For years, professional shoppers and last-minute gift-buyers had few choices but to hop in the car and travel to the local malls or big box stores to stock up on holiday presents and other seasonal goodies. What they found were the same offerings over and over, from store to store. It could leave even the merriest uninspired.
This year, break the mold and explore some of the unique local businesses that are bringing new life and new ideas to the holiday season.
It’s possible to shop for almost everyone on your list with a single visit to the Broad Street Market in Harrisburg, where an array of vendors offers everything from food products to beautifully handcrafted items.
Popped Culture in the stone building is owned by attorney-turned-entrepreneur Mark Wieder. For the holiday, the artisan popcorn business is featuring Chocolat à L’orange, (dark chocolate with orange), Caspers’ Peppermint Bark, (white chocolate with peppermint bits) and Gingerbread Pop (just like the cookie). They are also introducing POPelicious popcorn spice blends so fans of the popcorn can recreate Popped Culture popcorn at home. “We are really excited to bring some holiday flavor and flair to the Broad Street Market,” Wieder said. Guests are invited to stop by for a popcorn demo this month.
Over in the brick building, be sure to check out the offerings at Elementary Coffee Co. “We’ve garnered a really good following at the market,” owner Andrea Grove said about the 3-year-old shop, which is partnering with Fennec Design, located across the street in the Millworks, to create enamel coffee mugs for gift-giving. “We had some merchandise the past couple of years, but (this year) we wanted to do something unique and are really excited about this. This is the only place in town you can get this type of mug.” The mugs retail for $15, and shoppers can choose from the simple Elementary Coffee logo and a more intricate flower design. Later in December, the shop also will carry MiiR travel mugs for coffee-drinkers on the go. Need a drink now? Elementary is serving up eggnog lattes made with steamed Apple Valley Creamery (East Berlin) eggnog and the ever-popular Midtown Ginger drink: a maple syrup-based latte with Apple Valley Creamery whole milk, topped with Calicutts (Lemoyne) fresh ginger and cinnamon spice mix. The shop also serves a peppermint ganache mocha, a warm, dark chocolate mint ganache mixed up daily and ladled out of a crockpot topped with Apple Valley Creamery milk and dusted with cocoa powder.
Vie Chevre owner David Kern is making it easy for shoppers to find just the right gift. The goat milk soap company in the market’s brick building has grown by leaps and bounds in the past year. Kern made “gifts on a budget” the theme this holiday season, making it easy for shoppers to buy everything from Secret Santa gifts to the unique objects for that special someone. Candles, a main staple item at the shop, will feature three specialty scents: On an Open Fire, Winter’s Chill and Home and Hearth, with each evoking warm and familiar fragrances of the season. Additionally, reasonably priced and ready-for-gifting are mason jars complete with to-and-from cards that include Vie Chevre’s famous Goat Milk Soap, Lip Balm and samples. Small jars are $7 and large jars are $10. “The week before Christmas, we will also be doing a full-push, last-minute gift sale,” said Kern, anticipating a bustling season.
If you have a sweet tooth or someone in your life adores anything that resembles Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, then Fudge-O-lutely is not to be missed in the brick building. The demure shop packs a punch of color. Visitors’ noses are overwhelmed by the delicious smell of chocolate wafting over the counter. Owner Jessica Kost says it all started with her grandma’s fudge recipe. “I used her base recipe and played around with ingredients to come up with new flavors. More recently, I started adding other products like marshmallows and cotton candy,” she said. Her holiday flavors include peppermint bark, gingerbread and eggnog. Other treats are handmade peppermint marshmallows dipped in dark chocolate and rolled in crushed peppermint candy. The shop also offers gift samplers and a mug set including Fudge-O-lutely handmade marshmallows and Frederic Loraschi (Colonial Park) gourmet hot cocoa mix.
Eight Oaks Distillery is a new kid on the block at the Broad Street Market, and owner Chad Butters is feeling at home. “The community here is so supportive,” he said. The New Tripoli-based business set up shop in the brick building a few months ago and hit the ground running. Serving American vodka, authentic applejack, colonial rum, American gin, Pennsylvania rye whiskey and bourbon whiskey, Eight Oaks is using traditional distilling methods to create its Pennsylvania-based products. Three new releases this month include pinot bourbon, aged rum and aged applejack. For anyone looking for gifts for that person on your list who likes to imbibe, two gift packs will be available: one with a bottle of vodka, Moscow mule cup and recipe, and another with applejack, a cocktail glass and recipe.
Speaking of the hard stuff, Harrisburg’s own Midstate Distillery is just a few blocks from the market. The distillery, located at 1817 N. Cameron St., offers a wide selection of spirits, including bourbon, vodka, moonshine and rum, for drinking on site or gifting. It may be the perfect place to unwind with your out-of-town visitors following that mandatory tour of the state Capitol.
While in the city, be sure to stop in at Matangos Candies, which has been in business for 60 years. Peter Matangos, the grandson of founder Chris “Pop” Matangos, is the face of the business these days. The old factory store at 1501 Catherine St. has remained the same since it opened its doors. This year, customers can buy old-fashioned clear toys as candy-lovers enjoy chocolate straws, chocolate Santa molds, Christmas crystal creams, peanut brittle, black walnut brittle, cashew brittle, black walnut hash and Roka, which is a cashew butter toffee rolled in milk chocolate and chopped almonds.
Just over the river, Market Street in Camp Hill is like something from a Norman Rockwell painting. Lined with small shops and restaurants, this centerpiece of the community looks like it belongs in a snow globe. At the center of it all is Cornerstone Coffeehouse at 2133 Market St., a community favorite since 1994. Stop in to get your caffeine fix and pick up some great gifts, including coffee mugs, 25 different teas, tea steepers, tea infuser mugs, T-shirts and other coffee supplies like French presses. “We carry so many items, but it’s what our customers want,” said General Manager Nicole Miller, who has been at Cornerstone for seven years. The shop also will be offering Christmas coffees that include Kringle Crunch, Santa’s Toddy, Jingle Bell Brew, Peppermint Mocha and fan favorites egg nog and egg nog lattes. Quiches will be available made-to-order for Christmas morning, and Chef Chuck LaPorta will offer a Feast of Seven Fishes class. Beyond the gifts and treats, it’s still about the people. “We are very community-oriented and our customers love our barristas,” Miller said.
A few blocks away is One Good Woman at 1845 Market St., specializing in coffee, loose-leaf tea and gourmet foods and gifts. “We have an ever-changing inventory so there is always something new to look at,” co-owner Mechelle Webster said. This season, the store offers baskets as personal, business or corporate gifts. Customers have the option to select the items for the baskets themselves or have them selected by staff. Despite the name, One Good Woman carries gifts for men, women and children. Be sure to check out the fine, handmade jewelry and the wide range of One Good Woman-branded items.
This is just a small sample of craft, bespoke and local products from Harrisburg-area shops. Be creative in discovering your own. You’ll find the search fun, the people friendly and the results better, more creative and more delicious than anything out of the big box.
Author: Ann Knaus