As we roll into December, the joy of holiday lights and time with the family is countered with crowded shopping malls and bulging credit card bills. In an effort to help you find some joy in the gift-giving of the season, we’ve pulled together a guide to help you traverse the holiday shopping journey with local, online and unique options at a variety of price points.
MAKE IT SPECIAL
If you’re looking for something especially unique, try one of the many local gift shops in town. Our first stop was at Ruby’s Gift at 3204 N. Davidson St. in the NODA neighborhood. The shop specializes in handmade items from local artisans including pottery, art, jewelry, home goods, clothing and accessories. Check out the handmade candles from Montford Wicks, a new addition to the store from a husband and wife team in the Queen City. My holiday favorites include “Festive Frankincense” and “Cypress & Bayberry” (both $25). For map lovers, the store offers beautifully designed community maps of Charlotte by Evan Plante of Docklands Design ($75 framed), or the “The Great” series of North Carolina maps by E.D.I.A. ($11 each) that make excellent stocking stuffers, highlighting Charlotte, the state’s obsession with barbecue, the best fried chicken around, and local brews. rubysgift.com.
Head over to Plaza Midwood for a stop at Green with ENVY, a 4,000-square-foot store at 1111 Central Ave. The gift boutique is furnished with several ideas for the holidays and has strategically marked “stocking stuffer” items throughout the store for that extra-needy shopper. If you’re tired of taking a bottle of wine to those parties this season, surprise your host with “Make Your Own Wine” boxes by American Dreams Craft-A-Brew ($69.95). The kits include everything you need to make your own special wine and promises to yield five 750ml bottles. Craft brew and cider kits are also available. While you’re prepping for that holiday party, don’t forget to spice up your own look with a popular Sparkle Sister’s headband or party hat ($25). These artful headpieces have everything from tinsel to ornaments and are sure to make a statement. envycharlotte.com.
Finally, the popular Charlotte gift store Paper Skyscraper at 330 East Blvd. in Dilworth is often the first place recommended by locals for that special gift. Celebrating nearly 30 years in the community, founders Tim Hamilton and Ron Wootten sold the store to Charlotte couple Sybil and Bill Godwin earlier this year. The store offers just about everything for the ardent gift-giver, including home goods, books, games, apparel, glassware, cards, and even specialty wrapping paper. Check out the holiday glassware from Chez Gagné including “Festive AF” and “More Effective Than Mistletoe” stemless wine glasses ($14.95 each) or the Picnic Time Bristol Picnic Basket by Legacy in two sizes ($56.95 small, $84.95 large) that come complete with lunch service, corkscrew and salt and pepper shakers in a durable willow hinged basket with cotton lining. paperskyscraper.com.
A community standard when it comes to LGBTQ gifts, White Rabbit is located at 920 Central Ave. The gift shop offers a wide variety of products, from cards and books to adult novelties and designer underwear and has been a fixture in the community for over 30 years. New items this holiday season include nearly a dozen new models of the collectible December Diamonds ($32), popular gay ornaments in Pride and holiday attire, including the Poke the Bear Collection. New Andrew Christian Midnight Briefs ($30-$35) are the perfect gift to ignite those holiday flames. The stylish update on a classic brief looks and feels like velvet and comes in a sleek black design with gold detailing. Another new arrival at the store this holiday season is a line of pillows from Swish Embassy ($20-$39.99). These super soft pillows give character to any space and include RuPaul and other LGBTQ pop culture icons. whiterabbitbooks.com.
As they say, membership has its privileges. Middle C Jazz opened its doors in Uptown Charlotte at the beginning of the month by father-son duo Larry and Adam Farber. The 4,800- square-foot jazz club, located at 300 S. Brevard St., features performances by Robyn Springer with Rodney Shelton, Brian Houze, Ziad Rabie and Paul Dozier Doors this weekend followed by Mel Gray Presents The Jazz Funk Factors, the Michelle Renee Group, Gino Castillo and the Gary Marcus Quintet featuring Tony Hayes capping off the club’s first two months. Special for the holidays, the club presents A Charlie Brown Christmas & Cool Holiday Favorites with The Sean Mason Trio for two shows on December 22. Tickets are $12-$17. Consider an annual membership at Middle C Jazz for that special music-lover in your life. The club is still offering a pre-opening price of $300 which includes early seating, special pricing for all shows, complimentary evening parking (as available), presale access for most shows, four ticket vouchers and more. middlecjazz.com.
For parents searching for LGBTQ-inclusive books, check out OurShelves.com. Launched by mother Alli Harper, the subscription company provides “diverse book boxes for children,” according to the website. Harper and her wife had struggled to find high-quality children’s books that reflect their two-mom family and their inclusive values. Books like “Harriett Gets Carried Away” centers a typical children’s book tale in a two-dad and racially diverse family. Others like “When Aidan Became a Brother” address transgender children openly and lovingly. You receive one book box every three months and options include the Sunshine Box for ages 0-2, the Rainbow Box for ages 2-5 and the Treehouse Box for ages 5-8. Pricing starts at $13.99, plus delivery. ourshelves.com/getstarted.
Topping the tech trends this holiday season are the GoPro HERO8 Black 4K Waterproof Action Camera, the AmazonBasics Microwave and my personal favorite, the Peak Design Everyday Backback. You can find these items at many of your local big box stores, or try online for some additional deals.
First up, the GoPro HERO 8 ($399.99) is the new flagship camera for the brand and offers the first new physical design in four generations. It’s smaller than its predecessor with a built-in mount, has a stronger and more compact lens, and features a new front-facing microphone for a promised, better sound quality. The biggest selling feature is the improvements on HyperSmooth and TimeWarp, two features originally introduced with the Hero7 Black model. If you’re looking to trade up, GoPro offers a $100 buy-back program when you trade any digital camera with an original retail of $99.99. gopro.com.
“Alexa, what’s for dinner?” Yes, Amazon is launching more voice command items that make our lives more futuristic. The small, simple AmazonBasics Microwave ($59.99) responds to Alexa voice commands without a hefty price-tag, but it does require an Echo device (not included) to use quick-voice presets allowing you to just ask Alexa to start microwaving. While currently the model doesn’t seem to save you from any significant stress, the software is always getting smarter and future presets along with connection to limitless online information could make those quick meals a bit easier. amzn.to/2pOKaiF.
Finally, the Peak Design Everyday Backpack ($259.95) may not seem like a huge tech trend, but the bag is the perfect accessory to keep all of your precious cargo safe. With an adjustable height laptop sleeve and customizable organization, it not only suits your daily commuting and travel needs it also looks great and is designed with photographers and techies in mind. The 100% recycled outer fabric is weatherproof with a nylon canvas shell, which should withstand the usual elements. peakdesign.com.
In the age of Amazon online everything, it’s nearly impossible to not find that certain gift for any discerning friend. Online retail has also launched a plethora of entrepreneurs and that means unique opportunities for us, the shopper. These two favorites blend both LGBTQ-inclusivity and Southern culture.
YAS Queen Industries was founded in 2017 and you’ve likely seen them selling their wares at the Charlotte Pride Festival. The company, created by Malone Lockaby and Erin Goldstein, also donates a portion of all proceeds to LGBTQ and ally non-profit organizations in the community. YAS Queen specializes in T-shirts celebrating the LGBTQ community and “yas,” building on the popularity of the common wordplay exemplified in their name. Most T-shirts range from $20-$25. Check out options at their online store at squareup.com/store/yasqueenindustries.
You may have heard of their podcast, but The Bitter Southerner’s online store aptly named the “General Store” is one of the best kept secrets online, laced with all things special about the land of biscuits, whiskey and tomato sandwiches. Some favorites include the “All Y’all” Pride T-shirt ($30), “Bless Your Heart” Kitchen Towels ($15) and the American South Road Trip Guide ($20). The book, a terrific gift for those born here or new to the Carolinas, highlights “the soul and secrets of the region from folk artists, social-justice reformers, jazz icons, renowned storytellers, pitmaster legends and more.” For more, visit bsgeneralstore.com.
HEAD TO THE MARKET
Community markets are all over the city, providing opportunities for local artists and small businesses to promote and sell their goods. The Starving Artist Market partners with the Charlotte Art League to bring together local artists and artisans at a variety of spots. The next event will be a “Nightmare Before Christmas Popup Market” on Dec. 13 at Twenty-Six Acres Brewing Company, 7285 Westwinds Blvd. NW in Concord. Follow the group on Facebook.com or visit starvingartistmarketclt.com for up-to-date information on events and popups. starvingartistmarketclt.com.
The Metropolitan at 1100 Metropolitan Ave. in Charlotte will host Small Business Saturday from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. on Nov. 30. The market hosts over 40 vendors including pottery, jewelry, apparel, food, and more — all from local companies and artists. metropolitanclt.com.
Another market to check out is the Queen Flea Makers Market, a pop-up market at Summerbird Boutique, 2424 N. Davidson St. in NoDa. The holiday version is free to attend (with a $5 VIP option) and features over 50 local artists, makers, and thrifters. The event runs 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Nov. 29 and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Nov. 30. facebook.com/shopqueenflea.
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Give back to the community. Check out the next issue of qnotes for wish lists highlighting ways you can support local non-profit organizations, on newsstands Dec. 13. Are you a non-profit organization that has an end-of-year or holiday wish list? If so, send your information to firstname.lastname@example.org to be included.