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Donna Christopher

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Shop Local, Gift Local This Holiday Season

Shoppers say they spend an average of $942 on Christmas gifts this year, up from $885 at this time last year, according to a Gallup poll.

Spending it locally will boost the economy on Long Island, which is brimming with independent businesses that produce everything from homemade goat soap to world-class Italian sausage.

Maybe your special someone is a big supporter of artisanal makers or is your hometown’s biggest cheerleader. Here’s a roundup of gift ideas made for and by Long Islanders.

locaLI bred

The Long Island Snack Gift Box by localibred.

This online marketplace sells Long Island-made products, both edible and nonedible, in curated gift boxes. The company was founded to highlight local artisans and makers, according to co-owner Theresa Pinelli, who co-founded localLI (pronounced “locally”) with Halle Geller last year. Each of the boxed gifts supports at least 10 businesses on LI. 

“People love the idea of supporting local and sometimes it is difficult to find these artisans who may be only selling at a farmer’s market or online or Etsy,” says Pinelli. “This brings all these people together in one place so people can find them.” 

Among a host of gift ideas, you can select The Long Island Snack Gift Box. The rich assortment includes Caramel Popcorn from Bon Bons Chocolatier in Huntington, Oatmeal Raisin Cookies from Tate’s Bakeshop in Southampton, Hot & Sweet Nuts from Little Bird Kitchen in Plainview, North Fork Potato Chips from Mattituck, Dried Apple Slices from from the Milk Pail in Water Mill, Almond Brittle from A Little Brittle Heaven in Amityville, Beef Jerky and Teriyaki Beef Jerky in Greenport, a mini cookie box from Vienna Cookie Company in Baldwin, and more. localibred.com Gift boxes are $86-$164.

Harbor Cheese and Provisions

Harbor Cheese and Provisions.

This specialty cheese shop showcases domestic and imported artisanal cheese. Aged Gouda, Dutch Knuckle, Fromage Frais, Goat Feta and Lake Effect Cheddar are on a short list of cheeses available online. The Locust Valley shop sells at farmer’s markets and pop-up events and offers mozzarella cheesemaking classes too. Harborcheese.com Classes $55. Cheese $6-$20. 

Ceriello

Ceriello Fine Foods Italian Antipasto Gift Basket.

The Italian specialty store ships locally made dry-cured salami, soppressata, pancetta, and fresh sausage made in the store, among other items. The sausage flavors are sweet, hot, fennel, romano cheese and parsley, broccoli rabe and fresh mozzarella, tomato, basil and garlic, and chicken. Items are shipped overnight in airtight cooler boxes. You can also order homemade pasta sauces, dressings, marinade, and dry-aged beef. Call 516-747-0277 or visit ceriellofinefoods.com for prices and ordering. 541 Willis Ave., Williston Park.

Aldo’s Coffee Company

Aldo’s Coffee Company’s Gutemala offering.

Aldo Maiorana opened his popular European-style cafe in 1987 where coffee is roasted and biscotti are baked on the premises. Luckily, these are both available online and will delight any coffee lover who will not stand for anything less than extraordinary when it’s time to indulge. 103-105 Front Street, Greenport, aldos.com. Biscotti $10-$18. Coffee $17-$18. 

Modern Primal Soap Co.

Modern Primal Soap Company’s gift box.

Treat anyone sweet to an assortment of natural, artisan goat milk and vegan products. “Flavors” here sound tempting. There are Honeysuckle & Cream and French Press, which is made with organic coffee and vanilla and Köl, an organic vegan soap that has activated charcoal and lavender. Online products include Lavender Rose Bath Salts among others. The soap bars are hand-poured, hand-cut, and hand-wrapped at this woman-owned business. 124 Mount Sinai Coram Rd., Coram. Modernprimalsoapco.com $8-$80.

4 Girlz Sweets

4 Girlz Sweets winter-themed basket,

If your recipient swoons over chocolate, they’ll be over the moon when they open a package with custom-made chocolate molded lollipops or chocolate-covered strawberries. Invent your own idea or select existing themes like winter snowmen with top hats, or snowflake medallions. The company can custom-make characters and designs on any lollipops. You can order them wrapped and arranged in a pretty box or vase. North Bellport. Facebook.com/4girlzsweets/ Lollipops by the piece $1-$2.50; platters $20 and up.

Bond No. 9 New York

Bond No. 9 New York

This fragrance seller is the only exception here because it is not based on the island, nor are the perfumes made here. It made the gift list for the company’s exquisitely bottled perfumes that pay homage to some of our iconic places.

The scents include Jones Beach, described on Bond No. 9 New York’s website as “sand, surf, sunshine. Bare skin and bare feet. Carefree weekends. Concerts by the water. Real people, Real moments, Real New York. Retro-Chic scent with a fresh orange flower note.” Choices include Fire Island, Hamptons, Sag Harbor, and Shelter Island. Bondno9.com $280-$350.

North Fork Chocolate Company

North Fork Chocolate’s ‘Tis The Season basket.

Handcrafted in small batches and made daily, you can shop in the store or online for handcrafted artisanal bonbons, truffles, exotic barks, and bars. The company has a signature blend of Belgian chocolate that surrounds centers handcrafted from local farm and purveyor products. In-store you will find a large selection of locally handcrafted gifts and epicurean delights. 740 Main Rd, Aquebogue, Shop.northforkchocolate.com $5-$49.

Miss Amy’s Preserves

Miss Amy’s Berries From Heaven.

Fresh fruit preserves and honey made from local bee pollen is supposed to reduce your allergy symptoms and you can get it here, along with fresh fruit preserves, tapenades, mustard, and hot pepper spread, among homemade delights. Blue Point, missamy.com. $8-$28

Get Wine Online

Pindar’s Merlot.

The wine cases from here gush vintage pride. You have nearly 50 labels to choose from among some of Long Island’s boutique wines. The recipient might recall taking a tasting tour here or become a new fan of the quarter-century-old thriving winemaking industry. The island’s maritime climate, geography, and ideal soil characteristics produce exceptional wines. Getwineonline.com $116-$180.

Bean & Bagel Café

Bean and Bagel Cafe has a bagel subscription gift package.

The company’s traditional kettle-boiled, stone-baked bagels are shipped worldwide. Why not send real New York bagels to friends and family? These are crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside.  Each bagel is a full 5.5 ounces and individually vacuum sealed for peak freshness before being carefully packed and shipped. 4426 Middle Country Road, Calverton, Beanandbagelcafe.com. Dozen $32.99.

Why Funerals Cost More On Long Island

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It should come as no surprise that not only do Long Islanders contend with a high cost of living, but dying here also comes with a lofty price tag.

Funerals typically cost about $9,744 in Nassau and Suffolk counties, which is 31 to 67 percent higher than the average cost in 100 large metro areas nationwide, according to a recent New York Post analysis of funeral cost data compiled by funeralocity.com

“One of the most expensive places to live is Nassau and Suffolk counties so, of course, that trickles down to every business, not just the funeral business,” says John Vigliante, a fourth-generation funeral director and owner of Branch Funeral Homes in Smithtown and Miller Place. “You can do a full-service funeral on Long Island with the casket and everything for $7,500. The price ranges from $7,500 to $15,000.”

That’s opposed to funerals reportedly costing between $2,124 to $7,422 elsewhere in the United States.

Michael Lanotte, the executive director of the New York State Funeral Directors Association, notes that funeral homes often disclose pricing on their websites.

“We have a public awareness campaign called Good at Goodbyes and a website with information for planning funerals,” he says. “We try to ensure that our funeral directors work with consumers.”

As for the local funerals, the high costs are due to a familiar expense: taxes.

“You have to look at the daily cost of running a funeral home,” says Stephen Graziano, manager at Krauss Funeral Home in Franklin Square. “We always try to keep our funeral costs as low as possible.”

Large Long Island funeral homes on big lots can pay from $60,000 to $100,000 a year in real estate taxes, according to Graziano. He also said staff members at Krauss are paid well enough to live here and get medical benefits and pensions.

And while his business works with everyone’s budget, including having a widely priced range of casket choices, there are costs out of their control, such as the cemetery, where grave openings can run $2,200 and up. They are most expensive on Saturdays.

When her husband died unexpectedly in 2017, Wantagh resident Stephanie Anderson had the difficult task of planning his funeral, which cost $12,000.

“I didn’t want him displayed in a funeral home,” Anderson  says. “My Greek church laid him out open casket on the altar for two hours prior to the funeral. My husband is buried at Calverton because he’s a Vietnam veteran, otherwise I would have had that expense as well. So my husband’s $12,000 funeral did not include funeral home services or burial.”

Vigliante says prices vary with options. 

“Some people want to be very elaborate and some want to be basic, and some want to be in the middle,” he says.

He also points to the cost of opening graves for a casket. The burial of ashes cost much less, noting the range is from $2,800 to $3,000. 

“Cemeteries give me the prices every year and they go up eight to 10 percent,” he says. “The cremation rate on Long Island is about 50 percent,” and a savings in terms of funeral costs. 

Families can also cut costs by driving themselves to funerals instead of hiring limousines that can cost around $500 each. The average family hires three, Vigliante says.

But some cost-cutting measures are better than others. Graziano says families sometimes order caskets online rather than from the funeral home.

“I’ve had some caskets come in here, bought online from third-party vendors, [that were] in no condition for burial,” he says.