PORTSMOUTH — If your mantra is “buy local,” you probably frequent as many mom-and-pop stores in Portsmouth as you can and stock up on produce at DeCastro’s or the indoor farmers’ market at St. Mary’s Church.
But when it comes to holiday gifts, consider stepping it up a notch. Not only can you buy from a local shop, but you can surprise that certain someone with a gift that screams “Portsmouth.”
Here’s a fairly random list of gift ideas that pay tribute to our fair town (with apologies in advance for those we didn’t mention).
Local writers on local history
Town Historian James Garman first started writing about our town in 1976, with his book “Historic Houses of Portsmouth, Rhode Island.” He followed that up with “A History of Portsmouth, Rhode Island, 1638-1978” (1978) and “Early Twentieth Century Sakonnet: The Postcard Photography of O. E. Dubois” (1983).
Don’t try finding them, however. “The first three are all gone,” said Mr. Garman.
His last three books, however, are readily available at Island Books in Middletown: “Looking Back: Historic Tales of Newport County” (2008); “A History of the Gentlemen’s Farms of Portsmouth, RI (Glen Farm, Sandy Point Farm, Oakland Farm and Others)” (2003); and “Traveling Around Aquidneck Island, 1890-1930: How We Got Around” (1996).
Another history book popular with locals was written by the late police chief, John R. Pierce Sr., whose “Historical Tracts of the Town of Portsmouth Rhode Island,” came out in 1991.
You can read all about the 1912 Gould Island explosion or the pranksters who put the town clerk’s carriage on top of a roof in Chief Pierce’s book — a combination of truth, fiction and juicy gossip. Many believe that the book is no longer for sale, but that’s not true.
Bob Hamilton first printed “at least 1,000 copies” of the book in 1991. The book came out shortly before Christmas and sales were brisk, said Mr. Hamilton, a lifelong Portsmouth resident who founded a printing company (Bob’s Press) when he was in the eighth grade.
“We ran out of copies so we did a second printing,” he said, adding that another 1,000 were printed in 2007.
The book can be yours for $21.95 each. “They’re available at Clements’, Cory Farms and at Island Books in Middletown,” said Mr. Hamilton.
Aquidneck pillow map
Speaking of Cory Farms, that’s where you can find pillows designed on a nautical map of Aquidneck Island. They’re handmade by Mad Bay Designs and are available for $130 for the large pillow, $110 for the small.
“I worked with them and designed this pillow — that’s exclusive for us,” said Denys Eftekhar, proprietor of the store which inhabits an 1849 farmhouse.
“We renovated the building for about a year,” Ms. Eftekhar said. “I didn’t intend to fix it up, but I immediately loved it and we started working on it and ended up gutting the whole place. Each room kind of became its own theme, like the vintage kitchen, the formal dining room. It’s just kind of grown; next July we will have been open three years.”
The store is open daily in December, when business picks up. “The economy’s still kind of rough, but Christmas has always been super-strong for me,” said Ms. Eftekhar, who employs six people. “It’s challenging getting people in here, but once they’re here they keep coming back.”
Town seal on a mug
Nothing shouts Portsmouth pride like the town seal, so why not put it on a mug?
Denise Willkey, owner of DC Stoneware next door to Cory Farm, did just that. She had to special-order a digital image of the decal, which she applied to the mugs.
“This is bis-fired, clear-glazed, glaze-fired, then the decal is applied and it’s low-fired. So there are three firings,” said Ms. Wilkey, who sells the sturdy mugs for $25 each.
Mugs are big at her shop, prompting family members to guess at how many were floating around the place. Her daughter said 150, while she guessed 190.
“It was over 300,” said Ms. Wilkey.
Her lineage includes a Portsmouth resident who was known for her own designs: Elizabeth Anthony Wilkey, her husband’s grandmother, whose family goes back to the Anthonys and Coggshalls, some of the first settlers in Portsmouth
“She designed the town flag,” said Ms. Wilkey.
A Portsmouth tree ornament?
While trimming your Christmas tree, consider giving it a local flare.
The Portsmouth 375th Committee still has limited edition commemorative ornaments commissioned from ChemArt, which manufactures the White House Holiday ornaments. Each ornament is numbered and comes gift-boxed with a certificate of authenticity.
A total of about 250 were made, and there are still a few left, according to Gary Gump of the 375th Steering Committee. The $20 ornaments — proceeds help fund a local history section at the Portsmouth Free Public Library — are available at the library, Cory Farms, Clements’ Marketplace and the People’s Credit Union.
The 375th committee also still has T-shirts, hats, “375th Anniversary Coffee” and more available for sale. For more information about the 375 memorabilia, visit www.portsmouthri375.com.
“We’re going to have all of the merchandise at the dive,” said Mr. Gump, referring to “The Final Dive for 375” at noon on Tuesday, Dec. 31, at Island Park Beach.