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Story and Photographs by Alice E. Gerard
Buying locally, encouraging creativity, and creating community were some of the themes of Small Business Saturday, held on Nov. 27.
Local soap makers Denise Ricotta and Seema Mojawalla picked up on that theme as they presented their new offerings for the holiday season.
Ricotta, owner of Every Good Herb, was selling “special holiday soaps” at the farmers market at Thompson Farms, 2487 Long Road.
“I do a few special holiday soaps, like the Christmas tree soap and the holiday mint soap,” Ricotta said. “Those are special to this time of year. The ‘Guy Soap’ is a good stocking-stuffer for a guy. I also do a ‘Wood Spirit’ version of it because some ladies like it, but they don’t want to buy it if it says, ‘guy soap.’ It’s pretty much the same thing. It’s got sandalwood, Texas cedar wood, palo santo, and balsam fir. It’s in a shea butter soap base. It’s got more of a woodsy scent to it. The Wood Spirit for a lady and the Guy Soap for a guy. There are the same type of oils in there. I also have some nice, gifty sugar scrubs for the holidays. They are nice little stocking-stuffers or teacher gifts.”
At the Island Ship Center, Mojawalla, owner of Seema’s Boutique, had a set of soaps for sale.
“These three soaps are all Niagara Falls-themed,” she said. “One is called Beaver Island; one is called Raging Rapids; and one is called Niagara Whirlpool. The set has three of these soaps (one of each) and also the loofah (a sponge). Also, a card comes with an explanation of the soap. It’s mixed with sand from Beaver Island, and it also has walnut shells for the exfoliation. It’s just a cute little thing.”
A display of soaps, all made by Seema Mojawalla, are on sale at the Island Ship Center.
Other crafts were sold at the farmers market, including wooden bowls, trees made from beach glass, gnomes, decorated pine cones and tree ornaments. Some of the crafts were repurposed from other objects that might have otherwise been thrown out. In addition to the crafts, there were baked goods, jams, jellies, eggs and other foods for sale.
John Pedlow said he made ornaments with repurposed nails that were more than 100 years old. “They came from an old house in Buffalo. I’ve repurposed them into crosses, ornaments wrapped with gold filled wire. I’ve been making these up for several years. It’s just a wonderful way to represent the season.”
Donna Pedlow said about the pine cones she was selling, “I use ribbon, and I cut 1-inch pieces. I fold them and pin them onto a Styrofoam egg. Then I top it with a ribbon. They are all different colors. It depends on what kind of ribbon I can find to use to make them. I’ve been doing this for a few years.”
Peggy Bauman’s table featured a variety of foods, as well as crafts. “My family likes these nibblers so I’ve made them up for everyone. I just give them out as gifts most of the time. I have a garden and an apple tree, so I make mincemeat pies. The green tomato mincemeat is delicious. My mother always made fruit cakes so I’ve taken her recipe.” Like John Pedlow, she made ornaments out of things that otherwise would have been discarded. “I was canning, and I had all of these lids that I was going to throw away. I decided to make something out of the lids, so I made ornaments out of the canning jar lids.”
Karen Sniadecki said her business came along almost by accident and that she, too, used material that might have been thrown away. “I became interested in keeping a tiny stretch of shoreline on Grand Island clean and accessible for my family and neighbors to use. In doing so, I accumulated lots of ‘beach’ glass and driftwood that was too beautiful to toss.” On a visit to family in California, she discovered trees made out of green sea glass were selling for more than $300. Sniadecki decided to experiment with the glass that she collected, “which consisted of a rainbow of colors, sizes and shapes.”
“I decided to experiment with my glass collection, and my beach glass trees were ‘born,’ ” Sniadecki explained. She said each tree is different. “Lots of imperfections, but they have their own style and swagger. Very much like Western New York.”
Encouraging creativity was the focus at the Orange Poppy Art Studio at 1990 Whitehaven Road. People could add a piece of yarn to a community weaving project or they could decorate a clear ornament with colorful papers and soft objects of a variety of shape, as well as bells. The Orange Poppy Art Studio has recently added a small store in its studio space.
“We just started selling some art supplies,” said Bonnie Nevans, who co-owns the studio with Crystal Still. “We put out things that we like and things that we think are fun supplies to inspire creativity in kiddos. We thought that it would be a good time to do it now on Small Business Saturday. A lot of these will make great stocking-stuffers and gifts for the holidays. We just had a couple of crafts over here for kids to do while mom and dad were shopping. Here, they could try out all of the supplies to see if they like them. We just hoping to open ourselves up to the community today to see if anyone wanted to stop by and check us out. The response has been pretty good – a little slow – but we didn’t do much advertising.”
Venders and business owners said that they enjoy Small Business Saturday.
“I like Small Business Saturday because you can come and see the different crafts that everybody’s made. It’s good to support the local venders,” Donna Pedlow said.
Peggy Bauman added, “I love the community, and I love seeing what everyone else has done. It gives me more ideas. I enjoy sharing what I have and buying what they have.”
John Pedlow agreed with Bauman: “Local community. It’s about community and family.”
Josephine Ciffa, owner of the Island Shoppe, said, “It’s just fun. All of the people coming in and shopping for Christmas and the holidays and everybody’s happy for the holidays.” She noted she liked “getting all of my items out there” and “meeting new people.”
Still added, “I love that it (the event) promotes small businesses. It’s not easy for us to compete with the big guys. Anything that shines a spotlight on the small, Grand Island-owned businesses, I think is a great thing.”
Mojawalla said she enjoyed Small Business Saturday: “To be able to see people coming in and supporting all of the local businesses and to see that they are hopping around and going to each business. To see the community coming together and supporting every single small business.”
There was, however, one visitor to Small Business Saturday who had come from a great distance. Santa Claus, who had traveled to Grand Island from the North Pole, traditionally makes his first appearance at Kelly’s Country Store on Small Business Saturday.
Santa said his sleigh is ready to go for Christmas Eve, and his elves are just working on the finishing touches. He also explained how he gets into houses that don’t have chimneys. He showed off a key that he had hanging around his neck and said, “This is Santa’s magic key. It lets me into houses on Christmas Eve. It can only be used by Santa.
“A lot of times, the children leave milk and cookies, and I take off my gloves. I may forget one or two of my gloves. So, the little boys and girls leave me a note the following year. ‘Santa, you forgot your gloves.’ And I say, ‘Oh, thank you very much, but I have a lot of spares up in my sleigh, because I do that quite often – because I take them off to eat the milk and cookies from you very happy children.’
“So, again, this is Santa’s magic key. It can only be used once a year. I go into the houses and leave all of the presents and gifts and surprises that I want to leave for you. But, if I leave, I can’t go back until the following year.”
For the children, he wishes for “a very, very happy, merry Christmas for them. And for them all to be happy and get the presents that they wish for.”