Local Merchants Full Of Ideas For Stocking Stuffers

Newtown has a wealth of shops well stocked with gifts for the season. There is no need to go beyond the town’s boundaries to find oodles of gifts that are perfect, and shopping locally means easy parking, individual service, and none of the big box store headaches.

Even salons, automotive shops, food stores, or hardware and liquor stores offer plenty of gift ideas, from the number one item on Santa’s list to the spur of the moment present. The Bee checked in with ten of Newtown and Sandy Hook’s shops that specialize in gifts, wondering what top three stocking stuffers in their stores had them excited, this year.

“I love, love, love these little purses!” declared Judy Grabarz. The Sally Spicer “urban clutch” is from a collection of under-the-arm purses made of novel materials — such as cork and lanyard — by a San Francisco artist. The clutch is one of three favorite stocking stuffers the Newtown Florist owner picked out of the vast array of gifts in her South Main Street store, where there is so much more than plants and bouquets.

Like other gift store owners in Newtown and Sandy Hook, Ms Grabarz had a difficult time selecting just three items that top her list for the 2013 holiday season.

Rounding out Ms Grabarz favorite three stocking stuffers are the necklaces and key chains handmade by Woodstock, N.Y., jeweler Jessie Driscoll. Each of the pendants started out life as a silver American coin, still visible on one side of the charm. “They are so well done, and I love that they are made in the USA,” Ms Grabarz said. Her third choice will please any wine connoisseur, a corkscrew featuring an old-fashioned faucet at the top, also available in other designs.

Larry Schneider of Down On Main Street on Queen Street loves the Alex & Ani bracelets, because he knows that they are going to be one of the most beloved gifts given this year, he said. The shop has hundreds of the positive energy bracelets, made in Rhode Island. Multiples of the wire bangles, with a single suspended charm or crystal, are meant to be worn at a time. Seemingly endless charm designs means that gift givers will find one that is ideal for the person they have in mind. “These are the biggest hit I’ve seen in 26 years in business,” Mr Schneider said.

Also among his trove of treasures is another favorite for this year, he said, the Inspiration Flags. Resembling Tibetan prayer flags, the colorful squares of material carry a message or just an initial. “Buy one, or buy several letters to make you name,” Mr Schneider suggested. Lined knitted hand warmers are his third pick for a stocking stuffer. Available in a variety of colors and designs, they will warm the heart as much as the hands.

Pam Davis at Our Green House on South Main Street is also betting that bracelets will find their way into stockings around Newtown. The stretchy, over-the-wrist Lily & Laura bracelets she carries are crafted in Nepal from glass beads. Brilliant colors in numerous patterns make each one of a kind, she said, and even the guys on the gift list will like the bracelets in darker colors. “I like that these are Fair Trade product, and they are perfect for teens or adults,” said Ms Davis.

Holiday baby rattles made from organic bamboo yard are just right for tiny hands’ first holidays. Reindeer, Santa, and snowman designs are seasonal, but barnyard animals, vegetables, and fruits designs will appeal to small fry. “The rattles are easy to grasp, and they are just adorable,” Ms Davis said of her No. 2 choice.

Number three for her choice of stocking stuffers are the Hellow Mellow bath salts. Made of pink Himalayan sea salt, they are slender tubes will slip easily into the stocking. Perfect for both men and women, the bath salts come in a variety of scents. “I love ‘Balance,’ made up of bergamot, chamomile, and orange,” she said.

Also on South Main Street, at the Black Swan, shoppers will find more than coal to put in the holiday stocking. Showroom manager Cady Jackman came up with three of her favorites for this year. The phone wristlet is a wallet and phone holder combined, said Ms Jackman, and they are made from environmentally friendly materials.

From a large display of novelty nightlights, Ms Jackman picked out the owl design. “It’s a good gift for the nature lover who is scared of the dark,” she said. Her third pick for the perfect stocking stuffer were reindeer earmuffs and headbands. The felt and acrylic headgear is a festive choice for children, she said.

Back in the center of town, Mary Wilson from Queen Street Gifts & Treats had such a hard time picking out just three of her favorite stocking stuffers that she put together groupings of three categories. The “Tech Pack” consists of a humorous “dirt bag” screen cleaning cloth, earbuds, a stick-on iPhone holder, and a packet of Post-Its that adhere to the back of an iPhone. Next, she put together a grouping “Just for Fun.” Whimsical cat and dog pens are paired with a variety of novelty lip glosses that just might fit into a coin purse made from recycled material (and embossed with a clever saying.) Ms Wilson’s favorite stocking stuffers are classic toys: a box of jacks, a container of Pick-Up Sticks, and a harmonica.

“We all need to go back a little and have some time not hooked to technology,” and the ever-popular toys bring people together to have fun, said Ms Wilson, who is co-owner of the shop with Patrick Kearney.

Teri Brunelli and Diane Bates own Everything Newtown on Church Hill Road. Ms Brunelli is sure that Loom Band Kits will be a fun thing to find in the stocking this holiday season. The rubbery bands in a rainbow of colors are used to make bracelets, necklaces, and other items “and are the new, hot commodity” among kids.

Who would not want to find a Harvey seatbelt clutch purse in the stocking, wondered Ms Brunelli. Made in the USA from used seatbelts, each clutch has multiple compartments for credit cards, money, and even a cellphone. “These will last forever,” she said. “You’ll pass it down to your grandchildren,” she laughed.

“We try to get in locally made items when we can, or made in the USA,” Ms Brunelli said. So the set of four ceramic car coasters from Rhode Island are perfect stocking stuffers. Each coaster fits snugly into the bottom of a vehicle’s cup holder, where it can catch the drips and dribbles. “I think it’s fun for people to find a little something in the stocking that supports our economy,” Ms Brunelli said.

Filled from front to back and top to bottom with stocking stuffer options, Toy Tree owner Tracy Schmid and shop manager JoAnn Whiting had a tough time choosing their favorites in the Sandy Hook Center store. They settled on the collection of Natural Life products, that includes coin purses, headbands, car visor clips, mugs, jewelry, and magnet sets with a Bohemian theme that appeals to adults, tweens, and teens, said Ms Schmid. Next, they picked out the Beanie Boos and Beanie Ballz from Ty. The big-eyed critters “are just so cute,” Ms Schmid said, “and they end up being kids’ stuffed animal of choice.”

A wall full of stocking stuffer-sized games means there is something for every interest, from the classic Fifteen Puzzle to the new mini magnetic dart game, Mumblys, and every one is a favorite of Toy Tree staff.

Just right for any size stocking are the scented soy candles at Country Mill on Glen Road in Sandy Hook Center, that come in small, medium, and large sizes. Best of all, said owner Linda Manna, each one has a whimsical holiday ornament attached to the top, making these some of her favorite gifts this season. “Sandy Hook” and “Newtown” are painted on rustic antiqued tin ornaments that will be a great discovery in any holiday stocking, too, she said.

But stretch that stocking wide for Ms Manna’s very favorite stocking stuffer this year. “This is a must read for every family this year,” she said of the book, The Night Before Christmas. This retelling of Clement Moore’s famous holiday poem, by Mark Kimball Moulton, is filled with glossy, current photographs that complement the poem. Each page also includes tips on decorating for Christmas, pointed out Ms Manna, “and there is a special, new ending to the book,” she hinted.

“To me, these have a ‘Wow!’ factor that is fun to find in the stocking,” said Sandy Hook Center Wishing Well owner Tamara Doherty of the nature-inspired soaps she has in stock. Created to resemble precious stones, the colorful, scented soaps will “rock” any sock.

Chocolate-covered dried blueberries from Bissinger Chocolates, candy-coated sunflower seeds, and flavorful tea from Tea Forté make up a collection of healthy treats that will be a treat to pull out of the stocking. The chocolates and teas come in an array of flavors, and Sunny Seeds are a healthy choice that kids love, said Ms Doherty. One hundred percent beeswax candles in tiny 2-by-2-inch tins are another favorite from Wishing Well. Scented with pure, essential oils, Ms Doherty loves the clean burning little candles.

Pets have stocking needs, too, and at Your Healthy Pet, South Main Street, owners Tom, Mary-Kay, and Ryan Novak picked out the all natural chew treats for dogs as a top choice. The healthy bones, pig ears, hooves, and more please dogs of all sizes, keep Fido’s teeth healthy, and chewing releases endorphins — the happy hormones, said Mr Novak. From WestPaw in Montana comes the collection of 100 percent recyclable tough rubber toys for dogs of all sizes. The Novaks love that these toys are interactive. “It’s nice that you can play with your pet,” Mr Novak said.

Don’t forget the kitty. From feathery wands that let you be a part of playtime to tempting catnip toys made in Connecticut or soft balls to chase around the house, cats will be pleased with any of them in a little holiday stocking. “And,” added Mr Novak, “They all give your cat great exercise.”

If making a selection becomes just too hard, there is always the alternative any store owner is happy to help with: a gift certificate. Always the right color and size, and of course, the perfect fit for a holiday stocking.

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