‘Store’ That Lets Kids Give

Holly Li helped her first-grader, Lua, pick out a present for her grandmother
Holly Li helped her first-grader, Lua, pick out a present for her grandmother at the Amagansett School’s holiday store, which Ms. Li organized with items from local donors. Bridget LeRoy

    The Amagansett School library was decked out in holiday finery on Tuesday as the Amagansett Holiday Store — goodies and gifts piled high on four large tables — opened for business.
    Unlike other, or any, South Fork businesses, all items ranged in price from 50 cents to $5. Almost all of them were donated or purchased at a deep discount from local stores. And the median age of shoppers was about 8 years old.
    “It’s for the kids,” said Holly Li, the store’s planner and a parent of two children at the school. “It’s a great way for them to learn how to shop for others and assert their independence.”
    Prekindergartners through sixth graders — the entire Amagansett School student population, in other words — are allowed into the two-day holiday store one grade at a time.
    “We send letters home explaining it,” Ms. Li said. “Sometimes the kids come in with a list of people to shop for. Sometimes the family gives them extra money, and sometimes they use their allowances.”
    Although the store has been running during the holidays for about a decade, only recently have local shops — Crossroads Music, Stuart’s Seafood, Gone Local, BookHampton, Amber Waves Farm, and Mary’s Marvelous — gotten involved, which is thanks to Ms. Li’s reaching out to the Amagansett business community.
    “Last year BookHampton and Amber Waves were really generous,” she said. “It’s so great to have others on board. With even more businesses, it could be even better.”
    Charlene Spektor, BookHampton’s owner, called the gifts “an investment in the future. It’s wonderful that kids can give books to their parents, that they consciously think, ‘My parents read — this is a good idea.’ What could be more fun?” she said.
    With the economy being what it is, Ms. Li is even more appreciative of the businesses that donated goods. “The idea was for the stuff to be from overstock,” she explained. “But nowadays, stores don’t really keep a lot of overstocked items. Also, it’s the holidays. It’s a busy season, and for the businesses to donate so much,” she looked around, “it’s really extraordinary.”
    Trinkets and stocking stuffers dominated, with guitar picks for Dad or Mom, different bread and cookie mixes, chocolate treats, toys and books, boiled wool ornaments, even jewelry, as well as other items that just begged to be played with.
    Although, Ms. Li said, “if the kids have extra money, they buy a little something for themselves,” the purpose of the store is to allow the children a chance to think of their loved ones and buy gifts for them.
    A pre-K student entered the store