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The Hilltown Christmas Place remains a draw in Williamsburg

  • Balsam sachets by Lorraine Brisson of Goshen for sale at The Hilltown Christmas Place in Williamsburg on Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • A display of necklaces and bracelets by Bonnie Rogers, of Chesterfield, is illuminated by a frame of stained glass by Samantha Meyers, of Goshen. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Pottery by Kris O'Neill, of Cummington, for sale at The Hilltown Christmas Place in Williamsburg. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Maple syrup by Paul Zononi and Paul's Sugar House, the product that started it all at The Hilltown Christmas Place in Williamsburg. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Wood-turned wine stoppers by Curtis Emerson, of Springfield, for sale. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • The Hilltown Christmas Place on Goshen Road (Route 9) in Williamsburg. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 12/22/2020 6:00:17 AM

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the landscape for artisans and craftspeople, causing the cancellation of craft fairs and festivals and altering the retail landscape. However, The Hilltown Christmas Place in Williamsburg remains a spot where people can buy locally produced goods — just in time for Christmas.

“The shop wouldn’t be successful if it wasn’t for these amazingly talented people,” said Serena Zononi, the store’s founder and proprietor. “All I do is run the store. They do all the hard work.”

For more than a decade, The Hilltown Christmas Place has offered the work of local artisans and craftspeople. It also sells Christmas trees, wreaths and the maple products made by Paul’s Sugar House, which is located on the same property at 28 Goshen Road.

“We started this up to sell syrup at Christmastime,” said Zononi. “It kind of took off on its own.”

The sugar house is run by Paul Zononi, Serena’s husband. She helps out at the house, just as he helps out at the Christmas Place. Neither of the establishments have any other employees.

The Christmas Place is open from Nov. 1 to Dec. 24, Christmas Eve. This year, there are more than 60 artisans and craftspeople whose products are being sold at the shop, which Zononi says is less than recent years, due to the pandemic.

Zononi said that operating during the pandemic has “been a little odd.” Though a lot of regular customers haven’t been coming in because of the virus, there are also a number of new customers who have found the shop because people are “driving around bored.”

In terms of COVID-19 protections at The Hilltown Christmas Place, Zononi has hand sanitizer available to customers and she regularly cleans. Proper masking is also a requirement.

“Everyone’s been very good about it,” Zononi said.

Only seven customers are allowed in the shop at a time, and those who have to wait to enter are given a pager, although Zononi said that she’s only had to utilize this system once.

One of the artisans who sells their products at the Christmas Place is Donna Douglas, of Cummington, who makes items such as adult hats and headbands out of polar fleece and sells them under the name Deer Hill Fleece.

“She has a wonderful shop,” said Douglas. “I spend a lot of money there myself.”

Douglas hasn’t done any craft fairs during the pandemic, and she said that being able to sell at the Christmas Place has “helped quite a bit.”

“It’s making up for some income that I have lost,” she said.

While Douglas is retired, she said that the income from her products is still helpful to her.

Lorraine Brisson, of Goshen, sells her potholders and balsam sachets at the Christmas Place. Additionally, she crafts the wreaths that Zononi sells.

“I think it’s been very important to a lot of people,” said Brisson, of the store. “It’s also an opportunity to stay out of the department stores.”

Evelyn Snyder, who runs Kaleidoscope Pottery out of Easthampton, also sells her wares at the Christmas Place.

“She’s a really good resource to me to reach customers in the hilltowns,” said Snyder. “I’m happy to be in there.”

Although her pottery has been sold all over the country, Snyder said that the number of places selling it this year has gone down because of the pandemic. And she said that she’s happy that some places are still open that sell local, handmade gifts.

At the end of each season, Zononi gives money to craftspeople and artisans for their items that have sold, taking a commission for herself. She also returns any unsold items.

The hours of The Hilltown Christmas Place are 10 a.m. to 6 pm. on weekdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Christmas Eve.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.


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