The first thing you notice walking into European Tastees is the authentic aromas of Eastern Europe. Places like Poland, Belarus, Hungary, Romania, and more are represented here, from the language on the packaging to the distinct adornments on the counters. European Tastees even bake their own German style bread and savory snacks to go.
Andrew, who is from Armenia, is the store manager. He’s continuing the legacy his parents Ruzan and Art started in 2005. Imagine putting your hand into a stocking feeling a small, wrapped box crinkle in your fingers, and instead of pulling it out to find another boring candy cane, the eyes of a Polish child on an embellished box transport you to another land. Andrew experiences this every day and has great ideas for things to stuff your stockings with.
“We have a lot of goodies like candies and chocolates that are native to Eastern European countries. We have Christmas and New Year’s themed gift boxes, cakes, Russian nesting dolls, and a lot more goodies that you will only find in Europe. We have gift boxes that kids would love with surprise toys, and gift boxes for adults with liquor filled chocolate. We also have European sodas, drinks and teas that would make great stocking stuffers. I’m sure everyone will find something unique to take home,” Andrew says.
Commerce and Craft
Walking into Commerce and Craft, you are greeted with little trinkets and bobbles dangling from the shop walls. Gail, the shop owner, shows her enthusiasm for the handmade goods.
“Everything here has soul put into it,” Gail says, as she runs over to the pewter measuring spoons and then to the stickers, thinking of what could possibly make the best stocking stuffer. She then makes her way to the homespun jewelry and books. She explains how each item in her shop is handmade mostly by local crafters. “Just about everything in the store is small enough to fit into a stocking, but some of my favorites are the little drop dishes and the small stained glass art pieces,” Gail says.
Old Dutch Store
From the street, The Old Dutch Store makes its presence known. The architecture is reminiscent of an old windmill which was painted over with the blue, white and red found on the Dutch flag. The Old Dutch Store opened in 1978, and Sharon took it over some years back. Looking around, there were flag pins from the Netherlands, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, and Iceland. Sharon came out from the back and educated me on the Northwestern part of Europe’s traditions.
“The Dutch chocolate letter is a perfect fit for a stocking stuffer. The tradition behind this is to give a chocolate letter of the first letter of the name of the person receiving it,” Sharon says.
Along with the Dutch chocolate letter, there are other things such as magnets on display, with images of the countryside, small puppets, and even Dutch children. The best part was the traditional wooden shoes that children would put out to receive their gifts from Sinterklaas — the Dutch Santa Claus. So instead of putting out a stocking, get the traditional Dutch shoe and put it out, hopefully to find Marzipan pigs, fruit from Germany, and European Licorice inside on Christmas morning.
Dancing Cranes Imports got its beginnings in 1994. It hosts lots of goodies from places between India and Japan, such as Tibet and Bangladesh. Carlene is the store manager, and boasts of how the store has been locally owned and operated since the beginning, and she tells of the experience customers have here.
“Here, you’ll be transported to a realm of enchantment with treasures sourced directly from artisans, craftsmen, and women across continents. From exquisite textiles and intricately carved wooden sculptures, to mesmerizing jewelry and soulful musical instruments. We have stocking stuffers galore, from sterling silver and unique jewelry, natural body spa products, incense, natural perfume oils, crystals and stones, and much more,” Carlene states.
Inside, you are greeted by very large metalwork cranes that make an appearance in every corner, dancing with you through the store. In the heart of the building is a pool filled with massive living Koi fish. And the sheer size of the trees to the geodes inside are impressive.
Hatch Family Chocolates
Hatch Family Chocolates is where you’ll find your friendly neighborhood chocolatier, Katie, who is also the store manager. She sources her chocolate from Guitard, a French-Belgian company, but they make everything else on site, like the caramel with local honey and sea salt. Katie explains what you can expect to find this Christmas:
“We have hot chocolates in-house, and while you are here, you could grab gift cards to give to your kids. We’re doing little bags of chocolate Santa’s, penguins and bears, little boxes of chocolates and cocoa bombs, even chocolate covered suckers like reindeer, snowmen, and snowflakes. But one thing you really must try is our Karmel Malone rice Krispie treats. They are popular stocking stuffers and one of our best-selling items,” Katie remarks.
Apart from chocolate covered goodies and her famous chocolate covered rice crispy treats, Katie also has other non-chocolate goods such as dog treats and finger puppets.
Ward and Child, aka The Garden Store
When you find the entrance to The Garden Store, you will be filled with Christmas joy. A winter wonderland sparkles and twinkles around the entire room. After 30 years of being in business, the indoor and outdoor furnishings have the most housewarming Christmas gifts you will ever see, and is a one-stop shop for Christmas decorations. Mikeal, the store manager, has a background in interior design, and can help you with concepts for the perfect Christmas setup. Mikeal also mentioned some special items that can fit into a stocking.
“We carry candy like Swiss chocolates,” Mikeal shares. We have gift certificates; those are always great for stocking stuffers, since most of our items are very large. But I’d really have to recommend a specialty item from Ginkgo; they have wondrous light-up globes that show the universe.”
Merry Christmas and happy shopping!
Feature Image: Andrew Makian of European Tastees, holds some of the stocking stuffers you can find there. Photo by John Taylor.