Shop Local for the Holidays

As much as I tried to deny it, the summer is long gone. Now that the clocks have changed and it is dark before you get out of work, everyone has turned their attention to the holidays.

The problem this year, however, is the ongoing supply chain issue. Cargo ships wait out in the Atlantic and the Pacific to unload goods. The ongoing shortage of truck drivers across the nation. It’s enough to make you batty.

Or is it?

Every year I remind people to shop local for small business Saturday. With everyone starting to shop earlier this year due to all the panic, this reminder to shop local comes earlier than usual. And the great thing about Jersey is that there are plenty of special places to shop with a unique Jersey flair.

Just Jersey

The best place to start is at Just Jersey in Morristown. This special shop presents unique art, craft, food, and more from over 200 Jersey-based residents. From jewelry, to homemade jams, to glassware, you will find a great variety of unique items in any price range. Best part is they all come with that special Jersey flair we have all come to know and love.

Peters Valley School of Craft

If you have never been to Peters Valley, I highly recommend it. It is not just a great place to visit, you will enjoy a beautiful ride on the way there. Their facilities are located within the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, once the farm village of Bevans. Before that, it was the tribal ground of the Lenni Lenape people, whose ancestors were the first craftspeople and makers of the land. Bevans was lost to the Tocks Island Dam Project of 1960-70’s through eminent domain. Eventually the project was scrapped and the name Peter’s Valley was reinstated in remembrance of early settler and surveyor Peter Van Neste.

Peters Valley offers not just beautiful surroundings, but onsite classes in a variety of crafts. Know someone who always wanted to try blacksmithing or weaving? Consider paying for a class for them to attend. Looking for something handmade? Visit their two unique galleries and leave with a beautiful gift that is sure to create a lasting memory. The Holiday Market begins November 20th.

West End Garage

One of my favorite places in this state is Cape May. And the West End Garage is a really cool place. Filled with funky gifts, you’ll find something for even the hardest person on your list. Check out original art by Maggie May Oysters, who uses locally sourced oyster shells in her artwork or Patricia Jackson Jewelers, highlighting their Exit Zero collection.

Pretty Handy

Belleville mug from Pretty Handy

This great little Nutley shop takes “shop local” a step further. Not only are you shopping Jersey, you are shopping Essex County. Pretty Handy offers town swag for Nutley, Bloomfield, Newark, Clifton, and of course, my beloved Belleville. If you are trying to show your town pride, this is a great place to check out.

Reddie to Burn

Of course I can’t finish out this post without a mention of my favorite candlemaker, Jersey Girl, and Goddaughter, Alyssa Lyn Reddie. Reddie to Burn offers all-natural hand-made candles in a variety of scents. Each soy candle has plenty of scent, from pumpkin soufflé, to apple and maple bourbon, to plenty of others, there’s something to please every taste.

Get shopping!

No matter what you decide, I hope you will consider shopping local and supporting local small businesses and artisans. You are helping those right in your community; no supply chain issues!

My 2020 Jersey Christmas List

This has been a hard year for all of us; especially for the small business owners of New Jersey. Like many, I am urging everyone to shop small as much as possible this year.

My Christmas list this year has a special Jersey flair this year. These are gifts that are made by Jersey artisans available in Jersey stores.

Cape May Suncatchers

Cape May Suncatchers
Credit: Cape May Suncatchers

These works of art by Tommy of Cape May Suncatchers are just amazing. He digs up antique bottles found around the beaches of Cape May and then carves them into beautiful ornaments, suncatchers, and window-hangers. This would certainly be a unique and lovely gift, especially for those who love Cape May.

Just Jersey Goods

You can find just about ANYTHING with a unique Jersey attitude from the Jersey Jersey Goods store in Morristown. From cutting boards and mugs for the foodie to books for the state historian, you can find almost anything with a Jersey theme at this awesome shop. Personally, I am partial to the Parkway token keychain. For decades, it was a required item in every car as you went down the shore. And it is worth mentioning I was a champion at pitching it up and over the car from the passenger side as well as the trick shot through the sunroof.

Sue Sachs Jewelry

Credit: Sue Sachs

Located in Livingston, Sue has been making jewelry and crafting metal objects for more then 30 years. Her jewelry and metal objects are crafted in sterling silver, brass, copper, and/or gold. I feel they are masterfully created and bring a sense of whimsy to each piece. I especially love her garden pieces, as I have become an avid gardener the last two years and you can often find me at the Roxbury Community Garden during the season. Her “shovel series” is definitely at the top of my list!

Reddie to Burn

Credit: Reddit to Burn

OK, I am completely partial on this one. Our intelligent and incredibly talented Goddaughter and niece has started her own candle making business. Reddie to Burn Candle Co. offers a wide variety of soy hand-made candles and wax melts and uses clean fragrances for just the right amount of scent. Which one is the best? Well that’s up to you. Personally, I really like the idea of a having access to the smell of a library any time I want it. One of my favorite places in college was leaning up against a book shelf in the stacks.

Gift Certificates

If you have that person who is just too hard to buy for, consider purchasing a gift certificate from a locally-owned business. From nail salons, to restaurants, to sport shops, every business is having a hard time right now and I am sure your gift certificate purchase would be appreciated.

Local Non-Profits

Just as small businesses are struggling, local non-profit organizations are having an even harder time right now. Many people are out of work and every dollar in a family budget has been stretched to its limit. Many organizations are really in need of support so they can continue to help their local communities. Consider making a donation in someone’s name as a thoughtful and unique gift. Here are some that have a special place in my heart:

  • Peters Valley School of Craft: Peters Valley enriches lives through the learning, practice, and appreciation of fine crafts. This community, brings together established and emerging artists from around the globe. Peters Valley was officially incorporated as a non-profit in 1970 and is located within the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.
  • The New Jersey Historical Society: The NJ History Society collects, preserves, teaches and interprets New Jersey history through its archives, research library, and educational programs. Not only is it a great place to visit, the Society offers materials for teachers to help share the story of New Jersey with their students.
  • Discover Jersey Arts: A collaboration between ArtPride New Jersey and New Jersey State Council on the Arts, Discover Jersey Arts is a multifaceted program dedicated to increasing the awareness of and participation in the arts in New Jersey. It is coordinated through the regional Jersey Arts Marketers (JAM) network and provides resources for both arts organizations and patrons alike.
  • New York-New Jersey Trail Conference: Even though it is not New Jersey-exclusive, the NY/NJ Trail Conference plays an important role in our great state. This is a volunteer-powered organization that builds, maintains, and protects public trails. Together with organization partners, the Train Conference strives to ensure that the trails and natural areas we all enjoy are sustainable and accessible for generations to come.
  • New Jersey Conservation Foundation: The mission of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation is to preserve land and natural resources throughout New Jersey. Since 1960, New Jersey Conservation Foundation has protected over 125,000 acres of natural areas and farmland in New Jersey – from the Highlands to the Pine Barrens to the Delaware Bay, from farms to forests to urban and suburban parks.

No matter how you decide to celebrate the holiday, I urge you to “shop small” and look to support the businesses and non-profits right in your own community. After all, these are the businesses and organizations that sponsor your son’s little league team or purchase an ad in the high school play’s program. They will (God willing) be there for the long-haul providing services, products, and jobs to you and your neighbors.

The Official Jersey Bucket List

As we all continue to wait to be paroled from Coronavirus jail, many of us are making plans of what we would like to do once we are free to go anywhere and do anything. Well, this had me start to make a “Jersey bucket list;” all the things Jersey-related someone should do at some point.

I hope you consider checking out some of these ideas once we are turned loose. Whether you are a foodie, a shopper extraordinaire, or someone who loves the outdoors, there is something on this list for everyone.

Visit High Point: At 1,803 feet above sea level, High Point State Park is the highest spot in the state. High Point is also the highest peak of the Kittatinny Mountains. The view is simply spectacular, as you can see New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. The land for High Point State Park, donated by Colonel Anthony R. and Susie Dryden Kuser, was dedicated as a park in 1923. You can hike, swim, fish, and camp.

Hike the New Jersey Section of the Appalachian Trail: While you are checking out High Point, get on the Appalachian Trail. The “AT” as it is often referred to, is a non-governmental, independently managed recreation facility of the national park system and is the nation’s longest marked hiking only trail at 2,180 miles. The AT runs from Maine all the way to Georgia. The New Jersey section is 74 miles long. If you are a serious hiker, many can complete the entire New Jersey section in less than a week. It can also be traversed in shorter day hikes. Hiking the Trail is a great way to see some of the most beautiful parts of the state.

Rutt's Hut

A typical meal at the Jersey famous Rutt’s Hut.

Complete the Hot Dog Trifecta: In Jersey we have opinions about EVERYTHING. Including who has the best hot dog. For many, it comes down to three: Rutt’s Hut in Clifton, Hirams in Fort Lee, and Hot Grill in Clifton. I know some who would argue River View East in Elmwood Park or Maui’s Dog House, North Wildwood. We certainly have a ton of great options!

Decide which is the Best Italian Hot Dog: Just like everyone has their favorite hot dog joint, there is always an argument as to who has the best Italian hot dogs. It comes down to two places: Dickie Dee’s in Newark and Jimmy Buff’s in West Orange. Try both and decide for yourself.

SunsetBeach

The rocks at Sunset Beach

Visit Sunset Beach in Cape May: This is one of my favorite places in the entire state. I could easily spend an entire day at Sunset Beach. Take the kids to play miniature golf, grab a bite to eat the The Grille, or do my favorite thing of all – dig for Cape May diamonds on the beach. The most touching moment of the day takes place as the sun sets. At the end of each day at Sunset Beach during the summer, make sure to stay and watch the flag ceremony. All of the flags flown at Sunset Beach are veterans’ casket flags that families bring with them from their loved one’s funeral. It is a truly moving event.

Shop the outlets in Atlantic City: As you leave Cape May, check out the great deals at the outlets in Atlantic City. From Calvin Klein, to Coach, to Cablea’s, there’s something for every member of your family. It is definitely worth the ride!

Visit Morristown National Historical Park: One of my first dates with my now husband was a visit to Jockey Hollow. It is a great place to see “where America survived.” The entire area is known as Morristown National Historical Park and includes multiple interesting places to explore and commemorates the sites of General Washington and the Continental army’s winter encampment of December 1779 to June 1780, where they survived through what would be the coldest winter on record.

Plan a Wine Tasting Event at One of Jersey’s Wineries: The Garden State is home to over 40 wineries. It’s history goes all the way back to 1758 when Great Britain’s Royal Society offered £100 to any colonist who would produce red or white wine “of acceptable quality,” meaning the wine was of the same caliber as that being purchased from France. While New Jersey’s wine history has experienced challenges, it is now flourishing!

Visit all of New Jersey’s Lighthouses: There are over 20 lighthouses still in existence in New Jersey and they are from the top of New Jersey to the bottom; not just down the shore. About half of those are open to the public.

Catch a Wild Brook Trout on a Dry Fly: When people talk about fly fishing they usually think of two things: Montana and the movie A River Runs Through It. What you might not know is that there’s plenty of great places to fly fish right in New Jersey. As someone who has been fly fishing for over two decades, there is nothing like catching a fish – any fish – on top water. To me, the most perfect catch is a native wild brook trout on a dry fly. For me that would be on one of four of my favorite dry flies: an Adams, a Royal Wulff, A Blue Wing Olive, or an Elk Hair Caddis. And not your standard 12 or 13 inch brook trout; a serious brookie. In case you didn’t know, the brook trout is the state’s official fish.

Go to Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart: One of the most beautiful churches in the state is the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark. During Pope John Paul II’s visit to the United States in 1995, he celebrated evening prayer at the Cathedral. At this occasion, the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart was elevated to a minor basilica to become the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart.

Enjoy Dinner at The Belmont: Growing up, I had two favorite restaurants: The Finish Line and The Belmont and I had favorite dishes at each place. At The Finish Line, I loved their zuppa di pesce. At The Belmont, I know many people go for Stretch’s “Famous” Chicken Savoy, but for me it was always their Scrod “Di Giacomo” Oreganato.  I haven’t been to The Belmont in a long time, and I am way overdue.

Lemonade and a Cheese Steak at The Midway: Like many others, I have great memories of going “down the shore.” I’ve learned your shore stop has a lot to do with you age. When I was a teenager, like many others, my stop was Seaside. A favorite practice of mine was to grab a cheese steak and lemonade at The Midway, sit on one of the many benches, and people watch. It was always fascinating. Sadly, Sandy and the boardwalk fire took away the “shore of my youth” as Governor Christie put it. What hasn’t changed is the opportunity for cheese steak and lemonade at The Midway while people watching.

Visit the Pine Barrens: The Pinelands is the largest remaining example of the Atlantic coastal pine barrens ecosystem, stretching across more than seven counties of New Jersey. Congress created the New Jersey Pinelands National Reserve, the country’s first National Reserve, to protect the area under the National Parks and Recreation Act of 1978. The reserve contains Wharton State Forest, Brendan T. Byrne State Forest, Bass River State Forest, and Penn State Forest. It is approximately 1.1 million acres and spans portions of seven counties. The reserve occupies 22% of New Jersey’s land area and it is the largest body of open space on the Mid-Atlantic seaboard between Richmond and Boston. The Pinelands was designated a U.S. Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1983 and an International Biosphere Reserve in 1988. It is also known as the home of the legend of The Jersey Devil.

I’m sure there’s a lot I am missing. What is on your Jersey bucket list?

Get Ready for Small Business Saturday

Small Business SaturdayThis week officially kicks off the holiday season. Thanksgiving on Thursday, then Black Friday, and finally Small Business Saturday. I have never participated on Black Friday. Think about it – people get up at the crack of dawn to fight each other for a deal on a big screen television the day after they gave thanks for what they have.

Small business Saturday, however, is definitely something worth remembering. Do the big box stores sponsor your child’s softball team? Probably not. The local bagel shop, however, takes what happens in the community to heart. These business owners are our neighbors and friends. They deserve our support.

Every neighborhood and town offers great small business. I hope you will consider patronizing them as well during this holiday season:

Respectrum Books: Thankfully, independently-owned book stores are making a HUGE comeback. Respectrum Books is a great book shop in the town of Sussex that offers  new, used, and rare books covering a variety of subjects to inspire and inform. A carefully selected book is a wonderful gift!

Trinity Thrift Shop: I absolutely love going to thrift shops. And there are few thrift shops that are better than Trinity Thrift in Hackettstown. Run by Trinity Church, the shop offers a wide variety of unique items. I have picked up antique cameras there as well as Lenox china. Some may not thing shopping in a thrift shop is proper, but if you are looking for something specific or special, check out Trinity Thrift.

Gallery D’May: Whenever we head down the shore, we always make sure to stop in Gallery D’May. It is a favorite place for all things shore art. I have a piece we purchased them in my office. It reminds me every day of the beauty of Cape May.

Surprises in Store: From candles, to platters, to hostess gifts, Surprises in Store in Denville is one of my favorite and unique shops. They offer lovely and unique gifts for the hard to purchase individual on your list.

These are just a few of the many wonderful individually-owned shops throughout New Jersey. I hope you will considering “shopping small” this Saturday.

Shop Small Jersey Style

While many are out today on Black Friday shopping on major department stores like Target and Best Buy, I find Small Business Saturday much more important.

Small Business SaturdayStarted in 2010 by American Express, Small Business Saturday is meant to encourage consumers to shop at locally-owned stores in their communities. Small businesses generate the majority of jobs in the United States. According to reports from the U.S. Small Business Administration small companies accounted for 64% of new jobs created in the U.S. between 1993 and 2011.

Whenever possible, I make a point to “shop small.” I have found the quality of merchandise is better and the customer service is always great!

I would like to share a few different shops I frequent. They are all wonderful places to shop and I encourage my readers to do the same.

Whitewater Flies, Lafayette: Business owner Greg runs a great fly shop in Sussex County. If you need a gift for your favorite fly angler, I highly suggest you check out Whitewater Flies. He is very knowledgeable and can help you find the perfect gift.

Fiber Arts Yarn Shop, Cape May: Whenever my husband and I head “down the shore,” we visit the Fiber Arts Yarn Shop. It is a wonderful shop that offers a wide variety of yarns, buttons, crochet hooks, knitting needles, and more. A great gift might even be a gift certificate to an upcoming class!

Sergio’s, Denville: I absolutely love shopping the main street of Denville. Just about every shop is a locally-owned business. Sergio’s offers delicious imported Italian specialties. How about making a gift basket full of Italian goodies? Sounds like a perfect gift to me!

Kevin’s Fine Jewelry, Totowa: My husband and I have shopped at Kevin’s Fine Jewelry several times. Kevin and his staff are both knowledgeable and pleasant. If you need something special this is the place to go! Kevin and his team can even create a custom piece if you would like!

PhotoZone, Parsippany: Whether you are looking for a basic digital camera or a high end SLR, PhotoZone can help you. PhotoZone is a second-generation owned photography shop with unparalleled knowledge about photography. You can find PhotoZone inside SoundWaves; another great small business focused on home and auto audio electronics.

These are just a few of the many great small businesses throughout the state of New Jersey. I hope my readers will shop small on Saturday!

Small Business Saturday – Jersey Style

While many people look forward to Black Friday for a good deal on a television set, I look forward to Small Business Saturday.

Small businesses are the driving force behind the nation’s economy. According to the Small Business Administration, in 2013, New Jersey small businesses employed over 1.7 people. More than 50 percent of those companies have more than 500 employees. Whenever possible, I work to support local businesses, and Small Business Saturday is a perfect time to get out and support businesses in your community.

Here are some great small businesses in New Jersey to check out:

Starting at the top of New Jersey in Sussex County, Peters Valley in Layton offers a number peters-valleyof wonderful hand-made goods, so not only are you supporting a small business, you are supporting the arts. There’s always something new to check out. Whenever I am up in Sussex County, I stop in to see what it new and rarely leave empty handed.

Moving down Sussex County, check out Whitewater Flies. If you have someone on your list that enjoys fly fishing and the outdoors, check out this great little fly shop. Greg and his team are incredibly helpful and can guide you to make the best picks possible.

Entering Morris County, I love going to downtown Denville. The main drag is almost completely small businesses. Faith and Begorra offers some great Irish and Catholic gifts, such as handmade sweaters and Irish jewelry. Kevin’s Fine Jewelry has beautiful jewelry in a variety of different price ranges. If you need a lunch break, head to Sergio’s for an Italian treat and then to Mara’s for some dessert.

If you have a book lover on your list, I recommend you check out the Old Book Shop in Morristown. They have a great selection of old and limited edition books as well as magazines and vintage post cards.

shop-chester-njAnother favorite small town in Morris County is Chester. The historic downtown retail district is lined with great shops filled with art, antiques, and more. I always enjoy walking around Chester Crafts, Collectibles & Antiques. There is always something unique and interesting and is a great place to find that special gift for someone on your list. Objects of Desire is another great shop full of handmade jewelry and a variety of accessories.

Growing up in Essex County, I used to love to go to Bloomfield Avenue in Montclair. One of my favorite stops was always The Inner Eye. This was always a unique place and you never knew what you were going to find. Just off Bloomfield Avenue on Church Street, you’ll find That Little Black Dress. There is always something unique available and it was voted a favorite New Jersey boutique.

Frenchtown1-smA great spot in Hunterdon County is Frenchtown. I wrote about a visit to Frenchtown during the summer. Of course my favorite spot is The Spinnery. If you have a yarn lover on your list, this is the place to go! If you have someone with a sweet tooth, check out Minette’s Candies. They have not only all the hard-to-find candy brands we grew up with, they have great stuff like truffles and chocolate covered pretzels.

At the tip of the state, you’ll find Cape May; a favorite spot of mine. Check out the Whale’s Tale and Splash for great unique gifts with a “down the shore” feel. If you want a sweet treat with a real Jersey feel, pick up a gift at James Candy Company. I’ve picked up Fralinger’s Original Salt Water for something different as a hostess gift when going to a party.

These are just a few of the different and wonderful small businesses you will find in New Jersey. I hope you will use Small Business Saturday as a good excuse to check out the great businesses that are in your area. What are your favorite businesses? Please add to the list in the comments section below.

Show Your Jersey Pride

Anyone who knows me is keenly aware I am not someone who is into fashion trends. What I am into is showing off my Jersey pride. I wanted to share with everyone some great finds you can wear or display to show off your Jersey pride!

Alex-Ani-NJAlex & Ani: OK, like I said, I generally am  not a “fashion trend” type of person, but I really like the A&A bracelets. My favorite, of course, is their version of a Jersey show off. As soon as I saw it, I had to have it!

The Home T: I saw this awhile back on Shark Tank. I thought it was a really good idea. It is simple, the shirts are great quality and it is a neat way to show off your state pride. I was a little disappointed with the price, but it is still cool.

Watercolor Art: There are lots of great ways to show off your love for New Jersey I love original artwork and the horseshoe crab is synonymous with the horseshoe crabJersey shore. I absolutely love this piece highlighting this ancient creature everyone has seen at least once in their life at the shore.

Cape May Diamond: You know what they say, diamonds are a girl’s best friend. Something that Cape May is known for is their own unique version of the diamond. It actually isn’t a “real” diamond. The “diamonds” actually start in the upper Delaware River and wash down river, brushing against rocks along the way, to create the smooth looking stone. The best beach to locate these diamonds is Sunset Beach in Cape May Point, NJ. Sunset beach is located on the Delaware Bay. There is also a small shop there with the stones cut and displayed as beautiful jewelry. I have a lovely solitaire necklace!

What are your favorite ways to show off your Jersey pride?

Business Spotlight: Sisters

Sisters Denville, NJSince I started a new job I have been able to head down to Denville’s town center much more often than in the past. They have a great little center full of small locally-owned businesses. Today at lunch I had the opportunity to check out a shop I’ve been wanting to visit for awhile – Sisters.

This adorable little boutique has a great collection of items for sale. Handbags from Vera Bradley and Brighton, beautiful wraps, and a great line of New Jersey t-shirts, just to name a few.

When I went in the shop, there were a few women decorating for the official start of the Christmas shopping season. I am sure they will be busy this Small Business Saturday. They were very pleasant and made themselves available without being pushy – certainly a retail trait I wish more businesses wound understand. The store offers great products in esthetically pleasing presentations.

As the shopping season gets underway, I highly recommend you check this shop out. You can definitely find something unique there and you will be supporting a local small business!

Shopping Small Online

I love to shop small whenever possible. One shop I really enjoy is The Urban Muse in Denville. It is a relaxing day spa with a truly unique shop attached. They have the absolute best stuff! Every time I go in there I always find something I love.

Georgene Novak

Copper Cuff by Georgene Novak.

Well now they just launched an online shop, so you can shop small online! They carry highly regarded brands as well as original work from various artisans. One of my favorites is Georgene Novak, a North Jersey native. She makes beautiful jewelry and also offers jewelry making classes. I definitely want to take one of her classes in 2014!

So if you like to shop online (like I do), make sure you try to shop small on the Internet as well. I am sure you won’t be disappointed!