Hercules Candy Company, East Syracuse, NY

Owners: Steve and Terry Andrianos

Address: 720 West Manlius Street, East Syracuse, NY

Phone: 315-463-4339

Website: http://www.herculescandy.com/

If your sweetheart has a sweet tooth, and you’re looking for candy that tastes even better than it smells, check out Hercules Candy Company in East Syracuse. The variety of candy available in the store would allow you to find something for anyone, but they also take orders over the website on the Catalog page. Since two members of my family have an allergy to brown chocolate, it’s nice to be able to see all of the candies available in white chocolate so we know what to order. Favors for weddings or other parties are also available.

The Andrianos family has been making chocolate in the Syracuse area for over 100 years, and the full story is available on their “About Us” page. It’s a classic American story of an immigrant family that had a great idea, started a business, and created a local institution. As explained there, all of the candy is made by hand and with the freshest of ingredients. The nuts are roasted on site. On my most recent visit, I purchased the White Chocolate Almond Clusters, and even my daughter, who is not a fan of nuts in general, cannot get enough of these chocolates.

Occasionally, the store hosts an open house event with candy-making tours, and these are listed on their website. Formal and informal tours are also available. Formal tours should be scheduled in advance by calling the store, and informal tours are available as long as they are making candy.

If you have already been there, or if you decide to stop in, leave a comment to let me know which items you tried and what you thought. I’d love to know what to try next.

Wildflowers Armory, Syracuse, NY

Address:  225 West Jefferson Street, Syracuse, NY (in the MOST circle)

Phone:  (315) 546-4919

Website:  http://wildflowersarmory.com

Wildflowers is a new store to the Armory Square neighborhood, having opened only seven months ago (May 2018).  I had planned to come to Armory to review another store, but that store will have to wait for another day.  My friend and artist/illustrator Erin McKenna Nowak suggested that I check out Wildflowers.  Once I was there, I spent so much time looking through the shop and making notes that I ran out of time to visit my initial destination.  Wildflowers was well worth the stop, and if you haven’t heard of it yet, make time for a visit.

The store is located in the MOST circle, but not near the entrance to the museum.  It’s on the side of the Jefferson-Clinton Hotel, but farther around the circle.  The store provides chairs for guests to sit and relax, complimentary hot cocoa, and relaxing music plays in the background.  Wildflowers is a store dedicated to local artisans, and it feels a bit like going to a small but great arts and crafts festival without having to wait for festival weekend.  In this store, artists have a place to display and sell their products.

Glass and metal prints of photography by Lisa Kane 

The store’s mission is clearly to promote local artists, but also to showcase products unique to this area.  As an example, the prints featured above by Lisa Kane show multiple scenes familiar to those of us who live in or near Syracuse, and Lisa’s Syracuse calendar is also available for purchase.  There are shirts for sale that say “Syracuse,” but they clearly represent the city and not just Syracuse University. 

The walls are covered with prints, posters, and paintings by local artists in a variety of styles.  In addition, there are soy candles, food items, shirts, hats, blankets, toiletries, and more – all made locally.  There are multiple shelves where artists have left examples of their products for sale, and provided their contact information on business cards.  There are way too many artists on display here to list them all, so I won’t even try.  I will, however, point out a few really cool items, but please be forewarned that there are so many items on display that you really need to check out the store for yourself.  If you do, you’ll be supporting the truly thriving web of creativity that I love about the Central New York region.

Typewriter lamp and Air Plants by Ron Theel of Affinity Art

The picture above highlights some of the work of Ron Theel of Affinity Art.  The lamp is made from a real typewriter; near the windows, there are also a couple of lamps made from musical instruments.  As incredibly cool as I find these lamps, I also want to point out these beautiful plants sitting next to the lamp.  They are called “Air Plants,” and they are arranged in glass containers of multiple shapes and sizes and require very little care (indirect sunlight or fluorescent indoor lighting, and gentle misting 2-3 times per week).  I don’t have the best record of keeping plants alive, but I feel like I would have a fighting chance with these, and each arrangement is unique and beautiful.

Wood crafts by Simply by Nature out of Mexico, NY

Next, I am a sucker for all things made of natural wood, and I became engrossed in the shelf above, of which I am only displaying a small portion due to the rare chance that I visited Wildflowers on a sunny day in winter.  My camera flash couldn’t counteract the power of the sun in the windows behind this case – unheard of in December, I know!  The items shown above are made by Simply by Nature, owned and operated by Steve Saumure.  As of now, Wildflowers provides their first retail location in Syracuse, though they will be opening a store in Mexico, NY, within the next few weeks.  Simply by Nature makes custom birdhouses and wood crafts, including candle holders, centerpieces, toy trucks and cars, key chains, and lamps.  For those who live closer to Syracuse than to Mexico, it’s nice to have a store close by where we can purchase such beautiful wood crafted items.

Repurposed bicycle parts made into signs, ornaments

If you love the concept of upcycling, Wildflowers is the perfect store to find a gift made of repurposed items or to find inspiration for your own art projects.  The examples shown above come from Rob Niederhoff’s business Upcycling for a Cause.  He turns old bicycle parts into works of art, such as the heart-shaped sign or ornaments above.  Throughout the store, I found additional examples of art made from repurposed items, including sports trophies turned into wine stoppers; Cuppa Candles in upcycled mugs; wall art made from folding yard sticks or plates; and vintage items re-imagined for new uses.  

Artist Annie Lathrop offers custom pet portraits

Next, as shown above, for the pet lovers in the crowd, artist Annie Lathrop offers customized pet portraits.  Her art is displayed on the surrounding shelf, but this is something quite special for those of us who adore our pets and want to have a lasting memory to treasure.

Ornament hand painted by artist Erin McKenna Nowak

Finally, if you remember my last post, I have been looking for a second ornament, and I found one I love with a hand-painted picture of Clinton Square.  The artist is Erin McKenna Nowak, mentioned earlier.  Also available are the Tipp Hill Traffic Light and a winter scene of Strathmore.

Wildflowers is a bit of a love letter to Central New York and its artist community.  Tourists who want something uniquely “Syracuse” will find it here.  Residents who cherish their city will love shopping here.  Wildflowers may be relatively new, but it has already earned the distinction of being a Local Treasure of Central New York.

Sweet Salvage Gift Shoppe, Jamesville, NY

Enter into the cottage to the left of this area labeled “Gift Shoppe”

Owner:  Kathy Hastings

Address:  6483 East Seneca Turnpike, Jamesville, NY

Phone:  (315) 492-1266

Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/SweetSalvageGiftShoppe

I have always found it fun to visit an older home, especially ones with nooks and crannies, and little treasures hiding in the attic.  Visiting Sweet Salvage Gift Shoppe in Jamesville feels a bit like that, even though there are modern items for sale everywhere you look.  The charm of the old home in which the store sits oozes through the entire store, so that being there feels like visiting a friend, instead of simply patronizing a store.

Owner Kathy Hastings says her goal is to help her customers feel good and to laugh.  There is warmth and cheer everywhere.  A water cooler is available for thirsty customers, and cider and food samples are set up during busy shopping times.  At this time of year, holiday decorations abound and are woven through nearly every display.  Customers receive one free raffle ticket for every $25 they spend.  There are so many noteworthy items in the store, it’s impossible to name them all, but I’d like to highlight a few of the things that make Sweet Salvage stand out as a Local Treasure.

The Signs

Kathy makes all of her signs from salvaged items and turns them into unique works of art.  If you’re looking for a sign with a specific word on it, she will make it for you.  Hooks can be added for keys, coats, leashes, etc.  Among the many signs that are already made and for sale, here are a few: Love, Family, Syracuse, Farm House, Welcome, Angel,  Laundry, Leash, Keys, Mud Room, and the sign below (my personal favorite).

Scrap metal and wood turned into a unique and truly cool piece of art for your home, by owner Kathy Hastings

Custom signs abound.  There is a beautiful sign for a wedding couple, which can be customized with their names and wedding date.  There are signs for your location, including the name of your hometown and its geographical coordinates.  

Salvage Home Decor and Furniture

Genuinely clever items are everywhere, such as the wine glass rack below, made from salvaged wood, metal, and a rake.  Sweet Salvage offers yard ornaments, furniture made from repurposed items, antique furniture, custom made farm tables, among others.  

Notice the upside down wine glass hanging from the rake on the bottom plank of the sign

The hall tree below is partially made from an old door, with hooks and a bench added.  I’m confident you won’t find this anywhere else.

The bicycle wheels are not part of this item, and the sun sign hangs from the upper hooks of the hall tree

In addition, I briefly mentioned the yard ornaments.  Although the store sells more traditional garden ornaments for those with less wacky tastes (such as squirrels, frogs, etc. made from stone), there are many examples of fun and original yard ornaments both on the front lawn and upstairs that bring humor and delight to the yard and are made from salvaged materials.

Functional and Fun Items

Sweet Salvage carries Blue Q. oven mitts, dish towels and socks, which contain funny pictures and phrases; bird houses made from weathered wood; hanging plant holders wrapped with dried vines and covered with personality; candle holders made from old wine bottles and beads; soap that looks like giant gemstones.  There is more than I can list here, but knowing several friends might rush out and buy the item below, I am posting a picture because it’s so darn cute and totally functional.  If it’s gone when you arrive, ask if you can order another.

A great chalk message board for adults and/or kids

Unique Holiday Items

Christmas and winter-themed decorations are everywhere.  I came in looking for an ornament for each of my kids, and I walked out with one ornament and two Christmas decorations I hadn’t planned to buy.  These aren’t typical Christmas decorations; they are truly unique.  A few items to note: a light-up garland made from real pine cones; angels made from wood scraps; large wooden hanging snowflakes; sparkly deer statuettes; silver and white lanterns; furry elves, gnomes and animals; and the cutest statuettes of little birds wearing Santa hats (I couldn’t resist this last item; my family loves birds).  The metal trees below are so different from anything I have seen, I have been thinking about going back for one all afternoon.

Simple, but gorgeous

Apart from the cute bird statue wearing a Santa hat, the other item I couldn’t resist was one of the light-up winter canvases below.  Although it’s hard to see this feature in my picture, these canvas pictures have little holes that allow battery-operated lights to shine through, and the lights twinkle.  In the picture of candles on the top shelf (below), the flames light up; in the church underneath it, the windows glow; and so on.  Battery operated, with a timer option, the lights are ever so subtle but catch your attention.  These are made by Oak Street Wholesale out of Peoria, Illinois, and are really clever.  The shelf below shows the smaller canvases, but larger ones are available in the back of the store’s first floor.

Extra Notes

It’s time to wrap up, but there is so much more to share.  In addition to the items highlighted above, Sweet Salvage has all of the typical items you would expect to find in a gift shop: jewelry (Pink House handmade, Brighton, Element-ality), apparel (Mona B. clothing, Susan Joy handbags), The Soap Hag goat’s milk soap, “Naturally European” brand hand cream, and candles (Swan Creek Candle Company).  All of the products appear to be either locally made, Made in the USA, or are fair trade products.

Sweet Salvage is right in the heart of Jamesville, not far from the train tracks.  There are several other stores nearby that are worth noticing, too, so if you have a little time, wander around.  You might discover another Local Treasure!

Final note on every post: Please feel free to leave a comment below. If your comment pertains to your experience with the store, try to provide positive feedback or constructive criticism. This blog is intended to support local businesses; any complaints should be made directly to the business itself. Any posts that are threatening or contain objectionable language may be removed by the author.

Dazzle Boutique & Gifts, Manlius, NY

Owner: Lois Ross

Address: 119 West Seneca Street, Manlius, NY


“You will find something here for everyone on your list,” according to the owner of Dazzle Boutique & Gifts, Lois Ross.  She is absolutely right, and you won’t go broke, either.

Years ago, I visited Dazzle for the first time with my kids, after they had earned free cupcake-shaped erasers and coupons to the store through the Manlius Library Summer Reading Program.  My daughter fell in love with the whole store, my son had fun looking at the toys, and I ended up walking out with several gift items for surprisingly good prices.  

The store has since moved to the Tops Plaza, and there is a second location at the SUNY Upstate Community Campus.  Chatting with Lois on my most recent visit, I learned a great deal of new information that cements Dazzle as a Local Treasure.

First, Lois is the designer of the Lolo by New Dimensions jewelry.  She sells her products all over the country, but at Dazzle, she sells the jewelry for wholesale prices.  Due to space limitations, I am physically unable to show all of the jewelry here, but this is just one display case below.  It’s fun, stylish, and inexpensive.  

Lolo by New Dimensions Jewelry on display

Lois also designs several other apparel items available in the store, including a purse in a similar design to Bao Bao purses, which were retailing for only $38 each at the time of my visit (contact the store for updated pricing).  For the budget-conscious, there is a 50% off clothing rack in the back.  Towards the front of the store, there are plenty of women’s clothing items, many of which are by L.I.B. (made in New York).  If I weren’t focused on purchasing items for other people, there were several items I would have picked out for myself.

Second, the back of the store is where you will find Dazzle’s wide selection of Fayetteville-Manlius Hornets gear, which is available year-round.  I am not aware of another place that sells this variety of school pride items for F-M throughout the year:  shirts, hats, mugs, socks, key chains, stadium seat cushions – you name it, it’s there.

All the Fayetteville-Manlius gear you could want, available year-round

Third, Dazzle tries to carry a wide selection of products that are Made in the USA, including Little Dishes; C.C. hats; Punch Studio notebooks; pottery from Birdsong Ceramics (made on Martha’s Vineyard by ceramic artist Helayne Cohen); and one of my favorites, Wax Pottery from the Habersham Candle Company.  These wax bowls are great for people who either cannot or prefer not to have candles burning in their house/apartment, but want a pleasant, natural scent (and this is coming from a person who cannot tolerate most scented candles – migraine city!).  I am showing a picture of my favorite below, the sunflower bowl, but Dazzle also has several holiday-themed bowls on display that are quite beautiful.

The sunflower wax bowl by the Habersham Candle Company

Furthermore, Dazzle offers the opportunity to host fundraiser parties for sports teams or other organizations, which they do on a regular basis.  Ten percent of the proceeds on the day of the event go back to the organization.

The assistant manager, Lori, gave me a thorough tour of some of their most popular items, which will be of interest to many of my readers:  Spongelle Body Wash Infused Buffers; C.C. hats; Dionis goat milk lotion; Cottage Garden bath bombs; blanket scarves; Mixologie roll-on perfumes; Duke Cannon Supply Company soap (which donates a portion of its proceeds to veterans’ causes); among others.

Next, I should definitely highlight the decent portion of the store dedicated to kids:  several large shelves full of sparkly journals, pillows, and purses; stuffed animals; accessories and jewelry; multiple varieties of slime; jump ropes, bouncy balls and other toys.  It’s a great place to pick up a grab bag or Secret Santa gift.  The shelf shown below is only a portion of what’s available.  If nothing else, the kids’ section will keep your kids entertained while you shop for other people on your list.

This shelf  is only a portion of what’s available for kids

Finally, Dazzle has a nice men’s area, and I would like to highlight a few items that stood out (though there are many other items that would make good gifts).  Before my recent visit, I had never seen the Hammered Bottle Opener and Ice Crusher – a hammer, bottle opener and ice crusher in one that is visually appealing and sturdy.  A mug that reads, “This is what an awesome Dad looks like,” or a flask with the Ogden Nash quote, “Candy is dandy but liquor is quicker.”  In addition to the Duke Cannon soaps mentioned earlier, there are signs, money dishes, leather-bound journals, wallets, picture frames, and other interesting items.

A few items on the shelves aimed towards men

A few other quick notes: Dazzle has a coffee dispenser for customers at the front of the store, and customers are welcome to help themselves.  Next to that, you will find a container of small candies for those who would like something sweet while shopping.  Dazzle’s new location has ample parking and is located in the Village of Manlius on Route 173.

If you are heading to or through Manlius, Dazzle is definitely worth a stop.

Final note on every post: Please feel free to leave a comment below. If your comment pertains to your experience with the store, try to provide positive feedback or constructive criticism. This blog is intended to support local businesses; any complaints should be made directly to the business itself. Any posts that are threatening or contain objectionable language may be removed by the author.

Paola Kay, Fayetteville, NY

Owner: Wendy Lee

Address: 105 Brooklea Drive, Fayetteville, NY 13066

Phone:  (315) 632-2192

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/Paola-Kay-Gift-Shop-278668035520092/

My brother and his girlfriend will be visiting us from California at Christmas time. Being so far away, my brother doesn’t visit often. On top of that, this will be his girlfriend’s first visit.  As a result, I wanted to find something special and unique for each of them to make them both feel welcome. There are also several people on my holiday list for whom I’ve been having trouble coming up with the right gift. For these reasons, my travels brought me to Paola Kay today.

I know Paola Kay is able to personalize many of the items in the store, and in particular, Corkcickle water bottles. I planned to buy one for my brother’s girlfriend for Christmas. After I purchased a water bottle in a design that includes her favorite colors, the store added her first initial to the side in a lovely script in the color of my choice. (In the picture below, the gold item on the right side of the top shelf provides an example of a personalized water bottle.)

A wide variety of styles, all of which can be personalized

Apart from personalized Corkcicles, there are many other reasons why I love this store.  Friendly service is definitely at the top of that list. I walked in and was greeted with a smile, and offered a complimentary cup of coffee. And although the store is small and contains many items, it doesn’t feel cramped at all. It’s easy to wander around, peruse the items, and not feel claustrophobic.

On display, there are many items that you won’t find in other places, such as wine cups with “13066” or “13104” on the side (the zip codes for Fayetteville and Manlius), or a “Syracuse” embroidered pillow that is made in the store (below), as well as the platters and towels made for Paola Kay with a “Syracuse, NY” theme, as seen below.

The pillow is embroidered in the store, and the platter and tea towel were made for Paola Kay

Also notice the ‘Cuse coasters and cutting board in the above picture. The store has several cutting boards in a variety of shapes and sizes, which can be customized to include whatever words you wish, even family recipes, as shown below.

The third item down is personalized with a family recipe

On the shelf near the front door with the sign that reads, “Men are people, too”, there are a number of items that look appealing for the men in my life. There is a money clip with a tiny map of Syracuse pictured on it.  My brother will be getting the Headgehog, a wallet-sized comb and multi-purpose tool, which is exactly the type of gizmo he loves. There are notepads, books, watches, key chains, male-scented soaps and lotions, and a tie, among other items. My favorite toiletry item is the “Lump of Kohl” detoxifying soap. Perfect for that Christmas stocking, LOL!

In the back of the store, there are plenty of other items for those with a sense of humor.   There are several packages of napkins with funny quotes and/or pictures (i.e., “If you can’t say something nice, say it to your husband; he’s not listening anyway,” or “If you’re going to judge others, call me.”).  A couple of additional examples are shown below:

I know several people who would love one of these

In addition to all of this, there are many of the types of items you would expect to find in a gift store: jewelry, picture frames, ornaments, decorative signs, bowls, lotions, knickknacks, etc., but they aren’t items you’ll find in any run-of-the-mill store.

Another plus is that Paola Kay carries a nice variety of products that are Made in the USA. My favorite line of American-made products in the store are the money clips, bottle openers, and mini-spatulas made by MapleXO, which are crafted out of recycled skateboards and are truly beautiful pieces of art.

This store is not a place you would typically scour for bargains, but Paola Kay’s prices are reasonable and right on par with what you would expect of a high quality gift store that carries unique items. Most shoppers will find several options within their budget.  Most importantly, the items you purchase here will not fall apart on you; they will last.

Final note on every post:  Please feel free to leave a comment below.  If your comment pertains to your experience with the store, try to provide positive feedback or constructive criticism. This blog is intended to support local businesses; any complaints should be made directly to the business itself. Any posts that are threatening or contain objectionable language may be removed by the author.