Tis the Season: Unusual holiday gifts for every budget and everyone

By Cynthia Prairie

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(On the Cover: Lynne Reed arranges a holiday display at Misty Valley Books. All photos by Cynthia Prairie)

There are few reasons to leave Chester to shop for that very special holiday gift for that very special person. Chester abounds with interesting items in all price ranges — if you know where to look. Whether the recipient is your spouse or lover, a child, your pets or friends who love animals, art, learning or food, interesting and unusual gifts can be had within a short distance.

And many of these shops have a wonderful arrays of holiday ornaments for sale, so be sure to look around.

We’ve tried to offer a huge variety but, of course, some businesses will be overlooked. If we didn’t mention your shop or you know of interesting items at stores not mentioned here, use the comment section below to fill us in. Be sure to include the business address, the items and their costs.

Now, since Christmas really is for the kids, let’s start there.

For children and teens

Handcrafted dollhouse furniture at Country on the Common.

Sometimes, when we think children, we might first think of the Hugging Bear Shoppe and the Village Children’s Shop. And why not? The Hugging Bear is, well, loaded for Bear and many other stuffed animals for all ages. And the Children’s Shop stocks some of the most marvelous clothes up to 6x and toys for the younger crowd.

Georgette Thomas at the Hugging Bear Shoppe says she also has a good variety of contemporary huggables, like the Ugly Doll, for just $20. “He’s a nice pillow,” she says. Thomas also carries colorful cloth zippered cellphone cases in whimsical animal shapes for $12 and soft piggy banks by Mary Meyer of Townsend for just $14. There’s also no-tangle wooden Marionettes with stands for $48 each and a vast supply of hand puppets.

Babar first editions may not be right for little ones, but Chester Bookworm also has new Babar paperbacks that are.

Cheryl LeClair at the Village Children’s Shop has old fashioned wooden puzzles, starting at $10, as well as a Melissa & Doug “Baby” Baby Grand Piano for $75 and a medieval wooden castle $100.

Country on the Common is selling adorable handmade wooden doll furniture for $5 to $60.

Keep the kids heads warm this winter with wool caps from Ye Olde Shoppe at Inn Victoria.

Ye Olde Shoppe at Inn Victoria has warm and whimsical kids winter hats and gloves bearing a variety of animal and vegetable faces for $10 to $16.

The Chester Bookworm has paperback English editions of the classic Babar books for $8, which would make a wonderful companion to the 1st editions of the series in French that you just might want to buy for yourself. (At $100 to $400 each, they aren’t really for little hands.)

And of course Misty Valley Books has a great selection of children’s and young adult books as well as jigsaw puzzles that start at $7.95.

For the animal and animal lover

Erskine’s Feed and Grain is the perfect place to shop for that animal or animal lover in your life. Dobbins Horse Treats go for $1.45 per pound. Erskine’s also has a wide selection of USA made dog toys, including those heavy duty rubber balls that you load up with treats ($5 to $10.) And what a better way to drive the pooch nuts than by adding a box of gingerbread flavored treats at $4.95 a box.

Don’t forget the favorite animals in your life. Erskine’s Feed and Grain has just the treats.

Catnip toys are made in Massachusetts and run $2.50 to $4.  If you know someone with a penchant for the unusual pet, Erskine’s also stocks food for finches, cockatiels, parrots, rabbits, ferrets, chinchillas and even hedgehogs.

Misty Valley also has catnip sachets for $3.25 and 1,000 piece dog and cat puzzles for $17.95

 Whispering Winds Farm is offering gift certificates for Horsemanship Lessons for both adults and children. While lessons run April through November, weather permitting, if you purchase a gift certificate now for 2013, the 2012 rates will apply: $25 for 45 minutes; $33 for an hour.

Food lovers’ delights

Put together a gift basket or pick up one already made at Lisai’s Chester Market.

At Lisai’s Chester Market, pick up a pre-made gift basket or customize one with a variety of Stonewall and Lisai’s brand mixes, sodas and seasonings plus other Vermont products and wine, cookies and candies. Obe Lisai will add the basket and dress it up in clear wrap at no charge. The only costs to you are for the goods you’ve purchased at the store. These are also great host/hostess gifts.

DaVallia Art & Accents has hand-crafted honey sticks, tea strainers and cherry chopsticks for $12 to $15

At the Vermont Institute for Contemporary Art – VTICA, you can pick up a hand-splattered apron created by founder Robert Sarly for $35. Wearable art just might inspire your culinary artistry.

Ye Old Shoppe at Inn Victoria has “Santa Pants” wine bottle carriers for $6. This also makes a great host/hostess gift, just don’t forget the wine!

If you know a chocolate lover or are one yourself, you must stop by the Chocolate Room at Gallery 103. It’s stocked with treats for every chocolate lovers’ palate and the Junkers’ offerings aren’t limited to chocolate.

Gotta have art!

If you’ve ever wanted to introduce a loved one to original art but thought it was out of your price range, VTICAhas hung a large selection of abstract expressionist pieces by Vermont artist Mareva Millarc.

Hand-painted aprons for the food lover and original artwork both available at VTICA. Artist Robert Sarly models one of his aprons.

The delightfully colorful framed and matted pieces are $90 each. But if you can afford the higher priced fare, several bronze and alabaster nest sculptures by Pat Musick run around $4,300.

Just as original, but more affordable are hand-painted slates by artist Peg Carlson and hand carved ones at the Hugging Bear.

Gallery 103 has an iconic Junker Studio life-size handmade iron Moose (with antlers painted like butterflies – yes, Iron Butterflies — for $3,500. It’s meant as garden art, but if your entry way is indeed grand, it could fit in happily. Less expensive but otherwise still wonderful are ironwork landscapes, some running around $185.

Do you want to be floored by artwork? Bill and Lynne Reed at Misty Valley Books have beautiful handmade carpets from Afghanistan, Pakistan and India costing $70 to $350.

Malcolm Summers of Chester Bookworm is an artist when it comes to bookbinding. He’ll pass along some of his skills in a daylong lesson that includes lunch. Your giftee will learn the history of the book and how it’s constructed, then create a leather-bound volume to take home. Cost is $200 for one person; $150 each for two.

DaVallia Art has rustic barn wood wall art by John Long for $245 to $2,850 as well as marvelously whimsical sculptures in limestone. The caterpillar on grasses by Kevin Donnegan of Hinesburg will set you back $3,600.

For Him

Beautiful Mach 3 razors are available at DaVallia Art & Accents.

Remind your bearded one that come spring, he’ll likely be shaving by presenting him with a beautiful Mach 3 razor that bears a hand-made, hand-turned composite stone handles. They are $48 each at DaVallia. (Owners Michael and Jessie Alon have other shaving accessories in stock as well.)

Interesting Tom Keck walking sticks made of naturally bent wood are $20 and $30 and can be picked up at Country on the Common.

Scented candles usually aren’t thought of as gifts for men, but Pat Budnick at the Shop at Motel in the Meadow stocks an interesting variety of Kringle Candles that should appeal to the man in your life. There’s Frazier Fir, Balsam, Wild Holly Berry and Bayberry. They run up to $24.

Silver tree rings at Mountain Man Marketplace.

Black thermal underwear is in stock for $13 at Ye Old Shoppe at Inn Victoria.

Silversmith Joe Tourigny of Mountain Man Marketplace has been creating unusual tree rings in two styles: His signature “cutout” design where the tree is of silver and a new “negative” design where the subject is cut out of silver. They are $59 each and could be for a man or a woman.

For Her

Zipper pins, pendants and barrettes are among the variety of gifts available at Gallery 103.

Besides the beautiful and affordable clothes that Country on the Common is known for, Sharon Baker also has some handcrafted baskets and boxes up to $60 plus a beautiful wooden music box for $75. On the top end of her clothing — at $450 — is an impressive hand-embroidered merino wool, lined Kashmir coat.

Gallery 103 has unusual pins and barrettes made from zippers by Vermont artisan Stacie Mincher. There are flowers, other botanicals and landscapes, running $18 to $42. On the high end, says Elise Junker, Gallery 103 has a lovely sterling and stone pendant by Jack Dokus, a New Hampshire resident. His fascinating purple druzy necklace, which changes color with the light, is $265.

Misty Valley Books stocks “Chat Packs,” fun questions to start conversations for parties, car trips and family gatherings. It’s also a great host/hostess gift for $9.95.

Mountain Man Marketplace is selling cuff bracelets pounded from melted silver coins and freehand silver rings and necklaces, some with stones. By and large, prices run $30 to $60, although a few hit the $300 mark.

Tourmalated quartz jewelry set is available at Sage Jewelry.

Michele Bargfrede of Sage Jewelry has an array of sterling pieces such as original watercolor pendants with genuine gemstone accents ($50 to $80) and tourmalated quartz with black onyx, sterling silver necklace ($65) and earrings ($65). Bargfrede also has an ornate necklace with seashells and stone set in sterling, $125.

Have a gardener in your home? Ye Old Shoppe‘s fancy garden/rain boots come in many designs. (Our favorite has a William Morris floral pattern.) The  cost is $50 a pair.  While a black lace parasol (for $25) may not shield your gardener from the sun, it certainly is interesting.

For a special gift, pair the garden boots with big grip garden knife for under $10, from Erskine’s.

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Filed Under: Business & Personal FinanceFeatured

About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor more than 40 years. Cynthia has worked at such publications as the Raleigh Times, the Baltimore News American, the Buffalo Courier Express, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Patuxent Publishing chain of community newspapers in Maryland, and has won numerous state awards for her reporting. As an editor, she has overseen her staffs to win many awards for indepth coverage. She and her family moved to Chester, Vermont in 2004.

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  1. Sharon Baker says:

    Just a quick followup. I have seen quite a few new faces today at Country on the Common just based on this article alone. Thank you for the promotion of ‘shopping local.’ It is working well in Chester!

  2. Don’t forget Chester’s popular antiques shops.
    Stone House Antiques Center with a wide variety of antiques.

    George Bittner who owns The Yankee Ingenuity Shop.

    Fraser’s Antiques a shop filled with country antiques located on Rte 11 East.

  3. Sharon Baker says:

    Wow, thank you so much for such a good read. There are wonderful businesses here! Shop local! I promise it will be worth it!

  4. Heidi Gustafson says:

    Thank you for including Whispering Winds Farm in your “Shop Local” article. We are located on Popple Dungeon Road and can be reached at 875-3654. Or, email us at whisperingwinds@vermontel.net for information about our horsemanship lessons. Thank you! Heidi Gustafson and Britta Gustafson

  5. Cynthia Prairie says:

    Chester is actually home to two bookstores. Across Main Street is Chester Bookworm, owned by Malcolm and Ann Summers. Not only does Malcolm teach the art of bookbinding, Ann specializes in European volumes — many in English.

  6. Gail S. Gibbons says:

    This is fantastic!! You did such an incredible job on this. Thanks, Cynthia.

  7. Katherine Henry says:

    Atelier Annex is tucked in next to Sage Jewelry behind the Moon Dog and we have some beautiful unique gifts for the home, handmade in Vermont!

    Terrific article — Shop Local is the best way to show support for our friends and family doing business in Chester. And we are one of the lucky towns that have a bookstore — a great one — several galleries and shops, places to sit back and enjoy a coffee — thanks for reminding us that we don’t have to go far to get most everything we need or want!

  8. lonnie lisai says:

    Hi Cynthia—another great article, well written. Happy Holidays.