The Island of hand-made gifts

Town-to-town breakdown for affordable holiday shopping.


As Islanders, we face a little added inconvenience this time of year. Between inflated shopping prices and off-Island travel expenses, ‘tis the season to brace our bank accounts. No matter how thrifty you may be, the holiday season gets expensive. So how do we satisfy our gift giving needs without breaking the bank?

Being a small community in the middle of the ocean, our economy is dependent on two factors: tourism and local business. This can seem disheartening, especially when we’re constantly bombarded with tempting T.J. Maxx commercials. What is less disheartening, though, is a quick scoot over to your favorite Vineyard town, and the gratification of supporting your community. I set out on a chilly November day to gather information on turning this idea into a feasible reality.

I began my excursion by trekking to Edgartown to explore Main Street. I told myself to stay focused. Regardless, I was sidetracked before I even entered town. The beautiful fall colors by Morning Glory Farm caught my eye. If the outside of the farm stand was this beautiful, I had to see what was inside (I don’t venture to Edgartown often). Being a lover of all things sweet, I gravitated towards an array of homemade jams and jellies. I was quickly greeted by farm stand manager Susie Crowley, who shared just a few of the ways you can find your holiday fix at Morning Glory. For $12, you can choose two of the homemade jams or jellies, and staff will give you a beautiful holiday box to put it in. Crowley also said shoppers can pick out a number of Morning Glory items, and staff will put together a holiday-themed gift basket. Just like that, I had planned my mother’s gift, supported my local community, and utilized Island-grown and locally sourced products. I didn’t even have to bother with wrapping or the Bourne Bridge.

I continued on to the land of polo shirts and brick sidewalks, only to find that the overpriced and high-end reputation of Edgartown isn’t necessarily valid. I snuck into the Boneyard Surf Shop to take care of my annual holiday self indulgence — because taking care of yourself is equally as important as taking care of others. I hadn’t even gotten both feet in the door before I was allured by the TOMS shoe display. If there’s anything more appealing than the style and variety, it’s the one-for-one campaign — for every TOMS shoe you purchase, the company will give a new pair of shoes to a child in need. Before I knew it, I had a new pair of heels to wear to my next holiday party, and some trendy boots for my sister-in-law. Most important, I had done something charitable during the season of giving.

As I strolled down the street, I saw a big “SHOP LOCAL” sticker on the front door of Edgartown Books. I come from a family where literature holds high value, so books are always included in my Christmas gifts. That being said, unwrapping that familiar hard, square present as a child was never quite as exciting as a new Furby or American Girl Doll — 90s kid here, if you couldn’t tell. Regardless, I read every single book cover to cover. With my nephew’s future in mind, I stepped inside the bookstore. I noticed a convenient kiddie corner for kids to play in. I find shopping to be challenging enough — I can only imagine the trials of bringing the little ones along. This corner seemingly provides a comfy spot to keep kids occupied, giving some uninterrupted shopping time to parents. I grabbed a Carl Hiaasen classic for my nephew and continued browsing. A member of the staff guided me towards the shelves that held the works of Vineyard authors, and I stocked up on some nautical-themed reads for my dad. With a good portion of my shopping list taken care of, I moved on to Vineyard Haven.

I found a place to park right in front of one of my favorite stores, Rainy Day. I couldn’t pass up the delightful smell of their annual Fraser Fur collection pouring out onto the street corner. I was immediately impressed by the gorgeous Christmas display in the center of the store, which new owner Melissa Scammell said the staff worked on until 2 am the morning before. With a remarkably cheery demeanor, despite her said lack of sleep, Melissa showed me all around the store. Each local display was thoughtfully arranged and most included a card with information about where the product was sourced. With pottery by Dan Parker and signs by Rustic Marlin — both Mass.-based artisans — Rainy Day made my shop local mission effortless.

I quickly lost track of time, and figured a good way to end my shop local day was to drink local. Off to Oak Bluffs I went.

With yuletide on my mind, I was craving a festive drink. I sought out mixologist Jonathan Killoran behind the bar at the Barn Bowl & Bistro. While his craft cocktail list is impressive, what was more impressive was the drink I received when I sat down and said, “Make me something that tastes like Christmas.”

First, he combined a few house-made ingredients with barrel-aged gin. Next, he used walnut bitters and outlined a Christmas tree onto the drink’s frothy top. Before I even had time to call him a showoff, he was toasting a sprig of fresh rosemary with a brulee torch. He dropped it into the martini and passed his masterpiece over to me, naming it the “Alley Cat.” The fragrance of this toasty winter herb had my mouth watering, which was quickly quenched by the velvety feel of my first sip. The drink was light and fruity, yet smokey and warming. It was the perfect reward for my successful day.

In just a few hours, I crossed most people off my holiday shopping list. I traveled within a seven-mile radius, didn’t go over my budget, and most of the yield was not only purchased on-Island, but made on-Island too. While any excuse to venture to the mainland can be exciting, it’s important to hop on the shop local movement. I could go on about the political, environmental, and economic benefits, but the real benefit is getting to know your local community, and supporting everything it has to offer. We might lack traffic lights and chain restaurants, we might argue compulsively on Islanders Talk, but our little Island is full of hidden talent. Let’s utilize it.