Online shopping may be convenient and hassle-free, but it has none of the excitement of shopping with other people caught up in the holiday spirit or of actually touching something you might want to buy. If you choose to shop at a mall, you’ll likely be circling the parking lot stalking shoppers to nab a space, and once inside, crowds of people will seem to be everywhere you want to be. That leaves shopping locally, where the probability of parking nearby, handling the merchandise, and enjoying the company of a few fellow shoppers is high. Enjoy these local businesses:
The General Store is loading its shelves for the holiday season, and Lynne Wood, gifts and clothing buyer, described some items new this season. In addition to colorful pear candles, there are white and green Christmas tree candles in varying heights. Felted animal ornaments—a unicorn, a teddy bear holding a gift, and a fox—are sure to delight youngsters, and everyone will enjoy whimsical glass ornaments, from a rolled yoga mat to a flamingo to a bright green pickle. Matt Leblanc of Bear Bones has created small sculptures—an anchor, motorcycle, and hummingbird—out of welded metal. When his mother was diagnosed with cancer, Leblanc committed to selling 1,000 hummingbirds to help with her treatment costs. A Clea Ray line of canvas bags (travel satchel, backpack, or purse) have a fun vintage look. There are warm, handmade mittens by Lucy Blue and some fingerless gloves and hats by Faire Trade. Wood buys soft T-shirts with hand-painted bears or sayings like “Eat Local” and a hoodie with a flight of beer across the front from Cinder & Salt in Connecticut. A northern Vermont store supplies T-shirts with the popular “What happens in Harvard . . .” and sweatshirts in red, green, and a beautiful blue with the store logo or “Harvard est. 1732” on them. You’ll find a variety of Beeline skincare products, bath salts in pretty bottles, bubble gum soap, Elmore Mountain soap and hand salve, as well as mugs handmade in Harvard by Christopher Kimball, and small hooked wool pillows with a skier, sledder, or snowman. For edibles, there is Eden Confections with special candy, gourmet popcorn (try peppermint bark), and a variety of local honey and maple products. The General is keeping the prepared-food cooler stocked with an ever-expanding offering of house-made specialties for meals and snacks during the busy holidays. (harvardgeneralstore.com)
Fruitlands Museum Store offers shopping with a magnificent view—rolling hills, historical buildings, and distant mountains. It carries a unique selection of handmade items by New England artisans in a wide price range. Stained glass ornaments, cards, an array of silver and beaded jewelry, original watercolor paintings, nature prints, pottery bowls of varied sizes, Shaker items, baby and toddler hats, sweaters, and stuffed animals, and more. In this year of all things “Little Women,” there is an entire case devoted to related items. What looks like a copy of the book itself turns out to be a purse; a black cap-sleeved top with a Victorian-style design of flowers entwining each of the four girls could be worn anywhere. Socks and a tote bag sport other images of the little women. Mugs with sayings from Alcott (“Nothing is impossible to a determined woman” and “Good books like good friends are few and chosen”) would be perfect for the right person, as would a copper cuff bracelet that reads, “She is too fond of books and it has turned her brain.”
The store is a mini-bookshop with a range of texts on the Alcotts and other transcendentalists, Shakers, Hudson River School painters, and Native Americans, along with children’s books. New this year are soft-cover books on recent gallery exhibits, with photos and text by Trustees staff, among them “Leisure Pursuits,” “Pastoral Present,” and “Inhabiting Folk Portraits.” If you saw the exhibit, the book is a nice reminder, and if you didn’t, you can see what you missed. Beautiful silk or woven scarves and dressy jackets by Winding River make special gifts. New this year is a hand-dyed silk, one-of-a-kind design, poncho-style wrap, waist length with slitted sleeves.
Additionally, giving a membership, which includes admission to the more than 100 Trustees of Reservations properties, is a great “experience” present. The museum store is open weekends from noon to 5 p.m. during the winter. This year’s annual Holiday Fair and Open House takes place Saturday, Dec. 7, from noon to 5 p.m. (fruitlands.thetrustees.org)
The gift shop at Westward Orchards carries items you won’t see gathered at any other store around here. Most are made in the United States and many are made locally. Christmas trees and wreaths are on their way down from Canada.
The large porch still holds a few stone sculptures and other decorative items for the garden. Inside, shelves and walls are covered with eye-catching wares, including holiday-themed mugs, kitchen towels, ornaments, pillows, and other decorative items. Wooden signs hang on the wall with messages like “Lessons from a dog: unleash your talents.” Chickens items are everywhere, with horses, bears, moose, and owls also making a showing on mugs and towels, and notepaper. Stuffed animals, candles, lotions, handmade soaps, and apple-shaped cutting boards made in Harvard share the well-stocked shelves; colorful scarves drape a rack; and beautiful glass hummingbird feeders hang from the ceiling. A good selection of U.S.-made Great Bay Pottery occupies one shelf, while cashmere and cashmere-blend scarves occupy another.
Gift baskets can be made up with gourmet items, including local honey, spice mixes, and other comestibles. New to the store this year is Simon Hartwell House unprocessed honey and honeycomb, made in Boxborough. Also new are polished, food-safe serving boards made from Westward rocks by Lowell-based American Stonecraft. Pies are available by order until Dec. 8, and cider doughnuts can also be ordered in advance. Enjoy complimentary hot drinks and goodies while you shop at Westward’s annual Holiday Open House, Dec. 6, 7, and 8. Shoppers may choose a candy cane from a jar and, depending on the color of the dot on its wrapper, receive 5 to 25% off the price of a gift. (westwardorchards.com)
The Fiber Loft offers creative gifts for both the enthusiast and the casual crafter, with fibers for knitting, spinning, dyeing, felting, and weaving in all colors and textures. Looms and spinning wheels are in stock. There are also gift items for non-knitters, including candles, soaps, mugs, handmade shawls, African baskets, locally handmade rope baskets, fabric handbags, canvas totes, jigsaw puzzles, stuffed animals, and jewelry.
Gift cards are available, either for use in the store or for classes. Until Dec. 14, the Fiber Loft is also accepting hand-knitted donations for charity, which will be dropped off at Our Father’s House in Fitchburg. The shop is open for the season Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m., and Thursday evenings until 9 p.m. (thefiberloft.com)
Stay fit the whole year with a new KHS bicycle for the holidays from CK Bikes, located downstairs at the General Store. Owner Craig Kilmer explains that the KHS initials stand for knowledge, health, and safety—a brand, according to Kilmer, that has a solid reputation with good value. Bicycle fittings are included with purchase, layaways can be arranged, and gift certificates are available. Sprucing up your current bike? Tune-ups, repairs, bicycling accessories, and safety gear such as helmets and lights can be purchased. Cold-weather riders can equip their bikes with studded snow tires for help on Harvard’s hills. For information, call Kilmer at 978-844-7539. Winter hours are Fridays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Closed Black Friday. (ckbikes.com)
Former Press photographer Lisa Aciukewicz (www.lisaa2z.com) shoots events (corporate, weddings, bar/bat mitzvahs), portraits, and lifestyle photography. She also maintains an archive of Harvard Press photography from 2007 to 2019 (a2z.smugmug.com/Harvard-Press) where you can purchase reprints of town events, including Bromfield sports, Fourth of July, first day of school, graduation, etc. Photos can be downloaded, made into quality prints, or kept as keepsakes on mugs, magnets, playing cards, and so forth. Looking for a unique holiday gift? Lisa also sells scenic photos from around town at a2z.smugmug.com/Harvard-Press/Harvard-Scenics. Contact Lisa at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Harvard local Kathryn Costello is well known for her photographs focusing on dance, movement, landscapes, and creative portraiture. She also works with clients to develop personal branding images and headshots. Visit www.kathryncostellophotography.com to see her portfolio, or contact her at email@example.com or 978-257-0862 to give the gift of a portrait session.
Kelly Fitzsimmons (www.kellyfitzsimmonsphotography.com) specializes in fine art, family, event, documentary, corporate, and commissioned photography. Her unobtrusive approach elicits natural and spontaneous images that are classic, compelling, and timeless. A visual storyteller with a compassionate perspective, Kelly’s portraits span the globe. Newborn portrait sessions are one of her favorite specialties. Gift certificates for a variety of photography sessions are available; digital images and prints are purchased separately. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 978.549.0987.
Harvard is known for apples, and Carlson Orchards is the place to find apple-themed gifts, including apple cake, apple pancake and crisp mixes, dried apple slices, and mulled cider tea bags. The store also sells cookbooks by Harvard authors, including “Favorite Recipes of Mother Carlson,” a compilation of Eleanor Carlson’s recipes. Custom gift baskets can be made to order with items from the store; some pre-packaged gift baskets are also available.
Pre-ordered homemade pies can be picked up by 4 p.m. Dec 24. Frozen pies, crisps, and breads are available in the store, along with many varieties of apples, including bags of utility apples for baking. Apple cider comes in multiple varieties, including 16 oz., half gallon, and full gallons of regular cider as well as half gallons of 100% Fuji or Honeycrisp cider. In addition, Carlson sells cheese and spreads from Smith’s Country Cheese in Winchendon and maple cotton candy made in New Hampshire. A wide selection of jams, jellies, salsas, and honeys are available. Apple gift boxes can be shipped anywhere in the country with order forms available on Carlson’s website (carlsonorchards.com).
Six styles of hard cider are available in 16 oz. cans and 32 oz. growlers. Growler gift packages are also available.
Stop by the Harvard Alpaca Ranch, 58 Old Mill Road, for super-soft alpaca and teddy bear stuffed animals and finely knit, extra soft baby blankets. Socks, hats, mittens, and scarves may be purchased at the farm or online at HarvardAlpacaRanch.com, or buy skeins of alpaca yarn to make your own. Great gift ideas include everything from alpaca cat toys to alpaca golf club headcovers, as well as 12-month calendars featuring photographs of the ranch’s herd taken by owner Matt Varrell. For a gardener, a bag of magic “beans” (alpaca manure) can be purchased. The beans make an excellent fertilizer with very little odor and may also keep deer out of gardens (they are repelled by the smell). Black Friday hours 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Weekend hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The Harvard Historical Society sells “The Harvard Album,” Dianne Newton’s book about historical Harvard illustrated through many vintage photos, as well as Robert Anderson’s history of Harvard, “Directions of a Town.” There are also a few other books related to Harvard, in limited numbers. The society sells reproductions, matted and ready for framing, of the works of 1900s resident Eleanor Merrifield, who hand-colored her photos of five bygone scenes of Harvard Shaker Village. Note cards with prints of four scenes of Harvard Center in the late 1800s, as well as old postcards, make nice gifts of nostalgia. The society has gift wrap—historical, of course—to use for the holidays or any other time of year.
A membership makes a great gift for the history buff, supporting the society and giving the recipient entry to members-only events, an occasional email with archival photo and tidbit, or a heads-up for society programs. The Curator’s Quarters at the Harvard Historical Society, 215 Still River Road, is open Monday and Tuesday 1 to 5 p.m. or by appointment. Orders can also be taken by email; contact Judy Warner at email@example.com or call Carol Landry at 978-456-9645.
Visit the St. Benedict Center’s True Devotionals Gift Shop at 271 Still River Road for spiritual gifts this holiday season. Staffed by volunteers and religious brothers and sisters, the shop features nativity statuary, crèches, Advent calendars, and music. Also available are inspirational books, artwork, music, DVDs, rosaries, and an assortment of religious gifts. Weekday hours are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; open until 5 p.m. Thursdays; Saturday 10 a.m. to noon; Sunday 10:45 to noon. Holiday hours are 10 a.m. to noon. Browse the online catalog at TrueDevotionals.com or call 978-456-8877.
Sweetness for the holidays comes in the form of honey bought locally. Local Maxant Honey is sold at Carlson Orchards in 1-, 2-, 4-, and 5-pound jars. Carlson’s also sells Cherryvale Apiaries honey, produced in Boxborough. Westward Orchards sells Simon Hartwell House honey and honeycomb, and the General Store sells Carlisle’s Spring Blossom, Wildflower (dark), and jars of creamed honey. In addition, the General sells Wicked Bee honey made in Harvard.
Surprise your friends or family with a free guest pass to Koko FitClub of Harvard, which can be downloaded at harvard.kokofitclub.com. The pass entitles the recipient to a comprehensive workout demonstration or a customized strength and cardio workout by a certified personal trainer.
Bodylines Pilates of Harvard offers specials and gift certificates for its private and semiprivate lessons and drop-in class packages. The focus is strengthening your muscles while feeding your soul, using “mind-body” forms of movement including pilates, yoga, a suspension training system, high-intensity training, and elements of ballet. Nutritional programs are also available to help you reach your health and wellness goals. Gym is open Saturday 7 a.m. to noon, Sunday 9:30 to 11:30 a.m., and Monday through Friday 5:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. (bodylinespilates.com)
Gift certificates for Dragonfly Wellness Center can be used for any of the classes, workshops, massage, or private instruction offered at this holistic wellness center at 176 Jackson Road, Devens. Certificates are available in the online store. (dragonflywellnesscenter.net)
Another healthy option is a gift certificate for classes or membership at Anytime Fitness, 20 Andrews Parkway, Devens. The gym is open 24 hours a day. Gift certificates are available in any denomination at the front desk, staffed Monday 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 to 7 p.m.; Tuesday 2 to 7 p.m.; Wednesday noon to 7 p.m.; Thursday 2 to 6 p.m.; Friday 8:30 a.m. to noon; Saturday 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. (anytimefitness.com/gyms/713/devens-ma-01434)
Give a healthy, great gift. Massage decreases muscular pain and increases the sense of well-being. Harvard Therapeutic Massage is a group of highly skilled massage therapists, with a wide range of modalities: deep tissue, sports, prenatal, medical massage, Thai table massage, structural energetic release, relaxation massage, and Bemer vascular therapy. Their therapists are Ally Cruikshank, Linda Provost, Margi Hadorn, Christina Lagares, Jack Fisher, and Bethany Stehlick. They also have a chiropractor, Dale Glow, and acupuncturist, Janice Perry. Memberships and gift certificates are available. Visit their website at www.htmassage.com, or call 978-772-0903.
Custom floral designs for gift-giving or the holiday table can be ordered from Flowers at Westcott Barn, owned by Harvard resident Richard Gioiosa. Contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 617-771-0433. (flowersatwestcottbarn.com)
Wine and beer for holiday parties or gifts can be found at the General Store and the Grape Vine on Ayer Road. The General Store has an ever-expanding collection of craft beer, wines, and spirits available for package store purchase. Keep an eye on social media for updates on upcoming wine tastings through the holiday season. Additionally, the General is now able to serve beer and wine by the glass for sit-in service. (harvardgeneralstore.com) (grapevineliquorstore.com)
Beyond the borders of Harvard, you’ll find the wares of Harvard residents in stores such as Sue George’s Harvard Sweet Boutique in Hudson and Periwinkle Art & Glassworks in West Acton village.
Harvard Sweet Boutique offers gourmet desserts and gift boxes in the Hudson store; gift boxes can also be ordered online and either picked up in the store or shipped anywhere in the country. (harvardsweetboutique.com)
Periwinkle features works by more than 100 local artists, including Harvard residents Cathryn Noyes, Teresa Ferraiolo, Carol Panek Clark, Carolyn Grant, and Judy Warner. Classes and workshops for kids and adults are offered year round. (periwinkleglassworks.com)
Celebrate music with the gift of a concert, a lecture, a showcase recital, or chamber music tickets from Indian Hill Music. Performances feature acclaimed musicians at an affordable price. Tickets can be purchased online at indianhillmusic.org or by phone at 978-486-9524. Gift cards are available and can be purchased and sent online
Kitchen Outfitters of Acton carries a variety of quality kitchen items, including cookware, bakeware, cutlery, and gadgets that no chef or baker should be without. Gift cards can be purchased online and mailed directly to the recipient. (kitchen-outfitters.com)
Swymfit, just over the town line in Boxborough, offers walk-ins and daily class visits, individual monthly memberships, and 10-visit guest or class cards, along with regular memberships. In addition to swim lessons, Swymfit offers a variety of exercise classes on both water and land, as well as small group and personal training sessions. (swymfit.com)
Fine lingerie, sleepwear, and activewear can be purchased at Jo Karen in Acton. Super-soft and cozy Barefoot Dream wraps and cardigans make excellent gifts. Hours are Monday through Saturday 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday until 7 p.m., and Sunday noon through 5 p.m. (jokaren.com)
The Bull Run restaurant in Shirley is a winner of the 2016 Diners’ Choice award by OpenTable and is a farm-to-table restaurant that serves local craft beers on tap. Gift cards are available online at bullrunrestaurant.com or by phone at 978-425-4311 and are redeemable for dinner, drinks, concert tickets, or retail items such as T-shirts, mugs, and caps at the restauran’s gift shop.
Colonial Spirits of Acton offers specials on its wine, beer, and liquor selections throughout the holidays, as well as wine tastings, to help choose the perfect gift or holiday dinner pairing. Gift cards are available in any amount and can be ordered over the phone at 978-263-7775 or online and sent directly to the recipient. Store hours are Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (colonialspirits.com)
Acton’s Handworks Gallery, recently under new management, is filled with gift possibilities by 250 artists and craftspeople who work with ceramics, wood, fiber, glass, jewelry, and mixed media. Open Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.; Thursday, 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. (handworksgallery.net)
The diverse pieces of art, such as large and small paintings, woodwork, weaving, ceramics, and photography, in the current exhibit at Fivesparks are selling well and will be available until Nov. 30, when the exhibit closes. The upcoming exhibit, “Darkness to Light,” promises to offer unique artwork. Check it out at a wine and cheese reception Dec. 4, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. The gallery is sponsoring an Artisan Fair Saturday, Dec. 14. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 12 to 6 p.m. (fivesparks.org)
This independent bookstore in West Acton tempts the bibliophile with everything from the latest murder mystery to books on organic vegetable gardening or current political issues. With a wide selection of books for children and young adults, the Silver Unicorn also offers gift cards in the store or online, so that recipients can choose just what they want to read. (silverunicornbooks.com) Hours are Monday through Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Thursday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
GIFTS, GOODIES, GIFT CARDS
IN HARVARD and DEVENS …
- Jill Adamy
- Anytime Fitness
20 Andrews Parkway, Devens
Bare Hill Woodworks
(custom wooden gifts)
- Bodyline Pilates
325 Ayer Road
115 Oak Hill Road
(fruit, pies, gifts, cider, hard cider)
- CK Bikes
1 Still River Road
(new/used bikes, repair)
- Kathryn Costello Photography
- Devens Grill
4 Ryans Way, Devens
- Dragonfly Wellness Center
176 Jackson Road, Devens
(wellness classes, massage)
9 Mass. Ave.
(knitting/spinning/weaving supplies, classes)
- Kelly Fitzsimmons Photography
(fine art, event, and portrait photography)
Flowers at Westcott Barn
(custom floral design)
102 Prospect Hill Road
The Grape Vine
285 Ayer Road
(beer and wine)
- Harvard Academy of Dance
285 Ayer Road
(dance lessons, apparel, parties)
- Harvard Alpaca Ranch
58 Old Mill Road
- Harvard Custom Woodworking
5 Pond Road
(custom cabinitry and furniture)
- Harvard General Store
1 Still River Road
(beer, wind, food, gifts)
Harvard Historical Society
215 Still River Road
- Harvard Lanes
204 Ayer Road
- Kim's Custom Soaps
- Koko FitClub
285 Ayer Road
- Lisa Aciukewicz Photography
(portrait and event photography)
- Natural Cafe & Market
176 Barnum Road, Devens
breakfast and lunch, gift items)
- Pizza Bella
8 Andrews Parkway, Devens
- Judith Schutzman
285 Ayer Road
(pizza, pasta, salads, sandwiches)
- St. Benedict Center Gift Shop
282 Still River Road
(religious books and gifts)
- Judy Warner
- Wolf Well Farm
- Westward Orchards
178 Mass. Ave.
(gifts, gift baskets, pies, cider)
… AND AT SOME OF OUR ADVERTISERS
IN NEARBY TOWNS
Bob’s Turkey Farm
181 Old Common Road, Lancaster
(turkeys by order, side dishes, pies)
- Bolton Orchards
125 Still River Road, Bolton
(pies, cakes, cookies, gift baskets)
1233 Mass. Ave., Boxborough
(pizza, sandwiches, pasta, salad)
- Bull Run Restaurant
215 Great Road., Shirley
(lunch, brunch, dinner, concerts)
87 Great Road, Acton
(wine, beer, liquor)
Feen’s Country Living
955 South St., Fitchburg
(hearth and grill accessories)
- Handworks Gallery
161 Great Road, Acton
(glass, ceramics, jewelry, wood, fiber, sculpture)
Harvard Sweet Boutique
25 South St., Hudson
(gourmet dessert gifts, shipping available)
529 King Street, Littleton
(Italian and American cuisine)
- Indian Hill Music
36 King St., Littleton
(music instruction, performances)
- Jo Karen
340 Great Road, Acton
(women’s lingerie, sleepwear, activewear)
- Kitchen Outfitters
342 Great Road, Acton
(cookware, cutlery, small appliances, linens)
- Lancaster Gardens
35 Lower Bolton Road, Lancaster
(holiday plants, wreaths, garlands, home decor)
- Lucia's Tavola
31 Main Street, Ayer
Markoh's on Main
43 Main Street, Ayer
583 Mass. Ave., West Acton
(stained glass art, jewelry)
Pinard’s Florist and Gifts
120 Central Ave., Ayer
(flowers, plants, gift baskets)
Shepherd Veterinary Clinic
17 Codman Hill Road, Boxborough
(dog and cat gifts)
90 Swanson Road, Boxborough
- Tipo Tacos
35 Main St., Ayer