It's the Annual Holiday Shopping Stroll
It’s time for the 27th annual Block Island Holiday Shopping Stroll, a three-day event starting Friday, Nov. 25.
The first place you’ll want to go is the Block Island Chamber of Commerce office at the top of the ferry parking lot. There you can pick up a booklet describing all 29 of the stores that will be open, a restaurant listing, and a Shopping Stroll map. Don’t forget your raffle form. As you go around the stores, have the shopkeeper stamp your form to show that you were there. No actual purchase is necessary. (Interstate Navigation is also running the fast ferry for those who want to come to the island a little quicker. See the schedule on the All Around the Block on page 32.)
The weather this November may make it hard to get in the spirit of the holidays — there are still roses blooming all over the place, and the summer annuals in window boxes are still blooming. So don’t be surprised if you find petunias, impatiens, and geraniums amongst the pine greenery and sprigs of holly and winterberry. The Block Island Gardeners have assembled wreaths and attached them to utility poles. Shuttered inns are adorned with swags and more wreaths, and despite a day that was windy enough to stop all the ferries, the lobster pot tree was assembled on Sunday.
The Block Island Times went poking about on Saturday to see what cool things were in store for this year’s Stroll. We found several places open, with people setting out inventory (it’s not all ‘summer stuff’) and putting up decorations.
There was lots of socializing going on – particularly at Island Bound Bookstore, but then again, it is an always popular spot for socializing. You can of course find lots of great books, including the just named National Book Award recipient “The Underground Railroad,” by Colson Whitehead, and The New York Times bestseller “Notorious RBG, The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsberg” by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik. There’s also Ann Hood’s latest novel: “The Book That Matters Most.”
In the kids’ section, a couple of books of things to build with Legos caught our eye, as did Klutz books of arts and crafts including one called “Sew Mini Treats,” — treats being of the edible kind, but fashioned from felt.
There’s more than just books, though. There are jigsaw puzzles, art supplies, and board games. How about a little Twister?
Upstairs from the bookstore is the Jessie Edwards Studio, a gallery filled with original artworks, reproductions, and some decorative items. The gallery represents, among others, Fred Poisson, Sandra Swan, Gerard Blouin, Helen Frank, Gillian Stevens, and the late William Sommerfeld, whose paintings depict Block Island in the 1950s. Just in for the holidays are ceramic ornaments by Celeste Helterline.
Of course, there are works by Edwards, too, including her signature pen and ink depictions of local homes, buildings, and pastimes. Her classic trio of “Sledding at the Spring House,” “Skating on the Tea Room pond,” and “Ice-boats,” are charming winter scenes that can be had for $26 apiece. “It’s my Currier and Ives period,” says Jessie of the three works.
Crossing the street you will find Strings N’ Things, a boutique with a vibe that’s particularly popular with young people, and the people who shop for them. In between the incense and hemp clothing are lots of gag gifts, mermaids, and accessories. We particularly liked the appliquéd fingerless gloves.
Island Dog is next door, in the same building. This tiny little store is great for those who really love their furbabies, or who know who is really in charge of the house when there are pets involved. Besides the Block Island leashes and collars, there are signs and doormats written from the humorous perspective of Fido.
Across the street at Mahoney’s Clothier, things are a little more serious. Like…pinstripe and all-weather gear serious. We all know the weather in New England can turn on a dime, so if you’re unprepared this is a good bet to find what you need — especially if you are a man.
Zigzagging across the street, workers at The Glass Onion were busy setting out ornaments of all styles, from classic and glittery, to whimsical, to quaint. There’s probably more variety per square foot in this little shop than any other on Block Island, so it’s hard to describe. But suffice it to say, we will be going back for those all too cute stuffed animal ornaments. Really, you should see the tiny knit hat on the walrus.
A few more doors down Water Street, it was a family affair decorating for the Stroll at Wild Flowers Boutique. Owner Jenn Brady was happy to take some time off to show us some of her favorite items in the store, though. She really likes the shoes and boots from Free People. New this fall, they have all-leather uppers, and some unusual, but really cool looking features. She also pointed out the soft, wool blend ponchos that come in a variety of solid colors or classy stripes. Brady even got her daughter’s friend to model them for us.
Did you know Uggs made sweatpants and loungewear? Probably — but we didn’t. And they do. “Luxuriously soft,” is the way our model described them. Forty percent off, people, and there’s no ring of fur around the waistband.
At the end of Water Street is Block Island Trading Company. Owner Jon McKenzie has already decorated and is all ready for the Stroll. He too has lots of holiday ornaments, many, no mostly, with a Block Island theme. New this year is a glass version of the cloisonné Block Island Christmas tree ball. It’s a bit lighter than the copper version, both in the wallet and in the hand. Not all of the Block Island ornaments should be consigned to the tree, though. There are plenty that we could see hanging from the rear view mirror of a car.
Turning ‘round the corner onto Dodge Street, don’t forget to visit the Winter Market on Saturday at the Island Free Library. Inside, you will find approximately 20 vendors, most of whom participate in the summer Farmers Market or Block Island Arts and Crafts Guild. New this year will be the Block Island Candle Company, with all-soy candles that each come with a surprise Block Island trinket inside.
The Winter Market will not feature the soups and chili that it has in the past, but don’t worry, there are plenty of other dining options this year, including a fundraiser at Yellow Kittens for the Block Island School’s Further A’Field program, which, for the second year will send tenth graders to St. Croix for a week of service/learning with The Nature Conservancy. The fundraiser also includes a community yard sale. Before you roll your eyes about a yard sale, please know it is the only type of event on Block Island that people actually show up early for.
Also on Dodge Street is Watercolors. If you are having trouble locating this very popular boutique, it is sandwiched in between Beachcomber (which sadly won’t be open) and Red Right Return. Watercolors is aptly named – most of the merchandise invokes the colors of the ocean and sea glass. While many of the boutiques feature jewelry, clothing and decorative items, the shopkeepers make a concerted effort to not carry the same lines. So, this is your place to find glass stemware with etched-in designs, including the compass rose, fish, a pirate’s skull, or, of course, that favorite pork chop, Block Island.
Next door, there’s Red Right Return. For those not in the know, it’s a nautical navigation term, but that doesn’t mean Red Right Return is Block Island’s version of West Marine. Rather, it has variously been described as an antique shop, a treasure shop, a consignment store. One person, who apparently doesn’t care for such things, once was heard to call it a junk shop. It’s a great place to shop for the collector on your list, whether they’re into salt and pepper shakers, elephant figurines or vintage Pyrex pieces.
Not everything is used and old at Red Right Return. Owner Judy Clark has some hand-blown glassware by Eben Horton, the glassblower who makes the orbs for the Glass Float Project. No, you can’t buy an orb, you’ll have to go out hiking and find one yourself, but you can buy a carved wood stand to put it on, or a lobster funnel to hang it in.
Don’t forget to head down Chapel Street to visit the stores there. On our pre-stroll Stroll, we found the new owner of Golddiggers, Vaux Finnimore, busy setting out inventory and decorations. By the looks of it, she had a lot of work to do, but was still willing to chat. There will be the same fine jewelry that Golddiggers has carried in the past, and some new additions, including watches. With hands. It’s the fashion trend of the year.
One necklace that caught our eye was of tiny rough cut diamonds set in sterling silver, in the shape of an Om symbol. Without blinking an eye, or hesitating at all, Finnimore suddenly blurts out “Om for the holidays.”
Happy Strolling, everyone!