Shop local and online in 2020

Thu, 11/26/2020 - 5:30pm
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Normally on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, shopkeepers throughout Block Island’s downtown can be found busily decorating their storefronts and setting up their shops for the annual Holiday Shopping Stroll, originally scheduled for Nov. 27 through Nov. 29. But as we all know, 2020 has been anything but normal.

The Stroll, as it has come to be known, has been cancelled this year, in an attempt to keep the usual crowds away to deter the spread of coronavirus. There will be no B.I. Chamber of Commerce raffles, no Winter Market at the library, no high school fundraisers, and no mulled cider and cookies to munch while you browse.

While the beloved Lobster Pot tree near the ferry landing is up, and there are wreaths on the utility poles and along the front of the porch at the Harborside Inn, the island seems oddly stuck between two holidays. There are plenty of pumpkins, hay bales, and scarecrows hanging out still, as if to say “Yay, we can actually, finally, stay around for Thanksgiving.” (To be fair, the judging for the Leo Lions Club’s first Block Island scarecrow contest held on November 21.)

Still, that doesn’t mean that stores won’t be open for those who live here or are visiting for the holidays, that wish to shop. Block Island’s retailers managed to successfully navigate plexiglass barriers, capacity limits, mask enforcement, and hand sanitizer this past summer. As Lesley Helterline of The Photo Dog told The Times as she hung evergreen garlands around her door: “The Stroll is like a Tuesday in August for us.”

This year shoppers are encouraged to do so online. The Block Island Chamber of Commerce, the official sponsor of the Stroll, has a very thorough list of Block Island’s many stores and links to their websites, if they have them, on their website: www.blockislandchamber.com. And most do. The Chamber’s Facebook page “Block Island” also has links to local businesses.

The Facebook page “Block island,” (note the small “i” as opposed to the Chamber’s large “I”) is a page for those who love Block Island to share memories and photos. Usually there is no soliciting allowed but they are planning to blitz the page with a “Virtual Shopping Stroll” from Nov. 29 through Dec. 6. with further opportunities to link with local businesses as well as artists who might more normally sell their wares at the Island Free Library’s Winter Market.

For another way to support local artists and craftspeople, there is a new website this year that was started by Holly Herdman: www. BlockIslandMarketplace.com. It’s a small but growing effort to help support artists in these tough times. There, among other things, you can find photography by Aleksandar Baba-Vulic, original miniature paintings framed in driftwood by Eme D., larger art works by Shay Tremblay, crocheted items from Fiber Stene, even Jahmu, the instant turmeric and ginger chai tea you may have encountered at the Block Island Farmers Market.

If you do go shopping in person, remember to wear your masks, both indoors and outdoors, and be patient, as store capacities are limited.