Rockville Centre’s downtown is a one-stop shopping destination boasting independent gift shops and service providers, fine-dining restaurants, cheerful pubs and special events to enhance the holiday mood.
"It’s a very walkable community," said Mayor Francis X. Murray, who estimates the village has about 100 restaurants. "We also have ice cream shops, a tailor and new stores," he said.
Adrienne Carr-Gathman of Baldwin was shopping downtown on a recent afternoon. "I really try to shop locally," Carr-Gathman explained as she stopped at Button & Notion Center, owned and operated for 35 years by Young and Sung Yoo.
"These are the loveliest, warmest, most caring people, and they do beautiful work," said Carr-Gathman, who was seeking new buttons for an Armani jacket. "I’ve gotten antique buttons here that don’t exist anywhere else," she said.
The village's big holiday events this year include a Hanukkah celebration and Menorah lighting at 4:15 p.m. on Nov. 29 at Rockville Centre Recreation Center (111 N. Oceanside Rd., 516-678-9238, rvcny.gov/recreation). A Christmas tree lighting, featuring high school performers and Santa, takes place at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 2 at the village green on Maple Avenue.
Most village-sponsored events take place outdoors; at indoor events, masks are strongly encouraged, said Deputy Mayor Kathy Baxley.
The heart of downtown, conveniently near the Long Island Rail Road station, hugs several blocks around Sunrise Highway and Merrick Road. If you drive, downtown parking is free on the Friday after Thanksgiving and Saturdays through December.
"Everyone’s looking forward to getting the holiday season underway," said Brian Croutier, president of the Rockville Centre Chamber of Commerce. About two dozen shops will be participating in the chamber’s annual Snowman Hunt, an Elf on a Shelf-inspired contest from Small Business Saturday, Nov. 27, through Dec. 22. Shoppers can win gift cards by finding mini-snowmen hidden in downtown stores. (Details at rockvillecentrechamberofcommerce.com)
The village is bringing back its holiday lights contest, which featured 80 homes when it debuted last year. On Dec. 11 and 12 visitors can walk or drive by Rockville Centre homes and apartments that residents have "decorated for any holiday" and vote for their favorites, Baxley said; details at rvcny.gov.
For holiday gift-hunting, Matty’s Toy Stop (284 Sunrise Hwy., Rockville Centre, 516-634-0030) is a good place to start. It’s a colorful old-fashioned toy store selling anything from trendy items (Peppa Pig, Fidget spinners) to classic board games (Scrabble, Clue, The Game of Life and multiple versions of Monopoly; who knew there was a "Frozen II" Monopoly?).
"They have every kind of board game imaginable," said Rich Visco of Oceanside, who stopped in Matty’s with his wife, Stephanie, to pick up a last-minute gift.
Richard Frenger, 58, a shop owner who has lived in Rockville Centre for 17 years, said the village’s shops offer "things that you don’t see anywhere else. Every individual store has its own personality."
One of the more personality-plus shops is Time for Karma, a metaphysical boutique (14 S. Village Ave., Rockville Centre, 516-442-3200, atimeforkarma.com. The shop specializes in gemstones, jewelry, crystals and more. Necklaces and bracelets are sold with cards stating "what the gift can bring into your life, whether it’s love or healing," explained shop owner Vonda Wells. "This is a healing place for a lot of people," she said of her shop.
Imported Irish goods are the specialty at Kathleen’s of Donegal (8 N. Park Ave., 516-536-9616, irishgiftsofrvc.com), owned and operated for more than three decades by the Alcock family. Alexis Alcock, whose father, Patrick, and grandmother, the eponymous Kathleen, own the store, was behind the counter on a recent afternoon. Popular items include Irish caps, shawls and capes. Among the best-sellers: claddagh rings, which are popular anniversary, 18th birthday and Christmas gifts, and "represent love, loyalty and friendship," Alexis said. The shop also carries rosaries, Celtic crosses and other religious items.
Here are more shops for your walking tour:
Jeannine’s (6 N. Park Ave., 516-536-7467, jeanninesgifts.com). Find a variety of gifts, including baby hats and outfits, that can be personalized with embroidery.
ARTrageous! (5 N. Village Ave., Rockville Centre, 516-255-5255, artrageousrvc.com). Think out of the box by creating a unique holiday gift at this pottery painting studio. Or inspire the creative muse with a gift card.
Button & Notion Centre (16 S. Village Ave., Rockville Centre, 516-764-0844, buttonstore.business.site). Thousands of buttons are stacked in blue boxes from floor to ceiling. There’s vintage lace, appliques, sequins, patches, trim, zippers, and needles and thread, of course. The shop’s "notions" include "custom jewelry brooches, which make nice holiday gifts," said co-owner Young Yoo. "My wife is a tailor who can make alternations and do the sewing if something is difficult for you."
Top To Bottom Window Treatments (246B Sunrise Hwy., 516-313-9025). The shop Richard Frenger opened in October 2020 with his spouse, Julio Hernandez, makes custom pillows, duvets, lumbar pillows and other items for the home.
Art Flower and Gift Shop (41 N. Village Ave. 516-766-2461, artflorist.net). Need a last-minute gift on the way to a holiday party? Along with flowers, this shop sells Godiva chocolates, candles, aromatherapy oils and cards.
quick | bites
Mangia Bene, 14 S. Park Ave. Rockville Centre, 516-447-6744, mangiabenervc.com: When all-day shopping needs power, there’s always pizza. Here you’ll find several Neapolitan offerings (don’t miss the Calabrese with crumbled sausage and hot chilies) and a raft of crowd-pleasing pastas such as garganelli with Sicilian eggplant and ricotta, bucatini bound by an eggy, creamless carbonara, and strozzapreti bathed in a verdant pesto along with cubes of potato and green beans. Cork & Kerry, 24 S. Park Ave. (no phone): Toast all you’ve crossed off your holiday shopping list with a creative cocktail at this speakeasy (yes, it’s the place that looks like a house).
See more downtown destinations, as well as LI Life's entire Holiday Shopping Guide, here.