A Conversation With Nada Barry and Gwen Waddington

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Gwen Waddington, left, and Nada Barry, right, co-own the Wharf Shop in Sag Harbor. Christine Sampson photo

As the Wharf Shop celebrates its 50th Christmas season, its co-owners, Nada Barry and Gwen Waddington, shared some behind-the-scenes Christmas experiences, from parties to popular toys to holiday wishes.

How much fun do you have during the holiday season here?

Nada Barry: Particularly Christmas Eve we do. We have a sort of party here and certain people come in, like Barbara Blaisdell, who has come with a funny hat for maybe 20 years as one of her last stops on Christmas Eve.

Gwen Waddington: She’s already been by, and I know she will have the requisite holiday head-gear.

NB: We enjoy saying hello to people we’ve known for many years who may have moved away. There’s joy in seeing families being introduced to the shop. It gives me a good feeling after being here for 50 years.

Can you recall your first Christmas in the shop?

NB: No, no, no. We were on that side of the building, I think we had the art gallery in the back, and I absolutely don’t recall.

Do you get a lot of last-minute shoppers?

NB: Definitely the last day or two before Christmas is when it is a madhouse here, and when we are madly wrapping for everybody, too. It’s quite jolly.

Compared to the rest of the year, how busy do you get?

NB: The last few days of Christmas, we are swamped. In the summer, it is more spread out, though the weekends are very busy, often depending on the weather or whether there is a birthday party in the area. But we definitely sell to more local people in the Christmas season than we might the rest of the year. The weekenders and tourists are a lot of our business in the summer.

What are some of the holiday specialties at the Wharf Shop?

NB: We are able to cover a lot of people’s entire lists because we not only have toys but we have gifts for all people. We focus a lot on unique, local things, like our Cat’s Meow and Christmas decorations that are nautical and our Sag Harbor puzzle. Things that people cannot find on the internet.

What are you finding are the popular toys?

GW: The “LOL,” which is a brand name. They are mystery balls and as you unravel the plastic, you discovery mystery accessories, and on the inside most of them have a little doll and the accessories are for the doll. It’s been very popular. You never know what’s going to be popular. [Displays a blue-and-pink, color-changing sequin dinosaur.] And the whole flipping sequin thing. Some people call them sequin flippables.

When people come in, what’s their attitude like this time of year?

NB: People are so thrilled to see we still exist here and they’re reliving some of their earlier years shopping here, bringing their younger family, the next generation to show them the place at Christmas time. There’s a lot of upbeat elements in that.

GW: They’re thrilled that we gift-wrap. They really appreciative of that.

What is the biggest challenge you find this time of year?

GW: Staffing. We’d like to be open later every night, but it’s the same old broken record. We don’t have enough staff to run the shop.

What holiday message would you like to share from the Wharf Shop to Sag Harbor?

NB: Peace and holiday wishes and good will to all.

GW: Our holiday wish is to thank everyone for continuing to support Main Street, and we hope people will volunteer and support all of the independent organizations that are working so hard to improve our community.

NB: That’s what I hope for the new year.

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