Wednesday, November 25 2020 9:04

Making a List… Checking It Twice in West Chester

Written by Edwin Malet
Photos by Timlyn Vaughan Photography

Shop local for her, him, the kids, the house and everyone Else

Support local! Words to shop by. And there’s no better place for finding holiday gifts than Downtown West Chester. The decorated, walkable streets lined with locally owned shops and boutiques make finding something special even more fun and enjoyable. And although the traditional Christmas Parade may not be happening this year, the shops and restaurants have stepped up for the season and are putting on a show.

This season’s fun and merriment won’t be stopped by the pandemic, says John O’Brien of West Chester’s Business Improvement District. The Borough is “safe and Covid-conscious.”

The landmark ornamented tree at the Old Courthouse stands tall and Instagram ready. Lights are twinkling, bells are ringing and storefronts are bedecked. Aromas of hot chocolate, Christmas candy and savory meals are rising on a breeze. Musicians serenade throughout the downtown. Santa is dutifully taking letters.

And if the photos of decorated windows from last year are any indication (see photo on these pages), West Chester businesses will be pulling out the stops to create a winter wonderland in the Borough.

A hint of snow is in the air! All you need is a shopping list. This should help.

Something for her

First, on East Gay Street, is Tish Boutique, a gem of a shop run by Tonda DiPasquale and Ashley Tischler Darlington. Its inventory comes from a long list of hip designers, though Tonda prefers DL1961 Premium Denim and Vince while Ashley prefers Zadig & Voltaire and Free People. Like other stores, they’re using Instagram and offering curbside pickup and free gift wrapping.

Next up on High Street, Jane Chalfont has been a destination shop in West Chester since 1933, with customers drawn from over an hour away, attracted by individualized service, wearable fashions and beautiful clothing. This holiday season, owners Kiki and Pat Comerford have repurposed part of their store for local artisans to sell their work—a potter, two wood turners, an artist making small paintings. But the store still offers its popular sweater collection, scarves, hats, handbags, and fun fashion jewelry.

Then head for KALY, a women’s boutique for 30+ years, specializing in unique clothing and “comfy clothes.” Owner Polly Zobel also carries artisan jewelry, accessories, fun baby and other gifts. Join her on Facebook for “Live with Polly from Kaly” for more gift ideas. Comfort, style and quality are “uppermost in our minds as we buy what we love for you.” She suggests a gift card if you can’t decide.

“Plan early, especially this year,” advises Colleen Cottrell of Green-Eyed Lady, a boutique with trendy brands, unique jewelry and shelves filled with scarves, sweaters and hats for the cold weather. Colleen recently noticed a move toward “comfortable and cozy” away from “event” wear and “no dry cleaning,” she says.

Looking for something vintage? Malena’s at West Gay and North Church is a treasure trove of envy-worthy pieces, including from high-end designers. Owner Malena Martinez has racks of dresses, gowns, scarves, jewelry and other accessories dating back to the 1850s. You can browse through the boutique, make an appointment to visit the showroom or find things online, on Etsy, Ebay or social media. Find a unique gift with some history.

For Mom, Dad and the Kids

With fashions for women, tweens and children, H. Rose Boutique has you covered. They carry Mudpies and POL lines for women; POL, Hayden and Andree for plus-sizes; Hayden for Tweens; and Mudpies, Ruffle Butts and Rugged Butts for children. Rachel Becket, who operates the store with her mother, Mariann Godwin, also suggests wine glasses, purses or earrings as gifts. To protect its customers, the shop take private appointments only, but is open 6 days a week to help you find the perfect gift.

Though only open since 2017, Phineas Gage has established a reputation as the premier spot for the fashionable guy with its lines of high quality, largely sporty men’s clothing. Owner Jaime Hazley Weisbrot—who mentioned that golfing attire sales have been up recently—stresses customer service and building relationships, and strives to deliver a safe, comfortable, enjoyable experience in her charming shop. And she’s ready for the “friendly competition” of downtown West Chester’s holiday window decorating contest.

To satisfy the runners, joggers and many walkers who’ve been racking up on the miles during the pandemic—or maybe just to get them started—visit Bryn Mawr Running Store (previously Chester County Running). It has a superb selection of … running shoes! Better have the experts help with a perfect fit, so maybe put a gift card in a shoe box.

Now that we’re upping our time outside, some designer sunnies may be just the ticket for someone on your list … or for yourself. Stop by Artistic Eyewear to check out designer frames from around the world—from Oliver Peoples, Tom Ford, Persol, Paul Smith and classic Ray-Bans. Call for an appointment. You may have to invent your own gift certificate, but that won’t be hard.

For something a bit different, Regina Weaver of Coins of Chester County recommends “Christmas Rounds.” Maybe for a child or grandchild? A Christmas Round is like a coin, but made of a precious metal, such as gold or silver. This year, the round is embossed with Santa on one side and a snowman and tree on the other, done in .999 fine silver. If not a coin, the store also offers stamps, vintage jewelry and antique toys.

Don’t forget Fido! Becki Hoffman at All the Dogs reports that customers are giving gifts, not only to their own pets, but also their neighbors’. A sweater will keep the pooch cozy, and treats and toys will always be welcome by our four-legged friends.

Some Bling to Top It Off

Sunset Hill Jewelers’ owner, Sandy Riper, is planning many of the same traditions the store is known for, most memorably, the building lit up and decorated with a huge festive red bow. Inside, you’ll ogle rings, earrings, necklaces, bracelets and watches—many one-of-a-kind pieces. Wish lists will be available on-line, and Santa has a dropbox for lists in front of the store. They’re happy to help Santa by wrapping and shipping gifts.

Still hunting for jewelry? Another stop should be Big Diamond Importers & Fine Jewelry on Gay Street. Eran “Ron” Gadol focuses on diamonds, no surprise, and he’s got very reasonable prices, which may be a welcome surprise for such a dazzling gift. Prices are even better on certain fashion items. Browse the extensive selection (you may want to wear those sunglasses from Artistic Eyewear) or design your own sparkler.

For the House

Ashlee Smith of Kati Mac had anticipated a lighter season for centerpieces this year, primarily due to fewer weddings, yet her customers are doing more to decorate the exteriors of their homes. Wreaths of all types and colors are especially popular. Greenery boxes, too. She’s also doing a limited roll-out of plantings for your outdoor planters and window boxes. In addition to its seasonal greenery, the store likes to cite its program with EBS Healthcare of helping kids with special needs.

Perhaps some art is on the list? Then visit Visual Expansion Gallery, where owner Mary Manning can tell you about the collections there, about 85% of which is associated with our area—the steeple at the Old Courthouse, the West Chester library, or a view of the downtown rooftops. Several are the works of local luminaries, such as Andrew Wyeth, Philip Jamison or Richard Chalfant, along with local photographer Timlyn Vaughan, whose photos are on these pages. Map lovers will appreciate the reproductions of antique maps of the Borough.

At the west end of Market Street, by the Justice Center, sits The 5 Senses, a gallery showcasing handcrafted art and gifts. Owner Karen Cavin selects art that’s often functional—a glass vase, wooden box, or decorative towel. Other pieces are purely fanciful—an owl made of recycled metal, for example. The shop recently began offering the popular collection of “spiritiles” by Houston Llew. Each piece has a story. Just ask.

Something Sweet and Satisfying

For a stocking stuffer, or something for after presents have been opened, there’s nothing like chocolates, especially from Eclat. Master Chocolatier Chris Curtin treasures the shop’s West Chester roots and offers chocolates, chocolate bars, truffles, mendiants, mondiants, caramels and caramel sauces at his shop on High Street. See if you can wait until Christmas morning!

Every part of West Chester is very ready for shoppers. Your favorite local restaurants are inviting you to visit. From Andiario to Dolce Zola for a satisfying meal and D’Ascenzo’s or Gemelli’s for gelato while you’re shopping. Enjoy a holiday meal and consider a giving a gift certificate or two—the gift that always fits!

So take a day. Or two. Stroll through the town. Dress warmly. Remember your mask and social distancing. And do shop local this year!

West Chester Map