The Virtuous Shopper: Chatham’s Do-Good To Do-Well Scheme
Many small towns in these parts are the picture of innocence, but Chatham is one that does not just look the part. Shopkeepers here tend to bring lofty ideals to their business practices—terms like local, sustainable, Fair Trade, vegan, and U.S.A.-made get tossed around a lot. Now, for the holiday season, some Chatham retailers have ratcheted the virtue up a notch by banding together for Shop Local/Do Good, a program that allows a shopper, in exchange for a $25 donation to one of four local non-profits, to get a book of tickets good for 10% off on one purchase at each of the ten participating stores. According to the program’s organizer Linda Ziskind, left, the beneficiaries—Columbia County Habitat for Humanity, Land Conservancy, Humane Society, and the Chatham Film Club— “bring tangible benefits to our community.” In addition, this Saturday, December 11, some of these shops will be holding special events (see below). Then on Sunday the Chatham Village Winterfest will fill all of the village’s stores and streets with old-fashioned merriment—a cookie baking competition, caroling, horse-drawn wagon rides, Santa, and a free screening of How to Train Your Dragon, hosted by the Chatham Film Club at the Crandell Theatre at 1:30 p.m.. Winterfest from 11 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Linda Ziskind and the graphic designer Millie Rossman Kidd, editor of Dinner Where?, have created a pop-up shop for the season that actually comes off as “a curated collection” of artful and useful things, many at substantially below their normal retail prices. Case in point: Helping Hands, $9 at Here Today, 12 Main Street
Zoe extra virgin olive oil from Spain was declared “distinctive” and an “excellent value” by Florence Fabricant, writing in The New York Times. But it’s the packaging that makes it gift-worthy. 2.5 litres, $37.99 at Chris and Cathi Bruneau’s, The Main Street Grainery, 15 Main Street; 518.392.5225
Donna Oakes, a former Wall Street computer programmer, has been a vegan for 21 years. Her boutique, specializing in all things chic and vegan-friendly, will hold a trunk show and special sale on Saturday from 1 - 5 p.m. Among the items that will be discounted: these smashing faux-suede shoes by OlsenHaus; regular price, $230. Cow Jones Industrials, 5 Main Street,; 518.392.2139
Lorraine Bulson does not normally sell the baby sweaters that are on display to inspire the knitters who frequent her yarn shop. “They would have to sell for $125,” she explains, more than the Chatham traffic will bear. But for the holidays, she is offering some of these one-of-a-kind hand-knits for $35. The Warm Ewe, 31 Main Street; 518.392.2929
Gina NeJame describes her workshop/boutique as 1/3 fair trade, 1/3 new age, and 1/3 custom-blended aroma therapy. It also serves as a studio where local kids drop by to learn techniques for making things, such as these free-trade coasters and containers woven in Viet Nam from pages torn from magazines. Chatham Makes Scents, 9 Main Street; 518.393.9922
“My goal is to have 100% of my merchandise Made in the USA,” says Kathy Stumph. “I’m 75% there.” A lot of the kids’ stuff she offers, such as these colorful cotton bibs lined in flannel or chenille, @ $15 for a set of three, are hyper-local: “The mayor’s daughter makes them,” Stumph says. Chatham Kids, 21 Main Street, 518.392.5848
“Word on the Street [$29.99] is our most popular board game right now,” says Wendy Taylor. “Out of the Box [$24.99] is big too.” These and every other imaginable Thomas the Train piece [$11.99 - $100], and Playmobil [$3.99 - $189] are crammed in a surprisingly orderly manner into Taylor’s enchanting trapezoidal-shaped shop that even smells like the toy stores of yore. Clock Tower Toys & Gifts, 1 Main Street; 518.392.5588
Other participating stores: Banner Clothing House, an old fashioned country store selling Carhartt, Lee, Levi, and other old-fashioned brands; Joyce Goldstein Gallery, specializing in local and world-famous artists; and Park Row Custom Framing, where owner Jeff Risley makes sure you do the right thing.