It’s a custom that leaves local, independent business owners with heads in hands: Carloads of consumers trudging off to the mall or the local big-box jungle to spend hundreds, maybe thousands, of dollars on holiday gifts.
Now, there is a new bogeyman in the retail picture, the ubiquitous Amazon — where, according to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, half of all online shopping searches start, nearly one in every two dollars spent online is captured, and which sells more books, toys, apparel and consumer electronics than any other retailer online or off.
Advocates for “shopping small” propose an alternative.
“There are countless reasons why you should support our local independent businesses,” said Olga Bof, founder and executive director of Keep Saint Petersburg Local. “They’re owned by your family, your friends and your neighbors. They’re the ones who are there for you. When you go knocking on doors because your kids need money for Little League, you turn to them. You can’t go to Amazon.”
Small Business Saturday — Oct. 29 this year — is the indie advocates’ big day, sandwiched between Black Friday (Malls! Santa! 4 a.m.!) and Cyber Monday (Nothing to look at here, boss, just tapping away in my cubicle!). But backers of small, local, independent businesses urge consumers to create an annual tradition that boosts local economies, expands local employment, nurtures a sense of community, and offers a more relaxed, fun and rewarding gift-buying experience.
“We realize that people are going to shop online, or at the big-box stores, and that’s fine, people don’t need to feel bad or guilty about that,” said Colin Murray, president of the American Independent Business Alliance. “But we do want to remind them that at the independent businesses, people are working very hard, and they are the ones that provide the uniqueness of your city.”
With that in mind, we offer an array of local boutiques, clothiers, toy and game shops, and other retailers who would love a visit before or after the holidays. Meanwhile, the fall and holiday season is prime time in Florida for outdoor markets, galleries, maker events, and other opportunities to buy local and buy unique; check out our schedule.
“We’re realists. We’re not against growth, we’re not against development, but this is the new reality,” said Bof, whose group is sponsoring a maker’s market Dec. 7 in Madeira Beach (see below). “The only thing we can do is wrap our arms around our indies now more than ever.”
Check out local retail enclaves such as Indian Rocks Road north of West Bay Drive in Belleair Bluffs or the John’s Pass Village & Boardwalk in Madeira Beach for local, independent shops. Here are some “indies” who would appreciate a holiday visit:
The Posh Tot, 7855 113th St. N, Suite E, Seminole. Designer clothing, shoes, swimwear, accessories, gifts and much more for children sizes newborn to 8.
Two Sparrows Boutique, 7976 Seminole Blvd. Suite 1, Seminole. Handmade knits and home décor.
Paradise Gifts & Home Décor, 371 Corey Ave., St Pete Beach.
Simply Perfect, 326 Corey Ave., St Pete Beach. Coastal living gifts and home décor.
French Nest Marketplace, 556 Clearwater Largo Road N., Largo. Curated home décor, vintage and new, including furniture, bedding, tabletop, fashion and gifts with a French flair.
Mirabella Fashions, 481 Main St., Dunedin. Women’s clothing and accessories.
Painted Pear, 32728 U.S. 19, Palm Harbor. Home decor, gifts, interiors, jewelry, women's clothes, and custom refinished vintage pieces.
Lala’s, 100 Indian Rocks Road, Suite H. Home accents, furniture, rugs, pillows, candles, lighting, lamps and chandeliers, jewelry, handbags, gifts, original art.
Bear Haven Land Co., 111 E. Tarpon Ave., Tarpon Springs. Vintage toys.
Knot on Main Street, 2424 Bayshore Blvd., Dunedin. Antiques and collectibles.
Mulberry Kids, 32152 U.S. Hwy 19 N., Palm Harbor. Children’s boutique.
Nekton Surf Shop, 1313 Gulf Blvd., Indian Rocks Beach. Clothing, sunglasses, shoes, essentials, surf gear.
Popical Popcorn, 2551 Drew St., Clearwater. Hi-pop organic popcorn (non-GMO) from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, Amish country.
Bark Life, 10720 Park Blvd., Seminole, and 6647 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. Extensive pet market, grooming, Seminole site also features day care and boarding.
Sign of the Dolphin: 12999 Park Blvd., Seminole. Jewelry, home décor and accessories, personal care boutique, gourmet galley, books, stationery, paper goods and art.
Coastal Fine Furniture, 6920 Seminole Blvd., Seminole. Fine furniture, outdoor furniture, signs and clocks, artwork.
Local outdoor markets and art shows are great places to snag unique holiday gifts. Here are some around the area; they are free unless admission is indicated:
Indian Shores Sunday Morning Market, Sundays 9 a.m.-1 p.m., 19305 Gulf Blvd., Indian Shores. Gourmet goodies, fine arts and crafts, community connections.
Madeira Beach and Treasure Island Merry Beach Market, Saturday, Dec. 14, 3-7 p.m., ROC Park, 200 Rex Place, Madeira Beach. (Single-day event.) Local vendors, visits with Santa, entertainment, food and drinks.
Gulfport Fresh Market, Tuesdays, 9 a.m.-2 p.m., 3101 Beach Blvd., Gulfport. Produce, fine arts and crafts, food.
Saturday Morning Market, Saturdays 9 a.m.-2 p.m., Al Lang Stadium parking lot, First Street and First Avenue South, St. Petersburg. The largest farmer’s market in the Southeast; more than 130 diverse vendors.
Dunedin Downtown Market, Fridays and Saturdays, 9 a.m.-2 p.m., John R. Lawrence Pioneer Park, 420 Main St., Dunedin. Fresh food, handcrafts, live music.
Treasure Island Friday Morning Market, opens Dec. 6, Fridays 9 a.m.-2 p.m., Treasure Island Community Center Park, 1 Park Place. Produce, food, jewelry, arts and crafts, collectibles, clothing and more.
Seminole Recreation Department WinterFest Gift Market, Saturday, Dec. 7, 3-6 p.m., Holland G. Mangum Recreation Complex, 9100 113th St. (Single-day event.) Market runs in concurrence with city’s WinterFest family event.
Corey Avenue Sunday Market, Sundays 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Corey Avenue, St. Pete Beach. Sixty local vendors, fresh food, live music, handcrafts.
Beach Art Mart, Saturdays and Sundays year-round, Friday, Saturday and Sunday from January to April, 9 a.m.-2 p.m., Suntan Art Center, 900 Gulf Way, St. Pete Beach in historic Pass-A-Grille. Fine art, jewelry, handmade crafts by local artists.
Tierra Verde Sunday Morning Market, Sundays 9 a.m.-2 p.m., 1110 Pinellas Bayway S., downtown Tierra Verde. Food, local art, jewelry, clothing, home decor, herbs and oils, body care.
Holiday Maker’s Market, hosted by Keep Saint Petersburg Local, Saturday, Dec. 7, 11 a.m.-3 p.m., The West Events, 13435 Gulf Blvd., Madeira Beach. (Single-day event.) Handmade gifts from 30 indie artists, artisans and makers at brand-new event venue. Beer, bubbles and wine bar, with DJ. Admission is $5 advance, $10 at door, $20 VIP.
Stuck for some creative gift ideas? Web sites such as Etsy, the Grommet, Uncommon Goods, Odd Gifts and others offer some outside-the-box products, often flagging independent and small makers and businesses. Just search “unique gift ideas” online; here are some of the results we came up with.
• Wistful for that old hometown, that great vacation or event? ScreenCraft Gifts offers custom map coasters crafted from marble to keep the memory of a special place close to you. Four custom coasters made maps from anywhere in the United States with cast-iron holder go for $75. Go to www.thegrommet.com, enter “Custom map coasters” in search box.
• Your handy electronic devices have one unwanted function: they’re a breeding ground for bacteria. Uncommon Goods has an easy-to-use sanitizer and charger that zaps most of those germs. $80-$120. Go to www.ucommongoods.com, enter “PhoneSoap Smartphone Sanitizer” in search box.
• Raise a glass to Santa’s “Naughty List” with holiday wine bottle labels expressing various sentiments at various levels of appropriateness. $1-$16. Go to www.etsy.com, enter “Wine bottle labels” in search box.
• The perfect gift for that friend who enjoys the power shower — a.k.a. sipping a cold one while lathering — is a Shower Beer Holder. The silicone design sticks to any glossy tile or surface and is an upgrade from wedging cans in a caddy or placing them around the tub. $15. Go to www.uncommongoods.com, enter “shower beer holder” in search box.
• As long as you’re partying in the shower, add a Bluetooth shower speaker from iLuv Creative Technology that wirelessly connects to your phone via Bluetooth for streaming music (or, we suppose, answering calls). $19.95. Go to www.thegrommet.com, enter “Shower speaker” in search box.
• We will be getting more sweater-and-scarf weather. Storiarts’ book-themed scarves sport passages from one of 29 great literary works, from Hamlet to The Great Gatsby to poetry. $48. Go to www.thegrommet.com, enter “Book themed infinity scarf” in search box.