Between the big gifts, it is always nice to give a one-of-a-kind gift from a one-of-a-kind shop, owned by a one-of-a-kind shop owner. Being in the business that we are, we love supporting small, local businesses. If we could buy all of our holiday gifts at our favorite LYS’s, it would be so easy! Alas, that is where we send our loved ones to shop for us. Therefore, this very short list highlights the kind of boutiques that have a more general, albeit thoughtfully curated, collection of OOAK items that make gift-giving fun and special.
Asrai Garden - Chicago, IL
The first shop on my list is Asrai Garden, in Chicago IL. They are located in the Bucktown neighborhood, which is a trendy area crammed with all sorts of independent shops and restaurants. Asrai has beautiful flowers, yes, but also a fantastic stable of independent jewelers making really gorgeous stuff. My fave of faves? This incredible lapel pin by Goldengrove. Asrai has some amazing stuff, so it is definitely worth clicking around. Better yet, stop by if you can. And if you are in the area, Komoda gift shop in Humboldt Park is a must-stop. They don’t have much of a web presence, but it is a gem of a store and worth the trip!
The Little Apple - Philadelphia
Another shop a little closer to KW’s home is The Little Apple in the Manayunk neighborhood of Philadelphia. This shop is filled with unique housewares, curated cards, vintage and repurposed items, and a wide assortment of handmade objet d’art crafted by local artisans. I love to stop by and pick up a little item here or there for friends. And I always manage to find something for myself! (Isn’t that usually the case?) I love these framed signs that say Philadelphia, as well as other neighborhoods. I would love to have this proud declaration of my adopted city hanging up in my house.
Paxton Gate - San Francisco and Portland, OR
On the opposite coast is a shop that has the ability to fill one with wonder every time they walk through the front doors. Whenever I visit my sister in Sonoma, we make a special trip to San Francisco just to visit Paxton Gate. It is a garden shop, a science shop, an apothecary, a gift shop, a bookshop, and a lot more. The shop proprietors have a deep respect for natural science, an admiration of taboo, a fascination of the odd, and a love of quirk. One can easily, and often does, spend hours in the shop perusing: picking up weird objects, reading about the eccentricities of history, and oohing and aahing over the lush plants. It will be hard to choose which item to give as a gift, but you can never go wrong with a cool Tillandsia plant and a gorgeous planter. If you have a gift recipient with a taste for the weird, this place has you covered. Maybe venture over to the Natural Sciences section and consider an articulated pigeon skeleton. Alternatively, for something tamer but still really neat, Paxton Gates has a great selection of beautiful, reproduction posters like the one of plumes below.
Luckily, for us, every town and city comes with our own special OOAK shops, owned by our neighbors and fellow locals. If you need help finding a one, check out American Express Shop Small Now for their shop small guide. Moreover, most local rags offer a seasonal gift guide highlighting local shops. But probably the best way to find a great shop in your area? Ask around! Word of mouth is usually a great way to find great places. Got a shop you absolutely love and want to share? Leave a comment! We want to know where to go! -MK