One trip to Chandler Fashion Center, a call to Ticketmaster, two online transactions and several stops at East Valley mom-and-pop shops in the bag, and my Christmas shopping is complete.
Among the presents waiting under the tree, I can’t help but have favorites: two items handmade by local artists, wrapped in white boxes with bright, watercolor gift tags.
I love them because I can just see our relatives enjoying them for years to come. I like them because I can see the money I paid for them going directly to real-life people right here in Arizona, people who made the gifts with their own know-how and bare hands.
If you’re still searching for something similar — the kind of uncommon or meaningful gift not so easily found in shopping malls or big-name stores — here are some of my favorite local places to look.
ASU Art Museum Store: On the southeast corner of Mill Avenue and Tenth Street in Tempe. (480) 965-2787 or ASUartmuseum.asu.edu
Featuring primarily work by local artists and Arizona State alumni and faculty, it carries toys for children, ceramics, Oaxacan wood carvings, and eco-friendly contemporary jewelry made from discarded items like plastic bottles and caution tape. The store is offering 20 percent off all its merchandise through Dec. 22.
Owl’s Nest Nature Store: Chandler Environmental Education Center, 4050 E. Chandler Heights Road. (480) 782-2890 or ChandlerAZ.gov/veterans-oasis
This little shop packed with books also carries bento-style lunch boxes, stuffed animals, socks and walking sticks, among other outdoorsy items. Sales tax is included in the list price on the tag.
Ribbons & Lace: 1175 W. Ray Road, Chandler, (480) 812-1683 or 3143 E. Williams Field Road, Gilbert, (480) 844-8005. RibbonsNLace.com
Both locations carry thousands of ribbons available by the inch, yard or bolt, and hundreds of ready-made hair bows. Rhinestone buckles, Swarovski elements, hair and pacifier clips are among the baubles available for DIY projects. The Gilbert store’s boutique has purses, women’s clothing and children’s items at 20 percent off through the end of the week.
Arizona Museum of Natural History Store: 53 N. Macdonald, Mesa. (480) 644-3283 or azmnh.org
From rocks, minerals and fossils to posters, dinosaur toys, books and DVDs, this shop caters to kids who like learning. A $1 “memory pack” includes a map of Arizona dinosaurs, a pencil, rocks, stickers and a toy dinosaur. There’s no sales tax.
The Orange Patch Too: 3825 E. McKellips Road, Mesa. (480) 832-0230 or TheOrangePatchToo.blogspot.com
Part citrus and fudge shop, but mostly a boutique packed-to-near-exploding with girly things, Orange Patch Too sells jewelry, aprons, tea towels, wallets and handbags, signs with cute sayings, and hundreds of other items. Sign up for text alerts (Text “OPTOO” to 75309) for access to spur-of-the-moment sales and giveaways.
The Store at Mesa Arts Center: 1 E. Main St. (480) 733-8225 or MesaArtsCenter.com/store-buy-art-mesa-arts.html
Everything in this co-op gallery is made by local artists. Find handpainted scarves, wood wine bottle holders, pottery, glassware, basketry, papercrafts and paintings. There’s no sales tax.
Design Lab by DDG: 160 West Main St., Mesa. (480) 321-8081 or DesignLabDDG.com
This eclectic shop is crammed to the gills with Pinterest-worthy wall hangings, pillows, furnishings, home accessories, paper goods and holiday decorations. It offers free gift wrap and personalized, handwritten labeling in fancy penmanship.
Adorn Style Lounge: 160 W. Main St., Mesa. (480) 491-7773 or AdornStyleLounge.com
This hip little hair salon stocks a small but well chosen selection of women’s clothing, hats, gloves, belts and costume jewelry in its front window.
Elaine Todd Distinctive Gifts: 2837 N. Power Road, Suite 110, Mesa. (480) 832-4440 or ElaineTodd.com
A funky trove of finds for that irreverent girlfriend we all wish we had the guts to be a little more like, this shop carries off-the-wall signs and risque gag gifts alongside artful vessels worthy of display. All Christmas items are 50 percent off.
The Nature Center Store at Usery Mountain Regional Park: 3939 N. Usery Pass Road, Mesa. (480) 984-0032 or Maricopa.gov/parks/usery
Amid the usual books on local hikes, find animal finger puppets, sturdy and waterproof detailed maps of the area, children’s storybooks and wide-brimmed hats. Get $5 off for every $25 you spend through 4 p.m. Dec. 24.
Contact writer: (480) 898-6818 or firstname.lastname@example.org