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General Store offers unique gifts and more



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February 26, 2014
Take a break from hiking and biking on Palomar Mountain, pull up a chair and relax on the porch of Palomar Mountain General Store and Trading Company.

For the past 23 years, Francisco Valdovinos has managed the store located at the summit of Palomar Mountain at the junction of Highways S6 and S7.

This is not an ordinary store providing the convenience of groceries and camping supplies. While shelves are stocked with these essential necessities, the store offers so much more. There you will find the perfect one-of-a-kind gift amidst a collection of curios gathered from around the world. Considered one of the finest gift shops in San Diego, there is a large variety of unique treasures to select from.

"It's fascinating," said Valdovinos. "The previous manager traveled over the world introducing items from the places he visited."

Exotic, colorful masks originating from ballroom festivities of Venice grace the walls. There are also more earthy tones of Bali and Indonesian masks on display.

"The masks show various expressions. When one wore a mask, it relayed a message whether it was social, political or financial," said Valdovinos.

Also on display are glass earrings hand painted by a former opera singer who now resides in Oregon. Delicate hand painted, hand blown glassware lines the shelves including Egyptian perfume bottles accented with 24K gold etchings. Also of interest are Byzantine and orthodox icon plaques hand painted in Greek characters along with gift boxes from Kashmir hand painted using intricate patterns.

Miniature hot air balloons and a wooden model airplane reproduced to scale, constructed with care and detail are suspended from the ceiling.

Along with tiny jewelry boxes from St. Petersburg, Russia crafted from bark of the corkwood tree, are miniature musical instruments from Indonesia made from coconut shells, ornately decorated with beads. There are miniature wooden toys shaped like animals that when struck with wooden sticks produce unusual sounds as well as finely-crafted reproductions of antique toys.

"We are interested in items that create a sense of beauty, that give a wow-type factor," Valdovinos said.

Also featured at the store is amber jewelry from Russia and ancient Egyptian trade beads of museum quality.

Not only does the store specialize in unique gifts but it also features art and artifacts of nature including artwork and jewelry from the Hopi and Navajo Indian reservations.

There is a vast array of gems, crystals, fossils, and Neolithic pottery. Treasures from around the world include artifacts from ancient civilizations such as Baltic amber, tribal art, and Roman glass.

There is a wide selection of souvenirs offered from a section of astronomy and observatory- related items.

The store strives to represent specialty items that are unique and beautiful highlighting other cultures around the world. Always intriguing and ever-changing, the merchandise is never the same.

Associated with the Yoga Center of California, the store is a non-profit organization which functions to maintain and support retreat facilities. Yoga retreats initially began in 1977. Now five or six four-day or 10-day retreats are available.

Year-round store hours are: Monday through Friday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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