A Children’s Christmas In Anacortes
By Steve Berentson
ANACORTES – If it’s a Norman Rockwell type of Christmas experience you desire, you absolutely want to choose Anacortes stores and shops over online or “big box” experiences.
Nowhere is this more obvious than in the world of children’s gift shopping and holiday activities, where countless Christmas memories have been planted generation after generation.
With emphasis on the gift of customer service, all wrapped up in a world of lighted decorations, seasonal music and fresh inventory, many Anacortes businesses covet a visit from you as the No. 1 item on their Christmas wish list. Included among them are the following three businesses:
READ ME A STORY
At Read Me A Story, owner Heather Miller’s passion for the season is evident as she moves through her colorful toy and book shop to show off an inventory teeming with gift options.
From trendy Rainbow Loom to time-tested Legos, science games to classic children’s books, Read Me a Story offers a broad selection of choices, from stocking stuffers to “Oh, wow!” under-the-tree items.
“We’ve been here for nine years now,” notes Miller. “We listen closely to our customers, adjusting our sails to meet their needs. Among other things, we stress the importance of personalized shopping assistance. Whether it’s a father scratching his head or a grandparent unsure about the newest trends, we ask questions about the children in their lives and help them find the gifts that will bring smiles to their children’s faces.”
BOXES AND BEARS
A few blocks away at Boxes and Bears, shoppers cross the threshold to discover an amazing collection of board games, jigsaw puzzles, trading cards and more.
“I started out as an antique store,” said owner Dianne Moritz. “I have consistently moved in the direction of what my customers wanted. It was one elderly gentleman, for example, whose request for a jigsaw puzzle moved me in that direction. Today I sell tons of puzzles.”
As is the case with all local business owners, Moritz recognizes the need to stay competitive in the areas of price and inventory.
“You can get all of your Christmas shopping done here,” she says, noting a major increase in floor space since she moved this year to the former Mercantile building. “I do a lot of research and I can match or beat any price out there. I also have lots of items, like strategy games, that you can’t get anywhere else.”
In addition to board games and puzzles, a scan of shelves at Boxes and Bears reveals possible gifts ranging from Matchbox cars to Legos, from trading cards to plush animals. The inventory is diverse, but you can also special order items you do not see.
For those looking for a respite from shopping, Moritz has created a display window area with fireplace, chairs and a chess table. A year-round offering is a schedule of tournaments.
“Magic is huge,” she says, “from pre-teens to adults. And at this time of year, popular items include family games and puzzles for the card table in the living room.”
A few blocks to the south on Commercial Avenue, Walgreen’s Manager Nick Chahley touts his store’s attraction to the “one-stop shopper” or the shopper on the run.
“We are absolutely ready for Christmas,” he said. “We’ve got prices from under $10 and up, and our toy selection ranges from Hug Me Elmo and the Play Right line to remote control helicopters; from Legos and Disney items to gift cards for major retail stores and companies like Apple.”
Like his neighbors, Chahley emphasizes the offer of personalized shopping, including the popular photo shop where one-hour service includes specialty items such as family calendars and photo enlargements on canvas.
Also in keeping with local traditions is the store’s holiday outreach. On Saturday, December 14, for example, Walgreens will offer free photos with Santa (suggested donation for the Salvation Army Food Bank). Just outside the front door, Walgreens will host a “Battle of the Bells” between service organizations seeking donations for the Salvation Army Red Kettle campaign.
Speaking of community activities, an always busy seaside Anacortes schedule explodes during the holiday season. Check the detailed calendar on the Chamber of Commerce website, but in the meantime, consider some of the following family friendly events:
· Free trolley rides in the downtown area each Saturday, hosted by a series of businesses (noon to 4 p.m.)
· Community Christmas tree lighting, caroling, free Santa photos and Art Walk on Friday, December 6 (starting at 6 p.m. at the Chamber of Commerce Building on 9th and Commercial Avenue);
· The Nutcracker Ballet, Fidalgo DanceWorks, December 7 & 8, AHS Brodniak Hall, 1600 20th Street; tickets available at www.brownpapertickets.com.
· Christmas Parade, Saturday, December 7, 11 a.m., Downtown Anacortes
· Celtic Christmas Celebration with electric violinist Geoffrey Castle, 4 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., December 21, Port of Anacortes Event Center, north end of Commercial Avenue.