Home > People, Shopping > A Special Skippack Holiday Adventure

A Special Skippack Holiday Adventure

The staff at Mal's Diner serves great food with a smile.

I start my Skippack holiday adventure by taking breakfast at one my favorite spots, Mal’s American Diner, a reasonably-priced restaurant with a youthful staff that always welcomes me and cheerful retro décor which lifts my spirits as much as the morning jolt of rich, delicious coffee.

Because of travel, I missed some of the Village’s more impressive holiday events, such as the Christmas tree lighting. I am left to discover the Skippack holiday experience on an ordinary rainy Sunday. Of course, no day here in Skippack Village is ever completely ordinary.

Joining me for breakfast is Michael Bavas whose acquaintance I owe to this very blog you are reading. Michael runs Best of Skippack, a website which promotes businesses in Skippack and the surrounding neighborhoods. His website is listed on a popular guide to our town, the Skippack Village Walking Guide. He is also a senior IT specialist  at Temple University and a part time student of bioengineering.

Michael Bavas who runs the Best of Skippack website

A resident of Skippack since 1999, Michael paid me the compliment of adding a link to my blog on his website, a signal of camaraderie in our digital age. This is our first meeting and the conversation flows. We start by exploring ways we can work together to promote our beloved town. Before long, we are making plans for launching a worldwide digital advertising agency. Suddenly our dreams of the hi-tech future are interrupted by a figure from our collective Victorian past – Santa Claus!

When he makes his rounds at Mal’s Diner, Santa does not act the blustery, over-bearing icon who poses for pictures with one cranky child after another at the local mega-mail. Here he projects a low key, gentle persona: A man whose friendship is a gift in and of itself. He speaks in a familiar and soft voice and gives as much time as requested for every child and family breakfasting at Mal’s. Take as many pictures as you want. Later, Santa sits down at the counter for a cup of coffee; not ashamed of his human side, not afraid to admit he too needs a rest from the task of spreading good cheer. Authentic Santa, authentic town.

Santa Claus with one of the great Mal's Diner waitresses

After breakfast, Michael Bavas and I go for a walk. Michael wants to pay visits to some Best of Skippack clients and I am seeking an answer to the ultimate question of this blog, “what makes the Village of Skippack special?”

Our first stop is Artisans Nest. Here holiday shoppers can find handmade jewelry, art for the wall or garden, pottery, glassware, women’s accessories, unique mirrors; glass art, metal art, natural lotions, greeting cards and more. The eclectic mix of goodies is housed in a cozy atmosphere bathed in rich, warm earth tones.

I ask Debbie DiPaolo, co-owner of the shop, her thoughts about Skippack. Debbie brings to our humble town an impressive retail background, having worked for Macy’s and Wannamaker’s, but she says these large-scale operations didn’t afford her the opportunities to build personal relationships like the ones she has cultivated at Artisan’s Nest.

Debbie’s love of fine items is evident in the merchandise that surrounds us but her eyes really light up when she speaks of the friendships she formed with customers and with local artists who supply many of the items she sells. “One has to weigh what is important,” says DiPaolo, “I want to make a good living, but I also want to enjoy myself while I am doing it.”

Next, the two Michaels walk over to Dovetail, a shop offering home furnishings, custom floral designs, custom window treatments, art, semi-custom bedding, custom upholstery, candles, jewelry, invitations and stationery, and more. How lucky! We are the first to partake of the Mimosa buffet being offered today by the shops co-owner, Elaine Annelli. I find that a Mimosa at 10 a.m. on a Sunday morning is an excellent antidote to any form of writer’s block.

Elaine Annelli of Dovetail serves a Mimosa buffet

Lively and enthusiastic, Elaine makes me feel like I have been invited to her home for a party and am deserving of special attention from the hostess. I am enchanted. She tells me not only about the items in her shop but also stories of family and friends. I realize I have drunken not a Mimosa but a draught of holiday spirit. I ask Elaine what Skippack means to her.

“Skippack,” she replies, “is a touch of the past. A stroll through Skippack is like walking through town with my parents when I was child, a reminder of a time when things were simpler.  It’s a taste of the best part of childhood, being able to slow down and appreciate life.”

After saying farewell to Elaine and Dovetail, Michael Bavas departs for some afternoon study and I am on my own. I decide to stop by visit David and Susan Pavlow, owners of Skippack Goldsmiths and Gifts, who recently moved their sparkling inventory to a beautiful, spacious new store.

I wait to speak with David who is helping a customer. Something seems to be missing as I gaze out at the beautiful sculpted glassware, antiques, wooden keepsake boxes, gift items glistening with embedded gemstones and fine jewelry in gold, silver, and platinum. Aha! I realize what’s missing: My wife. It doesn’t feel right being in this environment without her. Time to call home.

Not a hard sell: David Pavlow of Skippack Goldsmiths and Gifts shows a necklace to my wife Debby

Debby is soon able to join me and I am amazed at how quickly she acclimates herself to this environment, carefully stating her likes and preferences and asking to look more closely at various items. Now she is looking at a one-of-a-kind drusy quartz necklace in an original David Pavlow design.

“Debby, you said you were going to help interview people for my blog, remember. Debby….Debby…” Hmmm she doesn’t appear to hear me.

Later I ask David to say a few words about Skippack. He talks about the friendliness of the town. People will stop in, he explains, just to see how I am doing. “Going to work in Skippack,” he says, “is not like going to work.”

Before the day ends, Debby and I visit Green Wolf’s Village Barn Shoppes, which features two art galleries, gift shops, winery, furniture and a museum.  First we stop in to say hi to Craig Wolf, resident cool dude and manager of Green Wolf’s – Elegant Junque, which sells affordable art, clothing, gifts and décor and features new local artists each month.

The love of my life considers a purchase at Green Wolf’s – Elegant Junque

Craig grew up here and he is passionate about Skippack, as evident by the elaborate outdoor holiday display he created. When I ask him to pinpoint what makes Skippack special, he speaks about the community of shopkeepers, “All the shops in the barn here, we all help each other. I love all my neighbors: Adornment, Floral & Hardy, Copper Partridge, Merle Norman. They are not just neighbors, they are good friends.”

Before calling it a day, Debby and I stop in to say hello to a friend, Beth Wade, who owns Crystal Persuasions, a new-age metaphysical store, which sells crystals, gems, angels, fairies, jewelry, candles, singing bowls, buddhas, incense, spheres, scarves, purses, t-shirts and other items, all arranged in lovely balance. Beth is a serene, calm and spiritual presence, and we always seem to return to Crystal Persuasions at the end of a day in town, to revive weary spirits and tap into positive cosmic energy (plus my wife will tell you the prices on jewelry are fantastic). When not working, Beth resides in a farmhouse that dates back to 1749 and, for her, the Barn in Skippack Village has become a second home. “I feel at home,” she says, “when I am at my store. The Village is a home setting.”

Beth Wade, proprietor of new age store Crystal Persuasions

Beth’s sentiments are echoed by Andrea Driscoll, an artist, art director and teacher who recently opened a gallery in the Barn called by Art by Heart. Asked why she chose to locate her gallery here, Andrea replies “Harry and Sylvia Wolf [owners of the Barn] and Craig made me feel immediately at home.”

Listening to Beth and Andrea and the new age music and the soft rumblings of a Buddha fountain in the background at Crystal Persuasions, I experience a revelation: When asked what makes Skippack special, the shopkeepers in my random sample all emphasized human relationships, each in their own way. Each one placed a priority on community and friendship: whether it be with other local shopkeepers, with customers, or with the artists and craftspeople who supply the goods they sell.

Angel courtesy of Crystal Persuasions

What is the lesson? Commerce can coexist with brotherhood. The beautiful, ornamental and unusual objects sold in Skippack that we buy as holiday gifts are manifestations of our love for family and friends. So let love and friendship be the guiding spirit on our shopping trips and within the shops where we browse and buy. Let us always remember that friends and family are the most precious gift. Should that not be the spirit of holiday shopping?

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Happy Holidays to people who participate in other December celebrations, Hanukah and Kwanzaa. Thank you to everyone who read my blog during this first year and especially to people who provided support and encouragement. Peace on Earth. Good will towards all.

Note: This shops described in this article are a small sample of the many wonderful shops in Skippack. For a complete listing, go to Skippack Village Online.

Skippack Holiday Photo Gallery


Detail of purse with puppy from Skippack Goldsmiths and Gifts

Debbie DiPaolo of Artisans Nest holds up a eco-friendly throw made entirely of recycled threads


Tree ornament available at Dovetail

Santa at Mal's getting scoop on who has been naughty, nice, left good tips etc.

Categories: People, Shopping
  1. Gabe Schick
    December 16, 2010 at 12:53 pm

    Thank you for yet another fine-crafted article, Michael. Writing is your gift to us all. Please keep it coming! Happiest of Holidays to you and Deb. Cheers, Gabe Schick dba The Tune Dude.

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