It’s the Annual Holiday Shopping Stroll

A little something for everyone

Tue, 11/21/2017 - 6:00pm
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The Block Island Holiday Shopping Stroll has become such a popular tradition that we probably don’t need to remind you that it is the perfect alternative to Black Friday, the perfect example of small Business Saturday, and (horrors!) the perfect opportunity to gamble on a Sunday. The latter of course is because Sunday is when the Chamber of Commerce raffle takes place. To enter the raffle, pick up entry forms at the Chamber office just by the ferry dock. Visit all of the stores listed on the form and have the shopkeeper stamp that you were there. Then, drop off your completed form at the Chamber’s office when you are done. You don’t need to be present to win a prize. 

Every year The Block Island Times heads out the weekend before the Stroll to see what we can find that’s new and different. This year, we found fewer shops open than usual, but don’t worry, plenty more will be open for the Stroll itself. Many will welcome you with cookies and hot beverages, some of the distinctly adult variety.

Our Stroll preview starts at the Post Office Building and winds down Water Street to Dodge, but don’t forget to swing down Chapel Street to catch more stores there. As usual, we haven’t been able to visit every store that will be open during the Stroll, only those that were open the weekend before. 

Each year that we go out previewing the Stroll, we seem to find a theme. Two years ago it was funky hats, last year funky socks. This year it seems to be knits, and we found plenty, whether in the form of hats, socks, sweaters, or socks - although we also found lots of other new things to get excited about. 

Okay, at the Jessie Edwards Gallery, upstairs at the Post Office Building, we don’t find any knits, but maybe we didn’t look hard enough. What we did find was a new poster that’s bound to make a ferry fan very happy. In a happy coincidence with the sudden fervor for all things Block Island Ferry, William Hall has a new poster available featuring “ferries” from 1696 to 1986. There are 13 boats featured on this black and white poster. Hall, who spent summers growing up on Block Island has a “commitment to preserving the history of Block Island’s maritime and farming traditions,” according to his biography hanging on the wall. A portion of the proceeds from the poster will go the Block Island Historical Society for the preservation of a Block Island double-ender.

Downstairs at Island Bound Bookstore we do find some knits. Island Bound has carried Solmate Socks for years, but this year they have added another line: Side Kick Socks. Like Solmate Socks, these are made from recycled cotton, right here in the U.S.A. They’re a very affordable $20 per pair, and for every pair sold, Side Kick donates a pair to someone in need.

But there are lots of other new things this year at Island Bound. The store has commissioned a special Block Island puzzle featuring a painting of The Oar restaurant by Sharon Lehman. The puzzle is just the first in what will be a series of puzzles by the artist, with a new one planned to be added each year.

Besides the classic games for sale at Island Bound, new this year is Bingo. You may say, “Bingo’s been around for years,” but these Bingo games are new. Instead of just numbers and letters, we give you “Bird Bingo,” “Dog Bingo,” and “Bug Bingo.” Finally, someone has found a way to sort out all those confusing warblers and beetles. And family games are a great way to fill the lull between Christmas morning and the evening festivities.

Of course, it is a bookstore and this year we’re exciting that they already have the newest offering by Louise Erdrich: “Future Home of the Living God.” In a review, Kristin Bates, of McLean & Eakin Booksellers of Petoskey, Mich., writes that the novel is: “a horrifying, haunting story about the lengths the government will go to control women’s reproductive rights and ensure the success of mankind as we know it. Riveting, repulsive, and revealing at the same time….” Kind of like the last couple of weeks in the news cycle. Best read in public while wearing a pink pussy hat. 

At Strings & Things we find owner Rae Lyn Burns-Dutra, who last year at this time was busy knitting lots of pussy hats for the Women’s March in Washington, busy getting ready for the Stroll. She has armfuls of pine boughs for decorating, and is unpacking new merchandise – some of which she has made herself. Darting into Islandog, her tiny little store attached, she shows off her hand-knit doggie sweaters. She’s been delving into her yarn stash making sweater after sweater. After knitting one with Christmas colors, she says she thought: “What about Hanukkah?  What about Kwanza?” After awhile she even started naming the individual sweaters for their colors. She calls one “hot buttered popcorn.” No two seem to be alike. Prices range from $24 to $32, and they’ll be 20 percent off for the Stroll.

Dutra Burns has actually made so many dog sweaters that she has a special box of them set aside to donate to the animal shelter where she adopted a dog earlier this year. 

Across the street at Mahoney’s Clothier we find lots of knits we could snuggle into. One in particular that catches the eye is a kind of hybrid, knit and faux fleece affair. This jacket is made of 65 percent cotton and 35 percent polyester. It’s soft as can be, but you better hurry — there are only a few left. 

At The Glass Onion, master merchandise arranger, and owner Mary Anderson is busy futzing around figuring out exactly where each thing should go. Should the Nepalese hand-knit cotton hat go on the bust of Poseidon, or somewhere else? We think this slouchy multi-colored gem looks great on the Greek God of the Sea, and would on anyone else for that matter. So would the mittens — not something one would think of as making a fashion statement — but very worthy of the task.

Even Red Right Return has some knits…and crochets. Not all is used or antique at this store, despite its reputation. Owner Judy Clark is the quite the crochet artist, and this year she has made some dreamy headbands. She is also quite the seamstress, crafting table linens out of custom made fabric with a Block Island theme. Tablecloths come in various sizes, but if you don’t find exactly what you need she will custom make you one. This year she has added a special Block Island stocking complete with lobster trim.  

If your own yarn stash needs replenishing, head on up to North Light Fibers, Block Island’s micro yarn mill. There they spin wool, silk, bamboo, alpaca, and llama into luxurious yarns that are just right for that special gift. Some of the fibers North Light sources come from right outside the mill’s door. Don’t let the alpacas deter you. They’re very friendly. Just walk right by, and don’t forget to close the gate behind you. North Light Fibers is right up Spring Street, just past The Mannisses Hotel.

If you are strolling on Saturday, don’t forget to stop by the Island Free Library for the fourth annual Winter Market. Open from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., the library allows local artisans a chance to sell their wares throughout the library. Many of the vendors are veterans of the Block Island Farmer’s Market and the Block Island Arts and Craft Guild, so expect everything from cheese and honey to photography, and pottery, including homemade soup. It’s fun, it’s crowded with vendors and shoppers, and you can still check out a book.

It’s the second year for the tag sale, bake sale, and soup at Yellow Kittens. Also a Saturday only event, the sale is a fundraiser for the Block Island School’s Further Afield trip for high school students, a service-learning trip in conjunction with The Nature Conservancy. It gives the kids a new answer to the ever-popular question: “What do you do in the winter?”

“We go to St. Croix and plant trees.”