Sure, it might be easier to order all your holiday gifts from a massive online retailer who shall remain nameless and just sit back until the postman arrives, but where's the fun in that? Here at the Weekly, we believe in supporting our local merchants.
It's not just good for the local businessman—it's good for the regional economy. For every $100 spent at a local merchant, only $27 leaves the local economy. But for every $100 spent at a non-locally owned business, $57 leaves the local economy, according to a study by Local First Arizona.
In short: It's good for local biz, it's good for you and it's good for the soul. Break out your credit card and get to work!
Downtown & Fourth Avenue
Fourth Avenue is one of Tucson's best shopping experiences. Our first stop is always Antigone Books (411 N. Fourth Ave.), an establishment that defines independent bookshops with its amazing selection of books, magazines, bags, music, chocolate and more. The knowledgeable store celebrates local authors and will order anything for you. (The Weekly dares you to take this local-only challenge: Before ordering your next book online, call Antigone first and ask if it's on the shelf. If not, ask them to order for you; it only take a few days to arrive and you're continuing to support a Tucson store deserving of our local dollars.)
Across the street, you'll find a wide selection of fun used books at the Book Stop (214 N. Fourth Ave.) Pick up your Tucson-made holiday candles at Rustic Candle (324 N. Fourth Ave.), find some funky artwork at Popcycle (422 N. Fourth Ave.) or get your sweetie something shiny and beautiful at Silver Star Jewelry (330 N. Fourth Ave.) You'll find something extraordinary for your favorite cycling enthusiast at Ordinary Bikes (311 E. Seventh St.).
If you're looking for some one-of-a-kind ornaments for your Christmas tree, you'll find them at Santa Theresa Tile (440 N. Sixth Ave.), alongside a lot of gorgeous tiles and other gift ideas.
Nothing says "be merry" quite like cold beer. Tap and Bottle (403 N. Sixth Ave.) is stocked with just about anything you could want. Browsing the impressive selection of ales might be a little intimidating if you don't know what your favorite craft brew aficionado prefers to swill, but don't panic—just give them the gift that keeps on giving with a membership to Tap and Bottle's Beer Club. Your giftee will get a Tap and Bottle staff curated six-pack of beer every month you sign them up, along with suggested food pairings and tasting notes for the brews of the month. Best of all, sign-up is online at thetapandbottle.com, so you don't even have to get off the couch to opt in (though we don't know why you'd pass up the chance to enjoy Tap and Bottle in person). Memberships are available for one month ($35), six months ($200), or a year long ($400, plus you get a free T-shirt)—and you're relieved you of any decisive duties.
Walk right next door to EXO Roast Co. (403 N. Sixth Avenue) for some fresh locally roasted coffee to give to that special Type A person in your life. EXO offers coffee from a variety of regions and their ever-changing line-up of coffees available for purchase changes. Prices usually bounce between $12 and $17 per 12-ounce bag.
You can shop in Tucson's oldest standing mall at Old Town Artisans (201 N. Court Ave.), whose adobe walls date back to the 1850s. You'll find jewelry, art, records, clothes, whimsical stocking stuffers and more in the quirky shops.
If you're shopping for an art lover, consider some of the gift shops at downtown museums and galleries. The Tucson Museum of Art (140 N. Main Ave.) has whimsical and charming pieces by many local artists. (We're particularly fond of the tin work by longtime Tucson Weekly contributor Rand Carlson.) The Museum of Contemporary Art (265 S. Church Ave.) has a gift collection that leans more toward the avante garde side, while the Tucson Children's Museum (200 S. Sixth Ave.) is loaded with stuff for kids. Etherton Gallery (135 S. Sixth Ave.) not only has amazing photography and other artwork for sale, but carries jewelry, books and more.
Tucson's classic Sunshine Mile between County Club and downtown is loaded with local merchants. There's Yikes (2930 E. Broadway Blvd.), which is famous for its toy selection of wind-up robots, rubber snakes and dinosaurs, dolls of all sizes, books and more. But since buying the shop some five years ago, Patricia Katchur has expanded its selection to include a lot more arts and science stuff, so if you haven't been in there lately, you'll want to pop in and see what's going on.
Next door, Picante (2932 E. Broadway Blvd.) is still going strong, featuring fashions, jewelry, milagros, oilcloth and a wide range of accessories from south of the border. And in the same Broadway Village shopping center, you'll find the Little Bird Nesting Company (2924 E. Broadway Blvd.), which has a wonderful collection of new and gently used clothes, shoes, toys and more for the little tykes.
While you're shopping the Sunshine Mile, you can pick up your Christmas tamales, too. Lerua's (2005 E. Broadway Blvd.) offers traditional tamales stuffed with green corn, beef, chicken or pumpkin, while the Tucson Tamale Company (2545 E. Broadway Blvd.) stretches tamale boundaries, turning that masa-wrapped meal into something you never imagined, such as the New Delhi, which includes curry, peas and carrots, or the Bisbee with vegan soy chorizo, beans and potatoes. (Incidentally, if you can't make it to the Sunshine Mile, Tucson Tamale Company has recently opened new stores at 7159 E. Tanque Verde Road and 7286 N. Oracle Road. Plus, there's an online store at tucsontamale.com in case you'd like to ship some of these tamales to Aunt Doris in Chicago. Out-of-town friends and family report that getting a big box of Tucson tamales is a bit like getting some sunshine in a box.
If shopping has worked up your appetite, stop by Rocco's Little Chicago Pizza (2707 N. Broadway Blvd.) for a slice or a sandwich—or get a whole pie on the day after Christmas, when you certainly don't feel like cooking.
Up at La Encantada, you'll find Mildred and Dildred (2905 E. Skyline Drive, Suite 186), a locally owned toy store with stuffed animals, games, toys, dolls, cars, trucks, clothes and more. Hit it up at the right time and you might even be able to enjoy a little puppet theater in the shadow of La Encantada's towering Christmas tree.
For the pet in your life, you can wander over La Encantada's Pawsh (2905 E. Skyline Drive, Suite 208), the Humane Society's high-class, low-cost outlet. There are Christmas sweaters to keep your critters warm these cold winter nights, along with plenty of toys and other accessories for your dog or cat. And if you're in the mood to give a furry friend a happy home, there are dogs and cats ready for adoption right there in the store.
Take a spin over to Tohono Chul Park (7366 N. Paseo Del Norte), where the gift shop is loaded with cute local books, objects d'art and fun little knickknacks, and the greenhouse is loaded with desert plants and exotic cacti.
If you're looking for a care package, ditch that tired old box of meats and cheeses and go for something with a little more local flair this holiday season. Sausage Shop (1015 W. Prince Road) has been making handmade sausages and more for over 30 years, so it's safe to say that you're in good hands when you buy from the butcher shop. With a selection of inventive and authentically Tucson creations like Whiskey Del Bac fennel sausage and Dragoon beer bratwurst, there are a lot of tasty options to choose from with sausages running around $5 per pound (about three sausages). When paired with the cheeses and handmade pickles, you can make a flavorful DIY gift basket. However, if you're feeling indecisive, you can stop into the shop and grab a gift certificate for any amount you deem fit.
If it's the weekend, visit the Heirloom Farmer's Market at its new home at Rillito Park (on First Avenue south of River Road), where you'll connect with Southern Arizona's growers, craftsmen and others. One of our favorite vendors: Xocolatl. Made from cacao from Chiapas, Mexico and hand-prepared in Ciudad Oaxaca, the intense dark chocolate is complimented by just three other ingredients: cane sugar, ground almonds, and cinnamon. This traditional Mexican chocolate is far from your standard Hershey's bar and even makes Godiva look a little silly with its rich, exotic flavor. Perfect for hot chocolate on chilly nights or a decadent ganache to top desserts, the chocolate sticks will add a kick to your choco-based recipes. Plus, due to the high cacao content, the sticks will keep for months. You can buy 250 grams of the classic and extra dark chocolate for $12 and 500 grams of the classic chocolate for $18. If you can't make it to the farmers market, shop online at www.casadexocolatl.com.
There are many local merchants along the Campbell Avenue corridor between Grant and River roads. You can support a great nonprofit and shop for local foodstuff, baskets, sauces, baking and soup mixes and more at the Native Seeds/SEARCH store (3061 N. Campbell Ave.); pick up some great treats at Prep & Pastry (3073 N. Campbell Ave.) or Beyond Bread (3026 N. Campbell Ave.); and get into the spirits of the season at Plaza Liquors (2642 N. Campbell Ave.), which stocks a wide range of wines, beer and whatever alcohol you want to use to spike the eggnog this year.
Don't forget the gift shop at the Blue Willow (2616 N. Campbell Ave.). These days, the adorable socks are flying off the shelves, but there's a lot more there: toys for the kids, tiles from local artisans, jewelry, and ceramic dining accessories (including some of the most whimsical salt-and-pepper shakers in Southern Arizona). You'll find a great selection of Christmas cards there and while you're browsing, see if you can resist taking a break on the lovely patio with a hot coffee and a plate of the sweet chocolate crepes.
St. Philip's Plaza (Campbell Avenue and River Road) is home to many local shops, including Bahti's Native American Arts, where you'll find rugs, jewelry, fetishes, books and one of the largest collections of Hopi Katsina dolls in town.
Tucson's westside is the birthplace of Tucson and, in the shadow of Tumamoc Hill, you'll find the Mercado San Augustin (100 S. Avenida del Convento), with a group of terrific restaurants and shops inside. One of our favorites is MAST, a locally owned unique boutique with handmade jewelry and housewares that moved to the Mercado from its original Lost Barrio home.
If you're leaning toward the edible side of gift giving, there's the delicious Agustin Kitchen, where Chef Ryan Clark holds court. The high-end eatery is well known for its cocktails and great bar menu. There's also Seis, the Mexico City-inspired spot that started as a food truck; Blu, a wine and cheese shop that takes the cheese board and sandwiches to new heavenly heights; La Estrella Bakery (the best empanadas in town) and Dolce Pastello (the best tres leches in all the land).
We could all use a little pick-me-up after a long month of planning, shopping, cooking, and entertaining. That's why it might not be such a bad idea to give the gift of caffeine this holiday season. If you're not interested in giving a Starbucks gift card (and why would you be?), pop into the Mercado's Stella Java for some fresh locally roasted coffee to give that special Type A person in your life. Presta is currently offering beans sourced from Ethiopia, Costa Rica, Papua New Guinea, Colombia, and more with 12-ounce bags ranging from $12 to $16.
For more details about what awaits you at the Mercado, visit www.mercadosanagustin.com.