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Stroll, Socialize, and Shop Local

There are plenty of upcoming festivities to put you in the holiday spirit—and, at the same time, help support local artisans and businesses

by Ali Hibbs on December 5, 2013


Thanksgiving leftovers are nearly gone. Lights are going up and trees are cut down. Christmas is coming and we are now in the midst of the gift-giving season.

Taking advantage of Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, the most avid holiday shoppers have likely already made those big-ticket purchases. X-Boxes, 3D televisions and smart tablets are hidden in the back of closets or already carefully wrapped. Amazon and eBay packages are in transit to their respective joyful recipients.

But what about the thoughtful, creative gifts we give to our loved ones that convey the time and consideration that went into their choosing? While many of us do not have the time or talent to conjure the wonderful homemade gifts we imagine, we still balk at the idea of giving generic items from impersonal chain retailers. Or, maybe we simply prefer to spend locally and support smaller businesses this Christmas season.

The Capital Region is lucky to boast a prolific array of local creativity in the form of artists and craftspeople of many and varied talents. Here, supporting local businesses and finding that perfect gift is easy. We have only to venture into the brisk air of downtown Troy, Albany or even Cohoes this weekend to find that perfectly unique gift crafted by one of many inspired local artisans . . . and maybe even a little Christmas cheer.

Albany’s 1st Friday event, always a good place to find local creative energy, will be held tomorrow (Friday, Dec. 6), and will feature gallery openings and local shops as well as live entertainment. 1st Friday is free to the public, but many of the stops on the map will be selling works of art and other items made locally. Stop in at the Upstate Artists Guild on Lark, Albany Center Gallery on Columbia Street or the Romaine Brooks Gallery on Hudson Avenue for original artworks by local artists, which can then be framed at the new Alacrity Frame Workshop at 215 Lark. For handmade jewelry and accessories, Elissa Halloran, a popular local fixture, is just up the street. Local cheeses, breads and desserts can be purchased at Café Dali Mamma on Maiden Lane, which will be open this month for 1st Friday. One street over, across from Albany Center Gallery, is the Enchanted Florist—where one can pick up a holiday bouquet and meet the CEO, a 19-year-old Labrador named Iris.

On Saturday (Dec.7), The Foundry for Art Design + Culture in Cohoes is holding the Made by Hand Invitational, a curated one-day indoor designer craft market where one will find a host of locally designed and produced apparel, jewelry, accessories, housewares and more. Invited artisans include the Quiet Woods jewelry shop (Round Lake), Forage Restoratives body products and Petra Jancovicova’s handbags and accessories (Troy), and Dawn Dishaw Ceramics (Easthampton, Mass.), among others. The Foundry asks that those who attend bring one nonperishable food item to benefit the Cohoes food pantries and offers a free tote bag to each customer. The event runs until 5 PM and is the perfect place to stop after a morning visit to the Troy Winter Farmers Market to pick up fresh produce and everything from knitted scarves and hats to handmade soaps made by Troy denizens.

To end a weekend of local shopping in the holiday spirit, attend the Victorian Stroll in downtown Troy on Sunday (Dec. 8). This longstanding tradition runs from 11 AM to 5 PM and will, if past strolls are any indication, attract thousands of visitors. In addition to festivities in the streets, revelers in Victorian attire and the lighting of Monument Square, the event will also host local craft vendors. Troy-themed Christmas ornaments by Maghen Ryan, handmade organic baby quilts, blankets and caps by Compassionate Creations, soy candles by Earth Elements and dog collars by Eastside Collars will all be on sale indoors at the Atrium.

The events this weekend will play host to many, but not nearly all of the many options available for Christmas shopping in the Capital Region. For a more comprehensive list of local businesses, the local business directory at capitaldistrictlocalfirst.org is a great place to start planning your local shopping strategy or, perhaps, merely your wish list.