EW's 2008 Gift Guide (download the PDF)
Sampling the Wares A few gems from the Holiday Market’s hundreds of booths
Local Pride Unique Eugene stores provide all kinds of options
Body Love Treat yourself and others this season
Unique Eugene stores provide all kinds of options
by Inka Bajandas, Jessica Hirst and Suzi Steffen
OK, the economy’s bad, and you may not be spending as much for holiday gifts this year. Understood! But, like more than 70 other alt-weeklies across the country, the EW encourages our readers to shop locally for the holidays. Studies show that 70 percent of dollars spent at locally owned stores stay in the local economy, while only 43 percent of dollars spent at chain stores (yes, even the “good” ones) have a local impact. You might notice our focus in Gift Guide is local, local, local — and the locally owned stores that make up Unique Eugene know how to band together to combat the economic downturn. We highlight most of them here in our main story (England Audio, SeQuential Biofuels and Saturday Market are the others — don’t forget to fill up at SeQuential while you listen to your custom stereo system from England!).
We hope you’ll consider taking our pledge: Spend $100 of your holiday shopping money at locally owned places, and you can enter in a drawing to win prizes from locally owned stores. See here for more details and remember: Think globally; shop locally.
Blue Moon Jewelry Designs
In classic Eugene fashion, Blue Moon Jewelry Designs recycles, turning used jewelry-making materials, like gold, into new jewelry.
The store specializes in custom jewelry, meaning that their staff of jewelry designers can create just about any specific custom jewelry gift idea, from modernizing grandma’s old ring to setting a cherished found stone into a piece of jewelry. In creating custom designs customers can also take advantage of Blue Moon’s large variety of unique gemstones and can pick from thousands of loose stones. Among the gemstones found in their jewelry is holly blue agate from Oregon and other stones mined nearby.
Blue Moon features the handmade work of 10 local jewelry designers and other regional designers, and most of the pieces are one of a kind “just for the sheer fact that they can’t be replicated,” says store owner Renee Ford, making them special gifts.
The store has been creating unique jewelry for nearly 15 years in downtown Eugene. “You don’t see what we do here in a chain jewelry store,” says Ford.
Blue Moon Jewelry is located at 115 W. 6th Ave. — IB
Dot Dotson’s carries plenty of gifts for photography lovers, but they also specialize in making custom prints of cherished photos, which make great gifts.
The family-owned photo store, in Eugene for 75 years, has a full-service photo lab that still processes film and slides, but they also work with digital files, making large format digital prints, converting any photo format into digital or digitally restoring old or damaged photos.
Annette Pfautz, a photo technician at Dot Dotson’s, has several suggestions for gifts. A Gorilla Pod, she says, makes a great gift for someone who’s into photography. The legs of the tripod have lots of joints, allowing them to be molded and bent at will. The adjustable legs can be wrapped around and attached to just about anything, giving the photographer liberty to support a camera almost anywhere. Another good gift idea Pfautz suggests are photo sculptures, where a print made of a photo is mounted onto thick plastic and then put on a stand or turned into a key chain. Lastly, Pfautz suggests Braggable camera cases, which are stylish carrying cases for digital cameras.
Dot Dotson’s is at 1668 Willamette St. —IB
Down to Earth
One of the best things about shopping at the home and garden store Down to Earth (which always, ALWAYS, wins the Best
of Eugene readers’ poll for Best Environmentally Friendly Business) is that staff members know things like why you should set down straw for your backyard chickens and how to make soap by hand.
At the Olive Street store, the smell of organic fertilizer wafts through the air, and for every cute gift item you come across, there’s also a practical tool somewhere. The store is a good place to find unique stocking stuffers as well as shovels, woks and natural fiber toilet brushes (al-though we don’t necessarily recommend that last item as a gift).
Birdhouses made from recycled plastic are often popular at the holidays, says co-manager Rachel Klinnert. She also points to a small, locally made lamp that uses only olive oil, a pair of Nepalese wool socks and some high-end green and red teas.
If you’re like us, you’re trying to get over your habit of waiting until Christmas Eve to buy those last few gifts. But if you do happen to find yourself in that predicament this year, Down to Earth might just be your answer. It’s possible to find gifts for multiple family members there, especially if those family members like to do the homebody thing in style.
Down to Earth has two locations, at 532 Olive Street and 2498 Willamette Street. — JH
Eugene Toy and Hobby
From the guys staring longingly at the model train fences to the kids exclaiming with joy over the Lego collection, people love Eugene Toy and Hobby. Brothers Alan and Mark Agerter, who grew up with the store their grandfather started 75 years ago, say that they’re not worried about the economic downturn. “The store was born in the depths of the Depression,” Mark says. “The hobby industry takes a lot of time but not a lot of money and takes your mind off your troubles.”
The hobby side of the store, filled with everything from remote-control helicopters to jeweler’s saw blades to the kind of hobby paint and wooden model planes that filled my dad’s workshop as I grew up, features things like Lionel model trains and a mindblowing number of small items for the model train aficionado. Alan, who runs the toy section, says that microscopes and telescopes are always popular, and of course there’s no denying the appeal of Lego sets or puzzles, knight figurines or the newest Ugly dolls (which, Alan notes, are a generation-specific taste; he almost didn’t order them, but a young employee convinced him they would sell — and of course, they do). “People quit taking trips to the Yucatan when the economy’s bad,” Mark says, “but they stay here and play games with their kids. We’re a perfect conduit for that.”
Eugene Toy and Hobby is located at 32 E. 11th Ave. — SS
Since the 1980s, Footwise has been supplying Birkenstocks to Eugenians. And while the store still trades in these iconic sandals, it has since expanded its selection to include a wider variety of shoes from brands such as Keen and Dansko. These days, you can find footwear appropriate for a second date at Davis’ as well as a protest march or a spontaneous drumming circle.
For the holiday season, the store is stocking up on boots, slippers and warm socks, said manager Reisa Maddex. While you might have rolled your eyes as a kid when your aunt sent you socks for the holidays, it’s a different story now. The store’s selection of Italian wool and organic cotton socks will make your own ordinary, slightly damp pair seem in desperate need of quick replacement.
The best advice we can give you about shopping for the holidays at Footwise is that it’s important to be strong while you’re there. Certain Keens that look like they were handmade by hip elves make our hearts leap, and those embroidered red slippers would look so good getting the paper in the morning. Just repeat this mantra: The holidays are not about my own shoes!
Footwise is located at 181 E. Broadway. — JH
If you’re like some of us, you eat vegetarian but sometimes wear leather shoes. You’re concerned about shrinking forests, but you lust over the smell of fresh office supplies. You bought a hand-knit hat last year, but it never really looked that good on you, so you finally gave in and got a new one at REI. Luckily, at Greater Goods you can resolve these moral dilemmas. There, you can linger over soft, nut-brown journals made from cotton paper and cruelty-free leather. You can try on dozens of handmade, fairly traded hats in all shapes and colors. You can find gifts that are aesthetic and ethical.
Just walking through the store takes you on a global journey without the jet lag and carbon burn. And owner Joan Kleban, who started the store in 1991, is often around to tell you where a product came from and who made it. Most of the store’s products are fairly traded.
Kleban’s gift ideas for this season include Haitian folk-art carvings made from the tin of recycled oil drums; funky, boiled-wool handbags; and strings of brightly colored, cloth “prosperity hens” made by women in a crafts cooperative in India.
If you’re already feeling a little too cynical about the holidays, we recommend that you start your gift search here.
Greater Goods is located at 515 High St. — JH
Harlequin Beads and Jewelry
“We are the bead place,” says Michele Rose, manager of Harlequin Beads and Jewelry. Unlike some bead stores, Harlequin sells beads priced individually, making it cheaper to buy all the parts for a beading project. That means that those creative ones who want to make homemade jewelry for all their friends have an affordable place to buy materials.
For those who are less creatively inclined or don’t have the time but still want a unique gift, Harlequin offers custom jewelry design by staff members.
The store carries a large selection of gemstones and crystal, including Oregon opals and Oregon sunstones mined near Ashland. Harlequin also features glass beads created by local artists (buying one of these colorful glass beads and a nice string for it to create a necklace would make a great gift) along with handmade clay and Fimo beads.
As for gifts for the serious beader, there are plenty of beading books and tools available — and the gift of signing a friend up for one of Harlequin’s beading classes.
Harlequin Beads and Jewelry is at 1027 Willamette St. — IB
McDonald Gallery Framing
At McDonald Gallery Framing, owner Mary McDonald looks around, amazed by the number of people who have come through the door since she announced her retirement at the end of December. Customers want to consult her more than 30 years of experience and scramble for her final framing projects. She says that she’s getting around to putting sale prices on pieces in the shop, and the steady stream of people even at 10 am on a Saturday attests to what the community will lose when she retires.
McDonald Gallery Framing is located at 505 High St. — SS
Newman’s Fish Market
Nothing says “I love you very much” like a pack of fresh mussels in the Christmas stocking! No? Well, you may be right, but Newman’s owner Dwight Collins notes that the venerable Willamette Street store contains a variety of other gifts for food- and wine-savvy consumers. Sure, you can take your sweetie, a crossword and thermal handwarmers out to the fish-and-chips restaurant portion of the store, but you can also buy lovely containers of olive oil imported from Italy, King Estate jam, oddly shaped pastas, all kinds and manners of sauce and just about any other tasty treat you desire. Capers? Yes. Cheese? Yes. Gorgeous cheese (keep it in the fridge until you give it away, ‘kay?).
Boxes of smoked salmon for all of your European friends? Heck, yes. Canned albacore and salmon, and we don’t mean the kind you might find in the sale rack at Freddie’s (we buy that too, but not for holiday gifts!) — for sure. We love Newman’s because Mary Lou can always give us seafood cooking tips, and while we’re waiting in line at the busy store (we hear the Coburg Road location is also popular), we can trawl the aisles for gifts for ourselves and most of the foodies on our list.
Newman’s has two locations, 1545 Willamette St. and 485 Coburg Rd. —SS
Oregon Art Supply
Oregon Art Supply is the place to go for the materials to make your own gifts or to give the gift of creativity through art supplies. The downtown art supply store, which has been around since the 1970s, sells all types of fine art supplies for painting, printmaking, bookmaking and more.
“It’s the place to come to create your own things,” says Rebecca Mannheimer, who has owned the store along with partner Robin Irving since 1998. “It really is a place for people to use their own imagination.” Art supplies are a gift that keeps on giving, she says, because the creativity they inspire translates into a life experience for the recipient. Furthermore, creating your own gifts is also a fulfilling experience, she says.
Among the art supplies she recommends for gifts are the materials to create your own stamps (rubber blocks that can be carved into, then stamped onto paper or fabric), or a designing block with brush paper, which, when wetted with water from a paintbrush, leaves a mark that slowly fades, creating a painting practice pad.
Find Oregon Art Supply at 1020 Pearl St. — IB
Pacific Winds Music
Sure, you might bring your kid here (or be the kid brought here) for band instruments and lessons (Pacific Winds has handy dandy attractive gift cards for grandparents who want to pay for some of those expenses, by the way), but managers Ron McCulloch and Shawna K. Gribskov can show you everything from the wall o’ ukeleles (seriously!) to the rainbow-colored various-note noise sticks (better than pots and pans for the toddlers of the area) to the pineapple, avocado, tomato and egg shakers — and beyond.
“Hand drums are popular in Eugene,” Gribskov says, which, yes, we probably all understood from our many ventures downtown during Saturday Market. But Gribskov’s favorite stocking stuffer-y item could go to any musician on your list: Wristies. Like fingerless gloves but warmer, wristies come in orchestra black and home practice penguin fleece (not that a woodwinds player or strings person could wear them while playing, she warns) and a variety of other colors. “It’s often cold on stages,” she notes, and wristies are perfect for keeping valuable tendons and ligaments and muscles all warm and cozy before and in between performances.
Musical jewelry for the pierced musicians on your list — there are necklaces too — sits on the counter as does the rhythm frog, one of the many fair trade items at Pacific Winds. And who could leave without one or more kazoos? Kazoos for the family! You’ll want to repeat that, in rhythm, as you march your musical butt out of Pacific Winds carrying all the tuneage you can fit in a pannier or trunk.
Pacific Winds has the great good luck to be near Sweet Life and Laughing Planet, at 791 W. 8th Ave. — SS
If Martha Stewart and Andy Goldsworthy decided to set up shop together, the result might look something like the housewares, gift and flower store Passionflower Design.
More than 13 years ago, owner Jewel Murphy started out selling wreaths made from dried flowers at the Saturday Market, and natural patterns still play a large role in the store’s aesthetic. Bowls are full of curious objects that look like the ones we removed from our pockets after we last tromped along the Oregon coast — but cooler. A set of plates sports leaves that look like they were drawn by our 89-year-old botanist great uncle.
Store manager Becky Tonkin’s gift tips for the holidays include fleece blankets and fleece-lined hot water bottles by David Fussenegger (which tempt us to fling our budget on the floor of the store), and sterling silver pendants by Pyrrha, cast from 19th-century wax seals.
Passionflower is located at 128 E. Broadway. — JH
Paul’s Bicycle Way of Life
No guide of holiday gifts in Eugene would be complete without a place to get gifts for bike riders. Paul’s Bicycle Way of Life is just such a place — or perhaps the place.
“We continually focus on what I describe as people who rely on their bikes as a way of life,” says Matt Ritzow, general manager of Paul’s, which has four locations throughout town. The business has been in town since 1985 and was started by owner Paul Nicholson after he made a $5 bet with some friends. (We suspect he won the bet.)
For the bike commuter, Ritzow recommends several gifts that will make commutes safer and more comfortable this winter. The first would be a good light such as a Super Flash tail light, an affordable, extremely bright and highly visible light. “If I was going to buy a gift for a person who rides in the winter, that would be the first thing I’d get,” he says. Other gifts Ritzow recommends are rain gear, such as brightly colored rain jackets and waterproof panniers. In the past few years, as bike commuting has increased, panniers have really taken off and become much more stylish, Ritzow says. “With all the new fabrics now, people can ride their bikes in all kinds of weather.”
Paul’s Bicycle Way of Life has four locations, including 234 W. 6th Ave., 3870 W. 11th Ave., 152 W. 5th Ave. and 2480 Alder St. — IB
Whenever we step foot in Rainbow Optics on East 13th, we’re tempted to bring a novel and a hot cup of tea. The comfy, overstuffed couches, handpainted murals and friendly staff make us feel right at home. If you’ve decided to give someone the gift of sight this holiday season, Rainbow Optics is a good place to start — and to linger. The store offers lots of glasses frames, from cutting edge to standard and from adult to kid.
Owner Sheila Daughtry says that she likes to carry foreign frames new to the U.S. market. Some of her favorites include clear plastic frames that turn dark gray with more light, and frames with sides made of handsome, delicate wood. (In an informal poll of woodworkers, we found that these could be a hit with the craftsperson set.)
And in case your loved one happens to be accident prone, Daughtry confirmed that all frames come with a one-year guarantee that covers mishaps.
Rainbow Optics has three locations, at 762 E. 13th Avenue, 1740 W. 18th Avenue and 2540 Willakenzie Road. — JH
Smith Family Bookstore
You know you’re at Smith Family when you go in looking for a book on how to remodel your kitchen, and you come away with a coffee table book on tattoo art and a dog-eared Chinese novel as well. Smith Family is an antidote to the glistening, perfect aisles and canned music at some of the larger national bookstore chains. Here, you might end up reading Tolstoy simply because you tripped over a stack of Anna Karenina as you were trying to get your bearings. Who said literature should stay in neat, well-behaved rows?
Evon Smith, whose parents founded the bookstore in 1974, is the store’s manager and co-owner. Smith’s face lights up when she talks about books — even ones about vampires and dragons, which currently cover two tables at the front of the Willamette store. Fantasy and vampire books are huge right now with adults and young adults, she says, so staff members at the store have selected a number of series that they consider well-written.
But if not all of your loved ones fancy stories about blood and mysterious stones, rest assured that the well-read staff members at Smith Family know how to offer recommendations. And because the store stocks its shelves with about 90 percent used books, the price is often just right.
Smith Family Bookstore has two locations, at 768 E. 13th Avenue and 525 Willamette Street. — JH
Sundance Natural Foods/Sundance Wine Cellars
Saturdays at Sundance Wine Cellar get a bit hectic, what with wine tastings and all, but owner Gavin McComas (who also owns Sundance Natural Foods, which we love for its tasty, tasty hot food bar and the hundreds of alterna-calendars hanging on a string above our heads as we wander the store in search of the perfect vitamin, piece of organic fruit or yummy soy product) takes the time to show off some of the holiday-appropriate gifts. We should mention that cases of wine, for many people, are also appropriate gifts, and we like working with super pourer Mario Ramos or manager Boris Wiedenfeld to pick out a good mix, but all of the Sundance staff members know their wine --— just ask.
McComas points to the ever-popular corkscrew collection, including one that looks like a faucet, as good stocking stuffer ideas. The famous Laguiole waiters’ corkscrew can fit in any camping backpack and looks nice enough to keep on the wine table at parties as well. Pretty Riedel crystal glasses, made specifically for Oregon pinot noir, can’t fit inside a stocking but might look lovely filled with a tasty beverage from Sundance on the holiday dinner table. And if you’re the kind of person who likes wine with mystery attached to it, snag the Wine Tasting Kit with six handy-dandy numbered bags and pads for tasting notes. Serious fun, that’s what wine folk have. We’re down with that.
Find Sundance Natural Foods at 748 E. 24th Ave. and Sundance Wine Cellars around the corner at 2470 Alder St. — SS
Tactics Board Shop
Any kind of gift related to human-powered board sports, including skateboarding, snowboarding and surfing, can be found at Tactics Board Shop.
“We’re a local store and an online store. That makes us kind of unique. We’re in our industry one of the first people to do that,” says owner Matt Patton. Patton, who opened the Tactics store in the Whitaker neighborhood in 2000 along with partner Bob Chandler, says that almost everyone who works in the store participates in the sports for which they sell equipment and apparel, giving them expertise. He also emphasizes that the store caters to anyone interested in board sports. “We have a mantra here that says that everybody who walks through the door is a rock star,” he says. “We try to be as positive and welcoming to people of all walks of life as possible.”
Among the gifts that can be found at Tactics are beanies, good for the cold weather coming up, and all kinds of apparel. For a gift found only at Tactics, check out the skate decks designed by the shop’s staff, which feature images such as a map of Eugene.
Tactics is located at 375 W. 4th Ave. (and online at www.tactics.com). — IB