“What a week! My heart is warmed by the incredible stream of people that have been through the doors of my business, buying their Christmas gifts, birthday gifts, treats for themselves — and telling me of their mission to shop local. I know it’s a cool and trendy hashtag we all use and talk about, but you truly just do not know how real this is and how important it is unless you’re a small business owner, dependent every day on that community support to keep the doors open. It is so appreciated! Thank you, thank you, thank you!”
This was a note I saw on Facebook last week from one Tammy Martin Hoehler, owner of The Mole Hole in Somerset. The gift store is somewhat of an institution here, opened in 1995 and taken over by Hoehler in 2012. It’s a darling, lime-hued store filled with fabulous finds, from sassy dish towels to to-die-for Christmas ornaments to picture frames to deluxe serving ware to chocolates to candles that, somehow, smell better than anything in real life.
The most fabulous find, though, is Tammy herself, who will greet you with a warm, “Well, hi, honey,” and won’t let you leave until your purchases are either expertly gift-wrapped or swathed in bubble wrap. In the meantime, she’s probably offered you cider, she’s infused her buoyancy into your day, she’s let you browse peacefully, and you’ve left feeling good and happy.
During this time of year, it’s so easy to hop on Amazon and start plugging away at crossing off items on the Christmas list. I’m guilty of it, absolutely. But when push comes to shove, I can also say that a healthy dose of emptiness goes along with that experience.
It’s completely silent, for one, and, even when you click purchase, there is no acknowledgement at all. Not a ping or a ding or a “You nailed it. He’s going to love it” from your computer. Instead, it’s just you and your quiet room and maybe your dogs, if you’re lucky.
If we’re being perfectly honest, you probably have on smeared makeup left over from the day before. You may or may not be wearing slippers meant to look like Big Bird’s feet. You got those from Amazon too. And they are not as funny as they could be because they, like all Amazon purchases, arrived lonely in a solemn box filled only with air-filled plastic bags that are so sad they kind of make you want to lay down on a fainting couch.
When you think about it, the only in-person exchange that is even possible when you shop online is if you happen to run into the mailman (bless him) as he drops your boxes off on your doorstep. You have to wonder what kind of mailman wouldn’t feel slightly bitter about this service.
Can we all agree that guilt is an essential part of your relationship with the mailman this time of year? You almost don’t want to answer the door, do you? Or, if you do, you feel pretty obligated to pair your greeting with an apology.
“Sorry about all this,” you say, as you wave your hand distractedly at the doorstep and, then, the world.
You want to offer him a cookie or maybe a glass of pop, but that would be weird and, besides, he’s really super-duper busy. He doesn’t have time for small talk. Especially not with you. Because you’re the one making his day, and the days to come, really super-duper busy.
And so, the answer is to go to someone like Tammy. Do it for your community, but do it for yourself, too. So that when you look at your Christmas décor years from now, you can remember the nice shopping memory associated with it. And when your kids open their gifts on Christmas morning, you can feel good about supporting the merchants that make up the town they will inherit. Go to Pool Supply. Go to Carousel. Go to White Lily. Go to The Pink Zebra. Go to Brookhaven and The Loft and Paper Dolls and the Mountain Heritage Artisans Guild. And, if you’re in Somerset, go to The Mole Hole.
There, you’ll find gifts with heart. Chosen by people who care. And there you will find rooms full of Christmas spirit.