Nederland shops filled with unique gifts

Barbara Lawlor

On Friday night, Nov. 23, the news clips about Black Friday were horrific. From all over the country came reports of crushing lines, pushing and shoving customers, an overall feeling of frustration, exhaustion and a bah humbug attitude. Large retail corporations said the economy is up from last year and most businesses were pleased with weekend sales.
Black Friday in Nederland, however, was laid back and pleasant with warmer than usual temperatures and visitors exploring the shops, not stampeding them. Most buyers entered the stores without a plan and without a list of specific items. They meandered in and let their eyes wander over the shelves filled with one of- a-kind gifts.
These visitors were not the electronic crowd. They were the people willing to take a trip into the mountains to find the perfect Christmas presents for their favorite friends or relatives. They searched for the gifts they couldn’t find anywhere else, and they found them. In just about every retail shop in Nederland, employees were able to come up with what the shoppers wanted.
Across the highway from the Caribou Village Shopping Center, the Blue Owl Bookstore is much more than a bookstore. Employee Emily Rockcastle snuggled up to a manikin modeling one of stunningly feminine ensembles that now spices up the adjoining rooms. Local handcrafted jewelry, essential oils, scarves, coffees and, of course, ice cream, are always popular, even in winter.
Upstairs, at the Grow in Peace shop, visitors are greeted by the organic aroma of soil and leaves and are instantly looking at a jungle of vegetables and large-leafed plants that glow purple under the grow lights of Chris Guerrin’s indoor garden. The shop has everything essential for the green-thumbed individual on your Christmas list — just the perfect winter-time project to keep cabin fever from blowing in through the door.
There aren’t many towns that have an alpaca store — and more — and Nederland is proud to have the shop that features the warmest wool in the world. Employee Kathleen Henningsen wears the luxurious alpaca hat and jacket while she hugs the store alpaca. She said the big item this holiday will be the recently purchased men’s barn jackets. The good news for locals is a 20 percent discount on all items.
On the upper level of the Shopping Center, Billy Laing of the Tungsten Trail Tattoo Company is pleased with the steady trickle of business he gets. He said people of all ages come in to turn parts of their bodies into works of art. Some come in regularly, slowly becoming a mural. Others, some senior citizens, come in for one modest but heartfelt symbol of love or a butterfly or a name they never want to let go of.
Laureal Boston at the Wild Bear Mountain Ecology Center said she can’t resist the stuffed animals that add color and hugability to the retail items. The shop in the lower part of the Shopping Center features gifts that are ecologically sound and unique to Wild Bear.
Also in the shopping center is Nederland’s most beloved landmark, the Carousel of Happiness. Oooh, the wonderful toys, wooden puppets and train sets, the kind you can add onto forever. Stuffed large animals are amazingly affordable and art supplies are just a few of the creative tools that inspire imagination.
If traditional stocking stuffers is on the list, Buffalo Bill’s is the place for salt water taffy, jump lollipops, dots on papers, bushel baskets full of the old fashioned kind of candy that can’t be found just anywhere. It is also a great place to drop the packages, have a cup of coffee and a doughnut and watch Nederland pedestrians walk on by, admiring the train cars.
The Voodoo Toy Store in the lower part of the Shopping Center is a children’s paradise. This could be one-stop shopping for the children in the family. Legos? Absolutely. Star Wars stuff? Definitely. Little things and big presents, perfect individually or in groups in the stockings.
The Dam Liquor Store in the Shopping Center has just about everything a holiday dinner or party needs to compliment the food or break the ice. Manager Scott Havnes said they are expanding their beer inventory and plan to have a walk-in beer cave in the near future. It is always fun to get a stocking full of shooters or a bottle of Grand Marnier to sip on a winter night.
Getting spiffed up is part of the holiday spirit and nothing could be more convenient or welcoming than the Sunnyside Barber Shop where the customer comes first. Buy a friend a shave and a haircut and see him shine for the holiday party.
Although First Street isn’t long, it is the jewel of the holiday light season. The quaint, cozy, colorful buildings could be a Christmas card, and visitors love to stroll along the sidewalk and look in the windows.
On the corner of the intersection with the highway, Dog House Video now fills the space that was Off Her Rocker. On the right side is the retail shop that now offers ski jackets, ski pants, long underwear, mittens, T-shirts and even flashlight firefly shoes that will be in demand. In the rear rooms, shelves of CDs and DVDs are as popular as ever, but the sporting goods section will fill in the NetFlix spaces.
In the same retail space but on the left side, Kelly Delia has opened the Dandelion Gift Shop which has some of the flavor and appeal of Off Her Rocker. Delia’s goal is to showcase local artists, photographers and potters. She said that one of her special items this year is the antique Roman glass jewelry.
One Brown Moose said business was slow on Black Friday, but over the weekend, the people who did buy spent money like they meant it. So far this season, Kathleen Chippi has sold many local hand-painted T-shirts and many hats.
“Hats hold the store together,” Chippi said. Retail is a tough go in a small town. Chippi said that of the total sales tax one-third is spent on gas and up to two-thirds is spent on eating and drinking. Retail sales add up to about three-and-a-half percent of the total sales tax revenue.
Next door to One Brown Mouse is the Mother’s Earth Gallery which has been owned and operated by Suzanne Thomas. After seven-and-a-half years, Thomas is moving the business into her home on Second Street at the end of the month, saying she is exhausted.
“There seems to be a transference of energy, with Teresa leaving and Jeff of Neo’s. We are all burnt out. There is a different energy now. But I am going to have the biggest New Year’s party this town has ever seen,” Thomas said.
Nature’s Own saw a constant stream of visitors over the four-day weekend. People come from far away to mull over the ancient artifacts and geodes that people crave. Mike Parker, a long-time employee, said the solonite skyscrapers are a hit this season. They create a warm glow that speaks of century-old rocks.
Dustin Chamber, a Denver resident, said he drove to Nederland to find a special present in the rock shop. The hot item of the season is a meteorite which fell from the sky four-and-a- half billion years ago, and shoppers clamber for a piece of it. Jewelry has been flying out the door and pieces of Billy Ikler Studio jewelry has been selling like crazy.
Nature’s Own isn’t just a crazy, fun and educational place to browse, it also donates 100 percent of its profit to organizations who work for the environment.
The Underground Thrift Store under the Dog House Video is jam-packed with great deals, treasures folded in amongst the piles of jeans, boots and blankets, dresses and coats, household items and a cheery welcome from the owner. Outside on the porch are boxes filled with toys, a sure way to pile the presents under the tree inexpensively.
Farther down First Street, the Rustic Moose fills the upstairs and the downstairs with Nederland memorabilia for the friends and families who live far away. Classy fleeces and cases of jewelry, moose gifts everywhere, actually all kinds of mountain critters abound in this shop.
The Mountain People’s Co-op also has original gifts that come from places most people don’t go to. For example, the Tangwa nuts from palm trees are used to create buttons and jewelry and carry a mysterious beauty. On the tea shelf is a large jar that explains that the small fibrous balls expand in hot water and create a soothing Dragon Phoenix Rising Jasmine Pearl Green Tea that is worth savoring. It is a Co-op favorite that sells for $52 a pound, but an ounce or two would last for a while. Local candles, local oils, herbs and salves will get one through the winter.
Although the weekend is over, the shopping has just begun. The choices are endless. The quality is top notch and the prices are priceless, but most of all, we are already here.