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Queens Chronicle

2013 Holiday Shopping & Dining Guide The best gifts are only a few steps away

Neighborhood stores have the presents, food and swag you need

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Posted: Wednesday, December 11, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 11:19 am, Wed Dec 11, 2013.

Had enough of driving to the malls or searching the internet for the best gifts this holiday season? Then take a few minutes, maybe on your way home from work, to shop at your local commercial district this holiday season?

For over a century, Jamaica Avenue has attracted shoppers from Woodhaven and surrounding neighborhoods.

From the Brooklyn border all the way to Lefferts Boulevard, stores answering nearly every need line the street under the J subway elevated tracks.

From Dexter Court on the Brooklyn border to 100th Street, the strip is overseen by the Woodhaven Business Improvement District, which heavily promotes its shopping choices along what Woodhaven BID Executive Director Maria Thomson calls the “Everything Avenue.” Along the stretch, holiday lights hang from the overhead trestle and Christmas music blares from speakers on lampposts.

Sports Lane at 85-15 Jamaica Ave. is a popular spot for those looking for athletic items including sneakers and sports gear.

Schmidt’s Candy store at 94-15 Jamaica Ave. has been a neighborhood fixture for nearly 90 years. Today Margie Schmidt continues the tradition of making hand-crafted, hand-dipped chocolates her grandfather started when he opened the shop in 1925.

Christmas is a popular holiday for Schmidt’s, which offers a wide selection of holiday-inspired treats from ribbon candy to chocolate Santas. Christmas trays, featuring cookies and candies, are a great gift to bring to your holiday gathering.

As the holiday approaches, Schmidt retreats to the basement of her shop to make the sweet favorites for her customers.

“We’re here for another two weeks making all the goodies,” she said as she worked Monday afternoon. “Just drop in and get some delicious treats.”

More information on the candy shop and how to place an order can be found at schmidtscandy.com.

Apparel stores such as Mary’s Fashion Boutique at 79-10 Jamaica Ave., Baby Blue Ladies at 91-17 Jamaica Ave. and Margarita’s at 95-07 Jamaica Ave. offer a variety of clothing for girls and women to keep them stylish in 2014.

Jo-Vin, a window treatment shop, at 94-23 Jamaica Ave., boasts “a designer touch at affordable prices,” and is having a pre-holiday sale for those looking to get an interior makeover for the new year.

Down Jamaica Avenue into Richmond Hill and one block north at 117-09 Hillside Ave., the Richmond Hill Flea Market offers the shopping experience South Queens once had in Aqueduct Race Track’s northern parking lot.

Located in the former RKO theater, the bazaar is the largest indoor flea market in the borough and offers everything from jewelry to clothing to toys at the prices that keep people coming to flea markets.

The market is open every Sunday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information on what it has to offer, call (347) 709-7661 or visit richmondhillfleamarket.com

G&R Audio Electronics is a longtime staple on Liberty Avenue. The shop at 114-04 Liberty Ave. has been in business since 1977. Besides televisions and cameras, it carries a wide array of electronics, such as DJ equipment and home appliances from top brands.

It’s common for pet lovers to stuff a furry friend’s stocking with bones or other types of treats. Animal Pantry at 137-20 Cross Bay Blvd. in Ozone Park offers a wide selection of gifts for the canine, feline or fish in your life.

Puppy Paws at 94-33 Rockaway Blvd. in Ozone Park offers customers the traditional “puppy in the window” shopping experience, as well as a number of gift items for that special canine, including dog grooming.

South Queens doesn’t only boast places to shop for gifts under the tree, but is also home to one popular place for items to put on the tree.

Frances Bannon lost all of her Christmas decorations when Hurricane Sandy flooded her Rockaway home last year. Because of the damage to her house, no decorations went up last Christmas and she spent it with family in Pennsylvania while her home was undergoing mold remediation and her floors were being ripped up.

“We didn’t have a place to put up a tree if we wanted to,” she said standing on a long line waiting to pay for new decorations.

Now her home is “99 percent rebuilt” and she is hosting her family for Christmas in her new dining room. That requires decorations, and when the time came to buy new ones, she didn’t go to a big box store on Long Island or in Brooklyn, she paid a visit to House of Holiday, a two-story Christmas decoration bazaar at 90-02 Atlantic Ave. in Ozone Park across the parking lot from Pathmark.

Inside is everything from the standard light sets and window decorations to a large selection of artificial trees lined up to turn one of the many rooms into a plastic forest. There are train sets for under the tree, pieces for the Christmas village — right down to miniature raccoons on garbage pails — and even personalized Christmas ornaments, which Bannon was purchasing this weekend.

“We want to remember our first post-Sandy Christmas” she said, noting that her daughter-in-law is expecting her first child in a few months. “It’s the start of a new future.”

House of Holiday doesn’t only cater to the local crowd. Customers from as far away as New Jersey and Connecticut trek to Ozone Park to buy Christmas decorations there. The store opens around Thanksgiving and stays open until New Year’s. After Christmas, many of the leftover items get marked down and residents come to buy cheap decorations to save for the next year.

Bannon said some of her neighbors did just that last year.

“I know people who lost their decorations in the storm, but came by and picked up a few lights after Christmas because they were on sale,” she explained. “I just didn’t have the time for that.”

Bring the kids to meet Santa Claus, who will be at House of Holiday Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings from 4 to 8 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 12 to 3 p.m. and again from 5 to 8 p.m.

While not technically a “gift,” the Christmas feast is one of the most important aspects of the holiday.

For Italian-Americans, the Christmas Eve dinner of seven fishes is a tradition that still holds in many households.

Adrian and Rocky’s Caterers at 132-08 Cross Bay Blvd. has a full Christmas Eve menu out that includes a “Seafood Delight,” featuring mussels, clams, shrimp, calamari and scungilli, and “Fried Fish Royale,” featuring fried filet, fried shrimp, fried calamari and fried scallops. Both dinners serve eight to 10 people for $259 plus tax. The menu features other seafood items including smelts, fra diavolo and lobster tails.

For those who don’t practice the seafood tradition, Adrian and Rocky’s offers pasta dinners and meat dishes including chicken and steak.

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