I wrapped up most of my Christmas shopping this past weekend, right here in Salem. I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish that a few years ago; the retail situation has improved considerably. About the only type of person for whom you couldn’t find a gift in Salem shops is an outdoorsy man, and I have two of those on my list so I might have to break my self-imposed rule of shopping local. I really would love to be the sort of crafty person who makes lovely gifts for family and friends, but I know that’s never going to happen; I’m a college professor, this time of year means finals and papers as well as shopping and entertaining, so I have no time (and little skill, really, unless endless amounts of time are available) to make gifts. The best I can do is search out creative upcycled gifts and shop local.
Shopping local is no hardship: you walk along festive streets to nicely-decorated and -edited shops, browse and purchase, perhaps pop in for a drink or coffee, and then shop some more. No traffic, no crowds, no malls, no generic gifts. Walk, shop, drink.
Here are some of the shops and their wares I visited on Sunday, and some trends I spotted, which might transcend my local focus.
Urban Elements is a large store full of great furniture and large things, but small things too. There are several walls of decorative items for the home, including kitchenware, bookends, ceramics, interesting little metal statues (bicycles and gears—very steampunk), pillows and throws, and signs.
Scrubs, Roost, and the Beehive are a family of shops offering all things for the bath (Scrubs), home furnishings and gifts (Roost), and cards, games and novelty items (the Beehive). The Beehive is the store for Secret Santa and Yankee Swap gifts, trust me. There is a strong focus on local products in all three shops, and particularly in Roost, I always see things that I never see anywhere else. Below, Santa bathing in the window of Scrubs, sock monkeys at the Beehive and gifts for the home (bicycle motifs: a strong trend) at Roost.
Sidewalks and storefronts along the way: Witch City Consignment & Thrift, Mud Puddle Toys, the award-winning window at Paxton, and planters, pails and buoys at Olde Naumkeag Antiques.
The Peabody Essex Museum Shop: You can find things for practically anyone at the large PEM Shop on Essex Street (except, of course, for the outdoorsy man), including jewelry, all sorts of things for the home, throws and scarves, books, and art. I particularly liked “Marthablox”, the little photographic box prints produced by local photographer Martha Everson.
Pamplemousse, 185 Essex Street
Part gift shop and part gourmet food and wine shop, Pamplemousse also carries a lot of local items, including a large selection of the great candles from Witch City Wicks that I featured in an earlier post. There are lots of kitchen items here, both practical and decorative, and German winter wines that you can heat up for the coldest days–and mead. As you can see below, Pamplemousse always carries seasonal items as well.
[TIME FOR A DRINK]
Sophia‘s, 105 Essex Street
Further down (or up) Essex Street, across from the Hawthorne Hotel, is Sophia’s (pronounced SophEYEa’s, after Mrs. Nathaniel Hawthorne), a gem-like boutique with an emphasis on the romantic and the whimsical. Here there are Sid Dickens’ “memory blocks”, Diptyque candles, perfumes and paper, jewelry, and hand-created hats, among lots of other indulgent items. Below, silhouettes and a silver tureen full of watch parts, the makings of steampunk (a strong aesthetic in Salem) jewelry.
Back to Front Street, the center of Salem shopping, to go clothes shopping at J Mode. This is a beautiful store with some of my favorite brands: Tracy Reese dresses, tops by Three Dots and Velvet. Not inexpensive, but the emphasis is on quality and service. The same can be said for Treasures over Time, a very interesting shop around the corner on Washington Street. The shop represents the joint interests and expertise of a married gemologist and numismatician (coin dealer–I looked it up), so there is beautiful jewelry here, as well as collectible coins, minerals, and geological items. A great shop for boys and women, and probably the best bet for those pesky outdoorsy men on my list as well.
A rack of Three Dots at J Mode, one of several jewelry cases at Treasures over Time
Addendum: I forgot to mention that on this coming Friday evening, December 16, there will be a special shopping Open House Night, in which over 50 Salem shops downtown will be participating.