, the student chefs at the Apple Pie Bakery (with the aid of their professional teachers) have whipped up some delicious stocking-stuffers. The goodies include a fudge assortment (chocolate, maple, penuche, and peanut butter; $6.95), as well as generous bags of Brownie Myer’s Rum Balls ($6.95), chocolate-dipped candied oranges ($5.95), macadamia nut brittle ($6.95), and assorted biscotti ($3.95). And what would the season be without stollen? The CIA version ($11.95) is as dense and flavorful as this bread gets, with no stinting on the fruit. Mon.-Fri. 8 a.m.-6:30 p.m.
6423 Montgomery St., #6, Rhinebeck, Dutchess
“We’re not like any other store in the area,” says Maureen Missner, who co-owns this delightful fine paper and gift shop with her business partner, Serine Hastings. In addition to stationery — “everything from Crane’s to tiny artisanal presses and everything in between” — the shop also carries vintage maps, hand- bound photo albums, gorgeous scarves, unusual fountain pens, distinctive women’s jewelry, and lots, lots more. “It’s a real treasure trove of unusual, carefully selected things,” says Missner, who counts découpage artist John Derian among her suppliers. Prices range from 50 cents for a “Smart Women Make Changes” eraser to $150-$200 for original artwork. The shop is currently open Tues.-Sat. 11 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sun. 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Call for additional holiday hours.
1373 Kings Highway
Sugar Loaf, Orange
Although you can purchase Rosner’s handmade soaps on-line (www.rosnersoap.com), it’s worth visiting the store to savor its heavenly aromas. The soaps, which are $3 and $4.25 a bar, come in delicious scents like lavender, peppermint, patchouli, and eucalyptus. Pick up several of the attractively wrapped soaps to make your own gift basket, and then throw in some extras like bath salts or bath and body oil ($10 each). The store is open Tues.-Fri. 12-5:30 p.m.; Sat.-Sun. 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
23 Front St., Millbrook, Dutchess
At the holiday season, “sweaters go really fast,” says Sarah Knickerbocker, sales associate at this boutique offering the distinctive fashions of labels like April Cornell, Putamayo, Basic Threads, and United Knitwear. Apart from a wide range of mock turtlenecks, button-ups, and knitted shells, there are both casual and dress-up clothes, jewelry, beads, hats, scarves, bags, and a small selection of nightwear and coats in prices ranging from $20 for a tank top to the $100s. And for those who are all thumbs (and even those who aren’t), the friendly staff will gift wrap your purchases for free. Tues.-Fri. 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Hope Farm Press
252 Main St., Saugerties, Ulster, 845-246-3522
Richard Frisbie, whose shop specializes in books of regional interest, has three favorites this holiday season. “For the true New York history geek,” he recommends The Encyclopedia of New York State (Syracuse University Press, $95), “a massive compendium of more than everything you ever wondered about New York State.” Second on his list is Kingston: City on the Hudson, by the late, great regional historian Alf Evers, a longtime Woodstock resident (Overlook Press, $37.95). Finally, Frisbie suggests Easy Origami Ornaments by Saugerties resident Anita Barbour (Hope Farm Press, $14.50), which includes over 60 original and/or adapted designs suitable for seasonal ornaments. All three books are available at the shop (Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Sundays and holidays by chance) or through its on-line catalog at www.hopefarmbooks.com.
Rock & Snow
44 Main St., New Paltz, Ulster, 845-255-1311
Searching for something for your favorite backpacker, rock-climber, ice-climber, or Nordic skier? Make the trek to Rock & Snow, which stocks everything from climbing helmets to cross-country skis, headlamps to hiking boots. The shop is especially popular among rock climbers, who flock to the nearby Shawangunk cliffs. Mon.-Fri. 9 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sat. 8 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sun. 8 a.m.-7 p.m. You can visit the store on-line at www.rocksnow.com.
56 Main St., Millerton, Dutchess
and 859 Peach Lake Rd.
North Salem, Westchester
This well-stocked tack store offers English riding equipment and apparel, as well as equine-related books, videos, jewelry, and toys. Pint-sized riders might like a Teddy bear dressed up in a riding habit ($29.95), while older ones would probably appreciate personal-care products like Riders Reward Therapeutic Mineral Bath ($13.95), Cowboy Magic Dry Skin Care Lotion ($9.95), and Nothing Like it Skin Protection Cream ($8.95, it was originally created as a hoof treatment for show horses). If you’re shopping for your four-legged friend, consider a blanket to keep him or her warm, or a sheet to chase the flies away. Mon. 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Tues.-Fri. 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; and Sun. 12-4 p.m. You can also shop on-line at www.salemsaddlery.com. N