Homegrown holidays

Vineyard Holiday Gift Shop has gifts for everyone on your list.

The holidays are all about traditions, and if the Vineyard Holiday Gift Shop’s Facebook page is any indication, it’s a wildly popular one, with 560 “likes” and counting — and this was well before the official holiday shopping kickoff, Black Friday. The Island-run co-op shop began 27 years ago, and is still going strong.
In their early years they bounced around West Tisbury, but for the past 15 or so the Vineyard Holiday Gift Shop has called Vineyard Haven home. One of the participating artisans, Cynthia McGrath, tells me, “People look for us every year, and have been asking since August where we’ll be set up this year.” As of last Friday, they are nestled snugly at 68 Lagoon Pond Rd., just down a bit from Five Corners — just look for the big sign outside.
It’s a nice, bright space, with everything attractively on display. “It’s run like a co-op,” McGrath said. “As soon as we find a space, we divide up the square footage, and then divide the rent evenly, which includes insurance, utilities, advertising, and supplies. Then we all equally divide the working hours. Everyone fills in the giant calendar, with at least two people on at all times.”
As I was walking around, everything for sale looked enticing. McGrath explained about what’s available. “All the items are handmade, nothing is imported,” she said. “Over the years, the vendors have ranged in what is sold. There’s been jewelry, of course. Handmade beeswax candles, leather bags and wallets, eye pillows, pottery, T shirts, a ton of ornaments, a lot of wall art, knitted scarves, paintings, photography, stained glass, birdhouses, stuffed animals, gift cards … handmade everything.”
As craftsperson Irene Fox of Simple Joy Herbals mentioned, one of the things that keeps folks coming year after year is the ever-evolving roster of artisans — and also, the prices. You might spend $200 on a single item elsewhere; here you can get a bevy of gifts to cover those on your list for a similar amount.
The shop also does a little “Santa Claus-ing” of its own. “Every year we choose an Island charity, and each vendor donates an item for a giant gift basket, and then we sell raffle tickets from day one until Christmas Eve,” McGrath said. “We usually ask one of the customers to actually reach in and grab the winning raffle ticket, and then give the basket away. Whatever funds we raise for the gift basket go to the charity.” This year it is Houses of Grace — the shelter program that runs January through mid-April, sponsoring warm spaces if you are homeless, or just out of heating fuel and need a warm place to stay overnight.
“We love doing this. Every year we look forward to it. This time of year, it’s all locals,” McGrath said. “It’s always fun. We have hot cider, hot chocolate, and cookies. It makes for a really friendly atmosphere, and we just hope everyone feels that way. That they always come back.”
And I can see why they would.

Vineyard Holiday Gift Shop, 68 Lagoon Pond Rd., Vineyard Haven. Open daily from 10 am to 6 pm through Christmas Eve, except Thanksgiving Day.