An opportunity to shop from an array of unique handmade and art-inspired gifts well before the December holiday rush will take place once more at the Mansion at Strathmore during the Veterans Day Weekend, Nov. 9 to 12. The Museum Shop Holiday Market, an event known for 26 years as the annual Museum Shop Around, will feature shops from 17 area museums and cultural organizations.
Wares from more than 100 artisans and small businesses will be available from pop-up shops run by Audubon Naturalist Society, Brookside Gardens, The Jewish Museum of Maryland, The George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum, Glen Echo Park Galleries, Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens, Imagination Stage, International Spy Museum, The Kennedy Center, Montgomery History, National Geographic Museum, National Museum of Women in the Arts, The Phillips Collection, President Lincoln’s Cottage and Supreme Court Historical Society. New to the event this year is Georgetown’s Tudor Place Historic House & Garden. Strathmore’s own Gift Shop will be open for business as well.
In addition to the name change, said Charlene McClelland, Strathmore’s director of Mansion & Retail, a suggested donation of $10, which will benefit Strathmore’s arts and education programming, will replace the previous $9 admission price.
Numerous participants typically results in “additional shopping traffic,” McClelland observed, noting that “participating institutions benefit through additional off-site sales and also consider it a great opportunity to introduce visitors to their institutions in general.”
“Montgomery History (formerly Montgomery County Historical Society) helped found the Shop Around,” said Laura Riese, manager of the Rockville-based organization’s office and museum shop who consulted former Executive Director Mary Kay Harper for historical perspective. “Back around 1988,” Riese learned, Harper approached Eliot Pfanstiehl, Strathmore’s executive director, with the idea based on her experiences at decorator show houses and shop around-type events in Wilmington, Delaware and McLean, Virginia.
The event, said Riese, “has been a great opportunity for a small organization like ours to gain access to a larger public and our target market is very similar to that of the Strathmore Mansion. As we are now having more exhibits, it helps us gain visibility in the community as some people have lived in Montgomery County their whole lives and yet are surprised that there are museums in Historic Rockville right near the downtown Rockville Square.”
D.C.’s Hillwood Estate, Museum and Gardens has been taking part in the Strathmore event for about 25 years, according to Lauren Salazar, Hillwood’s head of merchandising, who has been there for 22 of them. “It’s an excellent way to reach another group of visitors who might not attend the museum, and I’m able to up my sales for November because of what we make at Strathmore,” she explained. “It’s also fun to shop the other stores for my own Christmas shopping, and I love seeing all my old friends from Strathmore and the other museums.”
Salazar is pleased with the Mansion’s “lovely ambiance,” “critical mass of museum stores” and the event’s high percentage of repeat visitors. “I plan my merchandise mix to bring what they expect and to surprise them with new items,” she said. “Sales are a key reason why we do the event, but you also can’t discount the value of making people aware of your museum and exhibits.”
“There’s no other event in the DC Metropolitan area like this,” Salazar concluded.
“This will be Brookside Gardens’ third year,” said Kathy Caisse, Brookside’s gift shop manager. “We are always looking for ways to increase our visibility and welcome new visitors to explore all the gardens have to offer. The Market is also a perfect lead into Brookside’s Garden of Lights, our annual holiday walk-through light display.”
Caisse said visitors look forward to the market, and “we often see new visitors to our shop, whom we just met at Strathmore. We feel that the Holiday Market highlights the unique shops in the Washington area. It shines a spotlight on our diverse cultural institutions and builds a sense of community through shopping.” Brookside’s wares will include garden- and plant-related merchandise and local artisan-made giftware as well as prints from Brookside’s School of Botanical Art and Illustration.
For the Baltimore-based Jewish Museum of Maryland, this is the second time the museum will take part. “We tried it out last year on the recommendation of a Montgomery County-based staff person who enjoys the market and also attended with a previous employer. This is our only holiday market at the moment, but given how much we enjoy the experience at Strathmore, we are investigating others,” said Tracie Guy-Decker, associate director for projects, planning & finance.
“Everything has been wonderful,” she enthused. “Spending time in the Mansion is a treat, customers seemed to really enjoy the unique items we have in our shop. We met a lot of folks who have been to our Museum and enjoyed it and even more who hadn’t been, yet, but became excited about us after shopping at the Strathmore holiday market. Sales were brisk, and we saw merchandise appeal across the whole spectrum of prices, recipients and types of items.”
It’s a major fundraiser for the Museum, she added, and we “enjoy the ambiance and interface with a lot of new customers as well as the tried and true that seem to come back every year.”
The Museum, she said, will sell fine jewelry, home goods and Judaica from Israeli and American Jewish artists as well as fun gifts for children, including Jewish-themed beanie babies like Gefilte the fish and a fidget-spinner dreidel.
With the gift shop “a quintessential stop on any museum visit…for good reason–museum stores have a disproportionate share of surprise and pizzazz per square foot compared to other retail establishments,” Guy-Decker pointed out, “Being able to visit lots of museum shops with a single gift-buying trip is a gift in itself!”
Hours for the Museum Shop Holiday Market at the Mansion at Strathmore, 10701 Rockville Pike, North Bethesda, are Thursday, Nov. 9, 10 a.m.-8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 10, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 11, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 12, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. A $10 donation is suggested. Call 301-581-5100 or visit www.strathmore.org.