Maker Markets, souvenir shops highlight local producers – 71Bait

Craftswoman Carol Ostrow creates beaded earrings and matching color beaded pendants. One of the latter, which seems ideal for the holiday season, resembles a human figure or mannequin with a red and white color scheme reminiscent of Santa Claus and a barrel-shaped torso with candy cane stripes.

Now, two decades after selling work at her first craft fair, Ostrow says her jewelry is an important, if small, part of her income, in addition to her part-time work as a designer and editor for, among other things, the Honest Weight Food Co. newsletter – Op in Albany. One of Ostrow’s favorite places to sell her jewelry is the gift shop at the Albany Institute of History & Art, where customers buy a few dozen of her pieces every six months.

“There’s a great view there,” Ostrow said.

The museum’s gift shop is one of a number of places in the area where gift shoppers can find a variety of items this holiday season, often handmade and sourced from local artisans, artisans and other producers.

You can find some producer markets and souvenir shops with local products from the capital region below. Opening hours listed are from the stores’ websites, but they may have longer opening hours for Christmas shopping.

Albany Institute of History & Art Gift Shop, 125 Washington Avenue, Albany. 10am to 5pm Wednesday to Saturday, 12pm to 5pm Sunday. 518-463-4478 extension 455 and

Boho chic boutique, 90 Front Street, Ballston Spa. Tuesday to Friday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. 518-885-1546 and

Explore the Albany Visitors Center gift shop, 25 Quackenbush Square, Albany. Monday to Friday 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. 518-434-1217 and

Empire State Plaza Visitor Center and Gift Shop, North Hall, Empire State Plaza, Albany. Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. 518-474-2418 and

Fort Orange General Store, 412 Broadway, Albany, and 1766 Western Ave., Guilderland. See website for holiday periods. 518-818-0105 and

Jay St Collective, 135 Jay St., Schenectady. Wednesday to Friday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday 10.30 a.m. to 2.30 p.m. 518-986-9894 and

Lark Street Merchant, 262 Lark Street, Albany. Tuesday to Friday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. 518-451-9032 and

Shaker Holiday Market, Shaker Heritage Society, 25 Meeting House Road, Colonie. 10am to 4pm Tuesday to Sunday, through December 18th. 518-456-7890 and

The Shirt Factory, 71 Lawrence St. and 21 Cooper St., Glens Falls. 10am to 5pm November 25th to 27th and December 3rd, 10th, 11th and 17th. Call for additional days/hours. 518-502-1450 and

“We have a huge selection from local (manufacturers),” said Elizabeth Bechand, who has worked in the Albany Institute’s gift shop for 35 years. There are about 50 manufacturers represented, all on a consignment basis, and “I can tell you a story about all of them,” she said.

Nearly all of the vendors at Albany’s Lark Street Mercantile, where vendors rent space from owner Tamara White, are from the immediate metropolitan area. One originally from here has since moved to Maine but has a grandfather, White said. Otherwise, “I think everyone is from here” and offers products from $1.29 postcards featuring the dog Nipper to a $550 painting.

“We have a lot of repeat customers, but we also see a lot of new faces during the holidays,” said White, who is now in her second vacation season as the owner of Lark Street Mercantile. Popular makers include the Schenectady-based Rise & Pine Candle Co., which is sold at a similar Schenectady maker’s market, the Jay St. Collective.

Founded in 2019, Rise & Pine makes soy wax candles with fabric wicks and playful names, including “Hatting Brunch with a Sasquatch,” meant to smell like waffles, maple syrup, and campfire; sipping cider with an interdimensional spider (cider, pomegranate, spice); and the almost self-explanatory Quietly Caressing a Plum in a Dark Corner (plum, black cherry, “dark musk”).

More prevalent at Makers Markets is the Upstate of Mind clothing and merchandise line adorned with these words. Launched in 2017 as the flagship brand of a company called Compas Life, Upstate of Mind is now available from its own store on Second Street in downtown Troy, as well as more than 80 stores including the Syracuse Airport Gift Shop and the Albany and Guilderland locations of Fort Orange General Store.

Schuyler Bull, owner of Fort Orange, which offers items from more than 100 manufacturers, said Upstate of Mind is one of his bestsellers. According to John Schlidbach, co-founder of Compas Life, “Fort Orange is a special place for us. It really helped us get a foothold in the Albany area.” Prior to opening the Troy store, Compas Life leased space within the store for an Upstate of Mind boutique at the Albany location in Fort Orange.

One of the Capital Region’s largest and most popular gift markets, representing local manufacturers, is the Shaker Holiday Market at the Shaker Heritage Society in Colonie. A year-round on-site gift shop will expand into the gathering space of the former Shaker village for nine weeks from mid-October until just before Christmas, attracting more than 5,000 people annually. The market’s head buyer and manager, Jackie Davis, said attendance had surpassed 7,000 in the past year.

“We’re looking for higher quality things,” she said. “I’m trying to move away from crocheted toilet paper covers and the like.” This year’s items start at $2 for candies and small ornaments, all the way up to $125 pepper mills and $400 lamps. The Christmas market and two craft markets are the main fundraisers for the Shaker Heritage Society, which maintains the Watervliet Shaker Historic District, the very first Shaker community established in 1776.

Open since the mid-1980s, “the holiday market has become such an important part of what we do, for the (doers) and the visitors,” Davis said.

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