Saturday, August 15, 2015

My Charming Little Town

Midwesterners are a quietly clever bunch of folks. All of my preconceived notions of life in Kansas now seem absurd and narrow-minded. We have spent very little time at home over the past couple of months. Although Neal has officially started school, Blue and I find ourselves on the road to KCMO (Kansas City, MO but pronounced "K-C-MO" - which is not particularly creative but crazy-fun to say) at least 2 or 3 days per week. But this weekend, there is a hometown treasure hunt right outside the gate!

The Leavenworth Charm Hunt is a scavenger hunt of sorts that takes you through many of the locally-owned businesses in the downtown area. Downtown Leavenworth is not especially large so as long as you have older kids or a stroller or a babysitter, you should be able to walk it and complete the hunt in about 2 hours. I had none of the above so I ended up carrying Blue about 1/2 mile total. I'm going to pay for that later.

Blue and I met our neighbors at Harbor Lights Coffeehouse on Shawnee St. for a quick snack around 9:30 this morning. We were not the only ones with that idea, but even as the cafe filled, the staff was welcoming and the mood was festive. Harbor Lights maintains an entire rack full of kids' toys for the younger ones so Blue spent most of his time on the floor, surrounded by "new friends" (we've been working on calling people by their names instead of "hey" or "new friend"'s a never-ending struggle). When 10:00 rolled around, the cafe emptied and we strolled down a block to Queen's Pantry on Delaware Street to get a map of the participating stores (most of the shops on the hunt are displaying an orange star balloon outside but some did not so a map is rather essential. Also, the number of maps given out = the number of charms each shop has on hand. When the maps run out, so do the charms. This new method of tracking participation is in response to last year's complaints that some of the stores ran out of charms before people had completed the hunt).
The line at Queen's Pantry (the mandatory starting point and a precious little tea shop featuring British pantry items, tea sets, coffee mugs, aprons, serving trays and anything else that would help a Brit in Kansas feel right at home) stretched through the store and out the door as groups of 3 or 4 received their maps and instructions for completing the hunt. Although a toddler in a tea shop only spells disaster, Blue was able to "keep calm" and, thankfully, the line moved quickly.
It got a little warm in the shop and Blue always responds by turning bright red and going completely deaf to the sound of my voice...especially if the words coming out include "LOOK WITH YOUR EYES!!" 

With our maps and the first charm in hand (a sweet little tea cup and saucer to represent our first stop on the hunt), we carefully chose our route for the next 17 shops. We would visit all of the shops on Delaware first and then walk one block down to Cherokee. There were some stores on the periphery. We would decide what to do about those later. Because Blue couldn't care two squats about charms, I had been referring to the event as a "treasure hunt" and the orange star balloons became our clues that treasure was hidden inside. I didn't plan it that way but for a 3-year old, it couldn't have worked out better.
I will say that most of the participating stores are stroller friendly, with double doors leading in and wide aisles that even accommodated the double strollers we saw. There were a few exceptions, of Queen's Pantry (with aisles of china on either side), The Book Barn (whose narrow aisles spilling over with stories for all ages is like falling down the rabbit hole of reading and wonder) and The Turquoise Fish (which has several steep stairs leading up to its only entrance). On the whole, though, it seemed like the moms were maneuvering the shops OK and other participants were patiently waiting while they got in, out and around. (I can't tell you what a game-changer it is to have people show a little empathy towards a mom with a stroller. For the love of all that is good and under the age of 5, please don't throw elbows, give the stink-eye or let a door shut on a mom with a stroller, even if it's roughly the same size as a city bus. Sometimes it's the only thing that allows us to get out of the house once in a blue moon and do something fun. If your child is a teenager and you've forgotten what it's like, at least teach him/her to hold the door for us and we will be immensely grateful now and pay it forward in 10 years.)

The premise of the charm hunt, which is now in its 12th year, is to introduce the 1500 or so families that descend upon Fort Leavenworth every summer to the downtown area. Although I'm sure these business owners understand that they are in stiff competition with KCMO shops just 30 minutes across the state line, it's their way of getting you in their store at least once during the year. It's brilliant because now that we've been in, we are sure to return...even if it's just to have Lulu fitted for a new kitty harness from Kansas Country Store or pick up a darling summer dress from Lavender Moon Clothing Company or take a sewing class at Meadows Quilting and Sewing. Most of the shops encourage browsing during the charm hunt by placing the charm pick up station near the back of the store. It's almost impossible to walk all the way to the back of these shops and not find something you love on the way. To entice you further, when you spend $20 in any of the participating shops, you get a free bracelet for all of your new charms. Otherwise, the bracelets are $5 each. Some stores also had charms from years past available for purchase. We picked up an extra horse charm from Kansas Country Store for $1.10. We browsed as much as we could, but as the morning turned to afternoon and Blue was grazing on apple sauce packets and fig bars stashed in my purse, I had to make more promises to return on a day when I was alone.

By the time we reached The Pot Rack (which, oh my cute kitchen), Blue was rubbing his eyes and begging to go home. We had 4 stops left and 2 of them were several blocks in opposite directions...which brings me to my suggested route for the 2015 charm hunt. We parked on the street, directly in front of Queen's Pantry and then worked our way down to one end of Delaware and then back up the other side. We then walked one block down to Cherokee and did the same. However, some of these shops on Delaware and Cherokee are waaaaaay at the end with not much in between. So, if I were to do it again, I would start at Queen's Pantry and do the following Delaware St. shops first (not necessarily in this order - refer to your map for exact street numbers):
1. Euro-Pottery (beautiful Polish pottery in all shapes and sizes)
2. Leavenworth Antique Mall (4 floors of antiquing. FOUR!)
3. The Party Store (due to their store layout, they are handing out charms at the cash register at the front, which causes a little bit of a bottleneck. Patience is not just a Guns n Roses song, y'all.)
4. Meadows Quilting & Sewing (Technically on 5th St. but it's on the corner of Delaware and 5th so it's still right there...and I wish I had bought my last batch of RV valance fabric there. So. Much. Cute. Fabric.)
5. Bisque-It (Bonus: you can sign up for painting or pottery classes while you're picking up your charm. I'll be celebrating part of my birthday weekend painting sunflowers with them!)
6. Nibbit Works (Besides being a new shop featuring beautiful blown glass and a coffee-table sized drum at the back of the store, they were also offering cookies from Sis' Sweets, which is currently ranked #1 restaurant in Leavenworth on Trip Advisor.)
7. The Book Barn (If you eat, sleep, breathe books like we do, this may be a good place to spend your $20.)
8. C.J. Gift Co. (Adorable home decor plus a floral umbrella opened and suspended upside down in the doorway. I call this bad luck but Blue calls it fascinating. Probably because he's my son and he's never seen an umbrella opened inside. This is also your one stop shop for all Rock Chalk Jayhawk gear...if that's your...thing. If UK loses to KU again this year, I'm going underground like it's a nuclear war.)
9. 3 Ladies Sewing Shoppe (One day with them ends in 3 finished projects. Gonna cross that "learn to embroider" task right off the 101 list this year!)

At this point, I would be tempted to move the car down to Cherokee St. I know there's one more shop on Delaware, but trust me, there's plenty of parking and it's a bit of a hike.

On Cherokee St. (again, not necessarily in this order)
1. First Taste Olive Oils and Vinegars (In addition to a tasting room, they also have a small cafe that serves lunch. If your children are hanging in there or you're charm hunting sans kids, this is a tasty lunch treat as it will be around 12ish if you started on Delaware at 10.)
2. The Pot Rack (Complimentary tea and coffee were served near the rear of the shop. This place reminds me of Paula Deen's gift shop next door to The Lady and Sons in Savannah, but without the sticker shock or kitschy southern crap that no respectable southern lady has in her house anyway.)
3. Kansas Country Store (Like Tractor & Supply, but way cooler.)
4. Lavender Moon Clothing Co. (A small store but big on artistic talent. The clothing is well-made and modern and the jewelry is handmade by an artist who works out of the back of the shop. They just moved so their new address is 700 Cherokee St.)

I would suggest perhaps driving to the last 4 shops.
1. dorMail Gallery (At the end of Delaware, closest to the tracks. They had some books and puzzles out for the kids, which was greatly appreciated. They will also be offering a paper marbling class this fall. I don't know what I'm going to do with marbled paper, but I'm sure I can find a way to use it for some project.)
2. Leavenworth Floral and Gifts (All the way at the OTHER end of Delaware. I'm not much of a cut-flower girl but they have these super cool ribbon flame candles that I would buy in a heartbeat if I wasn't so afraid of a toddler + open fire in the same house.)
3. The Turquoise Fish (All the way at the other end of Cherokee, going away from the railroad tracks. They are also handing out charms at the register but take a few minutes to walk around anyway. So many handcrafted goodies in one little spot. I've already added this to my Solo Saturday Shopping Trip.)
4. Sunflower Sister Vintage (This shop sits a few streets off of downtown, in a somewhat commercial section of Leavenworth. The outside looks a little questionable but inside, it's a vintage chick's paradise. Shabby chic with a splash of color, plus if you have any Pinterest projects that require a vintage suitcase, this is your place.)

And with that, you're all done! When the map is full of stamps, just leave it at the last shop you visit so you can be entered into a drawing for gift cards to the participating stores!

The charms are mostly packaged in small baggies with a jump ring included in the bag. I heard some people grumbling about receiving charms with jump rings unattached. People never cease to amaze me. Get yourself some pliers and follow this tutorial and you're good to go. Not only is this useful information post-charm hunt, but also good for minor repair of your jewelry in general. But if you are completely uninterested in creating your own bracelet, you can deliver your bag of charms to Bisque It and they will assemble it for $10. Now, the most important question...what do the charms look like? Here are the 18 charms for the 2015 Charm Hunt (+1 horse charm for this Kentucky girl):
Cute, right? My favorites are the muffin pan, the margarita glass and the paint brushes in a can but they are all precious. The bottom row includes a cracked marble bead, which I've seen on Pinterest and have been meaning to try but just haven't had time. At least now I know what it's supposed to look like. And the bunch of grapes at the top is so large that I think I'm going to string it onto a 1.0mm sterling silver bead chain all by itself!

Also, this wasn't in a Charm Hunt store but there are no words for how much I love this sign:
So, happy hunting...tomorrow and beyond!


  1. What a great way to meet your new neighbors, and find some great places to Christmas shop! Hard to imagine that Blue is old enough to hold his own thru all that. Miss my Ky. Buddies.

  2. When I picture Leavenworth, I don't imagine all those lovely, tempting shops. That is to say, I didn't until I read this. You are a great travel writer! And Blue is adorable.


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