The other week, I read a Catonsville Chamber of Commerce pieceon Patch asking us to shop locally. They gave four reasons you should shop in Catonsville this holiday season. I nodded my head in rigorous agreement. By golly! My family should be shopping locally. According to small business advocates, The 3/50 Project, every $100 that is spent at a local retailer, $68 will return to the community through taxes and payroll.
But the piece didn't mention what to buy. I thought about it. I've lived in town for over ten years and I don't think I've ever shopped Frederick Road for the holidays. We dine locally all the time, but shopping? Nope.
Perhaps part of it is perception. When I look at Frederick Road, I don't think, "now there's some great shopping!" This needed to be rectified. So I set forth on an expedition. Like Lewis and Clark before me, I would start in the East and head West. Along the way, I would study what the locals had to offer for gift giving. Here are notes from my field journal...
709 Frederick Road
What I found:
Spin Clean Record Washer $79.99
This popular seller removes dust from records greatly improving sound quality. According to Goldmine Magazine and Absolute Sound, it's one of the best systems on the market. It also made Enjoy the Music's Top 10 Great Audiophile Gifts For 2010.
Crosley Spinerette $149.99
I was immediately smitten. Now, I've seen Crosley turntables at Urban Outfitters, but the styling on this one is even better. It's perfect for audiophiles, hipsters, teens, or anyone living in Music City, Maryland.
Record Bowls $4.99
Grab one of the record bowls for a kitschy host/hostess gift. You can also pick up a Beatles mug for $7.99
6350 Frederick Rd
Now a sane person might look at a store front that has novelty sized plastic pills and bedpans in it and walk past it in their quest to find the perfect holiday gift. I contemplated my sanity as I pulled open the door. Surprisingly, I found two great gifts inside.
What I found:
Medline Skin Repair Cream $9.95
I was told this cream is flying off the shelves. And after trying a sample, I can see why. It's made with something called Olivamine, which, according to Olivamine's website is the most scientifically sound anti-aging ingredient complex available. I tried it. My hands didn't look any younger but the non-greasy cream made them soft for the rest of the day, even after several washings.
Life Strength Bracelet $30.00
It's a number one seller. Wearers tell you that donning the negative ion wristband helps you focus, feel more energetic, look younger and eases stress. And judging by how popular they are, maybe they're right. I read once that Madonna wears one. I also read that she slathers herself with mayonnaise then climbs into in a plastic bag for bed. Both sound equally strange, but you have to admit, Madonna is hot and fit. Maybe she's onto something. With the wristband anyway, not the mayo.
743 Frederick Road
Bills is one place I've shopped for Christmas gifts before. My kids have tambourines ($19.95) and Chick-itas ($5.95). But I wanted to see what else Bills had to offer. I found no shortage of people to help me, including Bill himself.
What I found:
Ukuleles starting at $40.00
Well, Mele Kalikimaka! These little guys are immensely popular with all age groups. I mean, why wouldn't they be? They're cute, fun and non-threatening, unless paired with a Hawaiian shirt. And right now, Bills is offering a free one-hour lesson with purchase (a $20 value). That's a pretty incredible gift.
I also found a 5" triangle for $6.45 and bongos for $29.95. Either would make a great gift for a musical kid.
815 Frederick Road
What I found:
Fruitcake starting at $17.85
When a fruitcake gets a nod from Baltimore Magazine and Martha herself, you know it's good. I served one at Thanksgiving and I even I was shocked at its delicious goodness. And I like candied fruit. Warning, they are pricey. The smallest size will set you back a little under $20 with tax, but they're made locally, with candies imported directly from Switzerland. With a journey like that, I say it's worth the money.
Tiffins starting at $14.95
These reusable lunch tins with roots traced to India come with a gift certificate for lunch. They'd make an excellent teacher's gift.
Hernan Chocolate de metate Bolitas $11.95
Spheres of organic cocoa from a bio-diversified plantation in Chiapas, Mexico can be enjoyed as candy or used to make hot cocoa. And if that wasn't enough, they're packaged in artisan hand woven palm leaf baskets. The presentation is stunning.
810 Frederick Road
Stroll into Ken's Old Fashioned Candy Shop and you'll be instantly charmed. They have a wide assortment of penny candy, chocolates, and candy making supplies.
What I found:
Thin Ribbon Candy $4.35
This Made in the USA confection is a shiny, beautiful and nostalgic treat. It reminds me of candy dishes and playing cards. There's something rather wonderful about that. I recently bought a box for a dinner party I threw. You should have seen the kids and 30-somethings come running.
Chocolates $15.25 to $19.95 a pound
Head around to the back of the candy shop and you'll be greeted by a candy display that would make Willy Wonka green with envy. You can either select your own assortment or choose one of the packages Ken and Mary put together. They'll even wrap it for you.
Bucket of Licorice Coal $8.95
This one is for the naughty kids, or the crazy ones like me who actually like black licorice.
818 Frederick Road
This store is not for those easily distracted by activity or visual clutter. Lovers of minimalism will find it a challenge to navigate. Its packed with treasures. Literally packed. For someone like me who thrives in that sort of element, it's heaven.
What I found:
Truffle Bowl $10.00
Present as is, or fill with a dessert for a well rounded gift.
Wizard of Oz Barbie Collection starting at $35.00 up to $75.00
They're still in the packages and look to be in great condition. When I was there, they had the Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion, Glinda and Dorothy. I imagine they'll go fast.
Pack of Note Cards $8.50
These note cards feature paintings by Catonsville born artist Sonja Faya Damico. They would make an excellent host/hostess gift.
Agatha Christie Novels $7.00 each
Elegant books with striking gold lettering. Once read, they would look great on a shelf.
Small Ceramic Salt & Pepper Shakers $3.00 set
Have a sibling or friend who loves throwing dinner parties? A couple sets of these mini salt and pepper shakers would look great on a holiday table.
Well, sadly folks, this is where my field journal ends. I covered a good deal of gifting ground in a short walk. It was an enlightening experience. Every shop keeper and staff member I came into contact with greeted me warmly and helped me with a smile. It made shopping enjoyable. I know it sounds crazy, given this time of year, but it's true.
Makes me wonder what else I can buy locally for the people on my list this year.
Stay tuned for our next installment of ideas for shopping locally next week.