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Christmas Shoppers, It's Never Too Late to Buy Local!

Gift Ideas 2016

When you choose to buy locally made products and gifts everybody in Kalamazoo wins! The artisan feels appreciation and support, the gift recipient is thrilled with a hand-made treasure, and you - the gift giver - feel simply splendid about pumping money back into our local economy. The feeling of community that so many Kalamazooans invest in comes full circle.

We've put together some suggestions for local, unique, possibly funky-fun gifts that share our appreciation for local businesses. Take a look at our suggestions; we hope they inspire you for the beer brewer/lover, wine enthusiast, adamant reader, pet loving, well-groomed, art loving, jewelry wearing, simple-solution appreciating person on your list. Whew, let's get started!

Bell's General Store 355 E. Kalamazoo Ave.

Bell's is one of Kalamazoo's craft beer success stories. Larry Bell, founder of this family owned business, originally came to the community to attend Kalamazoo College and thankfully never left.

Fast forward. Bell's beer has now been brewing for three decades, adding a restaurant Bell's Eccentric Cafe, along with building two more brewing sites, one in Escanaba, called Upper Hand Brewery, and winning countless craft beer awards.

Bell's General Store awaits you with a wide range of gift items for the discerning craft beer lover. Aside from the obvious stocking stuffers of Oberon, Two-Hearted Ale, or their Christmas Ale, they have hats, t-shirts, glasses, mugs, home brewing equipment, and hops, to name a few. Prices range from $1 to $100+ and with a new logo and a fresh crop of t-shirts, you’ll be able to arrive at holiday parties with "Bell's on!"

Vino Tempo Winery 260 E. Michigan Ave.

At the Vino Tempo Winery, Alex Mantakounis, Head Vintner and Certified Sommelier, can help you select and bottle your own wine. Originally from Grand Rapids, Mantakounis came to Kalamazoo to attend Western Michigan University and then stayed. His wife Irene, a Kalamazoo native, received a degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Michigan, and returned to her hometown in 2005 to make wine!

Vino Tempo is the perfect place to find a gift for the avant-garde wine lover on your list. There are packages allowing you to make your own wine and personalize the labels for the bottles. Each package produces 25-30 bottles of wine. And don't forget there is wine to purchase, accessories, and supplies for the home wine maker and gift baskets that can be customized. Vino Tempo also gives customers free stemless wine glasses with wine purchases.

If you miss the winery during the holidays make sure to visit them during an Art Hop or stop in to see a local artist in their gallery space.

Bookbug 3019 Oakland Drive in Oakwood Plaza

What would Christmas be without a new book for someone you care about? Or a pair of Michigan socks? How about a good, old-fashion puzzle? Have you picked up The Kalamazoo Coloring Book created by local artist Simon Kalil Borst, published and printed in Kalamazoo yet? Well if not, it’s time to visit Bookbug, a quaint and welcoming book store that has something for everyone.

After living on the east coast for many years, owners Derek and Joanna Parzakonis decided to return to the Midwest to be closer to family, enjoy a lower cost of living, and benefit from the prospect of being a part of a smaller creative community. The announcement of the Kalamazoo Promise sealed the deal on their choice of returning to Kalamazoo, which is where Derek grew up.

Bookbug is very plugged into the local community. They are involved in Battle of the Books at local schools, host free community readings, author signings, story time, among other things! It's definitely worth a stop for buying local this holiday or just to peruse.

Bark's 5th Avenue 3015 Oakland Drive in Oakwood Plaza

Bay City native Deb Watson earned a BFA in Interior Design at Kendall College of Art and Design. The designer turned animal care enthusiast worked in that field for 19 years before starting Bark's 5th Avenue in 2003. Watson gives back to the community by volunteering and supporting local pet rescue groups/events and fostering dogs bringing them into the store.

Bark's 5th Avenue is the perfect pet stop for owners and the enthusiast that is looking for specialty items and gifts that are not on the mass market. They feature local artists' products, natural treats and a variety of pet accessories for the traditional or designer minded buyer. And if you're looking for a place to pamper your pet they have grooming and photography services to capture your pet's personality.

Damn Handsome Grooming Co. at 326 W. Kalamazoo Ave., Ste. 208

Jarrett and Bridget Blackmon creators of the brand Damn Handsome Grooming Co. realized they were on to something after moving to Kalamazoo from Portland, Oregon. While drinking and brewing beer, it became clear that 90 percent of what it takes to brew beer, like the hops, grains and barley, goes to waste. They both believed that something new could be created.

Partnering with local breweries to purchase the bottom of the barrel ingredients, they created a full line of organic soaps, shampoos, beard and mustache grooming products for men, along with lip balms and specialty items for the holidays. Prices range from $12+ and products are available online or at their storefront in the Park Trades Center.

The Blackmon's find Kalamazoo an amazing supportive community of local makers and as their way of paying it forward the company donates soap to Clean the World Foundation and soon will also be donating to the Kalamazoo Mission.

Handmade Kalamazoo 509 W. Vine St.

If you're looking to shop for a variety of Kalamazoo-centric gifts all in one place head over to Handmade Kalamazoo. Melissa Al-Azzawi, designer, photographer, and Kendall College of Art and Design graduate co-founded this year-round store with her partner, Bailey Mead.

Local, handmade gifts from a variety of local artisans are available in youth and adult sizes, all affordably priced. There are t-shirts and hats, candles and note cards, grooming products and wristlets to name a few. Visit their holiday gift guide online and learn about MI Makers Box, the perfect way to say thank you to someone you value.

Signature Artists Gallery, LLC open Nov. 26-Dec. 27, 4602 West Main St.

A juried group of about 30 professional artists have gathered together since 1981 to share and sell their unique art creations. You'll find some of the area's finest works in fiber, leather, pottery, metal, wood, photography, pastels, stained glass, steel, blown glass, handmade paper, paintings and more!

Judith Jansen, a jewelry maker and organizer who moved to Kalamazoo in 1991 for her husband's job, explained as an artist in the Signature Cooperative, all participating artists work a variety of the 27 days that the gallery is open. You can meet some of the artists and talk to them as you shop. Most of the work is one of a kind art. Loyal supporters can be spotted returning year after year for those very special gifts. With this many choices, shoppers can find hand-crafted work from $12+. Make sure to stop while out shopping and be prepared to be wowed by the creativity within our community!

Green Glove Dryer
Nearly two years ago, a KzooConnect blog brought you news about a local mom who invented a simple solution to fully drying wet and soggy gloves, mittens and boots while recapturing energy. She was just plain tired of the Michigan Mitten Syndrome. The husband and wife team Ryan and Karen Smoots created devices that discreetly fit over a floor heat register, capturing warm air that is already in motion (that's what makes it green!).

Still priced at $19.95, today the Green Glove Dryer is a regular product offered on HSN, and is in numerous local retail shops. This unusual product is a lifesaver, especially this time of year, and a great gift.

The list of local shops and gift ideas could go on, but we hope that we've inspired you to think about unusual places to shop without leaving Kalamazoo and places you may not have thought about. Check out Buy Local Greater Kalamazoo for more information. Happy Holidays from KzooConnect.

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