It might be the week before Christmas, but there are still a ton of great gifts to be had at shops in Verona and Cedar Grove.
As you course down Bloomfield Avenue, blink and you might miss the Main Street Cottage. But with regrets if you do. This aptly named shop sandwiched between the post office and the Verona Dinner may be tiny, but it's packed with everything needed to make your season bright. Every corner and crevice of the 12 foot by 19 foot space is filled with mostly original, handmade items owner Deborah Galif seeks out from hundreds of crafters from around the country.
When the life-long Verona resident first considered opening the shop, it was her sister Susan Burd, a folk artist in Lancaster County, PA, who noticed the absence of crafty country stores in New Jersey and suggested filling the shop with the work of fellow artists in Lancaster.
The idea took off. Eight years later Galife has a committed clientele.
"You know, I can't stop shopping here," said one regular, Michelle Maselli. Another devotee, Babara Olsen exclaimed, "It's my favorite place on Earth."
With the menagerie of wares reminiscent of the shop's historic origins (built in 1900, the store is listed on Verona's historic registry), it's not hard to understand why. From handmade, fabric ornaments like gingerbread and snowmen to premeasured cookie mixes packaged in glass mason jars to a reproduction of an old-fashioned Santa carrying a sack of toys on his sleigh, the shop exudes an old-world charm.
Shoppers will also find centerpieces of sinuous rich brown grapevines rendered into swan forms festooned with greenery and red berries or a worn skate turned seasonal decoration. Other one-of-a-kind decorations come from the gourd collection. That's right. Gourd collection. On offer are smooth, beige, almost wooden-looking gourds in slightly different shapes and sizes, all from an actual gourd farm in Pennsylvania. The gourds are naturally perfect shapes for snowmen, which they are fashioned into with cutout facial features and colorful felt scarves. They are also painted gold and given wings to create angels gourds or turned into Santa.
Then there's Smelly Jellies, gel-filled jars with cutout lids that act as a scented candles without the wick. You can add the scent of Elf Sweat, Hansel and Gretal or Jack Frost to any room without worrying about blowing out a candle. The store had also previously offered Reindeer Poo, but the fragrance was a big seller and Galife sold out.
But if Smelly Jellies aren't your thing, you'll also find an array of handmade candles and soaps, German hand-blown glass ornaments, garlands, gumdrop wreaths and hand-painted slates salvaged from old farm roofs and cut to fit into black metal stands.
While the store's items are rare, the prices are even rarer. Everything in the shop is very reasonably priced. "You'll find things from $1 to $80," Galife said. "My cap is $100. You'll never see anything over that in here."
And, after Christmas the goods are an even bigger bargain. On Tuesday, Dec. 28 Galife opens up with a 50% off sale. Everything in the store is half off until the end of January when Galife closes the shop for two weeks to change her displays and reopen with all new merchandise.
Main St. Cottage
678 Bloomfield Ave.
On street metered parking.
Mon., Tue., Wed. from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Thurs. from 10 a.m.-7 p.m.
Friday, Dec. 24 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
If you have someone on your list who is a little less country and a bit more cosmopolitan, stroll down the street to Trend Coffee Bar and Boutique.
Opened a little over two years ago by Verona resident Beth Freeman, the store offers an eclectic mix of merchandise. You'll find a selection of hip, urban clothes for women and children, distinctive houseware items, accessories, maybe a toy or two and of course coffee at the sleek back bar.
"It's funky, fun, and something for everyone," said employee Mary DeCandia.
That it is. And that something for everyone on your list here is bound to be something they don't already have.
One such item is a bracelet patrons can custom create. The Chamilia bracelet is as personal as it is versatile. The chain comes in four different styles and countless charms to select and add on as occasions arise. The charms come in sterling silver, 14K gold, dotted with crystals and stones, adorned with Murano glass, and styled in different themes including holiday and Disney collections.
"They are very unique," said employee Karan Moran. "One of our biggest sellers."
The store also sells the popular custom monogrammed necklaces that have been spotted on one of the "Housewives of Orange County" and Giulianna Rancic from the reality TV show "Guilianna and Bill." The silver or gold scrolly initials come in a large or small size and typically feature the initials of the customer although now some women are choosing to wear the initials of their children.
If you're not in the market for jewelry, Trend has plenty of other gifts to offer. They have candles in decorative glass jars or silver tins; body lotions and soaps; handmade sequined bags; red Santa suit wine glasses; silver sequined shrugs; multicolor striped Magic Socks (think gloves for feet); candy dishes in the shape of candy; notepads and jeweled pens; aluminum can tab purses; little elf figurines; fleece-lined wool hats with bunny ears; glittery snowmen; tie-dye leggings; reindeer socks with googly eyes; sparkly iphone cases; stockings for pets and people; and instant snow in a can.
They also have monogrammed everything: Tote bags, cosmetic cases, coasters, candles, glass tumblers, napkins, trays, cutting boards, dopp kits, soap and soap dishes.
Not enough? They've got gloves with cutoff fingers for the texting set. Pet collar charms adorned with rhinestones and phrases like "Top Dog" for the canine set. And for the fashionable baby set with full social calendars this season, they sell a miniature faux fur jacket trimmed with bows.
Did I forget anything? Oh, yes, the woman who has everything. For her you'll find the girly flask – a flask specifically designed with women in mind. One has pink dots printed with 9-1-1 and another has a zebra print.
"It's one stop shopping," said Freeman. "You can buy your holiday outfit and hostess gift in one stop."
Trend Coffee Bar and Boutique
636 Bloomfield Ave.
On street metered parking or metered parking in lot behind building.
Mon., Tue., Wed., Fri. from 10 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Thur from 10 to the last customer walks out the door.
Finally, and perhaps this should have been listed first as Christmas is truly a child's holiday, there is Learning Express. Located just across the street from Trend, this store has those last minute must-haves and tons of stocking stuffers.
The Verona store opened three years ago, and this year they posted their Top 12 Toys list. The gifts your child can't live without are Ugly Dolls (3 and up), Frog Eco Aquarium (5 and up), Tickle Monster Laughing Kit (12 mo and up), Playmobile Furnished School (4 and up), Rockboard Scooter (8 and up), Fold 'N Go Trampoline (3 and up), Ion Watches and Popochos (6 and up), Stick 'N Style Fun with Fashion Kit (5 and up), Squap (6 and up), Spot It game (6 and up), Sports Bean Bag game (8 and up), and Electronic IntelliGlobe (5 and up).
If you already have all that, the store is stuffed with arts and crafts and science kits. It has plenty of multicolor, sparkly, beaded jewelry. And it has a tower of Hello Kitty goodies from tea sets to pens, purses and plush dolls.
But employee Nelly Roman cautions whatever you do, "you can't forget the Ugly Dolls, especially in this town. They are crazy for them." The store has even got its own exclusive Doll, the blue Nandy Bear, along with a stockpile of other Ugly Dolls.
Snap Caps, which look like bottle caps with little animal, smiley face and other cute and colorful designs on the inside, are another popular item this year. The metal caps snap onto magnetic rings, which are fastened onto a brightly colored fabric choker necklaces or dog tags.
Once you've collected every last item on the wish list, head over to the registers where you'll find a wall 'o stocking stuffers. From light-up frog rings to stretchy, neon-colored Wooly Worms to the perennial favorite, the mini squishy rubber chicken that lays an egg, these trinkets won't disappoint.
643 Bloomfield Ave.
Parking in store's large lot.
Mon., Tue., Wed. from 9 a.m. – 8 a.m.
Thur. from 9 a.m. – 9 a.m.
Fri. from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Not to be left out of the holiday retail frenzy, Yanina & Co. jewelers in Cedar Grove is getting into the holiday spirit with a $250 gift card mailed to customers, which can be used on almost anything in the store with a $700 purchase.
Yanina Fleysher, a Cedar Grove High School grad who has owned the Pompton Avenue jewelery store for 17 years, says the customers love the store's annual holiday gift, which has ballooned from $50 when it first opened.
"We've grown tremendously since then," Fleysher said. "It's nice to be able to offer them a larger amount."
Yanina & Co., which just last month had a hush-hush visit from "Real Housewives" Caroline Manzo, offers case after case of high-end watches, rings, necklaces, earrings, bracelets and more for the holiday shopper looking to spend some of that year-end bonus.
Fleysher says this year's hot items are black diamonds, pearls, and colored stones -- especially rubies, all of which have been flying out of the store.
Yanina & Co
451-455 Pompton Ave.
Cedar Grove, N.J.
Mon., Tues., and Wed. from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Thursday from 10 a.m-7 p.m.
Friday (Chrismas Eve) from 10 a.m.-3 p.m.