By Mary Boyle
We've all been there: the panic that sets in when the clock is running out and you still haven't found the right gift, realized you forgot someone on your list, or just couldn't get a moment to get out and shop until the bitter end. Heading to a big box store may seem like the most convenient option, but there are so many amazing local and independent businesses in Oz just waiting to help you! Supporting local businesses and organizations is the gift that keeps on giving: the money you spend at these places not only stays in our community, but oftentimes helps to support important organizations that make Ozaukee and the greater Ozaukee area so unique and wonderful. Read on, and find the perfect gifts for everyone on your list!
For the Foodies
Oz is home to some really great restaurants, and a special dinner out could be a lovely gift. Try Fork & Tap, The Steerage, Plier's Full Circle Pub & Restaurant, or Twisted Willow in Port; Cedarburg has Brandywine, The Stilt House, The Anvil Pub or The Farmstead. Messina's in Saukville is a good bet, or try No No's in Newburg. The Stillery in Grafton is a brand new option this year, or head down to Mequon and check out The Highland House, the St. Paul Fish Company, or Cafe 1505. A CSA Subscription is another great idea!
For the Nature Lovers
Oz is home to two amazing nature preserves: Riveredge in Newburg in the north and Mequon Nature Preserve in the south. Memberships to both offer access to trails and programming, but also help support environmental restoration and education in Oz. Besides memberships, Riveredge has a Visitor's Center full of great gifts for the Outdoorsy person in your life, including the syrup they make onsite each spring.
For the Art Lovers
The art community is strong in Oz, and there are a variety of places where original artwork of all kinds can be purchased. In Cedarburg, try the Cedarburg Art Museum, Cedarburg Cultural Center, or the Wisconsin Museum of Quilts & Fiber Arts gift shops, but memberships to these organizations also make great gifts. In downtown Cedarburg, you can find local art in many of the gift shops, including Bohemia, the Pink Llama Gallery, and within the Shops of Cedar Creek Settlement. In Grafton, look no further than the NSAA Arts Mill, where a wide variety of treasures await.
For the Coffee Lovers
If there is one thing the Land of Oz has aplenty, it's good coffee shops. Gift Certificates are great, of course, but most also offer t-shirts, mugs, and other fun items to show your coffee shop pride. In Port, there's Java Dock Cafe or the new Banjole's Brews inside of Lakeside Music & Naturals; in Grafton, we have AM Coffee, NSeven, and Colectivo (also in Mequon); in Cedarburg, there's the Cedarburg Coffee Roastery and Java House. You can find a Fiddleheads in Cedarburg, Grafton, Thiensville, and Mequon. There is no lack of caffeine in Oz, people.
For the Pet Lovers (and pets!!)
Oz is home to a bounty of wonderful, independent and local places to shop for the pet or pet lover in your life! In Port Washington, check out One Wag on the corner of Franklin and Jackson St. downtown, which specializes in natural food and nutritional support for your pets. In Saukville, there's Dawgs In Motion, which has day camp, training classes, a pool, a shop, grooming and more, or Pet Supply Port, which has been in Oz for over 25 years. In Mequon, try the Feed Bag, which also offers a pool and grooming, as well as a selection for pets beyond dogs and cats. In Cedarburg, try Landmark Supply, which has been serving the critters of Oz for over 150 years!
For the Beer & Wine Lovers
Oz is home to a number of breweries, and there are a few winery options, as well. In Cedarburg, of course, there is the award-winning Cedar Creek Winery and Chiselled Grape Winery, but Cedarburg has two breweries, as well: Rebellion Brewing and The Fermentorium. In Port Washington, try Inventors Brewpub or Vines to Cellar. In Grafton there's Sahale Ale Works, or check out Foxtown Brewing in Mequon.
For those who love to wander through Gift Shops and be inspired...
Sometimes, you just want to wander around and see what might jump out at you, or have someone in the know who has the time to help you find the perfect gift. If that's you, you could just start at one end of downtown Cedarburg and finish at the other, but Cedarburg isn't your only game! In Port Washington, try Pear & Simple, Eclectic Avenue, Lakeside Music & Naturals (which has all types of goodies for the musicians in your life, too), The Shoppes of Port Washington, the brand new Purple Turtle Artisan Collective, Port's Cozy Corner, or Locally Inspired.
For the Jewelry Lover
Armbruster Jewelers in Cedarburg has been around since 1884, so you really can't go wrong, there; however, if you're lakeside, check out Sharbuno Jewelers in Port Washington, another family business that has been serving Oz since 1950. Mequon's East Towne Jewelers boasts over 30 years of business, which is certainly an accomplishment, as well. Cedarburg has several more unique and boutique shops that may also serve you well, such as Pagoda Fine Jewelry, Wyndrose Fine Jewelry or Jewelry Works.
For the Outdoor Sports Enthusiast
Snowboarding, skiing, cycling, kayaking, skateboarding, and more! Check out Sherper's in Port Washington, Cedar Creek Outdoors or Phase II Skate Shop in Cedarburg, Extreme Ski & Bike in Thiensville, or ERIK'S in Grafton. Surfing on Lake Michigan? You bet! Try the Board Shack in Port.
Candy and other Sweet Treats
On the lookout for candy, the perfect chocolate Santa, or maybe just something to satisfy your holiday sweet tooth? Oz has you covered! In Port Washington, you must visit The Chocolate Chisel for some of the best hot chocolate and ice cream in Oz, as well as amazing chocolates. In Grafton, Sweettrio or Handmade with Love is the place to go for candy, chocolates or caramel apples. In Cedarburg, you have your choice of Amy's Candy Kitchen, which is known for their caramel apples, or Ashley's Confectionery, which is a great place to find vintage candy and M&M's by the color, as well as chocolates. In Mequon, you must visit the Cocoa Tree Confectionery (and, if you have a great sense of humor and aren't easily offended, follow them on Facebook for some weekly laughs;)!
For the Kids (and Kids at Heart)
When you're shopping for children, to place to buy toys in Ozaukee County is the Cedarburg Toy Co. Owners, Zach and Natasha Loos, will not only assist you in finding the right gift, they'll wrap it for you. They are also experts at covert operations, if you happen to actually have your children with you and need to shop. Wink, nudge, or pass them a note, and they'll have all the presents wrapped and ready for later pick up, or whatever other crazy antics you can think of. CTC truly has gifts for all ages, from blocks and rattles to puzzles and books, and things you didn't even know existed! Don't miss this magical little store in the heart of downtown Cedarburg.
The important thing to remember about gift giving, especially this time of year, is not to buy stuff just to buy stuff. Slow down, really be present with people and, when you do want to give something, consider giving a gift that gives back to our community. Happy Holidays, everyone.
Book Signing and Coppersmithing: Local Author Sara Dahmen Shares Her Dual Passions at Locally Inspired
By Mary Boyle
This holiday season, Sara Dahmen of Port Washington has a lot to be thankful for: On the one hand, she's celebrating the publication of the third book in her Flats Junction series, Outcast 1883; on the other, she is celebrating moving her workshop out of her garage and into its own place. The workshop, of course, isn't where she writes, but where she restores and builds copper kitchenware for her other business, House Copper & Cookware. Luckily for us, she's sharing the joy with the whole community at Locally Inspired in downtown Port Washington with a book signing and a limited number of handmade tin and copper ornaments, as well as reproduction Victorian tin tinsel for your Christmas trees, some of which you can watch her make at the event.
Dahmen's latest book is a continuation of her first two historical fiction books: Widow 1881 and Tinsmith 1865, which will eventually make up a total of six books in the Flats Junction series. The stories are set mainly in the Dakotas and each book features a different woman as the main character. While it doesn't matter which order you read the first two books, Dahmen said, it helps to read the first two before reading the third.
"My editor said this is the strongest book I've ever written, but it was also the hardest, because I had to make it work with the series. The first two books can each stand alone, but this one ties them together and moves the story forward."
The first book, Widow 1881, is the story of Jane, a recently widowed woman who leaves the refined and settled city of Boston to take a position as a housekeeper for a doctor in the pioneer wilderness of the Dakotas. In Tinsmith 1865, Maria is the only daughter in a family of Polish Immigrant tinsmiths but, when her father falls ill and her brothers have joined the army, she must learn the trade in order to survive. The newest book, Outcast 1883, is about Kate, a character introduced in the first book who is another woman struggling to make it on her own, with the added burden of being part Native American in a time when just being a woman was hard enough.
The Flats Junction series is in serious development for a television series, although there has been a lot of delay, thanks to the pandemic. While the television project looks promising and Dahmen is excited about the prospect, she knows it's a matter of waiting for all the pieces to fall into place. In the meantime, she'll be writing another book a year for the next three years to finish the series, along with working in her shop, caring for her three young children, and pursuing her other varied interests, including historical reenacting.
Along with all the historical research Dahmen puts into her books, reenacting, she said, has helped to give her a very real physical knowledge of the period. "I know how it feels to wear a corset and the weight of the skirts around your waist," Dahmen explained. Not only that, she knows exactly how Maria felt being a woman tinsmith in the mid-nineteenth century, as she has demonstrated coppersmithing and tinsmithing at the 2018, 2019, and 2022 Crossroads Rendezvous, an event she helped to reestablish, alongside the man who taught her the trade: Bob Bartelme of Backwoods Tin & Copper in West Bend.
As the only female coppersmith in the country, Dahmen also has great experience being a woman struggling in a man's world, and that world is a very small one; there are very few tinsmiths and coppersmiths left and the ones that are working are often jewelry makers or other types of artists, not people making cookware. Dahmen’s hope is that more people, and more women, will take up these types of historical trades, continuing traditions and passing down knowledge from older generations before that knowledge is lost. With her new workshop, Dahmen will be able to hire assistants and hold classes, among other exciting opportunities; but first, she must finish all of her holiday orders, which all seems more manageable now that her workshop is no longer in her home and she can’t be suddenly interrupted by one of her children in the midst of working with sharp objects over hot flames.
To see Sara Dahmen in action and purchase or pre-order a signed copy of her latest book, head to Locally Inspired in downtown Port Washington between 10 a.m. and noon on Saturday, December 10th. Learn more about Sara and all her doings at https://housecopper.com.