I love the challenge of finding unusual and creative gifts for other people. Recently I visited several shops in Evanston and was amazed by the range of items available. December brings Chanukah and Christmas, but there are things to celebrate throughout the year. Here are some ideas to make your shopping local, fun and efficient. Don’t worry if you are not a gazillionaire: every store here offers items guaranteed to delight the lucky recipients without breaking your budget.
Kids: You are never too young to be fashionable, and the kids in your life will look great outfitted in some of the adorable clothes at lollie (1312 Chicago Avenue). The store carries sizes 0-14 and has a great selection of games and puzzles. For hands-on creative gifts, Blick Art Materials (1755 Maple Avenue) carries items like chubby crayons for toddlers–perfect for those still building fine motor skills–and a large selection of age-appropriate kits to inspire and guide creativity for the budding artist regardless of skill level.
Girls (Tweens, Teens and Twenties): Check out the cute tops, bags and jewelry at The Mexican Shop (801 Dempster Street). I loved the cheeky knee socks with irreverent quotes, bold faux bijoux and funky accessories. Ten Thousand Villages (719 Main Street) also offers a fine selection of adorable handmade jewelry and practical housewares, plus everything they sell abides by fair trade practices and benefits the artists who made the items.
Guys (Tweens, Teens and Twenties): If you have not yet visited Quake Collectibles (743 Main Street), a gift is the perfect excuse to do so. They sell comic books, action figures, games and more. Bucephalus Bikes (1424 Lake Street) offers Can O’Tune Up as well as all kinds of accessories for your ride. Keep in mind, both of these places may also appeal to the girls on your list!
Young Professionals: I love just about everything in Stumble & Relish (1310 1/2A Chicago Avenue). For visual interest, clever displays and classy items to decorate your home or person, this store is a necessary stop, and most of what you see is sourced from local artisans. If décor is a consideration, Paramour Bungalow offers cheery, unusual and creative gifts for the home…and the hosts and hostesses who tend to them.
Sophisticated Ladies: Two of my favorite stores are within a block of one another: Talia (1526 Chicago Avenue) for chic dresses, suits and separates and Eve J. Alfillé Gallery and Studio (623 Grove Street) for unique jewelry. Ask for help if you are unsure or overwhelmed; the owners and salespeople know their wares and will guide you to the perfect gift item.
Sophisticated Men: Shaving accessories and Swiss Army pen knives at Corrado Cutlery (716 Main Street) and a subscription for growler or howler refills from Sketchbook Brewing Company (825 Chicago Avenue) will satisfy the discerning men in your life.
Housewarming and Host/Hostess Gifts: Exotic salt and pepper flavors, hard-to-find herbs and pre-packaged rubs at The Spice House (1941 Central Street), a loaf from Hewn (810 Dempster Street), coffee from Chapin Coffee (online only) and a pie from Hoosier Mama Pie Company (749 Chicago Avenue). Yum!
One-Stop Shopping: The Galleria of Evanston (1627 Sherman Avenue) showcases over 40 unique “shops” in one location. A combined gallery space and retail store, everything in the galleria comes from local Evanston or Chicago-based artists or specialty retailers. Some of the more unusual items I saw and loved include Violins By Design, The Glass Station, Laura Tanner Jewelry and CoolPeaces. It’s a fun, happy store with something for almost everyone.
Experiences make great, memory-making gifts at any age. Still searching? Gift certificates to one of Evanston’s many wonderful restaurants such as Campagnola (815 Chicago Avenue), Lucky Platter (514 Main Street) or The Cellar at the Stained Glass (820 Clark Street) would be a welcome splurge…offer to babysit if the recipient has young children at home so their evening will truly be ‘carefree.’ Other ideas include:
- Book a tour of FEW Spirits (918 Chicago Avenue);
- Learn about wine at a class offered by The Wine Goddess (702 Main Street);
- Sign up for needlepoint lessons at The Needle’s Excellency (1630 Central Street);
- Buy tickets to attend a movie, concert or show at Northwestern (various locations on campus);
- Pre-pay for a massage (including the tip) at Zen Shiatsu Chicago (825A Chicago Avenue);
- Splurge for a spa package at Agora Spa (501 Main Street) to buff, pluck and file away the stresses;
- Visit Eureka! Antiques & Collectibles (705 Washington Street) and browse through the best collection of ephemera in the Midwest to remind someone of a treasured experience from the past. Movie buffs will recognize the owner, Bindy Bitterman, from her small but essential role in Finding Vivian Maier.
For a wonderful family experience, splurge on a family portrait with David Sutton at Sutton Studios (3417 Church Street). David’s specialty is taking photos of people with their pets. He is talented, philanthropic, patient–and he understands animals. (And not just cats and dogs…he will photograph your exotics, too.) I treasure the photos he took of me and my puppies.
Finally, for the person who seems to have everything, make a donation in their honor to a charity they care about. Two of my favorites are Senior Connections (535 Custer Avenue) and the Evanston Public Library (various locations). You cannot go wrong by supporting programs that benefit homebound seniors or reading programs. Even a $5 donation will be graciously accepted by the charity and your honoree will be notified without knowing the specific amount of your gift. Everyone benefits.
Happy shopping and gift giving!