Merrimack, Bedford and Hollis offer bargain gifts for Valentine’s Day

Think outside the velvet-covered gift box this year when considering a gift for your sweetie. Options abound that are imaginative and easy on the budget.

Bedford gift-givers who take pride in their cars, or the cars of their lovers, may find they’re in for bouquets of thanks when they give a gift based on natural ingredients that relates to car care.

A Bedford firm, Just Naturals & Co., 176 S. River Road, specializes in purely natural products for a healthy lifestyle.

The company’s owner, Karen Girardo, offers a unique car care kit that includes organic spray cleaners and microfiber cloths. Her expertise in the alchemy that blends floral extracts, herbs and aromatic spices has led to scores of products that are gentle and chemical free.

The shop also provides chemical-free laundry products, bleach alternatives, fabric softeners and pre-treaters that fill a need for products that work and are gentle. Exercise enthusiasts have touted the shop’s yoga mat cleaner and organic air fresheners based on lemongrass and lavender, rosemary and mint.

Girardo, whose company also carries jewelry, lotions, aromatherapy products and gifts made by local crafters, is offering a 10 percent discount on anything that is a Valentine’s Day gift. More can be learned by calling Girardo’s shop at 606-1345 or by visiting

One also can find in Bedford an unusual boutique-style store, Impeccable Nest, located in the Bedford Village Shoppes, 178 Route 101. There, scores of gift-worthy items, many made in New Hampshire, are on display. The owner, Emma Paradis, of Bedford, is an interior designer and an event planner who is adept at turning any environment into a more welcoming place.

At Impeccable Nest, one can find a full-sized, zebra-print rug with stripes and the animal’s shape. Paradise notes that “no animals were hurt in the manufacture of this rug.”

There are fragrance products, soaps, hand-printed notecards, gem-encrusted cuff bracelets and pendants with dangles of sliced amythest. An opulent set of turquoise stoneware, patterned with sections of vintage lace that impressed into the clay before its firing, is sure to provide a multitude of excuses for hosting a dinner party. Crystal vases, golden-toned tea sets and silver-overlayed china and glassware also are there in abundance.

The owner enjoys relating her stock to the holiday at hand and has developed relationships with other designers throughout New England. Seeing is believing and a look at the goods inside the door at Impeccable Nest is sure to spark an idea for the perfect Valentine’s Day gift.

For more information on Impeccable Nest, 178 Route 101, Bedford, call 438-2082 or visit

Drivers cruising Merrimack along Daniel Webster Highway near the intersection of Bedford Road might have noticed, curbside, a bright red, upholstered chair perched atop a snow bank. The chair marks the driveway of a newly opened business, The Furniture Hotel, at 625 D.W. Highway. The place is a family operated business stocked with gently used, deluxe hotel furniture offered at barely believable prices.

Owner Len Newell, who some time ago operated a consignment store there, said he has found success in offering an ever-changing inventory of furniture, a great selection and the best deals. The new store already is a popular destination for anyone in search of a beautiful bargain.

The Furniture Hotel currently has eight red chairs in stock and dozens of red cushions to accent any home, office or college dorm. Pillows, nightstands and round, glass-topped pedestal tables await, as do lamps, bedside tables and end tables with marble tops. Currently, Newell is offering a number of bedside night stands by American Martinsville.

“I hope everybody will come ‘check in’ to The Furniture Hotel and check us out,” Newell said. “I’ve got red chairs for 20 bucks, lamps for 15 bucks, end tables for 15 dollars and so much more. We’re supplied with carved headboards, brushed-nickle table lamps and framed artwork that came from some pretty fancy Boston hotels.”

The Furniture Hotel can be reached at 321-1117 or online at

Merrimack romantics in search of softer goods may want to visit Darlene’s Bath & Body Boutique, 707 Milford Road, alongside Carm’s Gift Shoppe and Layla’s Consignments, in the Pennichuck Square shopping center.

Darlene has been inundated with requests for her new line or Knock Out formaldehyde-free underwear. The line has been well received by women with sensitive skin. Popular too, is her Wrap Up, a rhinestone-embellished and belted wrap by VP. A line of lingerie bags and women’s lingerie in sizes 0 to 4X seem to fill the bill for shoppers of substantial stature or teenie-meenies.

Darlene’s Bath and Body Boutique also carries a selection of scented bath soap baubles, made in Vermont. The playful soaps are strung on a fiber strand and resemble a necklace made for the bath. More information about Darlene’s Bath and Body Boutique can be found at The business can also be reached 809-4677.

Meanwhile, when a warm and romantic night calls for a tasty meal that needs no cooking, some call upon Spartan Pizza and Restaurant, 733 Daniel Webster Highway, Merrimack. The staff offers free delivery to all of Merrimack and most of Bedford with any modest order of $10 or more.

Spartan Pizza and Restaurant is open seven days a week from 11 a.m.–10 p.m. The specialties of the house are pizza, subs, seafood dinners, always-fresh chicken dishes, bone-in Southern Fried chicken and homemade lasagna. Some go for the spaghetti or ziti, the manicotti or stuffed shells.

Dimitri Katsoulis, owner of Merrimack’s Spartan Pizza & Restaurant, won’t guarantee that he can cut every round of pepperoni into a heart-shaped slice of flavor, but he does offer Spartan gift cards in any amount. One can imagine the reaction when a beloved Valentine’s Day recipient realizes that he, or she, need not cook for the rest of the month.

Spartan Pizza & Restaurant, 733 D.W. Highway, Merrimack, can be reached by calling 424-6666 or online at

Sweethearts in search of a physically challenging endeavor may want to give a gift of horsemanship.

The Hollis Ranch, 192 Wheeler Road, Hollis, offers gift packages of lessons geared to the experience level of the rider. Plenty of testimonials from have made the destination a popular one for people who want to learn some basic, or advanced, riding skills and experience the magnificence of beautiful horses in a natural environment.

All a student needs to begin learning, or to raise the level of existing skills, is a helmet, boots and appropriate clothing. The Hollis Ranch provides saddles, bridles and other needed items that make the time there comfortable and filled with increasing confidence. Riding lessons are customized to the skills of the student. An indoor arena ensures that lessons can be given and enjoyed all year long. The ranch’s owner, Rich Lasalle, said lessons are offered in packages of five or 10 horsemanship sessions that can be redeemed within 90 days of purchase.

For more information, contact Hollis Ranch at 465-2672 or visit www.hollis

An option for cerebral celebrants might be a gift of lessons – guitar lessons, violin lessons, piano lessons and more are available in Hollis, Merrimack, Bedford, Milford and many other towns. Scores of local teachers are listed online at www.take

Visitors to the site can enter a zip code and see listings for skilled teachers that are local to the community. The site’s How it Works section notes that all instructors complete background checks and are prescreened to ensure students an “exceptional learning experience.”

Thus far, the organization claims it has facilitated some 724,700 lessons for students seeking to learn a new skill or enhance what they currently know.

The TakeLessons online match-up site will provide photos of instructors, their biographies, videos and student feedback. Notes on a teacher’s availability and other things to consider are clearly stated and lessons are booked online. may be the place to turn to if your Valentine’s Day gift recipient has a yen to learn some skills, including performing arts such as theater acting, film acting or theatrical dance. There also is an avenue for academic tutoring in math, algebra, Spanish and other subjects.

The purchase of the perfect Valentine’s Day gift need not be an occasion for despair. Find joy. Think outside of the gift box.

Those who find no pleasure in the purchase of any of the items mentioned here might find their own version of Valentine’s Day gift-giving pleasure by perusing the pages of this newspaper for deals offered by some of the community’s leading retailers.

But when in doubt, buy diamonds.