'Tis the Season for Shopping (Locally)

The hol­i­day shop­ping sea­son is in full swing. Here's how shop­ping will sup­port your neigh­bor­hood and sat­is­fy most folks on your list.

There are plenty of noble reas­ons to shop loc­ally dur­ing the hol­i­days.

Keep­ing your hard-earned money in the neigh­bor­hood and sup­port­ing the com­munity dur­ing tough times is the most ob­vi­ous.

But for river-wards res­id­ents, there luck­ily are oth­er, more selfish reas­ons to do hol­i­day shop­ping in these parts. Bey­ond avoid­ing mall park­ing and de­part­ment-store lines, today’s mix of cre­at­ive new­comers and gen­er­a­tions-old busi­nesses makes these neigh­bor­hoods an ex­cep­tion­al place to find ori­gin­al, mean­ing­ful gifts.

The rich­ness of the loc­al arts scene was on dis­play at Greens­grow Farm on Cum­ber­land Street last week­end, where the non-profit farm turned its green­houses in­to a cozy hol­i­day mar­ket.

Mixed in with the green­ery and a carafe of hot mulled cider were some two-dozen tables fea­tur­ing everything from bath salts to loc­al soaps and hand-woven wool scarves. Many of the items were made right in the sur­round­ing neigh­bor­hood, a fact that fit in with Greens­grow’s Shop Loc­al, Shop Kens­ing­ton theme.

For Mat­thew Bor­gen, hav­ing his goods for sale at the bazaar gave him a chance to con­nect with area res­id­ents while sup­port­ing the or­gan­iz­a­tion’s ef­forts.

Hav­ing worked in fine-art in­stall­a­tions for the last 10 years, Bor­gen launched his “Re­cycled Row­house” concept a few years back. Scour­ing trash heaps and curb­side scrap piles, Bor­gen and his part­ner, Mon­ica Gi­ac­omucci, turn dis­carded ma­ter­i­als in­to hand­some house­hold d&ea­cute;cor.

Think of well-worn bal­us­trade spindles that have been pol­ished smooth and turned in­to one-of-kind candle sticks, and you’re get­ting the idea.

Also pop­u­lar are his bird­houses, as­sembled with mis­matched wood pan­els that give them a rus­tic ap­peal.

Bor­gen es­pe­cially likes those be­cause not only is he re­using items that would oth­er­wise head to the trash heap, but he’s also help­ing to cre­ate a hab­it­at for loc­al wild­life.

A few tables down from them, Lisa Char­leson was selling her hand-woven goods, even as she spun more wool. A graph­ic de­sign­er who has been crochet­ing and spin­ning wool for years, she lives on Brad­dock Street in Kens­ing­ton and runs a small — and in­creas­ingly cluttered — stu­dio from her home.

“I’ve nev­er met a craft that I didn’t like, and my stu­dio is start­ing to show it,” Char­leson joked.

Her big sellers last week­end were the scarves, bril­liantly colored wool wraps that were as beau­ti­ful as they were warm. Also pop­u­lar were her silk scarves.

She said she thinks it’s im­port­ant to do hol­i­day shop­ping loc­ally be­cause many loc­al artists and crafters are help­ing to keep dis­ap­pear­ing tra­di­tions — like hand-spin­ning wool — alive.

“It’s all these old-fash­ioned skills, and people are start­ing to lose touch with that sort of thing,” said Char­leson. “Com­ing to places like this, you sup­port that, and there’s also the sat­is­fac­tion of meet­ing the artists and know­ing where things are com­ing from.”

An­oth­er con­cen­trated gath­er­ing of loc­al crafters can be found at the 2424 Stu­di­os on York Street, where the In­de­pend­ent Craft Mar­ket will host its Fam­ous Hol­i­day Show from 1 to 8 p.m. Fea­tur­ing more than 45 vendors, bands and free Pabst Blue Rib­bon-sponsored re­fresh­ments, this event merges hol­i­day shop­ping with the hol­i­day


The event takes place at 2424 York St., and in­cludes a sug­ges­ted $2 dona­tion.

And while those events make for an easy one-stop shop­ping ex­per­i­ence, don’t for­get to look at all the long-stand­ing small busi­nesses loc­ated on area streets.

Kindles and oth­er e-read­ers might be the hot hol­i­day gifts this sea­son, but true ro­mantics know that the real joy of read­ing hap­pens between the cov­ers of beau­ti­fully de­signed hard­backs.

And there are few bet­ter places in Phil­adelphia to find such a tome than at Port Rich­mond Books. Loc­ated at 3037 Rich­mond St., the early 1900s theat­er is now packed with more than 100,000 books, many of them beau­ti­ful and hard-to-find edi­tions.

Vis­it­ing that same block, one can’t help but no­tice the rich and sweet aromas em­an­at­ing from Szy­pula’s Bakery. An old-world Pol­ish bakery, Szy­pula’s is in over­drive this time of year, crank­ing out thou­sands of boxes of its famed chrus­ciki — a crispy, light pastry that is fried and then dus­ted with powdered sug­ar.

Broth­er and sis­ter John and Con­nie Je­si­olowski have worked at the bakery since they were chil­dren, and the Christ­mas sea­son is second only to the rush they see around East­er.

They said cus­tom­ers range from neigh­bors to those who left the area long ago but re­turn to get something spe­cial — usu­ally the chrus­ciki and the bab­kas — that makes Christ­mas tra­di­tion­al.

Con­nie Je­si­olowski said that, this year more than ever, she is see­ing young­er cus­tom­ers come in for her baked goods. She is heartened to see a new gen­er­a­tion em­bra­cing the old tra­di­tions.

And she, like oth­er loc­al busi­ness own­ers, sees the ad­ded mean­ing in shop­ping loc­ally.

“It’s im­port­ant to keep some of your shop­ping for the hol­i­days in the neigh­bor­hood,” said Je­si­olowski. “You can nev­er com­pletely avoid the Macy’s and the malls, but it real does mean something when you try to at least keep some of your shop­ping right here.” ••

You can reach at brademaekers@bsmphilly.com.

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