I live in Davis, and spend a decent amount of time wandering its downtown streets. On many a lazy Sunday you’ll find me strolling the stands of Newsbeat on D Street. This is where I check out what Fast Company or Time is up to this month, do some aimless wandering, maybe grab a new puzzle. It’s a fun place to get lost. Last time I was there, I grabbed the graphic novel “Minding the Store,” written by Julie Gaines. Gaines, along with her husband, David, founded Fishs Eddy. The now-iconic housewares shop in New York started with the newlywed couple stocking the store with unique finds from restaurant basements and their drives around the state. The family-owned business has been in operation for over 30 years now.
The book got me thinking: I love a good specialty shop or quirky gift shop. These establishments add to Main Street’s character and give pedestrians a reason to linger through downtown cores. I know it’s hard to resist the deals of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and while Small Business Saturday is a great start, local businesses need our patronage beyond a single day out of the year.
Local gift and specialty shops are super helpful if you’re short on ideas this holiday season. While Amazon’s vast selection and unparalleled convenience are understandably tempting, the volume of cheap knock-offs and reviews of questionable authenticity can be a bit much to weed through. Roam around somewhere like Form & Function on Main Street in Woodland, Sparrow 5 in downtown Roseville, Folsom’s Artfully Rooted Marketplace or Panic and Swoon General Store in Placerville and you’re likely to come across something unique that you never would have thought of on your own.
The owners and clerks of these kinds of stores are also a wealth of information on their local business community. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, these are the people who can point you in the right direction. The sense of community is strong among local businesses. For instance Strapping, an apparel and gift shop in Oak Park, is working with the chef of nearby restaurant Oak Haus (as well as Beers in Sac and the Oak Park Business Association) to host a series of holiday brunches in their store starting Dec. 2. Who doesn’t like chicken and waffles while they shop?
Increasingly, those in our region carry locally-made products, an added bonus in the “buy local” conscious Capital Region. Display, launched in Sacramento’s Oak Park neighborhood on Black Friday 2014, highlights local makers and artisans by offering only locally-made products. The shop — along with Andy’s Candy Apothecary, winner of the Downtown Sacramento Partnership Calling All Dreamers retail business competition in 2013 — recently opened pop-up shops in Downtown Commons. Display: Annex, located next to its parent store in Oak Park, is a pop-up space where vendors get free rein to create their own unique retail experiences, typically for one month. For the holiday season, Display: Annex will have vendors rotating weekly from Black Friday through Christmas for a unique, and decidedly local, shopping experience.
And we cannot forget our many fellow Californians who fell victim to this season’s monstrous wildfires, who now find themselves spending the holiday season without homes, loved ones or any sense of security. On Dec. 3, Butte County officials reported that 85 people have died in the Camp Fire and 11 people are still missing. The most efficient way to help is through financial, not material, donations. This saves volunteers time sorting and allows organizations to purchase exactly what is needed. The American Red Cross, the California Community Foundation’s Wildfire Relief Fund, North Valley Community Foundation and United Way of Northern California are all good places to start.
However or wherever you choose to celebrate the holiday gift-giving season, I encourage you to spend those dollars thoughtfully. Sure, Echo Dots and same-day delivery are cool, but a meaningful gift wins every time.