Friday, November 20, 2009

Heights Holiday Shop-o-rama, Part 1

OK. Get ready. Part of the intention of this blog, part of the reason I started it, was to help promote small businesses in our neighborhood. No time is this more important than the holiday season. The sales a small store does during the holidays can help it stay open throughout the year and survive in general.

Recently I found out about this great "idea" called the 3/50 Project. The goal of the project is to get more people to spend their money at local businesses. Their tag line is "Pick 3. Spend 50. Save your local economy." The idea is to think of 3 businesses you would miss if they closed and spend $50 at each of them. It's not saying you can't go to the mall or that you shouldn't order on line, but when you spend $100 at a local business it is estimated that $68 stays in your community. If you go to a chain retailer, you only inject $43 in to your local economy. I was happy to find this information and hope you'll click the link to see more information. I have a "feeling" about shopping local; it's nice to have some stats to back up the sentiment.

I planned on doing a small post about what our local businesses have available for your holiday shopping needs. Then I found the 3/50 Project and thought I would pick 3 and focus on them. You know what? Impossible. There is just too much to choose from and too many wonderful retailers who love our neighborhood and do so much for it. So, instead of 3 retailers, I'm going to do 3 posts. I also thought I would do it as a gift idea post but again, I was overwhelmed when I went through my pictures. So, it's not going to be as orderly or organized as I hoped but I hope you'll see some good stuff and take a visit to the shops that make The Heights a unique shopping destination.

I love to cook and entertain and most of my friends at least like to eat a lot, if not cook themselves. I found a great array of gifts in many pricepoints- but all affordable- for the home cook or party host.

CODA [355 W 19th] carries a wonderful line of tapanades which retail for $11 each. For the holidays, Frank is offering great gift baskets which can include pretty much anything he sells. Most of them fit a tapanade and something fun like cocktail napkins or spreaders, making a great (and eco-friendly) bundle. Frank is having tastings every Saturday in December, 1-6 PM. Stop by and try before you buy.

Tapanades are $11. CODA also has some jellies for $11 and you can try both at their Saturday tastings.

Start with a basket filled with eco-friendly packing materials for $8.50-11, add in whatever fun gift items you would like for a special- and local- present for the foodie on your list.

A lot of what CODA carries is eco-friendly. This crazy line of kitchen gadgets is made of a plastic and wood composite and it 100% recyclable. At $11 each they are fun, useful, affordable and green. This is The Heights so you definitely have a vegan, organic gardening, composting neighbor who will love one of these in their stocking! Or you can just give the Rasta potato masher because it's so damn fun!

Cook with a little more personality

And every entertainer needs more wine glasses. These are made out of recycled bottles, green literally and figuratively.

Every year I ask for cookbooks. Blanca at Heights Books-Libros can hook you up in English or Spanish if someone you know also has cookbooks on their wish list.

Everyone who hosts parties wants the house to look good, smell good, feel good. At Behind The Garden Gate [which shares its space with CODA on 19th St], Felix has great gifts to help you satisfy the needs of your party hosts... Or for yourself and the fabulous shindigs you are sure to be throwing.

Small shotglass candles can be great for scattering around, bunching as a centerpiece or using individually in small spaces like your bathroom vanity. These are 100% soy wax with cotton, i.e. lead free, wicks and are hand poured in recycled glass.

Buy 6 and get a 7th free. 12 fragrances to choose from.

If you want a more substantial "gift" candle, these Paddywax are something Felix has just started carrying. Not only do they have all the eco-minded characteristics of the shotglass candles; the company created their own boxes which are biodegradable plating boxes. You know, the kind you plant your seeds in and then plant, box and all. At $18.50, these are less expensive than jarred candles you'll find at some of Houston's high end gift stores.

Eco-friendly Paddywax candles

Their "Classic" hand-poured pillars

Of course, the best reason to shop at Behind The Garden Gate is Felix's hand crafted botanical creations. For gifts or you own decorating needs (yes, needs), everything is one of a kind.

A sneak peek at what Felix is bringing out for the holidays

Preserved botanicals are a long lasting alternative to fresh flowers ($48)

I think one of the biggest myths about buying local is that small businesses are always expensive to the point they are cost prohibitive. All the items shown above are in line with what big retailers sell for the holidays. Even knowing this, I was shocked at the affordable art glass pieces I saw at Eclectic Home. Starting at $16, these pieces make a big impact in a small amount of dollars.

Everyone likes something cool and innovative. These Chilewich placemats are sold at stores like Sur La Table, but why go to a chain (and try to park on West Gray) when you can buy them right here in The Heights at a local business? Made of vinyl, they are easy care but have the look of something much fancier and harder to care for.

I saw so many gorgeous things and there was so much Dale was clearly proud of. When I asked him if there was anything special he wanted to talk about, he just stumbled. There was too much. That is one of the many benefits of dealing with a local business. The people you meet when you walk through the door have a more vested interest in your entire experience. They want you to want something from them not just to make a sale, but because they know everything they have and are proud of it. They sell what they sell for a reason. They picked it, knowing why and how they thought it would appeal to and benefit their customers.
Dale mentioned that he has sold out of a lot of the pieces of this fun entertaining collection. He had 2 bowls and a chip-and-dip platter left but is expecting more soon- and expecting them to go quickly. If you like it, you'd better get up there!

Tucked in the back I saw the thing I would put on my list. These figurines kind of remind me of something from a Tool video and I like that about them. Weird, I know. Still, I think they would also fit a more traditional aesthetic and are really whimsical. I had to include them as my favorite.

Last on my list of gift ideas for the cook or entertainer is Bliss on 19th. Bliss is probably one of the best known stores in The Heights. Bliss, Oo La La and Tulips & Tutus are the 3 stores people always mention to me when I say I live in The Heights. I am not surprised. Bliss is a great store with a little something for everyone.
When I was in Bliss on this trip, something hit me. I had been working my way down 19th from the weest side, near Shepherd. Bliss was the last store and I went in to and it was in here I realized how muted "Christmas" is right now. When I think of Bliss at the holidays, I think of all the fun ornaments hanging from the ceiling. Those weren't out yet and it was like I went through some sci-fi space tunnel and bit of conversations from other stores came back to me. As if I needed another reason to love Heights retailers, they are WAITING until after Thanksgiving to bring out full on Holiday. I actually thanked Dan at Bliss for this. I get kind of annoyed by holiday creep. Leave it to The Heights to do it old-school (with one notable exception- Jubilee is in full swing but what do you expect? When you're putting up a hot pink Christmas tree, does the date reallt matter?)
The other great part about my stop in to Bliss today that was when I asked Dan about any special things he wanted to showcase, almost all of them were alcohol related. Ha!
Every year Shade hosts a holiday dinner for Heights Kids' Group. They let 40 of us have a great menu at a great set price and eat/drink/be merry. Claire also arranges for several businesses along 19th to stay open late so we can shop before we eat. Appetizers and drinks are served in the shops, priming the pump for a great dinner. Last year, Dan served this Wine Glace at Bliss. I couldn't partake. I was pregnant with the Wee One, but my friends certainly enjoyed it. It's basically a mix that you add to wine and it makes it like a Winarita. Fun!

Wine Glace, for Moms' Night Out :)

The same company that makes the Glace just came out with these mixes for more wine cocktails. Take a mix at $12.50 and add a cool wine stopper, ranging from $14-25, and you have a great item for a grab bag or gift exchange.

Foodies often cook, but many times they like to go out. Female foodies are probably going to have a purse. This cool stocking stuffer is an art glass purse hook, portable. You can pop it on any table and it balances your bag. I would love one for bars so I don't have to put my bag on the (usually wet, always dark) floor. Hint hint.

Art glass purse hooks $15

I know we already saw some great candles. However, candles aren't appropriate for everyone and Bliss has a cool alternative for anyone with a compelling reason to stay away from an open flame (can you say 2 year old?). These decorative "scent vessels" fragrance the air like a candle without burning. Dan says they last about a year and you can actually extend their scent life by rubbing them! Quirky, fun, unique. Like The Heights itself.

Scent vessels come in a bowl or sphere style, last at least a year and range from $18-25


1 comment:

  1. Thanks Viula...that was a great post ! I now have lots of ideas from you for my Christmas Shopping list. Its great to see you feature the great businesses in The Heights and I know that I will be getting most of my shopping done here.