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MILITARY

Gifts that give

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Naval home-goods boutique raises funds for military charities, scholarships

By MICHELLE DELANEY

Coronado is filled with local shops that offer everything from artwork to books to jewelry. But one of the best-kept shopping secrets is the Sand Dollar Too gift shop at Naval Air Station North Island.

Civilians are welcome to shop anytime at Sand Dollar Too, which specializes in items for the home, but need someone with base access to escort them. Even better, Sand Dollar Too sets up shop each year at the Coronado Flower Show and Coronado Artisans Alley Craft Fair, as well as for occasional pop-up gatherings. This month, the shop will be at Artisans Alley at Village Elementary School on Dec. 3.

Sand Dollar Too was founded by the Naval Officer Spouse Club (NOSC), which is a nonprofit organization that provides enrichment and mentoring for military spouses throughout San Diego. The

Bath products and locally made items are among the merchandise at Sand Dollar

Too. LESLIE CRAWFORD PHOTOS

“We source from many local small artists. And more importantly, many of the items are made by military spouses or dependents themselves.”

ALISON GREGORY, MANAGER OF SAND DOLLAR TOO

club opened its first gift shop, Sand Dollar Collections, at the Naval Medical Center San Diego in 1990. Sand Dollar Too followed in 2008.

“The mission is the same; they are both nonprofit shops run entirely by volunteers for the purpose of raising funds for NOSC. NOSC then designates these funds entirely to military charities and college scholarships for military families in the San Diego area,” said Alison Gregory, manager of Sand Dollar Too. “Where we differ is in what we offer; Sand Dollar Collections offers primarily clothing and jewelry, whereas Sand Dollar Too is considered to be the home goods and gifts store.”

That is just part of what makes San Dollar Too more than just your typical shop.

“We source from many local small artists. And more importantly, many of the items are made by military spouses or dependents themselves,” Gregory said. She noted that much of the merchandise can be personalized with an insignia or logo and said items can be special ordered.

Visit Sand Dollar Too and you will find a bright, open space where the walls are lined with furniture pieces that showcase the many one-of-kind items offered: candles, cocktail napkins, beach bags, children’s items, jewelry, Christmas ornaments and decorative pillows. In the center of the shop are decorative tables carrying such items as bath bombs, hand lotions, specialty soaps, signature tea towels, jewelry dishes, Mexican blankets and wine glasses.

One display cabinet features all things Coronado and Hotel Del: decorative plates featuring the famous red turret roof, mugs with images of Coronado and San Diego landmarks, wooden “crown” spoons and popular Coronado tumblers commissioned especially for the shop.

Another area spotlights coastal items with sand dollar ornaments, decoupage oyster jewelry trays and military insignia boards. One local military dependent created original artwork of the Hotel Del with military aircraft flying above it, and this image was made into prints and stationery for the shop.

Gregory credits Sand Dollar Too buyer,

LESLIE CRAWFORD Shopper stands in front of a cabinet with Coronado- and Hotel Del-themed products.

Paige Abernathy, for the current success of the shop. Abernathy owned her shop on the East Coast for many years and has brought that expertise to Sand Dollar Too. Not only has Abernathy successfully tracked down specialty items from military spouses near and far — and has tapped into the local community — but she also has contributed to the inventory with her popular ocean-resin cutting boards for entertaining.

Abernathy believes the success of the store comes from the energy of the team, including the 10-member board. “We have an incredible board and a selfless, dedicated group of 47 volunteers. And because everyone is a military spouse, we all understand that people move and products change,” Abernathy said. “But we can use that to our advantage. Every board member has a voice in our day-to-day operations, and we are stronger because of that. Our shop is a reflection of the talent of the people on board right now.”

Proceeds from the store provided more than $40,000 to the Naval Officer Spouse Club this year, with approximately $20,000 going toward military charities and approximately $20,000 toward scholarships.

Sand Dollar Too is the gift shop that gives back. ■

Michelle Delaney is a freelance writer.