Diana Jewelers, Liverpool, NY

President: Betsy Palladino-Blasland

Address: Lakeshore Drive-In Plaza (Old Liverpool Road), Liverpool, NY

Phone: (315) 457-1050

Website: www.dianajewelers.com

Social Media: @diana.jewelers (Facebook)

Diana Jewelers is celebrating its 60th year in business. One reason for its success is the devotion of its owner and staff to providing great service. As owner Betsy Palladino-Blasland told me on a snowy January morning, her motto is “service, not sales,” and that’s what brings her loyal customers back. It should also be what brings you in the door if you haven’t visited. There are plenty of gorgeous items to purchase in the store (with remounted and customized options available, too – more on that later). But even if you’re on a budget, the range of prices will keep you from running away screaming.

As I mentioned in my earlier blog post on Manlius Jewelry & Repair, many people are scared of entering jewelry stores because they have had the unpleasant experience of walking in with a budget, and leaving feeling like they can’t afford anything nice. It’s a terrible feeling, but not one you will have at Diana’s.

First, I would like to focus on Diana Jewelers’ remounting service, since I think there are a number of my readers who may not know what this means. If you have old heirloom jewelry that isn’t your style, but it is still special to you (or valuable), bring it in to Diana Jewelers to see what magic they can work. Their Facebook site is filled with examples of items they have made on a custom basis using old stones and gold/silver as scrap metal to re-fashion old jewelry into something new. Using the old stones and metal will also give you a piece of jewelry that costs less than if it were purchased new because you are providing the materials.

Next, I have to feature this necklace Betsy had specially designed for those of us who love living in the Syracuse area: the Syracuse Tipp Hill Light necklace. Thank you to Betsy for allowing me to share a photo! It’s available in Sterling Silver, gold plate or 14K gold, with either genuine stones or synthetic stones, so there is a wide range of pricing on this gorgeous piece of jewelry.

By the register, I was excited to see “allergy free” earrings by Concepts for Sensitive Ears. Diana’s also carries a line of jewelry that is high quality (and therefore less allergenic) for children.

If you’re looking for a nice Valentine’s Day gift, you can find something of heirloom quality at Diana Jewelers, or you can find something from $25 on up. I did not forget the “0” – yes, only $25 and up! Their catalog is available on the website, and featured items appear on their Facebook page. I will mention a few highlights here. Off the Cuff bracelets are beautiful, inexpensive, and adjustable. There are currently several Mexican silver bracelets, earrings and necklaces available containing miniature, alpine flowers encased in glass, made by Krystyna’s Silver (handmade in Mexico). There are some lovely pendants and bracelets for sale from Belle eToile (each bracelet takes one month to make!). If you purchase an Angelica bracelet, a portion of the proceeds are donated to autism research. Currently on display near the front, you will find jewelry by Korite, which is made with Ammolite, cut from the fossilized shells of ammonites, sea creatures that lived 240 – 66 million years ago. Some other popular items for Valentine’s Day include Elle sterling silver jewelry, charm bracelets (traditional and cuff style), and items by Philip Gavriel.

For those thinking of buying an engagement ring for your sweetheart this Valentine’s Day, Diana’s will help you pick out something new, or sparkle up a family heirloom diamond ring, or take the stones out of old family heirlooms and create a newly designed remounted engagement ring – the possibilities are endless. And after she says yes, come back with your fianceé and have the ring resized within the day.

If you are coming from the Village of Liverpool, Diana Jewelers will be harder to see from the road, but pull into the Lakeshore Drive-In Plaza on the right. If you’re coming from the south on Old Liverpool Road, keep an eye out for it on the left in the shopping plaza. There is plenty of parking, including a few spots reserved for customers of Diana Jewelers. Enjoy your visit!

Whistlestop Florist, East Syracuse, NY

Address: 6283 Fremont Road, East Syracuse, NY

Phone: 315-656-2236 or 1-800-330-2236

Website: http://www.whistlestopflorist.com

Social Media: @whistlestop.florist (Facebook); @Syrweddings (Twitter)

The front entrance on Old Fremont Road; enter the parking lot from Fremont Road

I’ll start off this post by admitting that I rarely purchase flowers for the inside of our home. As a person with allergies who also loves flowers, I tend to purchase flowering plants for our yard instead, and I always buy flowering plants that aren’t too fragrant. However, I have found that flowers purchased from a high-quality florist tend to bother my allergies far less than the cheaper bouquets you can pick up at the grocery store. And they usually last longer.

Furthermore, I grew up and was married in New Jersey, so I haven’t yet had the opportunity to interview florists in Central New York for a wedding or other big event. As a result of my relative inexperience with local florists, this blog post required some additional research.

After visiting a few local florists, and after reading multiple Google and Facebook reviews, I narrowed it down to three florists, and visited each of them. Upon entering Whistlestop, I knew this was the florist I would feature first.

It’s called Whistlestop because of its proximity to the rail yards in East Syracuse, which may make it easier to find. The store is nestled into a beautiful old building just north of the bridge over the rail yards. Look for the sign below on Fremont Road to find the entrance to the parking lot.

Look for this sign on Fremont Road to find the entrance to the parking lot

The entire store is tastefully decorated and designed to make you feel right at home. The scent of flowers was pleasant and not at all overpowering for this sensitive girl. They carry a nice selection of gifts to accompany flowers, as well as lovely silk flowers and dried lavender.

Being a snowy January day, the lighting wasn’t ideal for a great picture even in a room with several sky lights, but I’d still like to show the picture below. This is one of Whistlestop’s indoor plant rooms with seating for reviewing flowers for events, such as weddings. So much care has clearly been put into the atmosphere of every room in the store. For me, that’s a sign that they have not just the technical know-how but also the artistic flair to make flowers really stand out.

Whistlestop has a personal touch that was clear from the first moment I walked in. The store clerk asked me if I needed help, and then gracefully allowed me to browse when I said I was just looking. And when I made my purchase, he thanked me by name, having looked at my credit card. It may seem like a small thing, but I take it as a sign that a store cares about my business when they make the effort to learn my name.

And if you are in the market for a wedding or other large event, I noticed that they have received high ratings from some well-known reviewers. Whistlestop has been awarded five stars from Wedding Wire’s Couples’ Choice Awards for several years running, including their awards for 2019. They have also been selected for The Knot’s Best of Weddings, and were a featured teleflora florist on The Knot in 2012.

The constant theme in all of Whistlestop’s online reviews is that this store cares about its customers. My experience only reinforced this feeling. Ordering online is extremely easy, and they deliver throughout the Central New York area, so even if Whistlestop isn’t close to home or work, purchasing flowers from them would be very convenient.

The Wine House, Manlius, NY

Owners: Tim and Sarah Buckles

Address: 8240 Cazenovia Road (Rte. 92), Manlius, NY

Phone: 315-682-0784

Website: http://www.thewinehousenewyork.com

Social Media: @TheWineHouseNY on Twitter; The Wine House New York on  Facebook

Whenever I enter a wine store, I can’t help but hear Billy Joel’s “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” in my head (“A bottle of White… a bottle of Red… perhaps a bottle of Rosé instead…”). That song keeps popping into my head as I prepare to write this entry, so I am listening to it while writing this blog post, and I invite you to pull it up if you have it digitally or on a CD (or better yet, on vinyl!). After all, it’s a good song for anyone, regardless of your level of satisfaction with your love life. And wine is a nice accompaniment to a dinner for either one or two on Valentine’s Day!

The Wine House in Manlius is tucked into a small shopping center near the Nice & Easy and across from True Value hardware. Tim and Sarah Buckles opened the store in September 2006, and they do have plenty of Red, White, and Rosé, as well as sparkling wines. There is also a nice selection of spirits for those who prefer something besides, or in addition to, wine.

The Wine House searches for great wines that aren’t overpriced, and they offer formal and informal tastings for interested customers. On Thursday evenings from 6:30 – 8:00 pm, there are complimentary sit-down tastings with an expert providing information about the wines. From 4 – 6 pm on Saturdays, they offer informal tastings of 3 – 5 wines for customers to taste while browsing the store.

As I mentioned, the store also carries a selection of liquor. For my upcoming Bunco night, I am looking to serve a cocktail, but since I don’t make cocktails often, I needed some suggestions. The store clerk recommended a bottle of Hendricks Gin from Scotland, which I purchased and later sampled, and it may have kicked out Bombay Sapphire from its long-running title as “my favorite gin.” According to the website, they are known for selling “high-end Single Malt Scotch.” Whiskey isn’t my thing, so I can’t personally vouch for it, but if you’re a fan of Scotch, it would be worth checking out.

There is a bottle for just about every price point at The Wine House. At the front of the store, you will find the 2 for $20 wine bottles, and they are all good wines, not just the wines they’re trying to move out. A little further in, there are 2 for $30 bottles, and then wines along the walls and center shelf are sorted by type and within a wide range of pricing. And better yet, if you request a Loyalty Card, you will receive a discount EVERY time you make a purchase: 10% off of wine (15% off 6 bottles or more), and 5% off any spirits.

The Wine House will also fulfill special orders whenever possible. On that point, I’d like to share my favorite experience with The Wine House. Fifteen years ago, my husband and I traveled to Napa Valley for a few days after touring UC-Berkeley. We were dating at the time, and he planned the Napa Valley winery portion of the trip based on my preferences. He selected wineries that he thought I would like.

The day before we went to Napa, I ate some Dungeness Crab Chowder in San Francisco that made me horribly ill for days. My stomach felt so terrible that tasting wine was simply out of the question, but I was happy to be the designated driver and let him taste the wines on my behalf. There was one type of wine from Luna Vineyards that he really liked, and although it was pricey and our budget was tight at the time, he splurged to buy a bottle so that I could taste it when I was feeling better. We saved it for a special occasion, which ended up being our first wedding anniversary, and the wine was delicious.

A few years later, I wanted to find him a similar bottle from Luna for his birthday. I had just about given up when I tried The Wine House. Although they didn’t carry this exact wine, they were able to order it for me from the vineyard. That was a very nice birthday surprise, and I have always remembered how they went out of their way to help me get a special bottle for him.

That personalized touch, as well as their continued effort to provide wines and spirits that taste good and fit a variety of budgets, make The Wine House an absolute Local Treasure.

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.

Manlius Jewelry & Repair, Manlius, NY

Manlius Jewelry & Repair on a snowy day in January

Owner: Lauren Masucci

Address: 131 West Seneca Street, Manlius, NY

Phone: 315-682-3124

Website: http://www.manliusjewelryandrepair.com

After a few weeks of vacation, which unfortunately included some sick time (but who hasn’t had this horrible cold yet??), my blog is back for the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day. Until V-Day, I will be focusing on likely Valentine’s gift locations, such as jewelry, florists, wine, chocolates, and a couple of others. For my first post of 2019, I knew exactly where to start because one of my daughter’s Christmas gifts required a specialized battery, so I stopped by Manlius Jewelry & Repair.

First, let’s talk about the “repair” aspect of this family-owned business. About 12 years ago, my in-laws gave me a beautiful necklace from a big name national jewelry chain that has multiple strands of stones interwoven. It’s completely my style, and I loved it, so I wore it all the time. Sadly, about ten years ago, one of the necklace strands snapped, sending beads flying around the room. I found a Ziploc bag and picked up all of the stones I could find, then brought it to that big name jeweler the next time I visited my in-laws. That jeweler told me the repair would be time-consuming, and it would cost more than the necklace to repair it. They actually told me not to bother. Loving this necklace as much as I do, I was unwilling to give up hope, and I held on to it.

A few years ago, I decided to try out Manlius Jewelry & Repair to see if they could fix it. The owner, Lauren, said it would not be difficult and she would have it ready within a week. True to her word, it was done in less than a week, and the cost was less than $15. Since then, I have brought several items in for repair and have never been disappointed with the quality of the work or the price. So if your special someone has a piece of jewelry that needs fixing, it would be a nice Valentine’s surprise to get it fixed up. For this reason alone, Manlius Jewelry & Repair would earn a spot as a Local Treasure. However, I can’t neglect to mention the Jewelry part of the business, which is special in its own right.

I love the selection of products in this store because it gives me the option to buy something beautiful at an affordable price. Many of the people I know shy away from jewelry stores out of fear of the cost, choosing instead to buy jewelry at other stores that they trust will be low cost. Lauren told me she deliberately tries to carry jewelry for all price ranges, and it shows. In addition, if you put your name on their e-mail list, you’ll receive notice of upcoming sales and clearance events.

One of my favorite Mother’s Day gifts came from Manlius Jewelry & Repair, and I actually bought it for myself using Mother’s Day as my excuse! It’s a purple quartz drop necklace which was about $25 at the time, and I decided I didn’t want to let it go. I wear it all the time and receive lots of compliments on it.

A number of the pieces available in the store were made by Lauren herself, including the Druzy stone bracelets on display in a glass case near the register. Lauren also carries jewelry from Glimmer Glass Gifts, designed by Julie Bigger of Sherburne, New York. There are sterling silver and stone bracelets by Stia, of New Jersey, that would make a simple but beautiful gift. Animal Rockz by Sami Fine Jewelry are sterling silver and perfect for dog, cat, or horse lovers. You can even order one in the shape of your favorite dog breed. Jewelry from ITHIL Metal Works is hand made in Israel. Lotus Sky Bracelets are a popular item made by a women-owned and operated business in Nepal. There is a nice selection of men’s watches, as well.

If you have never stopped in, be sure to check it out some time soon. If nothing else, you’ll meet the owner’s two dogs, who are friendly but not annoying, and absolutely adorable.

Cazenovia Artisans, Cazenovia, NY

Owners: Co-op of 23 artisans

Address: 39 Albany Street, Cazenovia, NY

Phone: 315-655-2225

Website: http://www.cazenoviaartisans.com

If you’re heading towards Cazenovia, make a quick side stop and spend some time at Cazenovia Artisans, a co-operatively owned and run store. Artists must be juried before acceptance into the co-op, so each artist brings a boatload of talent and a special niche to the store. Parking is easy in their shared lot, but if it’s full, there is plenty of street parking available along Albany Street or a side street.

The entire store is fun to browse, and it contains items that appeal to a variety of tastes. Many of the items in the store are of heirloom quality, and those items are priced appropriately. If you’re looking for something that will truly impress and have staying power, you will find it here. A prime example would be the pottery shown below by Leslie Green Guilbault, a certified Roycroft Artisan, which means she is accepted into an elite group of artisans whose craft reflects the ideals of the Arts and Crafts movement. In person, these pieces of pottery have a shine that makes them exceptionally beautiful.

If you’re not up for heirloom-quality prices, don’t let that turn you off from the store – there are plenty of items that are beautiful and functional, and can be used on a daily basis.

There is a nice selection of hats, scarves, and purses made by Wendy Edward Designs and Maria Wiklund; warm and lovely sweaters and scarves by Barbara Decker; one-of-a-kind jewelry by four artists with individual styles; table runners, fabric vases, and decorative pillow cases designed by Sue Ellen Romanowski (pillow cases shown below).

Pillow cases, and a few with stuffing, by Sue Ellen Romanowski

The pottery shown below is made by Ede Walker, and although it’s lovely to look at, you won’t be afraid to use it.

Without planning to, I decided to purchase a few containers of nourishing and moisturizing hand soaps from the Balsam Rose Soap Company out of Spafford, NY. My hands have been so dry lately, even though I use gentle soap, but the Balsam Rose soaps have the same effect as lotion without the residue. I will definitely be back for more when these run out.

I’d like to move back to some of the heirloom quality items I mentioned earlier. Mary Powers Gosden paints by hand on porcelain, including pet portraits (which can be purchased on commission if you’re looking for a memento of an animal friend). The beauty of these pieces is astonishing in person, and a picture can’t do them justice. The pet portraits look like photos, but she painted them by hand onto the porcelain. She also offers framed animal portraits, which can be found on the wall nearby.

Painting on porcelain by Mary Powers Gosden

Several of the co-op’s artisans use wood as their medium of choice, and their products all have a unique look and character. Dave Eichorn, the TV meteorologist, showcases several pieces of wooden furniture that stand out as one-of-a-kind pieces with a rugged, natural look but a very smooth feel. Shawn Halperin creates bowls and wall art that feature birds, including the wooden bowl shown below. This would make a special gift for any bird lover.

Artisan John Volck won Best in Category for Woodturning at the Manayunk Arts Festival this year, and his wooden pieces are incredibly smooth and have a lovely sheen to them that brings out the natural grain of the wood.

Above the shelf in this picture, there is one example of the collage art for sale by Barbara Rumrill Dahn. Her work has a distinct quality that would add a nice accent to any room. My camera caught a couple of unfortunate reflection spots on the piece, but the detail still shows.

There are many more items not mentioned here, and this store is absolutely worth investigating. By shopping here, you will be directly supporting the artists that have worked so hard to create this Local Treasure.

As a further note, the nice thing about visiting a store in Cazenovia is that there are a bunch of shops along Albany Street that are also worth a stop. 20 East has a good selection of handmade items and is worth checking out. Gabrielle Chocolates will be on my list to feature for the run-up to Valentine’s Day. Lavender Blue has a wonderful variety of tablecloths and other kitchen items, and gift wrapped purchases are dressed up with a sprig of lavender. This store will be featured in the spring.

It’s been fun profiling several local gift shops, and I hope this has been useful in the run-up to the winter holidays. I am taking a two-week vacation, but will start up again in the first week of January with shops that provide Valentine’s-themed gifts (jewelry, chocolates, candy, flowers, etc.). Enjoy the holiday season and have a happy New Year! Thank you for reading, and follow this blog if you would like to receive a notification about my next post.

Lake House Gifts, Auburn, NY

Owner:  David Mazzeo

Address:  3953 East Genesee Street Road (Rte. 20), Auburn, NY

Phone:  (315) 685-1984

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/pg/LakeHouseGifts/about

If you’re heading to the Dickens Festival in Skaneateles either this weekend or next, it’s only a short two-mile drive west from Skaneateles on Route 20 to reach Lake House Gifts.  That quick drive will be well worth the time!  This store is a true gem, and anyone who lives nearby probably knows it well, but if you don’t drive on Route 20 between Auburn and Skaneateles on a regular basis, you may not have heard of it.

A picture of the storefront taken in spring by the owner; the cars out front blocked my picture

As stated on their Facebook page, Lake House Gifts works to promote the Finger Lakes region and all of the things that make it a great place to live and a fun region to visit.  Therefore, it only fits that they sell a number of products that can be customized for your favorite Finger Lake.  There are personalized wine glasses, cutting boards, signs, and multiple other items available.  Look for the shelf by the front windows with hand-thrown pottery by Harvey (made in Pennsylvania), which have the names of the Finger Lakes imprinted on the side.  In the picture below, I have shown a small assortment of  clocks and artwork that have an aerial view of the Finger Lakes etched into wood.

For those who love boating, a hefty section of the store is devoted to all things boat-related.  Clocks made from helms; key chains, letter openers, and business card holders decorated with scrimshaw; model boats; cast iron mermaid statues; and my personal favorite, the candelabra chandelier on the left in the picture below made from an anchor.

A small selection of items aimed at boating enthusiasts

Next up, the furniture is handmade and truly special.  In my Wildflowers Armory post, I mentioned I have a weak spot for pieces made from natural wood, and there is a wide selection of natural wood furniture at Lake House Gifts.  Several standouts include a beautiful kitchen island with drawers and a towel rack; a decorative shelf in the shape of a rowboat; an Adirondack Chair with a back made from old skis; and the cabinet below, made out of an old barrel.  If I had a place to put it and more money to burn, I would have gladly walked out with this cabinet (which was on sale, too, so it was especially hard to walk away).

An old barrel that opens up as a cabinet, with a big shelf in the middle

The store has two large rooms, and so far I have described items that are found up front.  The back room has a number of heavily discounted items, including unusual lamps and clocks, as well as several collections of items displayed by theme (cats, dogs, the Yankees, firefighters, travel, wild animals, farm animals, fishing, hunting, and much more).  Since I know a few firefighters, I’d like to feature the shelf with items for firefighters below.  

Great gifts for the real-life heroes in your life

In both rooms, artwork abounds.  The store carries art that is appealing to a variety of tastes, and not just one style.  In particular, I liked the Collector metal signs.  As a child of the 1980’s, I especially liked the one with Smokey the Bear that reads, “Only You.” There are a ton of old signs for sale, including U.S. Marine Corps, Route 66, I Love Lucy, Coca-Cola, James Dean, and much more.

Moving back to the front room, there is a cute section with puzzles and old-fashioned games for kids (such as Jacks, Hopscotch, and Jumbo Checkers).  Not too far from that section, there are funky wine caddies made out of metal, which would make a truly unique gift for any wine lover.  The store contains a variety of local food products, such as honey and maple syrup, as well as jewelry, clothing, cute signs, and many of the typical items you might look for in a gift shop. 

I want to be sure to mention my favorite item – the best coasters in the world, which I bought a while ago from Lake House Gifts.  Shown below, these woven mats come in several larger sizes as well, including hot mats, decorative mats, and rugs.  Made by Earthrugs, these mats are absorbent, lightweight, inexpensive, and come in a variety of designs for any time of year.  Maybe the items shown below aren’t your style, but there are many other patterns available.

Earthrugs

Though a quick stop would be possible, I recommend planning to spend at least 30 minutes browsing the store in order to fully appreciate the selection of gifts available.  There are tons of items that would make nice teacher gifts or grab bag gifts, and probably something for just about everyone on your list.

Thrifty Shopper (Rescue Mission), Cicero, NY

Run by:  The Rescue Mission

Address:  6195 Route 31, Cicero, NY (other locations listed here:  https://www.ishopthrifty.org/locations)

Phone: (315) 699-8091

My mom has always liked the old adage, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”  The shelves at Thrifty Shopper may be filled with items donated to the Rescue Mission, but there are plenty of treasures to be found.  There are 16 locations in Central New York (listed at the link above), so if the Cicero location is too far of a drive, check out a store that’s closer to your home or office.  The 3Fifteen store on Marshall Street in Syracuse is certainly more convenient for S.U. students.  Some of the locations carry refurbished (and 100% guaranteed) appliances, so serious savings are available.  During my visit, there was a fantastic couch for sale that looked close to new (below.)

All of the profits fund the work of the Rescue Mission, which provides food to those in need and shelter for the homeless, so shopping here is one way to support a worthy cause.  It’s also the perfect place to shop on a tight budget – the prices can’t be beat, and many items look like new.  Every week, there is a tag sale where many items are discounted even further.  Just like most of the large stores, Thrifty Shopper offers a rewards program that helps shoppers rack up further discounts.  On Tuesdays, senior citizens and military personnel receive an extra 25% off; on Thursdsays, college students get the same discount.  Thrifty Shopper would be great for anyone’s budget, but it’s especially helpful for those who really need to pinch a few pennies.

With a great variety of decorative vintage items on the shelves, as well as modern pieces, there are plenty of fun gift options.  Several shelves contain holiday decor.  Practical items abound as well, and I walked out with a glass salad dressing server for only $1.00.  There are plates, glasses, appliances, and more.

Vinyl albums have come back into style in the last few years, and the shelf below features an assortment of records for much lower prices than you would find elsewhere.

I shouldn’t neglect to mention the clothing, because there are excellent options for everyone in the family.  At the time of my visit, there was even a beautiful wedding dress for sale.  Last spring, I found a lovely red satin dress that my daughter will be wearing on Christmas Eve this year.  The wall of purses below is a nice option for anyone wanting to update their wardrobe without spending a ton.

Though the atmosphere may not be as inviting as some of the smaller gift shops I have profiled so far, and there aren’t any complimentary warm drinks or snacks available, Thrifty Shopper is a comfortable and, most importantly, affordable place to shop for the holidays and year round.  With so many locations, it’s accessible for everyone.  It has earned the distinction of being a Local Treasure in my book.

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.