For Montclair Local

Robin Woods is a Montclair Girl-about-Town, writing about activities, stores, restaurants and interesting people that catch her eye. She’s written memoir and personal essay as well as music and fashion columns for various NYC newspapers.


Got something you think should be in Robin’s Nest? Write to us at

Now that the frost is finally on the pumpkins, it's time to go shopping. Hanukkah begins at sundown on Dec. 2 and ends on Dec. 10. Many of us give gifts for each night, so there's a lot of stocking up to do. Christmas gifts on your shopping list, too? I found places to go right here in town that carry special and unusual choices.

Sisters Cali and Jordyn Goffin opened Giftbar in April 2018, knowing that people want convenience and enjoy shopping locally for most of their gifts in one place. They grew up in a retail family; their parents owned a Hallmark shop. Jordyn studied Business Management at Montclair State University and Cali covers social media and promotion for the store. They know that gifts are always needed year round, and said that they choose things they like, hoping that their customers will, too.

Well, I sure did, and went through the store for more than an hour looking at everything that caught my eye.

Their biggest selling and most popular items for those shopping are all-occasion cards decorated on the front with famous people, animals, flowers and witty prose. Some sayings are too profane to mention here, but they piqued my interest. Oven mitts come in a wide array of colors, also with funny vintage cartoons and sayings on the front. Cali and Jordyn can also help you make up curated selections of candies and chocolates which fit into specially constructed square insert gift boxes holding all of your choices.

Jordan almonds decorated to look exactly like Spanish olives confused me, but people seem to love them. Perhaps they're the new sugarplums.

I better understood the artistically outer wrapped large candy bars with designs that are printed, with those designs replicated inside on the chocolates. Find your folks a decorative backgammon set, and keep your baby's tootsies warm with winsome sets of socks with tiny matching rattles. Glass jar candles and reed diffusers are always nice for hostess gifts, or as a very modern way for you to create your own Hanukkah menorah or Kwanzaa Kinara.

For people who seem to have everything, get them self-watering garden herb kits in large colored mason jars, so they will have fresh basil, cilantro, mint and parsley always at the ready. Don't forget a surprise gift of an umbrella packaged in a decorated plastic wine bottle repeating the same design as printed on the outside. Earrings and delicate bracelets easily fit into Christmas stockings, too.





Robin looks at pillows at Just Jersey. NEIL GRABOWSKY/FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL

Looking for all things Jersey focused? Just Jersey opened two months ago, with everything in the store made in New Jersey. Long term business partners and associates Tina Bologna and Paul Miller started out with pop-up shops. They listened to their customers who want unique items from their “makers,” who create the gifts you can find there. Everything in stock tells the story of the maker, supporting local farmers and artisans. There is a large selection of handcrafted goods, from decorative pillows with 07042 and 07043 zip codes on them, to housewares, baby clothes, food and books.

Coasters with scenes of back-in-the-day Montclair are nice to bring to a party, and you can tuck in New Jersey shaped chocolates along with them. For that hard to shop for friend or relative, there are NJ Turnpike token mementos, wallets, sunglasses and curated boxes of food items. Love that delicious jam made with fruits grown in New Jersey? You can find it here. The kids will enjoy New Jersey-shaped pastas which you serve up with Jersey Italian Gravy. That's what we call the slow simmered tomato sauce made by your grandmother each week. A large selection of hot sauces from spicy to blow-your-head-off can be paired with interesting flavors of peanut butters.

If you can eat nuts, it's a move up from the usual choices of peanut butter with jelly or chocolate. You or the chef in your life will enjoy the Dijon mustard, ketchup, blueberry butter and sea salt. Don't forget the salt water taffy packed in boxes or pails, which was approved in 2014 by the NJ State Assembly as the official state candy.

There are a number of artisans from Montclair who make beautiful scarves, hats, and gloves out of soft wool for both children and adults. The baby clothes will make you smile, with adorable onesies with attached tutus with the slogan “Jersey Girl.” I would wear one of them if they carried them in my size. T-shirts for toddler boys announce that they are Jersey Babies or Kids. Hand-crocheted small animal toys fit in a diaper bag, pocket or purse and will keep the little ones amused while you're shopping.

Again, jewelry is always a nice choice. If you're not sure about the size when shopping, get earrings or bracelets to stuff in Christmas stockings, with some more chocolates to sweeten the day. Adorn your fingers with rings for each night of Hanukkah, or purchase the most unique lamp I've ever seen, sitting on the front table as you walk in. It's made from sarsaparilla wood pieces in a tripod-like design, with a decorated shade with unusual motifs. A definite one of a kind gift choice that you won't see anywhere else. Match it up with serving pieces and utensils from the same maker, and toss it all into a massive wood bowl made from one of the species of trees growing in New Jersey.

Enjoy celebrating the holidays in your own special way, bringing joy and happiness to everyone around you.


In this article: