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Historic holiday shopping in Cutchogue

Jean Schweibish looks around the Cutchogue-New Suffolk Historical

Jean Schweibish looks around the Cutchogue-New Suffolk Historical Council's Christmas Shop with council member Emily Victoria. (Dec. 18, 2011) Credit: Erin Geismar

When Joy Lawrence and her husband moved from Garden City to Cutchogue 16 years ago, he wanted to be by the water. She was searching for an old-world feeling.

They settled on a house built in 1926 on Main Road with a view of the Cutchogue-New Suffolk Historical Council's cluster of historic buildings.

"When you read an old book or look at pictures, you feel like you're transported to that time," said Lawrence, 68. "That's how I feel about this town. It's a whole different way of life."

The historical council wanted to bring that same sentiment back to the holiday shopping experience. Last year, members decided to turn the council's early 19th century Carriage House into a Christmas shop during weekends in December. Usually, the house functions as a gift shop during the summer and is closed after September.

Janet Healy, a trustee at the council, said the shop is reminiscent of an earlier time, when everything was handmade and crafted locally.

"That's what were trying to do," she said. "Tie in the ambience of the historical council and this building here."

Healy said all of the items sold in the shop were made in the United States and most of them were made by local people in Cutchogue and donated to the council.

The shop's stock doesn't disappoint. Handmade Christmas ornaments hang from a small tree. Jams by the Cutchogue-based company Really Good are open for tasting. Handwoven baskets and birds carved out of wood by 91-year-old resident Paul Gillen sit on the shelves.

There are also linens, a skin healing ointment from a local shop,The Apotheca, and ceramic pots made of recycled china by council director Zach Studenroth.

Strewn among the goods were antique items like children's games and real arrowheads found locally.

"These are all old things," said council member Emily Victoria, who has worked at the shop every weekend. "It's a little bit different."

Jean Schweibish, 58, moved to Mattituck from the South Fork this fall. She said she was hitting up all the local shops she could find to try to buy more meaningful gifts for the people on her shopping list.

At the Christmas Shop, she bought a few jars of jam and was looking at some ornaments.

"Sometimes you can go into a local shop and everything was made in China," she said. "So this is hard to find and it's also nice to talk to local people when you're out shopping."

Keeping warm by an electric fireplace installed at the Carriage House for this year's Christmas Shop, Healy said the council has been happy to find that people still have an interest in handcrafted local goods.

"It's been another successful year," she said on Sunday, the shop's last day open. "And it's already on the calendar for next year."

Photo: Jean Schweibish looks around the Cutchogue-New Suffolk Historical Council's Christmas Shop with council member Emily Victoria.

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