I approached the Hylan Drive exit in my car to go to Marketplace Mall this past Sunday but my finger paused on the blinker. I had just spent hours reminiscing with my college roommate of the Adirondacks and the road trips we had taken in search of the unknown, and a good sale. I was still feeling silly from our laughter. I couldn’t face beeing a drone in the mall.
So, I left the artificial glow and, instead, I decided to go off in search of the unknown shops. I decide to head South and exit in Avon and follow Route 5&20 towards the village.
I pass a pottery store that was once an old schoolhouse. I have bought some good things there, but today I only want to visit places I have never been. Some times you have to commit to searching for a new retailor. I drive on in need of a coffee. There is a large roundabout in the center of town that eventually takes me to Main Street and Sweet Arts Bakery.
This little sweet shop is Ruth Ann and Brian Lewis’s dream business. They have slowly built their clientele off consumer demand, but remain true to the integrity of their unique flavor. A flavor influenced by Ruth Ann’s grandmother. As a little girl, Ruth Ann spent her time in the kitchen with her family. A holiday cookie called the roszke pays homage to those days. It is a crescent shaped cookie stuffed with nuts.
“We have three or four European customers a week,” Ruth Ann says in between refilling and restacking items. “ They tell us that they have had the best cup of coffee since they have come to America.”
The coffee is well-brewed and I am given a bag with a cake pop inside. I eat the entire moist ball-shaped sucker that was not too sweet and actually tastes of chocolate.
Due to her partial Slovak heritage Ruth Ann cooks with less sugar and all natural ingredients. The slight variation of the flavor and size of each of her products are a rare find, according to Ruth Ann, in a homogenized chain food culture.
The bakery operated a table at the Geneseo Farmers Market on Center Street this past season. They conducted taste testing research and found an overwhelming amount of college students not only were willing participants, but wanted Rosemary Foccaccia Bread.
“It will be the featured bread with soups in the Geneseo store,” she says. Ruth Ann feels confidant in adding the second store in Geneseo, located where the Genesee Valley Florist shop used to be between Mama Mia’s Restaurant and Georgia’s Clothes Horse ll in 2015.
“We are bringing something new to the area and I am really excited to be a barista and that we will have authentic espresso drinks”.
I left Ruth Anne to regulate her froth and brush up on her coffee plant cultivation methods and I drove back to 5&20 and headed towards Caledonia. Another, roundabout and you are on Main Street in Caledonia.
COUNTRY JUNKTION , located in the 1890’s hardware store, looked adorable from the outside, so I park to investigate. It is filled with antiques and country furnishings and what is described as primitives. “Primitive Art” is a term often applied to art by those without formal training, but don’t assume the vendors and artisans haven’t ever been inside university or been classically trained. It is fusion art or can describe the art that represents a certain region or culture of people.
I ask about a little black angel that hangs in the window.
“We have more then a few collectors of African-American art,” Rita Kanaley shrugs.”It’s beautiful isn’t it.” And, she makes sure to tell you about the next artist. They seem to be like her children and she wants equal attention given to all of their talents.
Rita and Joe Kanaley have downsized their business that was first opened in Rochester. Currently, there are twelve renters and six people who consign at Country Junktion.
Joe sticks to running the “Man Cave”. The Man Cave, is the antique side of the business that specializes in tools and he has a hard time keeping his inventory stocked due to it’s popularity.
He brushes his fingers over the top of a New York State license Plate from the 1920’s, and jokingly, grumbles about being put in the small corner space of the building.
“We really do love this location; we got lucky here,” he says.
I walk to the front of the store and check out. Rita, quickly, tells me, a story as she wraps up some snowflake cards that I purchase by local photographer, Kelly Foote Lucero.
“My grandfather, was John “Jack” Holley and he was one of the five men who missed the boat,” Rita looks up and smiles.
“And, that boat,” she pauses,” was the Titanic.
The tale goes that he was out drinking with his friends the night before it sailed and he showed up late on the dock for boiler duty.
“He was one of five men who missed the ship. “A bunch of us go back to drink in the pub that helped them miss that ship; in honor of it,” Rita says and shows me a picture of her grandfather.
On, the way out the door she tells me next time I come in I have to find my free item.
“It makes people feel good,” she says. “A little boy found a fishing pole this summer.”
I walk towards my car, but I see a sign that I had passed earlier up the road. It is in PINK! It says the Giggling Pig. Twice now; it is more then a sign.
I walk in the door and it is as if fifty department store windows have been conjoined to create a massive showroom. The multitude of motifs and decorations are Olde Worlde; Whimsical, and traditional. There are things you have not even seen in your imagination, like, a set of life-size crystal encrusted reindeer.
“We travel all over the country,” says Christine Mattice, Manager, Giggling Pig. “We are going to events to bring back what we think people will respond to and want in this area.”
The family owned business has built it’s reputation on selling Amish Furniture and home accents. They pride themselves in a strong work ethic that has only recently become strained due to a family illness.
“My husband ate; slept, and breathed this business until recently,” Jennifer Mattice says.
The reindeer were sent by mistake, but they are still being sold this season and will be discounted. I, unfortunately, could not afford the price tag, but I did leave with a great plug in snow covered tree.
“This is the Mecca of buying things at a reasonable price,” Christine says.
I head to Geneseo done for the day in Caledonia, but ready for hometown shopping. I arrive at 3:30 p.m. to find one place open to eat and nowhere open to shop. I park in front of the EuroCafe’ because as luck would have it I have never eaten there.
I order a polish platter to bring home to my family. I am told by the owner it will give me a little taste of all the restaurant has to offer. I also order the Borscht, because I don’t like beets and I am trying new things. I take the food home to my husband and two sons to see how it will be received as I do not trust my palette to decide alone.
Pierogis come in multiple varieties. We were given plain ones and they were good, but a little heavy in the middle. The sausage was devoured and loved by my husband and smallest son. I concentrated on the beet soup. Mostly, because I want to be the kind of woman who orders beet soup and means it. I am not. So, I can not judge. I will have to return another time for the probiotic menu. It looks fascinating.
IF you do take the time and chance this season to drive away from the disco ball of Christmas bells and blinking lights remember not to get scared if you get lost.
My greatest discovery was the day I found the North Pole, in New York, by accident. Santa’s Workshop was still there when we arrived, but, the place was in poor shape. It was later sold on QVC.
Despite, the way things turned out for Santa, and his elves, I didn’t want to forget what those road trips taught me about bargain hunting. Sometimes, it is just reconnecting and talking to other human beings and becoming present that makes the art of holiday shopping a gift!