By Laurie Paolicelli
Leaves are falling, vaccines are going in arms, sports fans are talking about the college basketball season — after a cold, dark, drained-of-feeling year, Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and Hillsborough are re-emerging, puckishly.
It has been a cruel stretch for established retail, including the closing of several essential Chapel Hill area stores, and as we hunkered at home during Covid lockdowns, the internet became a central way we shopped for goods. And yet, central business districts feel frisky for the first time in a while. The moment is right for a new wave of entrepreneurs, ideologues, and rabble-rousers to take over the empty spaces and try new things.
Below is a by-no-means-comprehensive sampling of interesting shops that have opened recently, and perennial favorites that are happy to greet customers in person (mask please.)
Elia Bizzarri, Hillsborough is known for his elegant Windsor chairs. He works with maple, white pine, and oak to handcraft rockers, bar stools and side tables in his custom-designed shop. “I sold a bunch of stock chairs at the beginning of this month, but I do have a couple left here. And of course I’m always taking orders for chairs.”
PEEL is an art gallery, community event space, digital photography lab, and retail space promoting contemporary art. Join the December Open House. Peel is intended to go beyond the model of traditional exhibition space to offer a curated selection of local art, photography, jewelry, books, comics, and zines, in addition to gallery displays. 708 West Rosemary Street, Carrboro. Hours: Friday: 12 pm – 5 pm, Saturday: 12 pm – 5 pm, Sunday: 12 pm – 5 pm. Contact: Info@peel.gallery
SallyMack: A stroll through SallyMack uncovers a mix of jewelry, handbags, home goods, and gifts with pop culture references, uplifting messages, or irreverent quotes. For the past seven years, owner Sally Stollmack has enjoyed hand-picking items for her store at the Midtown Market on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. In the center of Chapel Hill at 762-A Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, Chapel Hill. (919) 240-5764. Hours: Monday – Saturday: 11 am – 4 pm.
WomenCraft Gifts: WomanCraft in in Carrboro and is a co-operative where local artists create the items and staff the store. Fabulous unique products. This playful quilt is made by Dottie Fiddleman.
This and That Gift Gallery: Located in the heart of Carrboro, This and That Gift Gallery, offers crafted jewelry, pottery, nightlights, greeting cards, journals, Carrboro T-shirts, local art, and a variety of other wacky gadgets and goodies.
North Carolina Craft’s Gallery: The North Carolina Crafts Gallery is an independently owned retail gallery that features a wide selection of pottery and gifts handcrafted exclusively by North Carolina artists and craftsmen. They offer gifts for every occasion.
Botanist & Barrel Holiday Essentials mixed 6 pk delivered to your door. Botanist & Barrel in northern Orange County crafts real southern ciders, fruited sours, and wines. Their great variety pack includes white wine like Single Varietal Arkansas Black cider aged in chardonnay barrels, Sparkle of my Eye, an English style dry & fruity bottle conditioned cider, a Pet Nat cider, and Pardon my French. Then get weird and fruity with refreshing Sparkling Strawberry cider and end with their 2020 Curate Collaboration Spanish style Sidra for the South’s version of a Basque style cider. Anyone would enjoy this delicious, curated package. $111 and no pick-up charge. Cheers. Additional options available in their online store.
Julian’s Chapel Hill is luxury apparel store. In her Blog, Lucy Julian, granddaughter of owner Alexander Julian, affirms her love of the classics: “What I love that my mom always says is that a lot of the pieces are investment pieces, so there is a philosophy that invites you to look at [an item] … as something that is going to be an expression of you. This 100% Silk scarf designed by Alexander Julian is a standout piece for your wardrobe. Bathed in Carolina DNA, this scarf is the definition of Blue Heaven.
Epilogue in the heart of downtown Chapel Hill is community store where you can find a book while enjoying craft brews, a glass of wine, or churros and a cup of chocolate. Wherever possible, they have chosen local and sustainable partners: Carrboro Coffee Roasters, Ponysaurus Brewing of Durham, Videri Chocolate Factory and Escazú Chocolates of Raleigh, and Black Mountain Chocolate Factory of Winston-Salem.
Hillsborough Arts Council: Committed to providing a unique shopping experience in downtown Historic Hillsborough, the Gift Shop offers a beautiful and varied selection of well-priced gift items. The Gallery & Gift Shop is now open, Tuesday – Sunday: 12 pm – 4 pm and Friday & Saturday: 11 am – 7 pm.
Uniquitiques: You can find Uniquitiques Hillsborough in the little farmhouse with the wraparound porch. Visitors from across the globe love their selection of Vintage and New Cowboy Boots, Cowboy Hats, Rock and Country tees. A little bit of Nashville in the heart of downtown Hillsborough.
Laurie Paolicelli is the Executive Director of the Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau.