The arrival of Spring means that three gift-giving occasions for one mother will arrive in rapid succession. To prepare, I returned to my German Village roots and visited two favorite shops the other day: Helen Winnemore Craft and Caterina Ltd.
Since 1938, Helen Winnemore Craft has offered handcrafted objects that bring beauty to everyday life. I’ve been shopping there since the early 1970s, when my mother and I would walk to Helen Winnemore’s and visit our friend Frances. Hearing the chiming brass bells as the door opened and the splashing fountain on the enclosed porch are two of my favorite childhood memories that I can still recall today.
Inside the building on the corner of Kossuth and Mohawk Streets, you’ll find handmade jewelry; wooden bowls, cutting boards and utensils; fabric handbags, scarves and other accessories; greeting cards; and children’s toys, among other unique items. You’ll also be invited to sip complimentary coffee and tea from ceramic mugs while you browse the artistic displays, which are as appealing as the merchandise.
Many of the store’s selections are housed in cabinets with irresistible long, narrow wooden drawers. For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved opening them to see what’s stored inside.
Helen Winnemore’s was the source for my German Advent calendars and the inlaid wooden clipboard my CSG friend Nora gave me as a college graduation present that I’m still using 21 years later. But my most treasured Helen Winnemore’s possession is my Sievers-Hahn nativity scene that Grandpa Victor started for me. This charming collection of figures is hand-carved from limewood in the Erzegebirge region of Germany. The Holy Family, wise men, angels, shepherds, animals and visitors to the stable are the stars of my Christmas decorations. Fritz the dachshund is my most recent addition, after he persistently whispered “Take me home with you, please!” during a visit to Helen Winnemore’s last December.
A newer, but equally worthwhile, German Village shopping destination is Caterina Ltd. Catherine Adams opened this welcoming store in June 2003. Today, it’s housed in a 130-year-old, three-story brick building at the corner of Third and Beck Streets.
Caterina Ltd. imports European housewares such as Italian hand-painted maiolica ceramics; French woven cotton and linen jacquard table linens; Royal Tapissierie handbags, made from tapestries produced in the tradition of Gobelin clothmakers; hand-blown glass ornaments; and a beautiful, colorful assortment of Russian ceramic crèche figurines.
Hand-carved wood nutcrackers, smokers, Schwibbogen and pyramids from the Erzgebirge are just the thing to admire between visits to Germany. Sugar spoons, pie birds and “cheese ladies” in Polish Bunzlauer-style pottery, a dense white-clay stoneware which is painted in blue and green against a cream background and hand-decorated using a sponge technique, are perfect gifts.
I’m especially partial to Caterina’s stock of hand-made Florentine paper products from Il Papiro, Danish “Nisse” paper cut-out mobiles, Ekelund of Sweden kitchen linens, the German paper napkins that are perfect for our candle-decorating craft, and the Austrian hand-painted eggs that come in real Austrian egg cartons, just like you’d find at the “Lebensmittelgeschäft.”
More attractive merchandise displays make coming to Caterina special, but the real treat for me is the lovely fragrance that comes from the French body care products it sells. I love to take a deep breath and enjoy the relaxing scents of Le Chateau du Bois fine lavender products and scented linen waters from Panier des Sens.
When you’re finished shopping, you can admire the work of local photographers, as well as paintings, sculpture and blown glass, in Caterina’s second and third floor galleries.
This spring, Caterina is hosting three special events. See the new Spring line of cotton jacquards for kitchen and table in the Garnier-Thiebaut Trunk Show on Saturday, April 21. Ubaldo Grazia will visit Caterina on Saturday, April 28 to share a selection of new pieces from the oldest maiolica factory in Italy. On Saturday, May 12, Jim Cushing, owner of “At Your Whim,” an event planning business, will describe how to plan a great party, and Lynn Hoffman will also share hand-screened printed indiennes table linens from the Beauville company in Alsace, France. All events take place from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.