Top Shops for Holiday Gifts
There’s a certain thrill in finding just the right gift, a particular satisfaction that comes from discovering the book, the art, the accessory that is ineffably perfect for the most important person on your list. Sometimes, though, all the standard shopping options—the mall, the Internet, the big box stores—just seem insufficient for the task of finding that oh-so-special gift.
The gift shops collected here may not have the square footage of a department store, but what they lack in space, they make up for in creativity and individual spirit. What unites them, however, are owners dedicated to carefully curating an experience that reflects their own tastes, visions, and even values.
So, when you’re working on this year’s holiday gift list, why not think small?
Roost & Company
38 Front St., Salem, 978-744-4663, roostsalem.com
Photo by Elise Donoghue
Before Kate Leavy opened Roost, she tended bar, managed restaurants, renovated homes, trained as an esthetician, and sold real estate. Now, she brings that same wide-ranging approach to the process of selecting merchandise for her playful and eclectic Front Street gift shop.
"It’s pretty much a kaleidoscope of anything I find lovely and amazing,” she says.
That selection includes hand-poured candles in decorative jars, organic cot- ton baby clothes, appetizing cookbooks, colorful scarves, and quirky jewelry. The store also carries bath products, all made in the United States from natural ingredients, and Leavy is particularly proud of Roost’s “top-notch” collection of greeting cards. A section dedicated to guy-friendly gifts includes cocktail shakers, food truck cookbooks, and platters for serving barbecued fare. “I feel like I’ve won when I hear a grown man saying, ‘Oh my gosh, I love your store,’” Leavy says.
Though the store is situated in the heart of tourist-friendly Salem, its location off the main drag gives it a more local feel and clientele, Leavy says. In the five years since she first opened, she has developed a core of loyal customers who shop weekly or even daily, she says.
Roost strives to keep its merchandise affordable; for the first three years of its existence, nothing was priced higher than $50, and it is still easy to find a unique gift for under $30, Leavy says. This year she is also continuing her popular holiday shopping loyalty program: From Thanksgiving to Christmas, customers get credits worth 10 percent of what they spend to use toward purchases in January.
Indeed, Leavy says, customers do keep coming back, even after their holiday shopping is complete. “It definitely is a whirlwind, and it makes everyone happy,” she says.
19 Central St., Manchester-by-the-Sea, 978-525-0385, mimigiftgallery.com
Photo by Zoe Isaac
Mimi in downtown Manchester-by-the- Sea is a tiny store with big ambitions. Mother-daughter co-owners Mia Nehme and Claudia Barrish stock their cozy shop with art, accessories, and jewelry selected not just for aesthetics and function but for their social and environmental impact as well. “There’s a lot of consciousness behind our choices here,” Nehme says.
Many of the items on offer are made by companies that donate a portion of their proceeds to causes from conservation to breast cancer prevention. Mimi also stocks the Cucina line of lotions and soaps made from sustainably sourced, natural ingredients. All of the gold jewelry the store sells is made from recycled metal because of the environmental devastation caused by mining for new gold; all but one of the jewelry brands are made in the United States. “I actually know almost every single jeweler personally,” Barrish says.
Art is also an important element of the store—Nehme is an artist by training and always wanted the business to support local painters and craftsmen. The shop represents more than 20 local artists, many of whom are teachers or students at nearby Montserrat College of Art. Nehme and Barrish will also do in-home consultations, allowing clients to see artwork in their own spaces before buying.
For shoppers with a Yankee Swap to buy for, Mimi may be the perfect destination: Every holiday season, Nehme and Barrish hunt down an extensive selection of gift options priced from $15 to $25. They have even been known to do deliveries for locals looking for a last-minute gift. “We like to rise to the challenge,” says Nehme. “It’s fun for us.”
Savoir Faire Home
23 Barnard St., Andover, 978-409-6188, savoirfairehome.com
Photo by Zoe Isaac
At Savoir Faire Home, the European flair goes well beyond the name. A seasoned traveler, owner Lisa Duffy stocks her Andover shop with home décor and accessories discovered while traveling around the continent and beyond.
This year’s global holiday offerings include hand-crafted Christmas ornaments from the Czech Republic, lanterns carved out of logs from Germany’s Black Forest, tea towels from France, and candies from Sweden. Larger selections include bar tables made from repurposed antique French wine barrels.
“We really try to source from unique suppliers when it comes to manufactured goods,” Duffy says. “I’m always on the lookout for [them] on my travels.”
To cater to shoppers looking for unusual holiday gifts, Duffy creates (and wraps) thoughtful pairings of items from the store. Brazilian stoneware might get matched with Italian risotto; an oversized bread board might be packaged with a cracker basket and a box of crackers.
Perhaps the merchandise closest to Duffy’s heart, however, is the woven scarves and bags from Cambodia that she sells to support My Cambodian Sisters, a charity started by her two daughters. Proceeds from the sales of these items are dedicated to helping a group of girls living in a group home in Siam Reap.
“We’re trying to help them finish their high school education so they can have a chance at university,” Duffy says.
Sweetwater Trading Company
33 Atlantic Ave., Marblehead, 781-639-9933
Sweetwater & Company
724 Hale St., Beverly Farms, 978-927-9895, sweetwaterandco.com
Photo by Elise Donoghue
The mission of both Sweetwater Trading Company and Sweetwater & Company is simple.
“It’s a celebration of seaside living,” says owner Marybeth McBride. “I try to cater to people who are passionate about living by the ocean.”
She achieves this goal with a selection of home décor, accessories, and dishware that evokes the coastal lifestyle she so treasures. A meander through her stores reveals glass dishes in tones of blue, carved mermaids, distressed wood picture frames, and lobster-shaped bottle openers. Locally made decorative signs pepper the spaces.
McBride opened her first store in Rockport in 2006. After working for many years in corporate marketing, she was ready for something new. “I left corporate America to do my own thing,” she says. “I wanted a store that people loved coming into.”
When the first store became a hit, McBride opened a second location in Beverly Farms. Last year, she moved the Rockport store to Marblehead, a change that quadrupled the size of the shop. Now she is taking advantage of the more expansive space, adding furniture and clothing to her other selections; the ceiling is decked with an assortment of new and vintage chandeliers.
The set-up of the shop encourages relaxed wandering through its many nooks and crannies. And if you get a little lost, McBride will consider it a victory. “I wanted to create a space where you come in and you feel like you’re in another world,” she says.