Map out your trek for treats

Shake up your holiday shopping

November 29, 2009

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Treat yourself to unique locales where ambience surrounds you, treasures await you, and the season offers you its delights.

While Santa and his reindeer would be hard-pressed to fit inside the Eugene Galleries, this diminutive Beacon Hill shop bursts with a remarkable range of treasures. A colorful array of maps and engravings in antique frames adorns the walls, but that’s merely a sliver of the gallery’s extensive collection of 45,000 prints. The eclectic mix and sheer volume of memorabilia make the shop a fantastic place to unearth rare finds that make for highly personalized - and highly unique - holiday gifts.

You’ll find framed 17th-century sheet music for that classical music lover you know, anatomical sketches for that medical student on your list, busts of Abraham Lincoln or “We Want Willkie’’ campaign buttons for your favorite political junkie, and shelves of beautifully illustrated antiquarian books for your bibliophile friends.

The Eugene Galleries specializes in items depicting old-time Boston, such as Wedgwood China plates featuring city landmarks. Flip through the old maps and boxes of vintage postcards portraying historical cityscapes and marvel at the evolution of the city. Most items are under $100, perfect for holiday shoppers on a Scrooge-style budget. 76 Charles St., 617-227-3062, CHRISTOPHER KLEIN

Isn’t every holiday shopper looking for a gift that’s one of a kind? Celebrations in Pomfret, Conn., can fill that bill, with original work from more than 40 local artisans, including painting, jewelry, glassware, and pottery, all artfully displayed in 10 rooms of a stately 1885 Queen Anne Victorian home.

This year the combination gallery-shop is presenting “Small Works: Artful Treasures,’’ a show designed to entice customers to give the gift of original artwork. The exhibition, running through Jan. 3, offers original, framed art in a range of media, each smaller than 200 square inches, all under $200.

But Celebrations is as much gift shop as gallery. Looking for stocking stuffers? Try specialty teas and tea accessories from Harney & Sons or Tea Forte, green journals and notebooks from Compendium, Claus Porto/Lafco soaps from Portugal, or Lake Champlain chocolates. Shopping for men? Hourglasses with sands from deserts all over the world make a distinctive desk accessory. Wrap it up with complimentary holiday gift wrap. 330 Pomfret St., 860-928-5492,


Combine centuries of seafaring and shipbuilding traditions with a downtown that retains its Victorian bones, and you get Bath, Maine. This small city on the banks of the Kennebec River has been designated a Distinctive Destination by the National Historic Trust. Front Street, its main commercial thoroughfare, recently was named one of America’s top 10 Great Streets by the American Planning Association.

Although officially a city, Bath exudes small-town friendliness. Walk along the wide brick sidewalks, and passersby often smile. Enter one of the shops housed in the brick buildings lining Front and Center streets, and the greeting usually is warm. That spirit is magnified during the holidays, when shoppers, lured by the eclectic shops, seasonal festivities, and free parking, crowd the streets.

Here serendipity rules. There’s not a mall-style store in sight. Clothing boutiques range from classic to contemporary, vintage to hip. Specialty shops cater to anglers and quilters, cookie mavens and chocoholics, guitar players and made-in-Maine fans. Add bookshops and antiques emporiums. Anchoring it all is Reny’s, a bonanza for bargain hunters. But don’t tell Santa. If he knew about Reny’s, the elves might lose their jobs. Off Route 1, HILARY NANGLE

Collections Gallery, a group of artisans that calls itself the second-oldest cooperative on Cape Cod, moved its operation from East Sandwich to the heart of Sandwich Village in March, and it also changed its name from Collections Unlimited. “We had people asking us if we were debt collectors, or if we carried Beanie Babies,’’ said Tina Trites, an artist and photographer.

The move put the group of 12 members and 11 consignors near other shops and galleries at the corner of Route 6A, and also within walking distance of the Cape Cod Railroad’s Sandwich station, where from Dec. 4-6, there will be six “North Pole Express’’ train trips, part of Holly Days in Sandwich, a series of activities through Dec. 18.

“About half of what we offer here is made in Sandwich,’’ said Tim Crimmins, who builds tables, some from beams reclaimed from old barns in town. The artisans also offer crafts from sailor’s valentines to fused glass jewelry to quilts and collages. 23A Jarves St., 508-833-0039,,


Opened in 1890, the Howland-Hughes Department Store in Waterbury, Conn., was a mainstay on Bank Street for more than a century. Then the shopping malls and big box stores started to arrive and business began to suffer.

In 1997, after selling off all their out-of-state merchandise, the owners of Howland-Hughes reinvented themselves as The Connecticut Store. All products are made in the Nutmeg State, including Wiffle Ball sets, Pez candies, and Liberty Candles. If Woodbury Pewter is more to your liking, consider a mug, vase, or pitcher. Bovano of Cheshire creates glass enamel sculptures of birds, flowers, fish, and butterflies.

But our favorites for the holiday season are the wooden ornaments created by Waterbury’s own AKA Collectibles. All of the pieces stem from recycled Christmas trees. 120-140 Bank St., 800-474-6728,


How funky is OOP! a kitschy-crafty store in downtown Providence? In 1997, MTV’s “Real World-Boston’’ used its specialty craft furnishings and art for the firehouse apartment depicted on the show.

It’s a store where fun is found in gifts large and small on the floor, tables, and walls. Looming down from one is a straight-faced painted bear saying, “As a matter of fact, I do go to the bathroom in the woods.’’

The funk starts outside with a large, Picasso-esque wooden chair selling for $1,976 and continues inside with Chinese yo-yos for 35 cents. Cool stuff includes retro candy like Charlestown Chews, Mallo Cups, and Abba Zabba; Trashion Jewelry made of soda-can bits; and the bright Art-O-Mat machine, formerly dispensing cigarettes that now coughs up $5 cigarette-pack-sized wood blocks bearing art.

Lots of items are locally made, including jewelry from Rhode Island sea glass and ocean-smoothed rock. In the window hang whimsical wind chimes and nearby are bright mosaic tables crafted by a Rhode Island artist. The funk branches outside of Providence - which is exactly what OOP! stands for - to Dedham, where a branch just opened at Legacy Place. 220 Westminster St., Providence, 401-270-4366,


As the days grow shorter and the landscape turns as gray as the shingles on the outer Cape, the Left Bank Gallery offers bright opportunities for creative shopping. The enormous front gallery exhibits paintings, sculpture, mobiles, handmade furniture, and blown glass.

For a gift smaller in scale but not quality, head through the double glass doors into the rear gallery, where shelves are brimming with one-of-a-kind, handcrafted objects. In this long, narrow space looking out on the Wellfleet salt marshes, you’ll find every kind of craft to satisfy any arts lover, including bird’s-eye maple cutting boards, pewter measuring cups, photographs of the local landscape, fine earrings and necklaces, picture frames, tide clocks, glassware, and placemats.

Left Bank is also a pottery-lover’s dream, with a wide selection of bowls, plates, teapots, platters, and tiles in a variety of glazes and styles from elegant thrown celadon vessels to funky hand-built, colorful creations. 25 Commercial St., Wellfleet, 508-349-9451,


“I love to watch peoples’ faces when they open one of these,’’ says Kurt Meyer about his intricate wooden ring boxes, which reveal secret compartments in unexpected ways. Meyer is one of more than 30 artisans, artists, and shop owners who will display handmade goods at Crafted in the Village, A Festive Crafts Fair and Studio Tour in Ashfield next weekend. Add three restaurants, two Christmas tree farms, two church fairs, and four shops - including Ashfield Hardware Store, where yodeling pickles mingle with shovels and sheep feed - and this annual village-wide festival rings every holiday bell.

“The idea was to create a marketplace in this gorgeous setting where people who live off the land can sell what they make and use,’’ says Nan Parati, event coordinator and owner of Elmer’s Store.

This year an auction joins the Saturday lineup at Town Hall, featuring auctioneer and local character Mike Skalski. “Mike alone is worth the drive,’’ Parati promises. Dec. 5-6, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.,, pick up printed maps from shop owners JANE ROY BROWN

Whenever I travel, I’m on the lookout for local marketplaces to seek out gifts for my friends. But I’ve come to realize that once I get my prize finds home, they often don’t translate well to the recipients’ American wardrobes and often end up in the back of their closets.

The solution was right down the street at Intarawut in Cambridge, where Kaek Intarawut sells her own jewelry, scarves, clothing, and amazing bags that she has made in her native northern Thailand from her sophisticated designs. Because she uses intensely colorful Asian hill-tribe textiles and models the silver jewelry on tribal designs, the resulting work has an ethnic feel infused with a contemporary Western design sensibility.

In addition to fashion accessories, the Cambridge shop also stocks beautiful pillows, silk-covered jewelry boxes and journals, and, sweetest of all, handmade floating flower-shaped candles.

A new shop in Wiscasset, Maine, which Intarawut also runs with her husband, Marc Matz, supplements the gift items with antique Asian furniture and small antique sculptures of Buddhas. 370 Broadway, Cambridge, 617-661-6200; also 75 Main St., Wiscasset, 207-882-7895,


It’s possible to accomplish all your holiday shopping in one fell swoop at the Museum of Fine Arts. In its spacious gift shop, art and commerce intertwine, allowing you to shop the world without leaving Boston. (Or the comfort of your home, if you shop online.)

A nautical mug, inspired by a Fitz Henry Lane painting, is ideal for Uncle Andrew; a lapis and gold beaded necklace, reminiscent of ancient Egyptian crafts, is certain to be treasured by your mom. In addition to ceramics and jewelry, and an amazing array of books, the shop sells silk scarves, handbags, umbrellas, art glass, music boxes, ties, and note cards, calendars, and posters relating to current and past exhibitions.

For the young ones on your gift list, there are books and art-related toys, such as kits to make a kaleidoscope, origami mobiles, coloring books and paints, and puzzles and games for children of all ages. While you’re there, why not select your holiday greeting cards, ornaments, menorah, and Advent calendars? Perhaps the best gift of all? A museum membership. 465 Huntington Ave., 617-267-9300,


Looking for . . . a starter cannon? A cast iron pot? A handmade quilt?

For many years, 55,000 broiler chickens were raised in the Big Chicken Barn at the edge of Ellsworth, Maine. Now owners claim it houses one of New England’s largest collections of antiquarian books and antiques. In more than 21,000 square feet is surely something for every shopping list.

On the ground floor, 52 antiques dealers display their wares: pottery, prints, paintings, gold and silver jewelry, wood stoves, skillets, old military paraphernalia, needlework, furniture, dishes, rugs, linens, lamps, vintage clothing, vinyl records, tools, toys, clocks, crocks, porcelain, pewter, and more. Upstairs, visitors will find about 150,000 old, used, or rare books at prices ranging from 50 cents to a few thousand dollars, and more than 20,000 magazines.

A lounge called The Coop offers complimentary coffee; campers and RVs can park overnight for free. As a holiday bonus, everything in the barn will be 20 percent off in December. 1768 Bucksport Road (US Routes 1 and 3), 207-667-7308, JUDITH GAINES

Browse and buy the practical, novel, or nostalgic at the weathered Old Country Store and Museum in Moultonborough, N.H. The uneven wooden floors creak and the cash registers are antiques in the corner yellow building reputed to be among the oldest continuously operating stores in the country. Open to customers since 1781, the more than 200-year-old store was also a stage stop, a post office for more than a century, a meetinghouse, and a library.

The penny candy (two cents, now) display is teeming with sweet treats and fudge. Aged cheeses, birch beer, jams, and maple gifts add to the culinary goodies. Explore congested aisles of cast iron cookware, fixtures, toys (pea shooters to Mr. Potato Head), dolls, knickknacks, and souvenirs. Regional books and maps sit in the tiny map room, while the scented candle room has candle warmers, wick trimmers, and soy products. Upstairs in the museum are antiquated farming tools, old post office memorabilia, and cigar store Indians. 1011 Whittier Highway, 603-476-5750,


Pure maple flavor elevates recipes for grilled salmon, short ribs, and pancakes in ways the fake stuff cannot match. Burr Morse, a seventh-generation maple sugar maker in central Vermont, sells 100 percent pure maple cream, syrup, sugar, and kettle corn at Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks in Montpelier.

In winter, his farm becomes a Nordic ski and snowshoe touring center. Year-round, try traditional Vermont maple sugar on “snow’’ (crushed ice) with raised donuts and dill pickles.

Give as a gift his First Night Maple Syrup made from the season’s first sap run, with its delicate flavor. Crated bottles of the amber syrup resemble fine bourbon. 1168 County Road, 800-242-2740,, Crated First Night Maple Syrup $29.50


Outlet shopping is a hit or miss sport. Increase the odds of scoring a deal in tax-free New Hampshire at the 60-plus shops of North Conway’s Settlers’ Green Outlet Village. There are some new stores among the familiar shops ringed by mountains on the ski town’s well-known Route 16.

Shoppers will find Talbots, the women’s clothing, shoes, and accessories store; and Under Armour, an outlet for today’s athletes. The guy chairs near the door at Coach are welcome as women shop for handbags. Standards include sampling the treats at Harry & David. Find something sporty at Eddie Bauer or adventurous at Banana Republic. The Sunglass Hut has shades for all seasons, while bling is the thing behind the sparkling displays at Zales.

Let the kids work off the slices of Brandli’s pizza in the courtyard playground. A Dec. 5 holiday tree festival with horse-powered wagon rides and mini-tubing park will prepare shoppers for another blustery Mount Washington Valley winter. Route 16, 888-667-9636,, website has special offer coupons MARTY BASCH