Shop local in Metuchen for all your holiday needs

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Metuchen is one of my favorite downtowns in New Jersey. I love the variety of shops, the walkability, the easy parking (somehow I always find a spot on the street) and the nearby parks. I didn’t have a second thought about where to do my holiday shopping: it had to be Metuchen.

My absolute favorite shop was 2 Chicks With Chocolate, which has since relocated out of Metuchen, but has a pop-up at What’s the Scoop. It’s so difficult to choose between chocolate-covered Oreos, chocolate-covered potato chips, chocolate-covered s’mores, harvest bark, a sea salt caramel dark chocolate bar, and milk-and-cookies bark. Don’t get me started on the artisan bonbons: they are as delicious as they are beautiful. My favorites this time of year are the fig caramel, Rumchata, gingerbread and peppermint. I got stocking stuffers for everyone I know! Then, for my company Christmas party, I chose a 24-piece custom collection; who’s the best co-worker now? And for my bestie, I got her some of the wine-infused chocolates. I’m sure to win gift-giver of the season. Lol!

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Keeping with the theme of sweet treats, I picked up some cinnamon rolls from Cinnaholic. These are no ordinary rolls for Christmas morning; l chose Santa’s Milk and Cookies, which has Oreos, chocolate chip cookie bites, powdered sugar and sprinkles; and the Gingerbread House Roll, which is gingerbread frosting with cinnadoodle cookie bites, graham cookies and sprinkles. The burning question is: Will these be left out for Santa and his reindeer, or will I sneak a bite before Christmas? Maybe I’ll leave him some chocolate peppermint cookies instead. 🤔

Thinking of people with a sweet tooth, I decided to concentrate on my nephews next. Don’t call Genus Boni a toy store, because there’s something here for every member of the family: gifts range from toys, games and puzzles to handicrafts and décor. Thanks to my brother-in-law, my young nephews enjoy Mario Bros. nights, and Genus Boni has Super Mario playsets for one to two players. They also hold family game nights every week, so I picked up a couple of board games. I found something here for my mom, too, since she absolutely loves tea parties; I got her a beautiful teapot set.

Next on my list were the other women in my life. FK Living offers an assortment of highly curated gifts and accessories. I immediately found a gift for my sister: Brooklyn Candle Studio makes their candles in New York from American soy wax; the Palo Santo scent is a customer favorite so I decided to go with that. Dusen Dusen products are designed by Brooklyn artist Ellen Van Dusen, so my aunt is getting a custom tissue box, a salt-and-pepper grinder set, and made-in-Brooklyn limited-edition Raaka x Momofuku chocolate bars. Adding to the kitchen is drinkware such as glasses, drink rocks and spherical ice cube trays – perfect for my other aunt who loves to entertain. For one of my friends, I got her a kit for an escape room-style game; in an envelope from the UK comes a challenge that takes around one to two hours to solve. It’ll be a fun way for her family to spend time after Christmas dinner.

For the men in my life, I popped into Runner’s High. Since both my dad and my boyfriend are athletic, I decided to get them both a pullover sweatshirt. I got my boyfriend the Roll Recovery massage gun to help relax his muscles after a workout. I got him some nutrition packs, too.

New Market is another awesome place to shop because it’s a cooperative of different businesses in one space. Creative Twist Events offered some cute party supplies for Christmas Eve dinner, and I decided to add a beautiful vase from Sebby’s House. I got a couple of macarons for my nephew from Amelia + Rose. To convince my mom to make some snacks for the tea party, I got some grab-and-go pasta from Be My Guest. And my sister lucked out because I found her yet another candle from Coastal Candle Company, but this time it came from Woodbridge.

Papillon & Co. had an assortment of things I had my eye on: a printed beanie hat that says “I Need More Space” for a friend who is a germaphobe; a pink opal bracelet for my friend who loves crystals and gems (especially because it’s made by PowerBeads by Jen); and a cactus pillow cover for my friend who recently moved to Arizona.

I went into Rose & Root for the first time, and fell in love with the Sherpa Swish jacket and a ribbed oversized sweater. More importantly, I saw a moon shoulder bag that was in limited stock so I picked out the light blue one for my younger sister.

While thinking about the holidays, I came across Bobbie Theivakumaran and Dawn Mackey of the Metuchen Downtown Alliance (MDA). They stressed that shopping locally is important year-round, but it is especially advantageous to both shoppers and small businesses during the holiday season.

“In the age of e-commerce with busy lives, it is so easy to hit ‘add to cart,’ but for many retailers the holiday season will determine their entire year,” Mackey said. “Some long-established retailers earn 30 percent of their annual revenue in December. That is critical to help carry the lean months that follow.”

It’s extra important, too, since a lot of businesses in the downtown are owned by residents of Metuchen.

“It’s personal,” Mackey said. “These businesses are highly invested in the town and support the community in many ways including sponsoring sports teams and school performances and various non-profits. They curate experiences and gifts that suit the people they know and they care deeply about the aesthetic and experience they provide to visitors. Gift Givers can count on a high level of customer service and feel good knowing they are contributing to having a vibrant downtown.”

The MDA is preparing many events to celebrate the holidays throughout the borough. Small Business Saturday on Nov. 25 kicked off the holiday season. MDA members had their wheel of fortune game to offer customers giveaways and discounts for shopping locally that day.

The annual winter market on Saturday, Dec. 2, brings handcrafted and homemade gifts to the newly established Thomas Mundy Peterson Park on Main Street. Find everything you need for your loved ones at the Holiday Market at the Plaza.

Shop Stroll Sip is being planned, where you can grab a cold brew or hot toddy to warm you up while you’re shopping.

‘Twas the Weekend Before Christmas takes place on Saturday, De. 23, to accommodate last-minute shoppers (and diners) during the busiest shopping weekends before the big day.

All of these gift-buying events top off a year in which Metuchen received a gift of its own: The Great American Main Street Award.

“[The award] is the embodiment of an engaged dedicated community that loves their downtown and rolls up its sleeves to improve it,” Mackey said. “The award itself has been a catalyst for interest from new visitors and new businesses who noticed Metuchen for the first time. YESTERcades [planned to arrive in 2024] is a perfect example: we were able to invite them to consider Metuchen as a result.

“This experiential model will serve as a destination location, and welcome new visitors who will then add a dining or shopping experience to their visit. We are confident that if we can get you here the first time you’ll come back again and again.”

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