A visit to the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital Gift Store

Karen Bressler at her post inside the Martha's Vineyard Hospital gift shop. — Photo by Katryn Yerdon

How would you love to have a place to shop for gifts that are either made on the Island, inspired by the Island, or made by a self-sustaining community, all at a nonprofit venue? A visit to the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital Gift Store offers you just such a place.

The MVH Gift Shop, which was opened 18 years ago with the help of Karen Bressler, has moved locations within the Hospital and Windemere buildings over the years, but it has never changed its scope.

“We found that gift shops actually are primarily used by the employees, which surprises people,” Ms. Bressler said. “This is true at all hospitals, as the employees are our captive audience, if you will. They are the ones who can’t get out in time to visit a store, so I took that into account, along with our Windemere residents and of course some of patients’ needs as well. So we have everything from eyeglasses to stockings and Tums, but I also liked the idea of having things that were handmade and Island-oriented, whether from the Island or another community looking to better themselves.

“For example we have pieces of jewelry from Kenya, which came to us via a young woman in the Peace Corps, Lizzy Edwards. Ms. Edwards had a relationship with Kenyans she was teaching, and they needed to make some money. They were making these lovely beads out of magazines, so Ms. Edwards found venues to sell their beaded necklaces [$12.99] and earrings, of which we are one.”

The Kenyan jewelry is just one of the many items in the gift shop that has a good story behind it. Ms. Bressler, who is passionate and thoughtful about each item that she chooses to go into the shop, has in her own right become a wealth of helpful information about each piece. These stories can be worth the trip alone. Ms. Bressler also gives much thought to the affordability of the items in the shop, which makes it great for the employees and Islanders looking to find special gifts.

“It was very important to honor the Island’s authors, and again we have such a tiny space, I squish as many as I can in here,” Ms. Bressler continued. Some examples are “Chappaquiddick Lullaby” by Stacy Elizabeth Hall and “Hitchhiking with Larry David” by Paul Samuel Dolman. Along with the adult and children’s books, you will find such treasures as children’s clothing by Fredrika, crocheted dolls by Mary DeSimone, and handmade shell picture frames and mirrors by Ellen Reynolds.

Also in the shop are batik bags, wallets, jewelry, scarves, and even pashminas ($19.95 to $24.95). Art is also readily available, whether in a card or a hung frame.

If you are looking for a more traditional gift of flowers or gift baskets for a patient, they are prepared for that too, thanks to the wonderful help of MV Florist. They offer several fresh fair trade rose bouquets each week on consignment, and if they should not sell before their time, they are then donated to Windemere to enjoy. The wonderful Island-inspired gift baskets prepared by MV Florist are also a good option. The next time you are near the hospital, this amazingly well designed shop found in the old hospital lobby is definitely worth a visit.

Ms. Bressler still manages the Gift Shop, though she has minimized her days to Mondays and Fridays as she has a cadre of volunteers to staff the Monday through Friday operation. They are open 11 am to 2 pm at least, though some days it is 10 am to 4 pm, with the hours based on having enough volunteers.

“We are always looking for volunteers,” Ms. Bressler was also quick to point out. “If someone would like to volunteer they may reach me by cell phone at 508-627-0199 or they could call the volunteer office here at the hospital.”