by Lane Blackmer
The typical holiday shopper has rallied through six entire weekends – at least – scurrying through malls, shuffling through Christmas Village and surfing the Internet with the ultimate goal to see that smile on the faces of mothers, sisters, children and husbands.
But now there are neighbors, distant cousins and stocking stuffers to take care of.
Look no further than your backyard – or Germantown Avenue – for your last minute gift ideas.
The star-on-the-top-of-the-tree of buying in Chestnut Hill? There are plenty of unique knick-knacks from these locally owned and operated businesses. And it keeps your money local.
Local business owners have no doubts that Chestnut Hill residents have a preference for buying locally.
Buying local, from locals
Fran O’Donnell, who owns O’Doodle’s Toys Unplugged at 8335 Germantown Ave., said he’s lived in the neighborhood for 16 years and sees dedication in residents when it comes to buying local.
That dedication, he said, keeps the neighborhood afloat.
“If you have a healthy business district, then you’re going to have a healthy neighborhood,” he said. “It adds to the well-being of the district.”
O’Donnell said he also thinks of customers as neighbors, and is willing to go an extra mile further than larger businesses will.
“We offer free gift wraps,” he said. “And we’ll even deliver [an item] to someone’s house if they can’t fit it in their car or something like that.”
Besides extra gift services, O’Donnell said there are some items available at his store that aren’t just for kids.
Namely, he said magnetized Bucky Balls “are like building blocks for adults,” as well as an office toy and stress reducer. They’re offered for $27.99 and could make for a good stocking stuffer for “kids” of any age.
O’Donnell also said the shop has marshmallow shooters that make for good “dad gifts” and small how-to books — teaching anything from palm reading to origami.
Further up the Hill at George Hobe’s Antiques, 8407 Germantown Ave., customers are greeted with a sign in the window reading “it’s all about you, shop small.”
“It’s an unsaid thing,” he said of the value placed on buying local. “People come in a lot around this time of the year and I’ll see them come back.”
Hobe, who lives above his shop, has an interesting edge over other antique shops, mainly because of the unique, odd items he snags.
When it comes down to getting his products, Hobe said he looks for what he thinks are the best, most authentic items. But he does do a fair amount of business with locals.
Among the things available in his shop are various vases, miniature grandfather clocks, framed stained glass windows for hanging on walls and small hand-painted soldiers that look like they’re from the movie “The Patriot.”
He also has several Fiesta plates and teacups, as well as a cookie jar, which would make good gifts for admirers of the brand.
Meanwhile, at the Chestnut Hill Cheese Shop, 8509 Germantown Ave., Dan Weiss said his father, who opened the shop in 1963, placed a high value on shopping locally.
“My father always said ‘if you want local stores, you’d better shop locally,” Weiss said. “It’s very important that people buy local.”
The Chestnut Hill Cheese Shop has a few items that were made locally — such as Gilda’s Biscotti, Cherchies mustard and a few cheeses from New Jersey and Lancaster County.
Weiss said the shop makes custom-made holiday baskets starting at $50. The baskets can include anything from cheese and crackers to jams and coffee.
Made in Chestnut Hill
Sure, there’s buying locally in a sense that a local owns the store, but Chestnut Hill also has a few local storeowners that make their own goods.
Karen Boyd Rohde, owner of Bredenbeck’s Bakery at 8126 Germantown Ave., said she thinks customers do value buying locally, and the holiday season is no different.
“There’s not enough elves around here [to help during the holidays],” she said.
Regardless, Boyd Rohde said she’s more than happy to help customers warm the heart of a friend or neighbor with the bakery’s sugary treats.
Besides cookie trays, Boyd Rohde suggests gingerbread houses, which can be bought decorated for $53.95 or undecorated for $24.95.
She also offers a gingerbread man kit for $6.95.
“It shows the customer’s creativity,” she said. “It’s something different and there’s a lot of love going into it.”
Boyd Rohde said she could ship items wherever customers need.
This will be the first Christmas on the Hill for Inside Threadwill, 8617 Germantown Ave. But co-owner Kate Newport said she’s already received a flood of business and has gotten a good sense of the Chestnut Hill mindset.
“People in Chestnut Hill place a premium on quality,” Newport said. “And they’d rather keep it local. We get that all the time.”
Newport said she thinks customers not only take a sense of pride in their community, but also have a good story to tell when they give gifts that have been locally made.
Although Newport said the store is no longer taking custom-made orders for embroideries, there are several ready-made items.
Little mats that say “muddy paws” and “dirty shoes” sell for $64. Bags sell for $40-84 and cosmetic cases are available for $20-70.
But for the customer who wants to give a custom-embroidered item, Newport suggests buying the item and giving it with the promise of embroidering it after the holidays.
Across the street at 8620 Germantown Ave., Chestnut Hill Coffee Co. not only sells gift cards to help pay for a morning pick-me-up, but roasts a special Winter Blend coffee, priced at $12.80. Winter Blend is a mix of Hawaiian and Honduran coffees.
Lauren Harrington of Heirloom Fine American Cookery, 8705 Germantown Ave., said the restaurant, which had its soft opening on Friday, buys mostly local ingredients and products.
“We use mostly local ingredients,” Harrington said, adding that most are from Lancaster County, Delaware and New Jersey. “People are subscribing to the idea of buying locally. Businesses are supporting each other.”
Harrington said the restaurant brews coffee from Chestnut Hill Coffee Co. and serves bread from Baker Street Bread.
She also said that, moving forward, the restaurant is looking into using cheeses from the Cheese Shopand seasonal crops from Philadelphia and its surrounding counties.
But Harrington said her family has a tradition of giving an I.O.U. gift of going out for dinner and going to some sort of play or show. Since Heirloom doesn’t yet offer gift certificates, she suggests this method.
“Some of the members from my own family would rather share an experience than an item,” she said. “[It’s] more than a physical object. It incorporates spending time together and getting out to do something.”
Going along with the idea of giving a gift of experience, 3000 BC at 8439 Germantown Ave. makes for a good, relaxing treat. The spa is offering holiday deals of buying in bulk and receiving 15 percent off. Also, a discount series offering 10 percent off any three services is offered until January.
Last, but certainly not least, Millennium Nails and Spa at 8000 Germantown Ave., offers $40 pedicures and $15 manicures.