Museum Shops: a history experience surrounding the simple joy of shopping

One can step back in time to 1876 and imagine the clip clop of horses, the rumbling of carriages and the clinking of bridles. Who knew a shop could be so sweet?

The Carriage House Museum Shop reopens to the public Monday, June 15, daily, 9:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.

CAPE MAY — If you’re on the grounds of the Emlen Physick Estate and enjoying the gardens or walking the paths you might well find your way to the Carriage House— an 1876 structure originally built for Dr. Physick’s horses and carriages, with a second floor hay loft. Today, the carriages and horses and hay are gone, and the building has several purposes quite different than its original use: it houses the Carriage House Museum Shop, the Carroll Gallery, and “Vintage,” Cape May MAC’s (Museum+Arts+Culture) new restaurant venture with KARA Catering.

In March, the organization closed its doors to the public. Now, finally, thanks to the state’s gradual reopening plan, there is bustling and moving and installing happening here. Cape May MAC’s plans for reopening to the public in a safe and healthy way are finally paying off as task lists get checked off.

On Monday, June 15, the gates swing open and the horses are off but this race to the finish will not be fast. A slow reopening of Cape May MAC tours, activities and events will happen over time, but for now the Cape May Carriage House Museum Shop reopens daily, from 9:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.

“I’m so excited for Cape May MAC to begin this first step in reopening the estate,” said Cape May MAC’s Director of Retail Operations Sharon Falkowski.

Indeed, the Physick House Museum is still not open to the public. But the grounds of the estate are open, and “Vintage” is beginning its food service schedule with outdoor seating on the grounds. (More about this in a separate post).

The Carriage House Museum Shop reopens to the public Monday, June 15, daily, 9:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.

“We have all our customer favorites in stock,” Falkowski said. “Harney’s Teas, our very own Aunt Emilie’s Jam & Jellies, our popular nightlights and Ginger Cottages, as well as a wide selection of Cape May related books. We’ve also added some unique products like our marble, Peruvian sea turtles and dolphins.”

With the Carriage House Museum Shop reopening after the quarantine from the COVID-19 pandemic, some things will be different.

Just 10 customers will be allowed in the store at one time, to maintain social distancing. Displays have been moved to better accommodate the distance required. Plexiglass shields have been installed at the cashier’s desk and hand sanitizer is available to the public.

“We will require that customers wear face masks in the shop,” Falkowski said.

Staff, of course, will also be wearing face masks.

“We want to make the environment as safe as possible for everyone.”

Some items from the Lighthouse Museum Shop will also be available now in the Carriage House Museum Shop. The Lighthouse Museum Shop will likely open soon as well, Falkowski said.

One of the exciting outcomes of the COVID-19 pandemic is the addition of a new online shop featuring Cape May MAC Museum Shop merchandise.

“We have had good responses from customers so far from our new online shop,” said Falkowski.

One of the disappointing outcomes (out of many) during the COVID-19 pandemic was the cancellation of a special event planned for April, the Negro League Baseball Weekend, a cooperative event designed to celebrate and illuminate the 100th anniversary year of the founding of the Negro Leagues. In anticipation of that weekend, the Carriage House Museum Shop has on hand several copies of “Curveball: The Remarkable Story of Toni Stone, the First Woman to Play Professional Baseball in the Negro League,” by Martha Ackmann. Curveball tells the inspiring story of baseball’s “female Jackie Robinson,” a woman whose ambition, courage, and raw talent propelled her from ragtag teams barnstorming across the Dakotas to playing in front of large crowds at Yankee Stadium. Toni Stone was the first woman to play professional baseball on men’s teams. What an exciting read.

The shop has a fine selection of teas and books; in fact, the Carriage House Museum Shop would have been quite adequate to hunker down in for a few months under quarantine, with all the things one needs, really, to keep one going.

As those days of isolation begin, slowly, to fade into our collective past, and we take our first tentative steps back into our friendly, local businesses and stores, we are reminded that it is places such as these that make life a joy. The discovery of a new book, or a nice gift for a friend, can make one’s day.

(Susan Krysiak is Director of Media Relations for Cape May MAC (Museums+Arts+Culture)).