Good morning and good luck. It’s Black Friday and I can envision three scenarios about this day: You’re at work, like me. You’re at home with a cup of coffee reading this and have the day off. You’ve been at the stores for hours hunting up Christmas gifts and it’s not even noon.
What I have to say about this day is that if you like crowds and possible great deals, go for it. I admit I’ve never risen at dawn to try and buy anything.
It would be silly of me to attempt to cover all the bases when it comes to what’s available this season at big-box stores. Instead, I’m going to focus on the unique or unusual, funny or useful. After all, you all know where to go if you want to buy a flat-screen TV or a new iPhone.
That gives me the chance to remind shoppers that Saturday is the annual Shop Small day, when small businesses and retailers want you to check out their cool and often one-of-a-kind merchandise. These shops are the lifeblood of Belleville and many other communities.
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If you have a particular store in mind, check the hours. They’re probably extended — giving you more time to browse. That’s a good thing. And don’t forget, the small shops offer gift cards/certificates, too, if you can’t make up your mind.
A stroll down Main Street in Belleville
At Peace by Piece in the first block of West Main Street, Christina Browning, of Belleville, was a good sport when I showed up and asked her to model a couple of gift ideas. She came out of the dressing room wearing a multicolored, adjustable string scarf ($42) in shades of blue and turquoise (there are other colors) over a patterned blue and black tunic-top ($128) from the Elvis Laskin line of clothing created by Hollywood stylist Melissa Laskin.
Remember, everything in the shop is made in the United States.
Owners Christina and Jason Keck also want loyal customers to know that when they don’t see shop-dog Cooper at the boutique this weekend, it’s because the pooch is scaling back his hours. At 11 years old, Cooper has decided to be in residence just Monday through Thursday.
On the other far east side of the Square, Grimm & Gorly and Pour@322 sell flowers and coffee and so much more. Check out the stocking stuffers for men: calf-length cotton/nylon socks ($8.95) in a variety of patterns, including golf balls and bacon!
Neighboring Toots’ Cake & Candy Supplies is the place to go in Belleville for holiday baking supplies. While chocolate and sprinkles (edible confetti is $2.79 for a 2.4-ounce jar) “are the going thing,” says owner Ann Davis, but serious bakers love the ready-to-use fondant icing from Satin Ice. A 2-pound tub is $15.99 for white and $18.99 for tinted. Don’t forget, the shop is now at 314 E. Main St.
Circa Boutique — there’s a sister shop in downtown Edwardsville, too — always has an eclectic selection of jewelry, tops, dresses and other accessories for young women. Owner Andrea Powell sells her own line of jewelry there under the label Mellow Mountain. She also carries the coolest Fair Trade fleece fingerless gloves made in Nepal. They’re $25 a pair with hand-stitched designs and embroidery on them. Plus, they’re machine washable.
Turned Treasures Gallery has such beautiful things that I want to fill my house with the wood bowls and pots and plates made by local artists and sold there. The wood almost seems alive, it’s so well worked to show off patterns and whorls and colors. Prices can go into four figures for the benches or tables in the back, but there are plenty of gift items in the $40 to $50 range, including amazing serving platters and tall planks designed to be growth charts for the kiddos.
Happy Hop Homebrew & Gourmet has a cool family room/man cave wall hanging: It’s a vinyl record lazer-cut to show the skyline of St. Louis or Chicago. Each comes in a record sleeve and costs $34.99.
I say it time and again, Ben’s has a great selection of children’s toys and playthings you won’t find at big-box stores. I saw two fun things for kids ages 3 and up this week: The Pogo Jumper from Kidoozie ($17.99 has a foam base so kids can hop and hop and hop and not fall off. It also has a handle with a bungee cord so they can grow with it. It can be used indoors.
The second item was the Fluffy Packable Snow kit ($24.99). It comes with 2 pounds of packable indoor “snow” and five molding tools. It’s made of all-natural, organic material. Left out for a while, it gets all light and fluffy like snow, but will not melt or dry out and can be used again and again.
What did I spy in the window of Suzanne’s Missing Pieces? A pair of St. Louis Cardinal stadium seats (with verified tickets attached) for $350.
Tru Luk Boutique, just a block east of the Square, has fleece scarves in your favorite college and NFL/NHL team logos. Each is $12.
Local Lucy’s gift shop, in the first block of East Main Street, has a glorious selection of children’s accessories like bows and ribbons, but also holiday gear for your pooch. Local artists and crafters make most of what you see in the shop, so take a peek at the Christmas fabric bow ties ($6), ties ($8) and flowers ($6) you can easily slip on a doggy collar.
Check out the one-of-a-kind gifts available at Art on the Square’s Unique Boutique today and Saturday, as well as Dec. 5, 6, 12 and 19, from noon to 6 p.m. The shop is on the southeast corner of the Square. You’ll find original artwork, home accessories and other gift items.
More special gift ideas
The Native American Holiday Market at Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site in Collinsville is an annual event not to be missed. It begins today (noon to 5 p.m.) and runs through Sunday (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) inside the interpretive center. More than 30 artists and vendors will sell an incredible array of Indian-made goods from pots and baskets to jewelry and metal work.
On Saturday and Sunday, traditional food will be sold and there will be demonstrations and performances.
Who knew there was something called Cranberry Snow Wine? Evidently, it’s sold only at this time of year in Southern Illinois exclusively at Fezziwig’s Market Place in O’Fallon. Shop owners Tim Moore and Ellen Leaf-Moore are on their third shipment, it’s so popular. I’m told more arrives today and that it is a perfect accompaniment to turkey (Try some with those leftovers!) and makes great holiday sangria. Sample some this weekend when you stop in. A bottle is $15.99 and there are deals for multi-purchases.
Brighten up your holiday decor with glittery initials on corrugated paper, each $5.99 at Ahner Florist in downtown Lebanon.