Whether you’re looking for a last-minute gift, a greeting card, a trinket for a toddler, a sweet treat, or an equally sweet welcome and friendly conversation, the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital Gift Shop is the place to go. Although it operates in a compact space not much bigger than a walk-in closet, this bright and captivating oasis in the hospital’s old lobby offers an abundant collection, something to appeal to everyone.
The shop is presided over by manager Karen Bressler and her small but dedicated team of volunteers, who make it all look easy.
Customers may drop in for a book, baby gift, or cheering game or bauble for a friend or family member in the hospital. Patients stop in on the way to or from appointments. Young parents have discovered the shop is a perfect place to reward a little one after a visit to the pediatric department. Windemere residents are enthusiastic customers, enjoying the pleasant change of scene and socializing.
But the largest number of customers, according to Bressler, are hospital staff members. “They’re a captive audience,” she said with a chuckle.
Many come to the shop on the way to or from the nearby cafeteria, drop by for an afternoon candy bar or snack, or to buy a gift, a card, or even a postage stamp. Bressler explained the shop is a quick and convenient option for busy staffers instead of heading to town to shop.
Bressler became gift shop manager some 27 years ago, just as Windemere was opening its doors. Plans called for a gift shop in the new facility, along with its other amenities.
An experienced registered nurse with a master’s degree in public health and administration, Bressler applied to Windemere with an eye to using her professional skills. Much to her surprise, she was instead asked to head the new gift shop. Having enjoyed a brief retail stint in a friend’s shop, she gladly accepted the role. Since then the shop has gone through several moves and reinventions, but Bressler remains as enthusiastic as ever, imbuing the enterprise with her seemingly boundless energy, creativity, and caring.
Bressler maintains her sunny outlook despite two nagging challenges: perennial lack of storage, and need for volunteers. Even with tight quarters, she and her helpers have managed without extra storage space. Volunteers, however, are essential to keeping the shop thriving. After several veteran assistants left this year, Bressler has been actively recruiting, and hopes to fill to vacancies soon.
Meanwhile, Bressler is assisted by devoted volunteers Deborah Glasser, Anne Cummings, and Ruth Britton.
At 98 and a half, Glasser, a retired social worker, is a warm and gracious presence behind the small counter, chatting with customers, handling transactions, and helping design displays.
“It turned out to be the best thing I could have offered my services for,” said Glasser, explaining she is delighted to get out to work at her age. “And Karen has been a wonderful boss!”
When the shop is open, merchandise spills out the front door, creating displays to attract even the busiest passerby. Baskets hold soft stuffed animals and Raggedy Ann–style dolls. T shirts, tank tops, and scarves with delicate painted designs hang from a rack. Baby sweater and bonnet sets are handknit in pastel hues.
Bressler has ingeniously arranged multiple display areas in the small interior, chock-full of everything from children’s coloring books, games, and crayons to cards, jewelry, candles, baby wear. There are crossword puzzle books and playing cards to amuse the bored hospital patient, guardian angel pins, and even wallets and phone chargers.
One shelf displays snacks and sweets from Hershey and Three Musketeers to granola bars, mints, and crackers. For a more gourmet treat, there are Island-made assorted chocolates from the Good Ship Lollipop.
Adding to the charm of this pint-size boutique, Bressler works tirelessly to offer work by Island artists, artisans, and authors. She maintains relationships with a long list of creative Vineyarders who provide their wares on consignment, and are willing to sell at affordable prices. A few even donate outright. “They’ve been really generous,” Bressler says gratefully of these local vendors.
Infant and toddler items include beautifully detailed sweaters, hats, and afghans by talented Island knitters Donna Tompkins, Ardis Fitzpatrick, and Mary DeSimone. DeSimone also crochets whimsical figures — animals, dolls, a multicolored jellyfish and unicorn to delight the little ones.
There is a wide array of fashionable and unique jewelry by Island artisans, some of them even hospital employees. Selections include a variety of styles, bracelets, earrings, and dramatic pendants using materials ranging from sea glass and wampum to semiprecious gems, crystal, and antique beads.
In addition to a variety of creations, artist Daisy Lifton shows handpainted clothing and accessories, origami, and her fascinating “Up-Island, Down-Island” mobile that hangs from the ceiling.
A lush bouquet from Cronig’s Market stands at the door, and there are colorful silk flower arrangements by Elaine Carroll too.
Along with a rack of tasteful Leanin’ Tree greeting cards for any occasion, there are one-of-a-kind specialty cards by Vineyard artists featuring photos, drawings, seaweed designs, and even origami. Photographer Barbara Reynolds shows her new “Vineyard Inspirations” calendar.
Tall shelves hold books by Island authors for both adults and children. Most walls are pressed into service for displays too, holding jewelry, artwork, and more.
Currently hours are limited, depending on volunteer availability. The shop is usually open Monday and Friday, 11 am to 4 pm, Tuesday and Wednesday, 12 noon to 4 pm, closed Thursday. Bressler suggests calling ahead at 508-957-9498.
Volunteers are needed! For information please contact M.V. Hospital director of volunteers Suzanne Hammond: 508-957-0195, or call the shop.