Need grad gifts? Give them a little piece of Montclair (Robin’s Nest)
By ROBIN WOODS
For Montclair Local
Congratulations to all 2021 graduates, from precocious preschool tots to brilliant university degree recipients. It’s a time to celebrate and honor friends and family members with special gifts to commemorate a rite of passage and job well done.
You can shop in person, have gift baskets made to order, order online or have gifts delivered directly to the cap-and-gown wearers.
The Montclair Art Museum, 3 South Mountain Ave., is known for its galleries and special exhibits. It’s also home to The Shop at MAM, which is filled with many one-of-a-kind handmade items crafted by local artists, montclair-art-museum.myshopify.com.
Although masks are no longer mandated around town, there are still businesses and public spaces that require them. The museum shop sells artist-designed fabric masks with scenes from past gallery shows, such as “Fragile Freedoms: Maggie Meiners Revisits Rockwell” and the works of artist Federico Uribe.
Carol Taylor, manager of rental and retail operations at MAM, said, “We have something for everyone, and I go to gift shows, travel to farm stores and local stores. I also work with local artists who design and hand-make jewelry, scarves, ceramic objects like vases, platters and bowls.”
A bestseller is the Uribe puzzle for children, inspired by his “Animalia” gallery exhibit, where he used thousands of recycled and reclaimed materials to create animals and whole room installations. Earrings, rings, necklaces and bracelets are handcrafted. The men on your list (although not limited to use by them alone) aren’t forgotten, with beard oils and grooming kits ready to wrap and give.
From arts and culture to kitsch, make your way over to White Rabbit Black Heart, 219 Glenridge Ave., where owner Paul Giordano stocks the store with gifts and quirky home décor galore. Decorated dream boxes are very popular with the high school and college crowds. The ornamental empty boxes are a figurative way to store hopes and dreams for the future. Nicely framed affirmation and congratulation plaques can hang in the home to help remember significant accomplishments.
More from Graduation 2021 in Montclair
The shop is also known for wonderfully delicious handmade chocolates, from large chocolate-covered pretzels, malted milk balls and coffee beans to enrobed nuts and fruit. The pretzels sell out quickly, so make sure to get yours before hazy, hot summer days take them off the shelves until the weather cools down.
Pick up a few pairs of socks for those who are going back into the office after working virtually for more than a year, and adorn wrists with local artisan-crafted bracelets and earrings. Earrings fit everyone, so there are no worries about choosing the correct size.
Paul said, “Candles are a popular choice with men who come into the store to shop. I have a new line of individually boxed ceramic Montclair tiles, done in black and white. They are good to use as coasters, and Montclair mugs will be available soon.” Enjoy browsing at White Rabbit Black Heart in Montclair Center, and choose something charming for yourself while you’re at it. Online ordering and delivery are also available, from whiterabbitblackheart.com.
Let’s not forget the kids on your gift list. A trip to Just Kidding Around, 507 Bloomfield Ave., will have you feeling like a kid again as you shop for toddlers to teens. The store’s been open for 20 years, with Chelsea Smith and business partner Nissa Murphy purchasing it when the original owner went back to New York City in 2018. Chelsea worked there while in college, becoming friends with co-worker Nissa over the years.
Give yourself ample time to shop. As Chelsea said, “I will always be a big kid. I play with toys all day and have my favorite toys. Nissa is a mom with two kids, ages 4 and 9. They let her know what they like best.”
Get the kids outdoors to play in inflatable wading pools. Don’t forget to purchase a hand or electric pump to go with them. Treat a preschooler to an inflatable unicorn or swan bed. Water toys are always good for hours of fun. Surprise kids age 3 and up with a bouncing ball pogo stick with a handle, or the good old-fashioned pogo stick for older kids. Both are great ways to work on balance and coordination while having fun.
Two- and three-wheeled folding scooters keep elementary and middle school grads in motion while getting them outdoors and away from the computer screens they’ve been glued to during the pandemic. Wrist, knee and elbow pads and protective gloves add a layer of safety to your gift.
Remember the fidget toys craze? There are new versions in stock, called Pop Its, in molded soft plastic with round buttons to push up and down on both sides, in different sizes and shapes and good for all age groups up to adult. Although middle “schoolagers” might seem harder to please, Chelsea and Nissa can recommend popular board games, from classic to new.
Craft kits never go out of style, and I was happy to see a simple metal loom kit with colored fabric loops on a shelf. It brought back memories of making potholders for everyone I knew. Grow a Pizza Garden introduces kids to gardening, herbs and cooking at the same time.
Shop at your comfort level and convenience in-store while masked, standing outside and having Chelsea or Nissa show you items from which to choose, or by using their personal shopper service with a phone call to 973-233-9444 or online at jkatoys.com, with same-day local delivery.
Pink Bungalow, 211 Bellevue Ave. in Upper Montclair, is a shop filled with colors, patterns and choices for just about anyone on your graduation gift list. Owner Patrice Sommerhalter told me that it’s a “lifestyle boutique,” with everything from baby gifts to adult clothing, accessories and housewares. Store Manager Kelly Larkin showed me the hottest-selling items of this season, some things I’ve never seen before. The boxed High Roller game set includes checkers, chess and dominoes for game nights in the dorm or your living room.
Bath bombs have been all the rage since 1989, bubbly, fun, aromatic and effervescent. A new twist to the bombs are My Drink Bombs, meant for graduates over the age of 21. Place one in a glass of sparkling beverage of choice and drink it as is. Adding a splash of alcohol to it makes for a more potent cocktail, so remember to drink responsibly and don’t drive afterward.
Corkcicle insulated tumblers in many patterns and bar ware can be added to a gift basket filled with a wine holder, “The Backyard BBQ” book, picture frames and cocktail napkins. Collect what will please your graduate, and gift basket artist Marcia will put it all together for you and have it ready within 15-20 minutes while you shop. You can scoop up a premade gift basket on display as well, with colorful beach themes or filled with charcuterie board accessories, mugs, towels and decorative pillows.
Don't forget the teachers on your list, wrapping boxed stationery, thank-you cards, candles and gourmet Mug Cake Mix in lemon poppy seed and chocolate orange. Add initial charms in layers to delicate gold and silver chains and match them up with earrings and bracelets.
If your graduate doesn't live or go to school in town, there are key chains, cocktail napkins and tiles for Glen Ridge, Essex Fells and Verona in stock. Of course, ever-popular Montclair ceramic tiles are available, with UM designs for those who wish to pinpoint the ward in which they live.
Enjoy being with family and friends again, raising glasses in celebratory toasts for wonderful accomplishments, new endeavors and a return to normal. Cheers to all and oh, the places you’ll go!
Robin Woods is a local girl-about-town, writing about activities, stores, restaurants and interesting people that catch her eye. She’s written memoirs and personal essays, as well as music and fashion columns for various New York City newspapers. Her writing awards include the Shirley Chisholm Award for Journalism and the Director’s Award for the Essex County Legacies Essay contest. She’s always on the lookout for story ideas.