2015-11-19 / Around Town

The Comforts (and Joys) of Shopping Local

By Betsy Sherman Walker


The spacious rooms of Our Beach House are decorated for the holidays and abound with gift ideas for everyone on your shopping list. Celebrating its tenth anniversary, Sally Dwyer passed the reigns of ownership to her daughter Tora about a year ago. Tora Dwyer, left, and Vanessa Gomes have created the perfect place for seaside gift seekers. From art on the walls to mussel-shell trees ($68, $89, and $145) and even a mussel wreath ($89), Our Beach House has a selection of items ideal for any mantel. Gomes said, “It’s officially the holidays, I wrapped my first gift the other day for a customer.” Our Beach House • 42 W. Main Rd., Middletown • 401-619-1917 The spacious rooms of Our Beach House are decorated for the holidays and abound with gift ideas for everyone on your shopping list. Celebrating its tenth anniversary, Sally Dwyer passed the reigns of ownership to her daughter Tora about a year ago. Tora Dwyer, left, and Vanessa Gomes have created the perfect place for seaside gift seekers. From art on the walls to mussel-shell trees ($68, $89, and $145) and even a mussel wreath ($89), Our Beach House has a selection of items ideal for any mantel. Gomes said, “It’s officially the holidays, I wrapped my first gift the other day for a customer.” Our Beach House • 42 W. Main Rd., Middletown • 401-619-1917 When it comes to holiday shopping, what is it that flies your sleigh? Is it the retail rush of Black Friday, or are you more inclined to enjoy the comfort zone of familiar city sidewalks, tiny white lights and the pleasure of knowing the person who is helping you with your selection— and who might even offer to wrap it for you?


Nancy Isherwood’s creative interests have evolved over the years. Since opening in 2009 as an art gallery on Bellevue Avenue, three years ago she moved her store Isherwood & Company to Bowen’s Wharf and now focuses on hand-crafted items, specialty finds, and women’s accessories, with a few national brands in the mix. Isherwood said that this gift-giving season, the UNO de 50 jewelry line is one of her hottest sellers. Seen here is their dragonfly and sterling necklace ($198), a Swarovski crystal and sterling necklace ($349) and a bracelet ($275). As an exclusive dealer of UNO de 50, she carries a wide selection of pieces ranging from $69-$300. Isherwood & Company • 8 Bowen’s Wharf • 401-619-1116 Nancy Isherwood’s creative interests have evolved over the years. Since opening in 2009 as an art gallery on Bellevue Avenue, three years ago she moved her store Isherwood & Company to Bowen’s Wharf and now focuses on hand-crafted items, specialty finds, and women’s accessories, with a few national brands in the mix. Isherwood said that this gift-giving season, the UNO de 50 jewelry line is one of her hottest sellers. Seen here is their dragonfly and sterling necklace ($198), a Swarovski crystal and sterling necklace ($349) and a bracelet ($275). As an exclusive dealer of UNO de 50, she carries a wide selection of pieces ranging from $69-$300. Isherwood & Company • 8 Bowen’s Wharf • 401-619-1116 While most tend to make their way toward the finish with a mixture of both, Newport merchants are eager to tell shoppers to keep calm and shop local. And when on the island, to look for the holiday “SHOP, STAY, DINE, EXPLORE” banners.


A busy wife and mother of three with two daughters and a son, Elizabeth Jenkins of Newport has been the owner of Bellevue Kids for almost two years (the shop’s second anniversary is in March). The nautical motif Claver sweaters seen here ($60-$70) come in sizes for six months to six years. Dozens of the popular Robeez shoes and boots ($30-$46) are available for infants up to 18 months. But Bellevue Kids is more than just for wee ones: Jenkins has clothes and toys up into the 12-year-old range. Knowing that everyone leads busy lives, the store offers complimentary gift wrap. Bellevue Kids • 206 Bellevue Avenue • 401-846-7700 A busy wife and mother of three with two daughters and a son, Elizabeth Jenkins of Newport has been the owner of Bellevue Kids for almost two years (the shop’s second anniversary is in March). The nautical motif Claver sweaters seen here ($60-$70) come in sizes for six months to six years. Dozens of the popular Robeez shoes and boots ($30-$46) are available for infants up to 18 months. But Bellevue Kids is more than just for wee ones: Jenkins has clothes and toys up into the 12-year-old range. Knowing that everyone leads busy lives, the store offers complimentary gift wrap. Bellevue Kids • 206 Bellevue Avenue • 401-846-7700 According to the Washington, D.C.-based National Retail Federation, which monitors and advocates for consumer activity worldwide, holiday retail sales in the U.S. last year topped $616 billion. In October the NRF (not to be confused with the Newport Restoration Foundation) announced that it expects sales for this holiday season to climb even higher, to $630.5 billion. Late last week, at the threshold of the 2015 holiday season, it announced that more than half— 57percent–of the nation’s shoppers are already in the holiday retail mode.

And in Newport, much like its sibling small towns across the country, local merchants all around the island are gearing up to get a piece of that 2015 pie.

Three years ago the Newport County Chamber of Commerce introduced the Holiday Shop and Stroll, a successful marketing initiative intended to help local merchants in promoting— and benefiting from—the nationwide Shop Local campaign. Begun in 2010 as the Small Business Saturday initiative promoted by American Express, the kickoff Saturday (sandwiched between Black Friday and Cyber Monday) was the grassroots effort that evolved locally into the Holiday Shop and Stroll. With more than 50 participants the first year, and well over 75 in 2014, according to the Chamber’s Jessica Holden, “we are shooting for 100 or more this year.”


Just in time for the holidays, you can add a red lampshade to accent any room for extra panache. Patrick Dolat at Newport Lamp & Shade Company will help clients choose among linen, silk, raffia, paper, or grass cloth shades. For the perfect fit, be sure to bring your lamp with you when you come in. Other home décor items available include candles, antique dishes, and new this year is a diverse selection of Simon Pearce vases, bowls, and pitchers. Newport Lamp & Shade • 22 Franklin Street • 401-847-0228 Just in time for the holidays, you can add a red lampshade to accent any room for extra panache. Patrick Dolat at Newport Lamp & Shade Company will help clients choose among linen, silk, raffia, paper, or grass cloth shades. For the perfect fit, be sure to bring your lamp with you when you come in. Other home décor items available include candles, antique dishes, and new this year is a diverse selection of Simon Pearce vases, bowls, and pitchers. Newport Lamp & Shade • 22 Franklin Street • 401-847-0228 For the 2015 holiday season it will also be under the newly unfurled banner of “Holidays by the Sea.” The goal remains the same: to attract visitors to Newport to shop, stay, dine, explore— and ultimately, come back. From Nov. 27 through Dec. 31, participating retailers will be offering special discounts and promotions, as well as a weekly shopping spree raffle, offering multiple gift certificates, with two winners selected every Friday, starting Dec. 4. The white lights and wreaths will also go up, says Holden, beginning at Perrotti Park on America’s Cup Avenue and threading their twinkly way down along the waterfront shops and restaurants.

The majority of the retailers are located in Newport, but Holden does point out “there are about half a dozen merchants throughout Newport County that participate as well.”

Online and big-box shopping are factors in the consumer psyche that are here to stay. But clearly shoppers can also be drawn to the comforts and joys of the holiday stroll, window-shopping down cobblestone streets, from brick-paved sidewalks, or along a postcard-perfect historic waterfront.

Yet there is more to Holidays by the Sea than just the quaintness factor. For both the consumer and the small independent retailer, shopping local means more personal service, and a relationship with shopowners who care deeply about their product and are heavily invested in their brand. They take it personally, and they take it back out to the community. Martha Parker, owner of Team One Newport and a Holidays by the Sea participant, agrees. “These same businesses donate to a large number of our local and very important charities and nonprofits.”

Mia Lupo is a Newport-based cultural and lifestyle blogger who handles social media marketing for a Bellevue Avenue boutique, and promotes local businesses in her column for an online publication. “The great thing about shopping local,” Lupo says, “is that you can find a special, curated selection of products and merchandise you wouldn’t be able to find in a bigbox store."

The National Retail Federation has just published its first Holiday Planning Playbook. In a profile of successful small business strategies, it listed a team effort among local merchants, use of social media, supporting local charities, and the all-important personal touch.

With the holidays—and visions of holiday shopping, like sugarplums just beginning to dance in our heads, the important thing to remember is that this is also the time of year when we are meant to enjoy the season, enjoy ourselves, reconnect and rekindle.

But what is important is to feel by the end of the season not depleted, but invigorated. And knowing that one has done all one can—and enjoyed in the process— supporting the local economy. Lupo sees it as Community Sustainability 101: “If more people understood that supporting small businesses helps their community beyond the simple economics— that shopping local builds a stronger community,” she adds, “there would be more support.”

Keep calm, and shop local.

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