With Hanukkah in full flower, and Christmas just days away, Maplewood’s flourishing downtown business district has a variety of shops to meet the needs of busy shoppers looking for the perfect, last-minute gift.
Bee & Thistle (89 Baker Street, Open 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. every day) John and Eileen Dilley have owned this gifts and antiques store since they moved to Maplewood in 1973. As they shared the secrets of their success, a friend dropped by with a loaf of bread from Natale’s Bakery in Summit.
“We like to be the mall alternative,” John said. “We sell home decor and unique gifts. We work with our customers. When they need something, we go get it.” Eileen said the holiday season has been a good one. “We start selling Christmas ornaments the day after Halloween, and we love to service our customers.”
Hopscotch (174 Maplewood Ave.; 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Saturday; Noon-4 p.m., Sunday) “Plush is selling really…,”owner Bernadette Barron started to say. Before she could finish, a customer asks is there are any more of the huggable pieces. “I told you,”she said with a laugh.
Barron said business has been steady for awhile, with plush toys, and cuddly fleece pants topping shopper’s lists. She expects the traffic to pick up with Christmas shopping in full bloom. “That’s part and parcel with being a local business. Our loyal customers can run in at the last second and they can get just what they need. We are especially excited that our downtown gets support not just from Maplewood residents, but from people who live in Westfield, Summit, and Madison.”
Kokoro (172 Maplewood Ave., 10 a.m.-6:30 p.m.) “We will be open from 10 a.m. until whenever,”said Chris Amundsen. “We have been here for more than 20 years. Our customers have been very loyal to us.” Amundsen said Kokoro succeeds by selling products that are made in America, or fair-trade goods from other countries. “We have been selling a lot of jewelry and scarves this year. We provide a good variety of options and are having a great holiday season.”
No. 165 (165 Maplewood Ave., open 9 a.m.-9 p.m. during holidays) Jenny Smith was busy behind the counter, offering recommendations for gift ideas and a rundown of the season’s greatest hits. “We have been selling a lot of candles, especially the ‘Christmas-y’ones,”she said, “and we have sold a lot of scarves —infinity scarves, faux fur, and in wool. The jewelry and candy have done really well, as has the Fish’s Eddy home goods.”
Smith added, “We help out parents looking for teachers’gifts and —sorry, guys —men shopping for their wives and girlfriends. It’s exciting to be part of a community that supports local businesses like ours.”
Salvage Style (101 Baker Street, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Friday; 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Saturday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m., Sunday) Owner Amy Hughes is a former editor at This Old House magazine and author of Salvage-Style Projects, a step-by-step guide for DIYers to turn unloved old home artifacts into reclamation success stories. She opened the shop, and started a new design consulting business, to give local residents a chance to furnish their homes with unique reclaimed touches.
The store sells a wide variety of vintage home furnishings, including reupholstered mid-century sofas and furniture with a chic, industrial feel.
Scrivener’s (178 Maplewood Ave., 10 a.m.-7 p.m., Monday-Friday, 9:30 a.m.-7 Saturday) “Lego is still the number-one toy in the world,” said Scrivener’s owner Erin Lundstrom, “but the Frozen toys flew off the shelves. We finally sold our last one.”
While one room of the longtime Maplewood Avenue toy story is virtually dedicated to Lego, Lundstrom said the rest of her inventory is on the lists of hopeful children. “We are the go-to store for kids who come in, buy something for a friend, and then buy something for themselves,”she said with a laugh. “We do personal shopping, provide complimentary gift-wrapping and will see everyone from Maplewood at least once or twice during the season —and we will see a lot of dads and grandpas on Christmas Eve!”
Shed the Eclectic Home ( 100 Baker Street, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily, through Christmas) Owner Cindy Potters said the store, which sells an eclectic array of home goods and creative gifts, has had a good holiday season. She is offering a 20 percent discount on every item in the store.
“It’s the reality of the business. Customers are very conscious of where, and how, they spend their dollars,” she said. “The stores in the malls offer discounts, so we know that it’s important for us to provide value for our customers.” Potters says she enjoys the relationship with her clientele. “For six years, we have just had the nicest customers. The holiday are special, because we want to help them find the perfect gifts and thank them for shopping locally.”
The Tenth Muse Gallery (170 Maplewood Ave., 10 a.m.-8 p.m., Thursday-Saturday; 10 a.m.-6p.m., Monday-Wednesday) Home to artwork, jewelry, home decorations and more, Tenth Muse has been in downtown Maplewood since 2003. Owner Mary Ann Spencer buys pieces from a variety of American artisans and also provides customers with the opportunity to have professional designers work with them on a variety of services for their home-decor needs.