As the holidays approach, there's always a sense of dread for some folks. Gift-giving means shopping and shopping means getting out in the stores with frantic consumers who would as soon as bite your head off than give up whatever sought out item they've come in search of.
But shopping doesn't have to be that difficult. Forget about Black Friday, because Small Business Saturday is on Nov. 26 and will offer a chance to venture into local shops for something different. We've gone around town in search of the coolest stuff Charlotte shops and business owners have to offer and we came up with this list of items that will make for good gifts for loved ones or acquaintances. Hell, if noone else, just send us stuff.
Chef Alyssa's Spreads
Chef Alyssa has released two new spreads — the Smoked Chili and Rosemary Mustard and the Champagne-Tomato Jam — just in time for the holidays. Each of them are made from all-natural ingredients and are preservative free. They're also vegan, gluten and dairy free. $8 a spread. Order online at chefalyssaskitchen.com/products or pickup at one of six locations: Pour Olive, 1528 East Blvd.; Queen City Pantry (Atherton Market), 2104 South Blvd.; Rhino Market and Deli, 1500 W. Morehead St.; Savory Spice Shop, 2000 South Blvd.; Pasta & Provisions (two locations), 528 Providence Road and 4700 Park Road.
My Buddy's Nuts
This company, run by husband and wife Phil Anderson and Bonnie Jones of Charlotte, launched in July of 2015. Since then they've increased their product line and distribution. The Maple Mustard Pecans were addicting from the get-go, which is why we voted them for "Best Reason to Go Nuts" in this year's Best Of Charlotte issue. But now there are even more tasty new flavors — like Christmas Cookie Pecans, Pecan Brittle, Pumpkin Spice Pecans and more — to choose from. They've also started producing peanut products, which currently include Salt & Vinegar Peanuts and Pepper Lime Peanuts. $4-$30. Some selections available online at mybuddysnuts.com or pickup at a variety of locations: Paper Skyscraper, 330 East Blvd.; Levine Museum of the New South, 200 E. 7th St.; Common Market, 2007 Commonwealth Ave.; 1st Ward Beverage, 820 E. 7th St.; (Also at Whole Foods, Total Wine, Waxhaw Provisions, Produce on Providence, Healthy Home Market, Davidson Sweet Shoppe).
From War to Peace jewelry and crystals at The Bag Lady
There are so many gift ideas at The Bag Lady, but a line of jewelry called From War to Peace caught our eye. The California-based company uses recycled copper from disarmed nuclear weapon systems to create what they're dubbing as "Peace Bronze." There are silver- and gold-dipped pieces coated with recycled metals. Twenty percent of the company's profits go to social justice organizations.The Bag Lady also has an extensive counter with rocks, gems and crystals. Prices vary. The Bag Lady, 1710 Kenilworth Ave., Suite 200. 704-338-9778. the-bag-lady.biz/index.html.
Mugs and Leaf bowls at Lark & Key Gallery & Boutique
Owners Sandy Snead and Duy Huynh have put a lot of love into this shop — once in NoDa and now in South End — over the years. You'll find plenty of artwork (especially from Huynh who paints dreamy, whimsical scenes) and pottery in this shop. Quick gift ideas include handcrafted mugs (prices vary) by a variety of local and regional potters and/or small leaf bowls ($20) by local potter Paula Smith.Lark & Key Gallery & Boutique, 128 East Park Ave. 704-334-4616. larkandkey.com.
Art and vases from 32 Flavors
There's a lot to choose from at 32 Flavors. Local artist Bethany Hadden creates funky mixed-media works in My Invisible Ink Studio and some of her works (mostly ranging from $40-$60) are available for purchase at the shop. Above a jewelry wall, you'll find Hadden's animal art ("Shark Cat" is our favorite), some of which incorporates repurposed materials (door knobs, key holes, etc.).Also look for glass space vases ($32 each), swirling with colors and created from Corning Pyrex made by Jason Probstein of Probstein Studios out of Asheville. They're perfect for a low maintenance air plant. 32 Flavors, 224 East Blvd. 704-332-5332. 32flavorsboutique.com.
Iva Jean's Fudge
Debra Hanks, the owner of Iva Jean's Fudge, started her sweets business in 2015 out of Waxhaw. Seasonal selections like Peppermint Bark, Sugar Cookie and Mint Chocolate Chip are your best bets, but there are plenty of other flavors to choose from and it's all made from natural and organic ingredients. $15 per tin. ivajeansfudge.com.
Buckskin & Mane
This Charlotte-based company was founded by three military veterans and specializes in grooming and care products with naturally derived, organic raw ingredients — Cameo Beard Oil ($18.64), Sunflower Seed Hydrating Shave Cream ($18.64), 3-in-1 Shampoo, Conditioner, Body Wash with Fresh Hemp and Omega-3 ($16.78), Stimulating Coffee Bar Soap ($9.33) and more. Plus, the company donates $1 from every product sold to Charlotte Bridge Home, a local Charlotte veteran organization. Order online at buckskinmane.com or pickup at the following locations: Atherton Market, 2120 South Blvd.; Coco And The Director (Marriott City Center), 100 W Trade St.
Community Blood Center of the Carolinas' Puppies for Patients
Ever want to do something kind during the holiday season? Between now and the new year, anyone who donates blood will also get to brighten a child's day. After giving a blood donation, donors will be able to sign a tag on a stuffed toy puppy, which will be delivered to hospitals and care facilities for children during the holiday season. That's two gifts — between the blood donation and the stuffed puppy — and you don't have to spend a dime. To sign up, call 704-972-4700 or visit cbcc.us. Community Blood Center of the Carolinas (Charlotte Center), 4447 South Blvd.
Candles from Light Your Whick
This Charlotte-based company produces soy candles in mason jars. Creator Leigh Whicker uses essential oils and soy ingredients and she's got quite the line. Of the year-round candle selections, "Spa Daze" is a relaxing scent with lavender and eucalyptus. Seasonal fare includes "Pumpkin Soufflé," "Hot Tottie," and "Under the Mistletoe."Prices are $16 for 8 oz. (40 hours of burn time) and $26 for 16 oz. (80 hours of burn time). Order online at light-your-whick-candles.myshopify.com or pickup at: Hot Stuff Holiday Pop Up Market on Nov. 27, 12:30 p.m.-5 p.m., at Petra's, 1919 Commonwealth Ave.; Weihnachtsmarket on Dec. 2-3, 9-10, & 16-17 at Olde Mecklenburg Brewery, 4150 Yancey Road; Pop-Up Art Shop on Dec. 15, 6 p.m.-9 p.m. at Comet Grill, 224 Park Road. Also sold at Atherton Market, Infinito MedSpa, Fresh Boutique, Avalilly's, Day Break Massage & Wellness and Sona Salon.
Original art from Charlotte Art League
Giving the gift of art has never been so easy. In the heart of South End, Charlotte Art League features countless booths with works from local area artists of all sorts. Big or small, there's something for everyone. Editor's pick: one of assemblage artist Michele Hoffman's 3D hodgepodge pieces ($75 and up) created from bottle caps and small toys. Charlotte Art League, 1517 Camden Road. 704-376-2787. charlotteartleague.org.
Dark Chocolate Dipper Peppermint Stout from Ass Clown Brewing Company
There's no better way to spread your holiday cheer than by actually saying 'Cheers!' For this chocolate stout, brewers at Ass Clown added candy canes to the fermenter. 'Nuff said. Bottles ($14.99 each) will be available at Ass Clown starting on Dec. 10. Ass Clown Brewing Company, 10620 Bailey Road, Suite E, Cornelius. 980-505-0399. assclownbrewing.com.
It's the Fuzz
Liz Kruckemeyer creates whimsical, oddball needle felted creations that she refers to as being "the creepy side of cute." When you see them, you'll know what she means — bug-eyed kitty cats and squirrels will stare you down as you look around her table. Oh, and the tiny beer mug ornaments ($15) are just darling.It's the Fuzz can be found at 32 Flavors, 224 East Blvd. or at shows (coming up: Hot Stuff Holiday Pop Up Market on Nov. 27, 12:30 p.m.-5 p.m. at Petra's, 1919 Commonwealth Ave. and Finders Keepers Market on Dec. 11 at NoDa Brewing Company, 2921 N Tryon St. Contact for custom work at itsthefuzz.com.
On Q Productions' Soulful Noel
If you've never been to one of OnQ's seasonal Soulful Noel shows, this is the year to change all that. It's full of classic songs that get a soulful spin. One-night-only performance ($18-$30) is December 9 at McGlohon Theater. While you're there pickup copies of an album with all the songs performed during the set. Even if you can't make it, download the album for $8.91 on iTunes. McGlohon Theatre at Spirit Square, 345 N. College St. 704-372-1000. blumenthalarts.org.
Jewelry from McColl Center for Art + Innovation
McColl's annual juried contemporary jewelry show, ADORN features rare art from regional, national and international artists. The special one-day-only event features more than 20 artists who will have jewelry. It's all curated and juried by Alumna Artist-in-Residence Eliana Arenas and McColl Center's Manager of Residencies + Exhibitions Claudia Griffin. Free admission. Dec. 2, 6 p.m.-10 p.m. McColl Center for Art + Innovation, 721 N Tryon St. 704-332-5535. mccollcenter.org.
Plushes from Handmade Stuffs
Jennifer Bennett's cuddle-worthy characters are made with the objective that you "embrace your nerdiness." Most of them are approximately 16 inches tall, constructed with fleece and cotton, and have jointed arms and heads that turn. Currently available: "Cuddly Plush Helpful Elf" ($40) and "Cuddly Plush Space Jerk" ($65). Order or send custom inquiries via etsy.com/shop/HandmadeStuffs.
CarolinaTix Gift card
Giving the gift of concerts/performing arts is one of the best ways to surprise someone and force them out to a show — or two or three or more, depending on how much you decide to spend — and it's also a rewarding way to give back to local groups that put on local and regional shows year after year. You choose the amount and folks can pick the show(s) they want to apply it to. https://tix.carolinatix.org/Online/giftCertificateDetails.asp.
Local musician turned printmaker and t-shirt designer (and still musician) Evan Plante first got on the radar of Charlotte art fans with his print of Charlotte sliced into all its different neighborhoods. His recent Eastland t-shirt has made for one of his more popular designs, as well, and a new series of posters paying homage to the Polish Poster School of the 1950s-'80s features some gems, too. Featured at local spots like Green with Envy in Plaza Midwood or Ruby's Gifts in NoDa or on his Etsy site. etsy.com/shop/Docklands.
Sex Toys from The Red Door
As the motto for the new and improved WeVibe Sync ($249) goes, it's cheaper than couples counseling. The WeVibe is a small vibrator meant to be used with a partner during sex, and after hearing constructive criticism from customers about past models, the new Sync is made to adjust to all body types. The Satisfyer Pro 2 ($99) offers pleasure for her at a cheaper price point. It's a touch-free suction cup toy that latches and suckles the clitoris and can be programmed 11 different ways. It's also submersible, so get deep. 9605 N. Tryon St., 5301 E. Independence Blvd., 3609 South Blvd. thereddoorstore.com.
Neighborhood Gift Package from Green With Envy
Charlotte can often seem like a city divided. Not in the political sense, although that could be argued, but in the sense of representing one's neighborhood. The folks at Green With Envy on Central Avenue are catering to that neighborhood pride with a gift package that includes an Ella B. Candle ($25.95), a hand towel ($10.95) and a wine glass ($14.95), all custom-printed with the name of the 'hood you call home. 1111 Central Ave. 704-344-8704. envycharlotte.com.
Bleached Thrasher Gear From Black Sheep
While gear paying tribute to the long-running skateboard magazine Thrasher has been popular for as long as the magazine's been around, and even more so today. Andrew Kolometz of Charlotte's Black Sheep Skate Shop, which recently relocated to Plaza Midwood, has put his own spin on things by pouring bleach on Thrasher hoodies ($69) and t-shirts ($39). When vandalism becomes style. 830 Lamar Ave. 704-333-1423. blacksheepnc.com.
Record Players at Lunchbox Records
While music has become easier over the years to fit in your pocket or store in some unseen cloud, 2016 has seen a sharp turn back to the days of vinyl. If you're looking to get back into the record game, the folks at Lunchbox Records recommend the Audio-Technica LP60 ($100), which they say is great quality at its modest price point. 825 Central Ave. 704-331-0788. lunchboxrecords.com
Fanny Packs at Pura Vida
When Teresa Hernandez, owner of Pura Vida Worldly Art in NoDa, first started getting questions about fanny packs, she thought she was getting Punk'd. "When young people came in asking for fanny packs, I thought they were joking. I waited for them to laugh, but they didn't laugh." Now her fanny packs ($24.99), handmade in Guatemala and Bolivia, are selling like hotcakes, and she uses one herself for hiking and working out. 3202 N. Davidson St. 704-335-8587. puravidaart.com
A New Look for the Living Room from TUFT
Are your parents still holidng on to that grungy chair they nursed you on 30 years ago? Looking for a gift for your roommate that you'll also benefit from? Bring your overused and tattered furniture to Danielle McKim at TUFT for reupholstering. Or bring the giftee to discuss a brand new custom piece. Also, McKim showcases local arts and crafts. She's right now showcasing work from woodworker and printmaker Victoria Angelini and artist Lo'Vonia Parks, among others. 1222 Central Ave. 980-236-7630. tuftstore.com
Marie Bee Crafts at White Rabbit
The folks at White Rabbit will receive a new shipment of work this week from the Asheville-based jewelry designer, and not a minute too soon, as inquiring minds have been asking, they say. White Rabbit, 920 Central Ave. 704-377-4067. Marie Bee: etsy.com/shop/MarieBeeCrafts
Two of Central Avenue's most prolific dive bars have released photo-based projects that make for the perfect gift for the Plaza Midwood stool pigeon in your life. Tricia Coyne's new book, Last Call, ($60) is a photo essay featuring 155 photos from inside Tommy's Pub (R.I.P.) before it fell victim to the onslaught of development in the neighborhood. Also, "The Men of The Thirsty Beaver 2017" calendar ($20) features 13 photos of the owners, bartenders and regulars who are still fighting the good fight just down the street from the old Tommy's site. You can drop by Thirsty Beaver Saloon, Tipsy Burro Saloon & Cantina, The Rat's Nest, Green with Envy or visit the website for a copy of the calendar. Last Call: triciacoyne.com/product/last-call.
South End Savory Spice Shop
Amy and Scott MacCabe are celebrating the fifth anniversary of their Atherton Mill Market shop, and it just so happens that the anniversary lands right on Small Business Saturday. What better reason to support a couple who have spiced up South End for a half-decade? savoryspiceshop.com/north-carolina/charlotte-south-end.html.