I’m not much of a regular mall shopper, and that doesn’t change when I’m looking for holiday gifts. Still, it’s easy to get swept up in the holiday gift buying frenzy.
To combat buying anything just for the sake of having something to give, I make a conscious effort to buy a gift that is memorable, meaningful, genuine or long-lasting. For me, that’s where supporting local businesses and companies committed to social responsibility take priority.
Here’s my Top Ten Gift List that won’t have you battling the mall crowds or regretting your purchase.
1. Tie on an apron, open up a cookbook and try baking at home. Homemade cookies, bread and fudge are easier to make than you might think. If you know someone with a winning holiday recipe, ask them to share it with you, along with any special tips on getting it to turn out just right. Nothing spreads love and cheer like a home-baked sweet treat.
2. Stop in one of the eight Penzeys spice shops in the Metro Milwaukee area. You’ll find double strength vanilla extract for the baker, seasonings for the carnivore grill master, and herbs from around the globe for the aspiring chef. There’s an assortment of gift boxes (starting at $7.95), or you can put together your own. All the spices have recipe suggestions printed right on the label. Be sure to grab a couple copies of the current catalogue, where you’ll find several kitchen-tested recipes from devoted Penzeys customers across the nation.
3. Give a gift of Milwaukee’s best tasting food by purchasing a gift card to one of your most frequented restaurants. My personal favorites include: Alterra, Balistreri’s, Birdie’s Café, City Market, Kopps, Maxie’s Southern Comfort, Nino’s Italian Bakery and the Lowlands Group (Café Hollander,Trocadero, Café Centraal, Café Benelux).
4. Shopping for a young child can be overwhelming if you dare to enter a big-box toy store. Instead, check out a locally-owned toy store like Winkie’s (629 E.Silver Spring Dr.) or go to MelissaandDoug.com where you’ll find wooden toy classics, blocks, puzzles, easels, musical instruments, kitchen food sets, and dollhouses. Their products are simple yet colorful, and most importantly, tot-friendly.
5. For the avid outdoors person look no further than REI (13100 W. Capitol Dr.) or Laacke and Joys (Downtown Milwaukee, Brookfield and Mequon). These stores offer premium camping, cycling, skiing, fitness and travel gear. Both companies model responsible business practices to protect and preserve the environment.
6. BetterWorldBooks.com is the place to buy books for readers, young and old. From treasured children’s stories to best-sellers, their collection of books (new and used) is expansive and competitively priced. The website offers monthly staff picks, book club suggestions and gift certificates. Plus, you get free shipping, no minimum required. And, for every book purchased, the company donates a book to partner programs to spread literacy worldwide.
7. Give two gifts when you purchase a pair of shoes or eyewear from TOMS.com. The company’s One for One policy means TOMS donates one of the same items you purchase to someone in need. The shoes are lightweight, comfy and come in variety of styles and colors for men, women and children. My four-year-old pair of violet corduroy classics are not only my favorite house shoes, but the first thing I pack in my overnight bag.
8. Shutterfly.com is my go-to site for superior, professionally printed photo gifts. It’s a cinch to upload photos, and then create personalized calendars, stationary, greeting cards, ornaments or photobooks. Photo magnets are reasonably priced and quickly find a home on a loved one’s fridge.
9. I got hooked on the ultra-moisturizing body butter from The Body Shop when I was studying abroad in Madrid. The UK-based company has a store on the second floor of Mayfair Mall, but I prefer to shop online: thebodyshop-usa.com. The hand and foot creams do wonders despite our harsh winter elements. Their website details the company’s core values, which include supporting fair community trade and protecting our planet, among others.
10. Threadless.com isn’t your typical apparel website. Every t-shirt was designed by a creative individual who won a majority vote by the public. Threadless prints winning designs on American Apparel shirts, which are manufactured in the USA by a company that is a leader in sustainability practices. The shirts are original, quirky and fun. New shirts are released every Monday and are priced $18-$24 each.
Which Milwaukee-area businesses do you frequent for holiday gifts?