Hoo-boy – here we are in the thick of the holiday buying season – where emails and commercials urge us to buy, buy, buy at every corner, nook and cranny – while the Occupy protests are still calling on us to consider the gulf between 1% of the US population (mostly made of tycoons in banking and finance) and the rest of us – mutating our tradition of capitalism until its pretty much tuned strictly to their needs. But this isn’t a post about national politics and global economics, so just bear with me a sec.
Now global chains have their uses. Their goods and services are usually cheaper – even if the quality’s kinda ‘meh’ – and it allows people away from urban centers to get access to things, things and more things than they could before. Etc, etc, ad nauseum, yadda yadda.
But if you live in a town like Tucson – with lots of creative, entrepreneurial, independent folks – a whole heckuva lotta other options open up to you. You glimpse a bit of life before the Wal-Marts and Targets came to town (ah, though I do have a soft spot in my heart for Tar-Jay and its many cheap-but-cutes). Here, there’s a huge array of options – goods and services of high quality – offered by my own neighbors. Yes, they’re sometimes more expensive because they weren’t made by children in Asia – but if you have the means, I strongly recommend looking around your own city and checking out artisans, musicians, photographers, herbalists, carpenters and scores of other people who have lots of wonderful things to offer the folks on your holiday gift list.
The capitalist exchange is so pure – someone made something – many times lovingly or it has meaning for them – and you pay them. As simple as can be. You have a human face connected to this thing or service. And more of that money stays in your city to pay other folks for their goods and services. Local vendors have their reputations at stake and if their product or service is inferior, it hurts their business. So please at least check out your local, small businesses and give them a chance if they have something of value to offer. It might come with an extra bonus of a warm and fuzzy feeling – which is what we’re really looking for underneath all the holiday hype.
Here are some examples in Tucson I highly recommend (oh and many of these people are friends of mine – which both means I’m totally biased, but I also know first hand how great their products/services are!) And if you have a local business in your heart – feel free to shout it out loud in the comments (make sure to include the city – I have some readers from different areas and the last thing we need right now is more confusion and ambiguity!)
The following is no particular order…
Local farmer’s markets
Oh boy, I can’t believe how many more markets keep opening up in this small burg. I haven’t checked them all out but the one I’m most familiar with is the Santa Cruz market on Thursdays at the Mercado. You’re buying organic vegetables and fruits – in this case for CHEAP – directly from the farms. And there’s also Tucson Tamales, humanely raised meat from local ranches, crafts and, oh, oodles of gift ideas!
Find your local farmer’s markets (and farms, CSAs and more) here: http://www.localharvest.org/
This is a beautiful, warm shop to browse any time of the year. It’s funky and filled with amazing art work from local artists. The artwork is more expensive (as it should be, it’s amazing!) but there’s many other things to choose from: customized signs made from license plates, jewelry, clothing, soaps and lotions, totems for the garden. The proprietress, Tana Kelch, imbues the store with her sparkling warmth and energy.
Squee! This place just makes my inner kid clap with glee! It’s for “all ages, especially the young at heart” and is surprisingly grownup-friendly. There are toys that span the decades but they specialize in the unusual, eclectic and retro varieties (even Sea-Monkeys!). But there’s also wacky wrapping paper, books, amazing baby gifts and – well, you just have to see it to believe it. Luckily it’s on the same block as Bohemia, so make a day of it!
Tucson is chock full of folk musicians (which I guess explains why they have a huge folk festival every May). This store is the perfect microcosm for this community: earthy, witty, and warm. But they not only have scads of guitars, banjos, mandolins, ukeleles, and autoharps – they also stock fascinating exotic instruments (that I can’t even name), toys for children (like thundermakers and slide whistles), sheet music and even a windup mouse! (Okay, I’m not sure why they’re selling a wind up mouse – but your cat would love it!)
Home girl Laura Kepner-Adney not only is a beautiful singer you can catch around town in Silver Thread Trio and The Cordials (oh, um, I’m in that last band too) but she designs an incredible line of jewelry. This ain’t no cheap stuff neither. This is where you go to knock out your girlfriend, wife, mother – whatever feminine presence you want to go “wow”! Okay, there’s actually stuff that men can wear, too, but I admit it, I look at the gorgeous array through girly glasses. What I love especially is the eclectic choices of materials – which Laura changes up from time to time – currently including sharks teeth, stunning drusy and even something called “sleeping beauty turquoise” from Arizona. Statement-making and just gorgeous. Check out her Etsy shop and get ready to drool.
Ooooh, speaking of drool, you might as well break out the mop. feral girl has an etsy shop too, but it’s aaaall about leather, baby! Purses mostly, from hip wristlets to chic clutches to cowgirl-worthy field bags (pictured here – and yeah, that’s the one I got!) Believe me, they are devilishly delicious. The feral girl in question is Danielle Hawley and she crafts each bag by hand. Another gift-to-impress – or symbol of some serious self-care.
From Knotty to Nice
You don’t always have to give stuff, though. When it comes to thoughtful presents, consider the gift of massage. Because seriously, who wouldn’t appreciate a therapeutic unraveling of everything that tenses you up in modern living? Mel Mason is not only seriously talented at straightening out those kinks – she’s also a seriously cool person who knows how to bring you some calm when you come in from the crazy. On top of that her rates are actually affordable. Give a gift certificate for a loved one – or just get one for yourself (I promise I won’t tell…)
Pure Aesthetics Skincare
Another gift of an experience. And also the best kept skincare secret around! Facials, body wraps, lovely skincare and makeup lines – and everything made from pure organic good-for-you ingredients. In a soothing, peaceful environment with lovely people taking care of you. The owner, Kaelen Johnson, is an absolute living doll. And it’s a school. Hold your horses, don’t let that put you off, let that entice you further. Because the fact that it’s a school means all those yummy, soul-enriching facials and wraps are SUPER affordable! I go there myself and can attest that the students only work on paying clients when they actually know what they’re doing. In fact as I’m writing this I realize it’s been way too long – I know what I’m getting myself this year! Tip: if you get on their mailing list, you’ll get even more discounts and heads up on sales.
Sigh, I could go on and on and on but my todo list is streaming down the floor and across the room by now. Whatever you do this holiday, try to slow down and not get too crazy. Ever since I made it a point to try to shop local during the holidays, it’s really helped add a more human element to the hubbub. Again, let’s hear about other local businesses you know about (wherever local is to you!)