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Yellow Springs stocked with hidden holiday treasures

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SHOP LOCAL — This is the second in a three-part series on shopping local in Yellow Springs for the holidays. Villagers who wish to make a pledge to shop local may sign up in downtown stores or by e-mail to Yellow Springers may pledge to do all, most or as much shopping as possible in the village.

It may not be self-evident that the jewelry store known as Rita Caz is selling canes, umbrellas, a collapsible telescope with 40x magnification, and eight-pound copper rings used as West African currency at the turn of the century. And Yellow Springers may not be aware that Downing’s Do It Best Hardware offers a full line of cast iron and enamel cookware, traditional oil lamps, and reams of LED and solar Christmas lights.

Whether it’s a practical gift for grandma, a sweet for a sweetheart, or an indulgent purchase for a nephew who’s about to be spoiled rotten, the village has more to offer in holiday giftware than passersby may see in the rush to Dino’s coffee shop each morning. But all shoppers have to do is ask, and shop owners will bring out the kitchen sink with unusual holiday gift ideas.

Behind the blue door of the Global Gallery on Saturday, two young shoppers could be found fondling the fuzzy alpaca wood mittens from La Paz, Bolivia, displayed near the door. Leslie Wuenstel, who lives in Cedarville, and her friend Vivian Payne, who was visiting from Lanhan, Md., were happily going from shop to shop ogling the variety of unique items. They came for the pot sale at John Bryan Pottery, had lunch here, and decided to make their way through town.

Payne remarked that her hometown near Washington, D.C. is suburbia incarnate, and that not only did the shops in Yellow Springs have a lot of unusual and fair-trade items, the shopping experience here was much more personal.

“Here, the shop owners are like, ‘Hey, how are you doing?’ whereas at home they’d look at you like, ‘What are you doing here?’” she said. “It’s a lot more personable experience.”

Down past the inviting windows of Kismet and the Little Art (whose gift certificates for clothes and movie tickets make nice stocking stuffers), Ohio Silver was brimming with people looking at not just jewelry, but a collection of fossilized coral, starlight and trilobite laid in silver and gold settings. And next door, the fossilized gems continued at Unfinished Creations, where jewelry making supplies can be purchased to make necklaces and earrings out of brown diamonds, amethyst, opal, bone and Brazilian enhydro agate with naturally occurring water encapsulated inside.

Summer Shoop, from Lebanon, was there looking at the arts supplies after buying a Christmas tree from Young’s Jersey Dairy and having lunch with her mom, an annual tradition.

Across the street at Downing’s hardware, store owner Kathy McLemore had a host of ideas for potential holiday gifts, such as a spring-themed glass hummingbird feeder or a red amaryllis bulb. The store also sells sleds, 9-volt rechargable batteries, and a handy emergency road kit, replete with jumper cables and a road flare.

For the counter culture dreamer, a Dark Star Books & Comics shopper could come away with an unusual magazine like Mental_floss or New Left Review, and any number of gaming themed snacks, such as Mario sour candies and Hello Kitty bubble gum. For the multi-culture dreamer, Pangaea has Indonesian mantel clocks, metal and wood menorahs, hand-painted kites and decorative Galileo thermometers, wine glasses and champagne flutes.

Tucked in the back corner of King’s Yard, Rita Caz flaunts curios related to jewelry, guitars and many things in between. On its face, the store is eclectic. But shoppers have no idea until they start chatting with shop owner Mark Crockett, who will hence begin to pull all manner of items from his own Mary Poppins carpetbag and tell about the trade he made for them. These things, such as a samurai sword and scabbard and a 19th-century silver pocket watch, are for sale, or trade, and best bring a story with it because Crockett has a big, soft heart.

Hopping over to Dayton Street, past “would you, could you” In a Frame, Julia Etta’s Trunk, and the Corry Street shops, the Village Herb Shoppe has all the necessary immune system support that shoppers will need for the winter woes and holiday stress.

Even though it’s not downtown, the Glen Helen Nature Shop also has a wide variety of gifts ranging from stuffed bird species that sing their authentic songs, to frog tee-shirts, nature games and cards.

Though all of this shopping is within a two- or three-block space, if time does not allow for lingering, gift certificates to any of the shops or restaurants in town give others the option to shop instead. Since people from outside of town find they need to travel all the way to Yellow Springs to shop, perhaps locals would find they can get their shopping done practically from their front stoop.

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