From the Holiday Pop Up Shop (picture one and three above): Arlene Cirillo with Paparazzi, Dana Canfield with his leatherwork; Samantha Violante, organizer, with Surfin’ Santa,
It’s that time of year, West Haven – that time when the jingle bells start echoing in your head and you realize that you need to – well, shop – and this year, along with those metallic bells there’s the echo of rumours of emptier shelves. There’s one way to bypass that aggravation, however…buy from local producers. Items that are manufactured here are definitely not sitting in a container somewhere on a forlorn California dock (and what’s more, they’re something different, and of very good quality).
Where can you find such treasures in town? For a start, there’s the Holiday Pop Up Shop at the Savin Rock Surf Shop on Captain Thomas Boulevard.
“They’ve been instrumental in partnering with us,” explains organizer Samantha Violante.
As a result, you can choose from all of Savin Rock Surf Shop’s items – local artist Lilybridge totes and bags, as well as local sea glass art and Savin Rock memorabilia. And for several weekends between November 4 and December 18, the Surf Shop becomes quite the marketplace with five or six different artisans, crafters and merchants offering various and sundry wares.
Violante points out that there is something for everyone – “men, women, kids, grandparents, dogs…” A quick perusal of the participating crafters proves her more than right. Stop by on Saturday between 12 and 5 or Sunday between 11 and 4, and delight in the available goods: handtooled leatherwork, sea glass jewelry, natural bath and body products, and jewelry, jewelry and more jewelry of many styles and types. Add to that wreaths, aprons and totes from recycled fabrics, art work and photography, resin work, Indian scarves, ornaments and knitwear for the family pup.. Not to mention acrylic pour paintings, Color Street nailwear, candles and custom drinkware.
Violante says that choosing West Haven for the shop was important. As a West Haven native, she wants to give to the town.
“We have no gift shops, no arts center, ” she lamented, indicating that promotion and support of the arts in town has been less than optimal. “I want to spotlight local vendors and have a place for them to sell.”
Violante hopes to continue the tradition with more PopUp Shops at different times of year, e.g., on the green. Judging by the folks squeezing into the Surf Shop to make their purchases, this seems like a fine idea. Most items are one-of-a-kind, and all items have proven to be very well received.
“I hope people stop in to see the wonderful artists and everything they make, because we have a really nice range of items that are all lovingly handmade. We want to support these artists…that’s the main reason we’re doing this,” Violante said.
In the mood for more craftiness? West Haven has more artisanal work for sale at the Tyler Newkirk Craft Company at the B&B Farm on Jones Hill Road.
Newkirk is an old hand at the crafting game, having started at age 15. Starting his business in West Haven was a “no brainer,” he says, as he’s a native and his family has been here a long time. He loves the fact that people are very supportive.
“It’s a very, very tight-knit community,” he says.
His family had their business here, and he knew from that the positives of the city.
Newkirk’s inventory, housed in a lovely barn he decorates top to bottom and side to rustic side, changes every season. The change from autumnal oranges, fall leaves and pumpkins and twinkling orange lights to a winter wonderland filled with decorated trees, golden lights, wreaths, and poinsettias is the toughest transition he makes all year, he says. And, of course, amid all that holiday finery are wondrous things to buy, handmade decor by Newkirk and 15 other local crafters: wreaths, arrangements, ornaments, houseplants, candles, soaps, Christmas cards and stationery, local honey, incense, stocking stuffers, and the impossible-to-find-elsewhere “06516” decor are only some of the items available. There are also outdoor wreaths, swags and grave pillows made by Tyler.
The fact that the items are one-of-a-kind is the biggest draw.
“Just about anything in here, you cannot find anywhere else, as 90% of it is handmade,” Newkirk says. And what’s more, “people say they love to come here because it’s like visiting a friend – not like going to a store and standing in the self-checkout line,” he continues. Newkirk has a lot of regulars, too.”I’ve gotten to know my customers to the extent where I can ask about their dog or their new home,” he smiles.
Newkirk has been featured on Channel 8 in New Haven and Channel 3 in Hartford as well as in the New Haven Register., and shoppers come from all over the state in search of the unique and different.
“They can’t find these items anywhere in their part of the state,” Tyler says of his eclectic emporium. “They say, ‘Oh wow, look at that place – it’s like nowhere I’ve seen before!'”
Losing yourself in the local scene at the Holiday Pop Up Shop and Tyler Newkirk Craft Company will probably put a dent in your holiday shopping, but it will also put a dent in any of that aforementioned holiday aggravation. And that’s something we could all use.