How are you doing on your Christmas and/or Hanukah shopping? Yes, you read that correctly. Now is a great time of year to support local businesses and artisans, as it is a time when many are struggling. This year we set a yearly gift budget, dividing it up per month. This allows us to think about what purchases we need to make and shop at our leisure. What birthday presents will you need to buy in the next few months? Don’t forget anniversaries, graduations, baptisms/first communion, bar and bat mitzvahs, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.
Here are some ideas of gifts from local businesses for now or for later in the year. If you are not in the Knoxville area, check out the links for mail order or look for similar places in your neighborhood. If you are local, what are your favorite locally owned stores or artisans? Even if you are outside of the area, I hope you’ll comment. It is fun to know of great places to visit when traveling.
- Head over to Stanley’s Greenhouse and pick up some perennials. My aunt would always give my grandmother a new variety of rose for each Mother’s Day. What about a tree for a new homeowner or newlyweds? One year after a good friend had just had her baby, I potted a large planter for her front porch as a birthday gift. She always enjoyed gardening but all of the sudden didn’t have the time or energy for it. The gift allowed her to enjoy the beauty without much work.
- Visit Cutie Tooties. Sunny sells some locally made products, slings, cloth diapers, and a wide selection of toys. She has this super cute giraffe, which has become one of my favorite toys to give at a baby shower.
- When the farmers markets open, start shopping. Local honey coupled with a special tea and handmade mug would work for almost any occasion. Homemade jams and jellies are perfect hostess gifts, stocking stuffers, or for care packages to college students. A friend of mine bought her father-in-law half of a lamb for his birthday present. He was a guy that was hard to buy for, and they knew he enjoyed lamb chops and lamb stew.
- Artists of all sorts have been hit hard by the economy. Purchase tickets to a symphony or ballet for an anniversary gift. Give your child a membership to an art museum or play geared towards younger audiences. Seek out local potters when purchasing wedding gifts. Last year for Christmas I commissioned two honey pots for two couples and two mugs for guys in my family. It was nice to support my friend and do one stop shopping for a good chunk of my family. Visit a local quilt shop or quilt show. A locally made quilt might be the perfect gift for a new baby, college grad, grandmother, couple, or for that hard to buy for guy in your life. Yes, they do make masculine quilts.
- What about a different kind of gift? Our daughter’s great grandparents send her money each year for her birthday and for Christmas. This year we used that money to purchase ballet lessons for her. She enjoys knowing that her great grandparents are giving her the lessons. One of our first years as a married couple I gave my husband a woodworking class that I also attended. While I will never be the woodworker in the family, I think that my husband liked that I was willing to attend the class with him. Not only did he hone his woodworking skills but we also supported a local business. Think about what interests your friends and family members have and see if there is a way to support that growth.
- Go to your local food co-op, in our area that would be Three Rivers Market, during off peak hours. Bring a basket of your own and ask a sales clerk to help you put together a gift basket. They might suggest some things that you hadn’t considered before. One year at a silent auction to support the Office on Aging, I won a gift basket with TONS of locally made lotions inside. I had so much fun smelling all of the different lotions and passing some on to friends of mine. I later learned that the lotions were bought at the co-op, and after years of shopping there I had not once noticed them.
- Patron a local antique shop to find estate jewelry or a pretty tea cup.
- Seek out local authors to support. Our friend Larsen Jay has a great children’s book entitled What if Cows Could? Anything from local author Nancy Twigg is fantastic. Go here for a complete listing of her work. My favorite of local author Jack Neeley’s work is Knoxville’s Secret History. Our good friend Aaron Jay, brother of before mentioned Larsen, was the photographer for this work. Not sure how to find local authors? Contact your main library—they should be able to give you some good leads.