Abbie Boggs teamed up with her friend Pam Misle (and another partner) to open 3 French Hens in the Strawberry Hill shopping center almost 10 years ago. “We celebrate our tenth anniversary in March, but we’re just two French hens now,” says Abbie. “I wanted something to do when my boys went away to school, and it was either write a resume or start a business.” Abbie and Pam had previously operated a trunk show business, The Linen Press, so had previous insight into gift store retailing. For the Christmas gift-giving season, they have hand-selected a unique assortment of items in every price range, many of them perfect for hostess gifts.
Hostesses who entertain in their homes always appreciate a small gift of thanks, but be sure it isn’t something high maintenance. Many people fall back on wine, flowers or specialty food gifts, but don’t expect your hostess to put them on the table at her carefully planned event. If you bring flowers, put them in a vase so that she doesn’t have to stop to arrange them. Something for a future party is ideal. “For a gift under $10, we have cocktail napkins wrapped for the hostess, small boxed toffees, and wonderful scented hand and body soaps,” Abbie says.
While a hostess gift is never “expected,” many people consider it a must to bring something to a hostess or host who takes the extra trouble to open their homes for overnight or weekend guests. A hostess gift for a weekend visit should be something a bit more elaborate than for a dinner party. If you are coming from a distance, consider bringing something that isn’t available in the local area, or something that recalls previous times you have spent together. For an overnight visit, Abbie suggests a whimsical serving dish, a beverage serving set, hand-hooked wool pillows made in America or scented candles. “In the $10-$20 price range, we have a new candle, Aquiesse, in beautiful glass containers, along with our signature line of Nouvelle candles,” she says.
The best hostess gifts reflect consideration of the individual tastes of your host or hostess and time spent selecting the right gift, not money spent. If you know the party-giver well, a gift of a music CD, movie DVD or tickets to an event similar to one you have enjoyed together are appropriate. For a more spiritually minded hostess, the owners of 3 French Hens suggest Anne Neilson’s new book “Strokes of Compassion,” or her “Angels in Our Midst” numbered and hand-signed angel prints. For the hostess with a furry friend, a fun Christmas dog toy may make the perfect gift.
For parties during the holiday season, a wide range of seasonally themed gifts are available to take along as hostess gifts. The 3 French Hens shop carries hand-painted wooden angels and crosses signed by the artist and a selection of hand-painted ornaments. If your host or hostess is a collector, a selection of Santa, angel and snowman collectibles are available in prices that range from $10 to $50. An item of holiday décor, enhanced with garlands, ribbons, holly and berries, is a welcome gift and time-saver for the hostess, in the busy days leading up to the Christmas season.
Whether or not you took a hostess gift along, a hand-written note of thanks should be sent as soon as possible after the dinner or overnight stay. It doesn’t have to be long. Just an expression of gratitude is fine. And it’s not too late to send a gift of thanks. Enclose a bookmark or other small gift with your note, or send some stationery cards or hostess napkins along.
With 15 years of experience covering restaurants in Charlotte and the Carolinas, and two regional guidebooks under her belt, Renee Wright examines the dining scene with enthusiasm plus a deep knowledge of food trends and outstanding local eating ops. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.