As folks shop small on Saturday, they might discover several small businesses sell more than just products to gift. They offer experiences, ones to give and, in some cases, ones the shopper can enjoy in creating a gift.
Hagerstown couple Danielle Higgins and James Walling like making wine so much at Blue Mountain Wine Crafters in Funkstown that the engaged couple have done it five times and plan to continue.
“I give it away like crazy,” Walling said recently as the couple were corking and labeling bottles of wine they plan to give away as Christmas gifts. The couple also is making wine to drink at their wedding next summer and give as wedding favors.
Higgins said Walling discovered Blue Mountain and took her there in March 2020 for a tasting. They enjoyed it so much they returned to make their own wine using a kit the company provides.
Owner and winemaker Cindy Rowe said the boutique winery offers lessons in making wine, beer and hard cider. Customers make it for themselves, for special events and for gifts.
Personalized appointments to make wine start around $200 and include 28 to 30 bottles of wine. Beer and cider are a little less expensive, she said.
Rowe said she’s had two couples share the appointments and split the resulting bottles.
It can take four or five trips to make wine and fewer to make beer or cider.
When Walling and Higgins couldn’t make one of their appointments, Blue Mountain staff took care of that step in the wine-making for them.
This Saturday, Blue Mountain will have tastings, specials and live music.
Make jewelry or provide the experience
Jeweler Beth Carey teaches people how to make jewelry in her shop northeast of Myersville, Md., not far from the Washington/Frederick county line.
Carey said the resulting jewelry can be the gift, or she has gift cards online that can be used to buy items or an appointment for the experience of making jewelry.
“People hear about it and buy a couple hours for someone to come and play,” she said.
Carey said every Christmas, one of her customers buys a $100 gift certificate for her sister because she knows her sister will use it for studio time.
That gift certificate covers the cost of a three-hour session, which can cost around $90, and is enough time to complete one or two projects, Carey said.
The lesson includes simple soldering to make copper or silver earrings, a necklace, a ring or a stamped bracelet. Making silver jewelry costs a little more.
Blue Mountain and Carey aren’t the only artisans who offer lessons in making craft gifts. To find such experiences, check with local arts councils or artisan tour groups.
Carey participates in the annual Valley Craft Network studio tour, which was held last weekend. She’ll be open on Small Business Saturday and the first three full weekends in December, hosting an open house and student show at her Studio2BCJ space the weekends of Dec. 11 and 18.
Remember playing in the dirt?
Want to give someone the joy of operating a real construction vehicle?
Heavy Metal Playground attracts customers from along the East Coast and MidWest for the opportunity to operate an mini excavator or skid steer loader, owner Mark Stevanus said.
The construction site playground opened a few years ago southeast of Hagerstown and moved last year to a bigger space near the Hagerstown Regional Airport north of the city.
People who operated the excavator have been coming back to try the skid steer loader that was added in June, Stevanus said.
Heavy Metal, which also provides training classes, has play sessions in which anyone 8 or older can steer an excavator arm to achieve objectives like picking up a ball to drop it through a tire.
Stevanus said there are plans to add more features in the spring, such as activities where customers can smash objects.
Play packages range from $79 for 30 minutes to $149 for an hour. The more time the more activities available.