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Shop at Old Bailey’s General Store features one-of-a-kind island artwork

By Staff | Nov 23, 2010

Modeling always-stylish Amish bonnets and displaying some of the merchandise sold at the Village Gift Shop is docent Pat Hoesel, left, and shop manager Paula Newton.

Black Friday is upon us once again, and shoppers on the island may be asking themselves where can they find the perfect gift for that hard-to-buy-for family member, best friend or fellow co-worker.

And believe it or not, one place which may offer a few suitable gift-giving suggestions has been on the island since 1927.

Inside the Old Bailey’s General Store, on the grounds of the Sanibel Historical Museum & Village, the Village Gift Shop specializes in unique, one-of-a-kind items priced for paupers, princes and everyone in between.

“We used to carry a few coloring books and some games for children,” said Paula Newton, manager of the Village Gift Shop. “It was a very limited amount of items, but then we decided to expand.”

The shop now carries a wide variety of children’s books, wooden games and puzzles, leather crafting kits along with several pirate-themed goodies, including replicas of ancient Spanish gold coins and treasure maps.

Luc Century's Sanibel Lighthouse holiday ornament, available exclusively at the Village Gift Shop.

And for folks who treasure a more “grown up” assortment of merchandise, the Village Gift Shop has plenty to offer.

When asked which item at the shop is most popular, Newton immediately points to the Luc Century-designed crystal holiday ornament, which depicts the historic Sanibel Lighthouse. She said that the initial stock of ornaments, limited to only 50 pieces, sold out very quickly after it debuted last year.

“We are the only ones who have the ornament on the island,” said Newton. “He designed it exclusively for the Sanibel Historical Museum & Village. He doesn’t make anything else with the lighthouse on it, so the initial edition sold out pretty fast.”

Newton added that Century has produced additional ornaments for the Village Gift Shop, but quantities are limited.

Among the other artisan-crafted goods now available at the store are miniature sailors’ valentines boxes and ornaments, pine needle baskets, quilts and limited edition prints made from original watercolor scenes of the Sanibel Historical Museum & Village.

Written with youngsters in mind, Paula Newton displays a book detailing the history of Southwest Florida.

Last year, the Village Gift Shop began carrying a line of sailors’ valentines boxes. A scale version of the ornate, nautical-themed curio, the boxes were created by a couple from Texas, Rose and Jim Prestigiacomo.

According to Newton, the popular collectibles are offered in a star, heart and octagonal patterns.

Born and raised in Germany, Gisela Damandl was looking for a creative outlet after she retired to Naples. Once she discovered the Native American craft of weaving baskets from pine needles, the hobby soon became her passion.

“This is kind of a lost art which was once used by the Seminole Indians,” added Newton. “She sometimes incorporates nuts and shells into her baskets, with each of them being one-of-a-kind.”

Damandl, who often teaches workshops at BIG Arts on Sanibel, uses the pine needles dropped by the trees outside of her summer home in Pennsylvania. In addition, some of her woven artwork still maintains the fragrant scent of those needles.

Some of the do-it-yourself crafting kits for children offered at the Village Gift Shop.

Watercolor artist Dorothy Nichols, a retired school teacher and musician, got the idea of painting a series depicting some of the structures found at the Sanibel Historical Museum & Village. In each one of them, she includes a dog named Lillie, whom she once cared for while visiting the island.

Her first three subjects — Miss Carlotta’s Tea Room, the 1926 Post Office and a farm wagon located behind the Bailey’s General Store — are included in the series of “Lillie Prints.” They are available matted or framed.

“All three scenes are sort of whimsical,” said Newton, who added that Nichols will be offering some new subjects in her next series beginning in January.

One of Newton’s friends from her home state, Carolyn Liebel Queisser, was inspired to start quilting by her grandmother, who made a quilt for each of her grandchildren after they got married. She has continued the tradition with her own family, and offered to make a few quilts exclusively for the museum.

“Each of her quilts are made by hand… it is quite a time-consuming process,” added Newton, who invites residents and visitors to stop by the shop. She’s got plenty of gift-giving ideas to share!

Paula Newton shows off another best-seller: a tote bag with the original Bailey's General Store tag line, "If We Don't Have It, You Don't Need It."

The Sanibel Historical Museum & Village, located at 950 Dunlop Road on Sanibel, is currently open Wednesday through Saturday between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults 18 and older; children are free. For additional information, call 472-4648.