For lovers of local Connecticut culture, here are four cozy family owned and operated gift shops nearby waiting to be explored:
To begin a gift shopping tour of central Connecticut, start in Meriden. Located at 131 Main St, you’ll find The Gift Box. This gift shop features unique gifts and New England crafters’ wares that appeal to a variety of shoppers.
Dorothy DiBenedetto, shop owner, is happy to show shoppers around, “We appreciate the support from everyone who comes in. That's what makes us able to stay open.” DiBenedetto also commented that while she was so grateful for the holiday shoppers, she hopes people remember that they’re here all throughout the year.
Also in Meriden, The Crafty Toolbox on 930 Old Colony Rd, is an artist’s dream come true. This bohemian shop opened during the current pandemic climate with a main purpose of supporting local creatives during a truly trying time. Featuring over 40 local artisans, this shop that seems to have popped up is anything but. Despite many Meriden-ites believing The Crafty Toolbox was a holiday pop-up shop, this veteran-owned business is planning to hold their official grand opening event on April 10. If you missed craft fair season last year, be there.
Heading east, Perrotti’s Country Barn located at 288 Baileyville Rd, in Middlefield is the next stop on the list. Established in 1999, this chic, eclectic shop features both internationally recognized brands as well as some local to New England. While the entire shop is brilliantly decorated, the most charming feature is the “Nutmeggers” section, complete with Connecticut-themed throw pillows, mugs, and a host of other charming knickknacks. If you’re in the market for a more upscale gift, this spot is the one for you.
To finish off the tour, award-winning Wild Wisteria located at 331 Main St, in Durham is the perfect hidden gem for a breath of fresh air. Upon walking into this vibrant gift boutique, the senses are graced with a signature aromatherapy treatment and breathtaking floral displays. Mother-daughter team Tammy Gullo and Alyssa Rajcula take great pride in their beautiful shop and have become excellent at navigating shop ownership during a difficult time. Regarding the business, Gullo remarked that her parents owned a store for 28 years, so entrepreneurship runs in the family. On what makes their shop remarkable, she said, “It’s fun because it’s always changing,” a reference to the many themed displays featured throughout the year, which rotate to reflect the current season.
As varied and diverse as these establishments are, the common thread within each is their passion for their craft and their dedication to their customers. Regardless of where your shopping takes you, be sure to keep in mind how much our patronage means to small businesses.
Francesca Fontánez is a Meriden-based journalist, educator, and creative. A graduate of both the University of New Haven and the University of Bridgeport, she is happy to be back in Meriden writing about the city she loves. When she's not helping out in the English department at Maloney High School she's either exploring the Eastern seaboard for her lifestyle blog (@east_side_vibes_ on Instagram) or working on music for her band, Cessa and The Zach . Email Francesca at email@example.com with tips on what you want to read about next, or just to say hi!