With one week to go until Christmas, we’re sharing the Local Maker Gift Guide from our Fall/Holiday issue. Scroll through to get some ideas and to meet some of the many talented artisans who call the South Coast home.
Click here to get the goods, beautifully photographed by Westport’s Ali Mauck.
If you want our Fall/Holiday issue in living color, have it delivered right to your door by buying it right here!
10 Things Amazon (and its CEO, Jeff Bezos) Won’t Do For You:
Sit down with you and figure out what to get those “tough-to-buy-for” folks on your list. Madeleine Whitley at Beautiful Things in Westport does this. Customers come to her year after year with the toughest folks on their list (think co-workers and most men) and she sits down with them to figure it all out. No extra charge. 772 Main Road, Westport, 508.636.3300.
Read thousands of greeting cards to present you with only the best of the best. Shelley Cardoos at Hippo in downtown New Bedford reads and agonizes over which cards to pick from literally thousands of greeting cards. And you know what? When I need a greeting card, I’ll drive out of my way to go there. Because I know it’ll be worth it. There’ll be 100 carefully selected cards for me to choose from. I’ll find a winner easily. 741 Purchase Street, New Bedford, 774.202.1347.
Wear an elf costume for you. At TL6 the Gallery, Arianna and Jen will jump into the holiday season with cheer and goodwill. They’ll wear elf costumes, offer samples of jam, teas and hot cocoas while you’re shopping and sponsor live demonstrations of artisans (check that out December 16th) to make your holiday shopping more fun. 100 William Street, 508.992.8100.
Custom wrap your presents at no extra charge. They’ll do that at most of our local shops. At Flora-Style, they’ll even make sure to coordinate the wrapping with things you buy at their other stores (Flora-Home & Flora-Etc.) down the street. 324 and 368 Elm Street and 9 Bridge Street, S. Dartmouth.
Buy unique clothing made by small manufacturers that you won’t find everywhere. Frank Fletcher at the Marion Sports Shop says simply “you’re not going to find our stuff on Amazon. We are like a personal shopper. We pick the best of the best.” Working with artisans and tiny manufacturers geared to small stores, Marion Sport Shop carries things you’ll find in New England only in a handful of other shops. 290 Front Street, Marion, 508.748.1318.
Pick out the perfect accessory. Last year, Jeffrey at Calico suggested my daughter try a choker to go with a great jumpsuit she was wearing to a holiday party. We were both quietly thinking, “naahh, that won’t work” because we didn’t like chokers. But she politely tried it on. It MADE the outfit. I guess we do like chokers. And we’re grateful Jeffrey was there to suggest it. 173 Union Street, New Bedford, 508.999.4147.
Convert their living space into storage to make sure they have enough overstock so they don’t run out of what you might need. Chris and Vince at Town Wharf General Store happily do this. (Jeff Bezos has five homes but I’m pretty sure he’s not storing anything for you there. If you’re interested, see his five giant homes here.) 10 Water Street, Mattapoisett, 508.758.4615.
Give you a heads up about what someone on your list has been secretly eyeing. The other day, I ran into Lisa of West End General Store in Buzzards Bay and she mentioned that my mother really liked the Fraser Fir candle in her shop. I went in and bought it that very day. (Thanks, Lisa.) 25 Main Street, Buzzards Bay, 508.759.7040.
Run down the street to make sure your toddler gets his teddy bear back. Cecily Balboni at Serendipity by the Sea will. She laughs and says there are a hundred things she’ll do for her customers that Amazon won’t. “I know all my customers,” she says. “I can run up the street if they forgot their bag. I can return their kids’ favorite teddy bears if they left them behind by mistake. Older people who can’t get out? I can deliver their stuff to them.” Amazon might be able to deliver but really, it’s not the same. You’d rather have Cecily’s friendly visit than a box left at your door. 160 Front Street, Marion, 508.748.1800.
Our local shop owners are on the front line of giving back to their local communities. Ben Rogers at Mattapoisett’s Surroundings says an important part of their business is supporting non-profits that service the local community, like Child & Family Services and Nativity Prep (both in New Bedford). Country Woolens in Westport regularly gives to the Westport Land Conservation Trust, as well as to the town’s school, fire, and police departments. Word on the street is that Amazon is a little stingy in the hometown philanthropy department (see this and this). Surroundings is at 81 1/2 Fairhaven Road, Mattapoisett, 508.758.9933. Country Woolens is at 842 Main Road, Westport, 508.636.5661.
Jeff Bezos and Amazon don’t really care about you or me. The people down the street, the ones who chose our community to open a business, those people do care about us and the community. In this last stretch of holiday shopping, show them you appreciate them too!
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If you don’t occasionally look up at the billboards on 195 in New Bedford, you might not know about the Brahmin Tent Sale. But plenty of other people from all over the country know about it.
The Brahmin Tent Sale, a twice yearly event, is a pilgrimage for Brahmin handbag lovers. Take a look at its Facebook event page to get a sense of the excitement. One woman notes that she booked her plane tickets from Virginia as soon as the date was announced. She brings an empty suitcase with her and returns home with it packed full of Brahmin goodies. Another asks if anyone will be driving up from North Carolina.
By the time the day of the sale arrives, there is palpable excitement in the air. It’s reminiscent of the Filene’s Basement wedding dress sale, but without the cutthroat competition. At the Brahmin tent sale, the vibe is friendly, the handbag styles are plentiful and there are plenty of bags to go around.
This weekend in Fairhaven, the luxury bags are significantly discounted, some of them way, way discounted. If you can’t normally afford a Brahmin bag, now’s your chance. A happy by-product is that you’re supporting a local business as the handbag company’s headquarters are right here in Fairhaven.
Another happy by-product is that you feel like you’re at a party. Last fall, I met a woman who got up at 3 a.m. to catch a flight from Florida, a nice couple from Ohio who plan their New England travel around the Brahmin Tent Sale and two sisters from Fall River and Westport who come faithfully every six months to expand their Brahmin collection 1 or 2 purses at a time. They happily opened their trunk up so I could admire their purchases.
The tent sale takes place in the Standard-Times parking lot, right around the corner from Brahmin headquarters and the whole office comes out in full force to participate. You’ll find everyone in the company — from the president on down — participating: restocking the tables, ringing people out, and answering questions. Brahmin staff wear the same colorful t-shirts as a uniform and you feel like you’re at a fun company outing.
At South Coast Almanac, we’re partial to Brahmin bags because we asked them to accessorize our looks for our 2017 fashion shoot and they were wonderful to work with. Sonia Arruda helped pick out bags that worked well with our looks. The only problem: we hated returning them. Conveniently, the tent sale was within the same week as our fashion shoot, so I popped into the tent sale and I’ve now got my own Brahmin bag. I get compliments on it all the time.
I’m returning this weekend for another splurge. Like those sisters from Fall River and Westport, I’m going to add to my collection.
May 18 and 29, 9 am to 6 pm; May 20, 10 am to 5 pm. 77 Alden Road, Fairhaven. Update: This post was written in spring 2017. But don’t worry! The tent sale is happening again…check out Brahmin’s website here for more information.
If you’d like to stay on top of other South Coast hidden treasures, sign up here.
May is a lovely month. Just on the cusp of summer, it’s an exciting time of year. Here are some things to pass the time away while we anticipate the best season of the year.
1. Pass the Popcorn: Fairhaven Short Film Festival
Whoops! This has been postponed and future dates will be announced in the fall — but we’re still leaving it up so you can put it on your radar for later in the year.
Bring your Junior Mints to the third annual Fairhaven Short Film Festival taking place on May 5 and 6 featuring films collected by Asbury Shorts USA. Academy Award nominated director Jason Reitman (JUNO, Up in the Air, Thank You for Smoking) calls Asbury Shorts, “The best short film show I’ve ever seen.” Forget about watching these films on YouTube or your smartphone, enjoy them on the big screen at the Fairhaven Town Hall Auditorium.
Sponsored by Howe Allen Realty and the Fairhaven Improvement Association, net proceeds will fund a scholarship for a Fairhaven student planning to study film and digital media production. For more information on the films or to purchase tickets, go here.
2. Tuesdays with Haskell
A few years ago, the Trustees of Reservations bought the late Allen Haskell’s property right in the heart of New Bedford. Haskell was a lifelong New Bedford resident and a famed horticulturalist. The six acre property hosts a traditional New England style common, beautifully designed historic gardens and one of the oldest homes in New Bedford.
Celebrate spring by dropping in on Tuesday mornings (through October) from 9 am to 12 pm to help tidy the garden and learn new skills. All you need are gloves and water — no previous gardening skills are required. For more information, click here. May 2, 9, 16, 23, and 30th, 787 Shawmut Avenue, New Bedford.
3. Dust off Your Bike
We just formed our team for the Buzzards Bay Coalition’s annual Watershed Ride. We hope you’ll join us! It’s a beautiful course and the camaraderie among riders is pretty wonderful (the party at the finish line is great, too). If you want to join the South Coast Almanac team, check it out here.
The Velofix Van (Photo courtesy of Marianne Lee)
Yes, yes, we know the ride is in October but we’re putting it on our May calendar as a reminder to dust off our bikes, get out there and train for it. To that end, we just emailed Mike Lee of Velofix Southcoast. We met Mike at the Watershed Ride last Fall where he handled bike support and were blown away with his mobile bike repair van. When we learned he’ll come to your home or office with his mobile van to tune up bikes, we took his business card. And didn’t lose it. Thanks to Mike, there really is no excuse for not getting your bike in shape for the season. Check Velofix out here.
4. Take a(n Unconventional) Hike
The Dartmouth Natural Resources Trust (DNRT) has a couple of cool (and free) walks happening in May. First, a full moon walk on Wednesday, May 10 at 7:30 at Slocum River’s Reserve where two DNRT members lead an exploration of the evening landscape. The walk lasts approximately an hour and the DNRT suggests a flashlight or headlamp to help navigate the trails as the moon rises and sun sets. If the weather is questionable, call 508-525-9266 or check here on the morning of the walk.
And throughout May, families can enjoy StoryWalk® which celebrates nature and reading all at once (how many events can boast that?). Paskansett Woods features “Watch the Birdie” by Nancy Cote (featured in the 2016 South Coast Almanac) and Ridge Hill Reserve features “Feathers for Lunch” by Lois Ehlert. Walk the trails and read the story with the family during the whole month of May. See more here.
5. Brahmin Handbags Tent Sale
We’ll have a blog post coming up on this as we get closer to the date because this is more than a tent sale. It’s a great story. The semi-annual sale draws people from all over the country (no kidding!) and has the festive aura of the old Filene’s Basement Wedding Dress sales. Whether you need a handbag or not, you shouldn’t miss it. May 19 and 20, 9 am to 6 p.m and May 21, 10 am to 5 pm. 77 Alden Road, Fairhaven. Tent is located on the lawn next to the Standard Times parking lot. See the Facebook event listing here.
6. Ta Da! It’s launched
Last year’s Almanac launch
On May 18,we officially launch the 2017 edition of our print magazine. On the 18th, copies will be on their way to our subscribers’ doors and trucks will be delivering them to newsstands all over Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Keep your eye out for it!
If you want it delivered straight to your door for 30% off the cover price, you only have a few more days to pre-order. After that, we have to raise the online price to the newsstand price. Why do we have to do that? Because we give our mailing list to the printer soon. After that, we lose out on bulk mailing rates from the printer which means hauling copies to the Onset post office and sending it off by priority mail. If you decide to preorder the issue, we pass the savings straight along to you — because we love our subscribers. If you want to join their ranks, click here.
In the meantime, stay up to date with South Coast events, stories and best-kept-secrets by signing up here.
It started as Small Business Saturday, an antidote to Black Friday and Cyber Monday. It’s since evolved into #shopsmall, a hashtag that we like far more. Because we should be looking out for our local, independents every day, not just the Saturday after Thanksgiving. These businesses are the ones sponsoring little league teams, packing Thanksgiving boxes, raising money for area non-profits, and supporting local media to get important information out to you (thank you, advertisers!)
Fairhaven’s Carefree Homes is a good example. They brought a healthy contingent to the United Way’s Hunger Heroes program last week to help pack 400 Thanksgiving packages for needy families. Carefree Homes’ Stephanie Pickup says,”We’re a family company. Giving back to the community is a natural extension of who we are. The community is made up of our customers. We have to reciprocate.”
Small, locally owned businesses are such a big and positive influence in our neighborhoods, it’s time to say thank you! So as you think about the shopping season ahead, think big but #shopsmall. Here are what some of our favorite places are doing to celebrate the season:
The tireless Stephanie Pickup at Care Free Homes has organized a coordinated effort for discounts and treats throughout Fairhaven on Saturday, November 26th. Check out her South Coast Shop Small effort on facebook or on her blog and learn about the significant discounts, treats and fun planned for November 26 in over a dozen local businesses. Make sure you stop at the Village Toy Shop where they can hook you up with the coolest toys and games….head over there to learn about joinks, slacker lines and lots of other great gift ideas for the kids on your list.
If you haven’t checked out the new coffee counter at the Town Wharf General Store, now’s the time. They’ll be serving complimentary coffee from Jim’s Organic Coffee on Small Business Saturday alongside all their wonderful gifts. Plus, owner Chris Demakis will be around this weekend and he always figures out what to give my hard-to-buy-for uncle.
The Elves at TL6 The Gallery in downtown New Bedford
Downtown New Bedford
Over at TL6 The Gallery, Jenny & Arianna are filled with the holiday spirit. They’ll dress up in holiday attire and leave cookies out for Santa (and shoppers) during the holiday Shop and Stroll on December 2 and 3d when all of downtown comes alive with live performances, over 50 decorated storefronts, treats, holiday projects and important visitors like Santa and Mrs. Claus. Check out the full schedule of events here. And while you’re there, make sure you wander over to Purchase Street to check out Hippo, the newest addition to downtown, which showcases delightful handcrafted gifts.
Last year, we picked up some cufflinks at the Marion Sports Shop made from baseballs actually used in a Red Sox game. We’ll be heading there this weekend and reveling in the quaintness of Marion Center. As an added bonus, Serendipity by the Sea will offer 20% off and Marion Bookstall will offer 25% off storewide this Friday and Saturday.
I’m attracted to trends that can be reduced to hashtags. So when REI announced they were staying closed Friday and were encouraging folks to #OptOutside, I thought it was a great idea.
We took the lists compiled by the Buzzards Bay Coalition suggesting good walks for the day after Thanksgiving (2014 List and 2015 List). We picked West Island which led us to a quiet beach and clambering over rocks.
I liked the idea of eschewing Black Friday in exchange for some nature. But, well, I kinda wanted to go shopping too. So we made our way to the Town Wharf General Store with a specific assignment: get yankee swap presents for our extended clan Christmas party next weekend. It’s not an easy task – we’ve got a wide variety of people in this group: young, old, male, female, candle-lovers, candle-haters.
Yankee swaps are pretty common so I assume everyone knows about them. But if not, here are the rules in a nutshell: everyone brings a gift, gets a number and picks another gift in numbered order which they can either unwrap or trade for a previously opened gift.
Basically, the goal as the gift recipient is to end up with something you like but that is not so fabulous that you know someone with a better number will steal it away from you. The goal as the gift giver is to give something that will not lead to disappointment. People don’t groan audibly when they open the gift but you can sometimes see a groan on their faces. By all means, you want to avoid the silent groan.
So we went to the Town Wharf General Store in Mattapoisett and owner Chris Demakis was there. He asked if he could help us and we gave him the assignment: something in the $15 range that would not be a disaster whether it ended up with my uncle Tommy or my cousin’s teenaged daughter.
An almost impossible assignment, right? Not for Chris and the TWGS. Here’s what he came up with.
SPOILER ALERT: Anyone heading to the Briggette’s family Christmas party next weekend should stop reading. Or maybe not. You can start strategizing on which package you want. Or don’t want.
Here are the things we brought home:
Chuckwagon Dinner Bell. I’m not sure how many people would want this but I know we wanted it. And that was enough to decide to buy it. Yankee swap pluses: it’s unisex, no one already has one and everyone needs one. (Well, maybe not the last.) ($20)
Coop’s Hot Fudge. Handmade in Massachusetts, Chris says this hot fudge is unbelievable. I’m going to pair it with a gift certificate for some ice cream and make someone very happy. ($10.95)
McClure’s Bloody Mary Mixer. Made in Brooklyn by McClure’s Pickles, it’s apparently spicy and delicious. And easy — you just shake and pour. I’ll add some garnishes to the package to round it out. Alcohol not included. ($9.99)
Even though McClure’s can be enjoyed without alcohol, some of the younger ones may not like its spiciness so I’ve got something they can swap this out for…
An assortment of old-fashioned fun. A bag filled with a whoopee cushion ($4.99), a Hairy Scary “Jumping” Spider ($5.99), an invisible ink pen with ultraviolet light ($5.99) and some candy buttons ($1.00).
I know I shouldn’t have opened the box, but I wanted to demonstrate the jumping spider in action: