Little Silver Woman’s Exchange Promotes Local Crafters

May 22, 2018
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Since 1934, the Woman’s Exchange at 32 Church St. has been a showcase of locally produced gifts. Its goal is to direct a portion of its profits toward local charitable causes.

By Jenna O’Donnell |

LITTLE SILVER — Online shopping might simplify gift giving, but for a more personal experience and a truly unique gift, the proprietors at the Woman’s Exchange gift shop hope that shoppers will stop in to check out their wares.

“We are like the original Etsy in way,” said Elaine Boaman, one of the managers of the shop. “We offer phenomenal unique gifts that aren’t going to be on a registry.”

Boaman added that the small shop, which has been in its current building on Church Street since 1985 – but has been in the Two Rivers area since 1934 – is the sort of place that transcends generations.

“We have customers come in who tell us that their grandmothers shopped here,” she said. “It really is an emotional store. It brings all the feelings.”

The shop started as a Depression-era means for women to show and sell their handmade crafts. By 1950 it had moved from its original location in Rumson to Church Street in Little Silver, where it con- tinues to sell handcrafted work from 150 crafters and artisans that hail from all over the country – though many are local to Monmouth County. The shop, a nonprofit organization that is part of 27 Woman’s Exchanges across 13 states, also donates a portion of retail sales to local charities. Since 1980, the shop has donated $600,000 to charities including Lunch Break, Mary’s Place and Riverview Medical Center.

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The range of items for sale is likely as unique as the many people who create them, and always changing with the seasons, Boaman notes. This spring, the collection includes a range of baby gifts – handwoven hats, sweaters, blankets, clothing and toys. Housewarming and birthday gifts are also prominent throughout the store, including handmade soaps, jewelry, handbags, local artists prints and other decor and accessories. Customers looking for local craftsmanship can find hand-poured candles made by a young woman from Freehold, coastal-themed coasters printed by photographers from Asbury Park or Holly Jolly Jams, jarred and sold by a woman from Fair Haven.

A store manager, Elaine Boaman, shows off the well-stocked, popular baby gift section.

While gifts might come from near and far, the shop embraces its location with plenty of beachy gifts and local pride. Artist prints depict local landmarks from towns all around Little Silver and New Jersey-themed home decor adorns several shelves. Newborn hats and onesies are embroidered with the words “Jersey baby” or other more area-specific monograms. The store also offers complimentary gift wrap.

“It’s a great place to find gifts if you’re looking for something special,” Boaman said. “And it’s also just a nice place to come and look around.”

Boaman is one of five full-time staff at the shop, which is run by a board of directors comprised of senior volunteers. About 60 volunteers staff the shop on a monthly basis.

The shop has also been trying out some new types of outreach for local groups. Last fall the shop started “Sip and Shop,” which allows groups or parties to rent out the space for a private shopping event. Ten percent of those proceeds go to different charitable groups.

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“It’s a real in-store experience here,” Boaman said, adding that the store does not sell online. She hopes to see some new faces visiting the neighborhood gift shop soon. “Once people start coming in here, they always come back again.”

The Woman’s Exchange Gift Shop is located at 32 Church St. in Little Silver. Store hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays. Call 732-741-1164 or visit thewomansexchange.com to find out more.


This article was first published in the May 10-17, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.

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