Each year, the Reporter scours the neighborhood for a sleigh full of local gift ideas that help support your local small merchants and artisans, while also satisfying the tastes and budgets of the discerning shopper. Here's the Reporter's checklist of great gifts with a neighborhood twist:
Project DEEP Calendars
Get them while they last! The neighborhood's number one stocking stuffer is produced by the non-profit Dorchester Educational Enrichment Program- or Project D.E.E.P. The calendars feature the watercolor paintings of Neponset's own Celia McDonough, whose son Brendan is the founder of the popular after-school program. This year's calendar highlights scenes from Franklin Park, the Neponset bike trail, Port Norfolk, Ronan Park and Codman Square's landmark Second Church among others.
Another great feature of the D.E.E.P. calendars is its focus on local history. Along with national and local holidays, the calendar is loaded with information about important milestones in Dorchester history, he handiwork of D.E.E.P. volunteer Billy Farrell.
The colorful calendars are on sale now at several Dorchester stores, including Gerard's Adams Corner general store and Blasi's in Adams Corner, Mt. Washington Bank on Gallivan Blvd., Pat's Pizza in Lower Mills, the Mud House at Neponset Circle, Lambert's on Morrissey Blvd., and McKenna's in Savin Hill.
Cedar Grove Gardens
Owned and operated by Cedar Grove native Richard O'Mara, the gardens' outdoor space along Adams Street does a busy trade in wreaths, poinsettias, and, of course, Christmas trees. But don't skip the interior store, which is a treasure trove of unique holiday gifts, ornaments, florals, pottery, books and toys, many of them with a Dorchester twist.
Lower Mills native Jack Doherty runs this wildly popular store and Internet-based apparel business from his headquarters in Adams Corner. The basement-level store beneath the Rite-Aid pharmacy is one-stop shopping for your Dorchester-obsessed relatives and friends.
College Hype originated the "All Roads Lead to Dorchester" t-shirt and the "Parishes of Dorchester" tees, but they have tons of neighborhood-specific gear that you probably have spotted on locals. For those not lucky enough to live in God's country, Doherty has spun off some gear for other neighborhoods, including Roxbury, Hyde Park, East Boston and Cambridge.
Big sellers so far this year, Doherty says, include a hooded Dot sweatshirt with a giant green shamrock on the front and the classic Dot Rat shirt that was popularized-again- in this year's Ben Affleck adaptation of Dennis Lehane's "Gone Baby, Gone." Hype also has a bustling Patriots-themed line that is huge this year, which, for reasons that should be obvious, have been flying off the shelves.
Check out Doherty's wares online at the website collegehype.com or pop into the Gallivan Boulevard store for last minute buys.
Phillips Candy House
This Morrissey Boulevard landmark is a dream come true for the sweet-tooths on your list. The original store at 818 Morrissey has been joined in the last year by a new location in South Shore Plaza. The distinctive chocolate turtles - hand-made on Morrissey "exactly as they were 80 years ago" - are a Dorchester must: smooth caramel is combined with hand roasted premium nuts and is topped with a generous dollop of luscious chocolate.
Red Dot Gallery
Tucked into a eclectic corner of Washington Street in Lower Mills - which are each worth a stop for the last-minute holiday shoppers - this art gallery opened last holiday season to rave reviews. A joint effort of local merchants including Dark Horse antiques and Flat Black coffeehouse, the gallery features one-of-a-kind pieces, including many by painters and sculptors from Dorchester, Mattapan and Milton. Also, check out the Dorchester Arts Collaborative website - thedac.org -to view a directory of dozens of great sites within Dorchester's flourishing arts community.
The gift shop at Dorchester's only presidential library and museum is perhaps not the typical stop on our route, but it's loaded with terrific memorabilia of the 35th president and his family, who of course have deep roots in our neighborhood. Hot sellers this year, according to shop manager Terri McGrath is Caroline Kennedy's new book A Family Christmas. And where else in the world will you find this: "1600 For Men", a presidential power shave collection that features a number of personal grooming items in a metal bucket emblazoned with seal of the chief executive's office. Check out the other offerings online at jfklibrary.org/store