Local shops are full of Valentine gift ideas

Valentine’s Day is a holiday that usually catches men off guard.

Most of them take note of the pending holiday at the last minute, and it’s sad to see them queing up in drug stores holding Whitman’s Samplers or flowery cards – purchases that are not sure to please.

Worse, in desperation, they will spend way too much on roses or restaurant dinners.

Here’s a better way to say you care: a carefully chosen and inexpensive gift from a local shop.

Let’s start the hunt in Amherst, on Route 101A. Casual Cat Picture Framing has moved east from its longtime spot across the road to the Heritage Plaza and has a coffee mug that says, “I Love You” a hundred different ways, as well as lots of jewelry, pottery and other gift items.

This Olde Stuff has expanded into Casual Cat’s old space and now takes up the entire building with what seems like millions of small antiques and collectibles, including a huge Valentine card, maybe three-feet long, that sells for $7.

Or try A&E Coffee at Carriage Depot. A pound of the best beans around here could be what makes her day.

If she likes chocolate and is a health conscious to boot, there’s Earthward Natural Foods, which has a selection of organic and high-cacao count chocolates. Or you can find small volumes of love poetry at Lorden Plaza in Milford in the Toadstool Bookshop.

And for a real treasure trove of gifts, drive on to Wilton.

At the Here Today antiques shop on Main Street, Marie Fortier has pretty pashmina scarves in a variety of colors for $12 each, as well as luxury toiletries, antique jewelry and greeting cards you won’t find in a drug store.

And if your woman is a “love me, love my cat” kind of person, Fortier has cat toys she makes herself out of alpaca felt.

Down the street is Accents With Style, displaying work by local artisans, potters, painters, woodworkers, quilters and photographers, all for sale.

If you must buy candy, try homemade sweets from Nelson’s Candy, also on Main Street, where they make fudge, truffles, taffy, brittles and other confections.

A few miles away off Burton Highway is Frye’s Measure Mill, selling colonial measuring boxes, made on the property, and other reproduction items. They are a bit pricey, but Frye’s is worth the trip, if only for the gorgeous setting amid woods and waterfalls and restored mill buildings that are on the National Register of Historic Places.

If you haven’t found anything by now, there is still White Home antiques, a whole house filled with antiques and gift items.

It’s located just off Route 101 at the intersection of Route 31.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at kcleveland@cabinet.com or 673-3100, ext. 304.