Holiday Gift Giving Ideas
It’s the holiday season again and most chain stores are jammed pack with gift seeking shoppers. As you contemplate the people for whom you’d like to show appreciation this December, consider buying local as a way to avoid the crowds and invest in the Richmond economy.
The “Think. Shop. Buy. Local” campaign created by The Retail Merchants Association (RMA) encourages people to do just that. According to RMA website, there are studies that show that 45 cents is reinvested into the local community for every $1 spent. Citing the latest Consumer Expenditure Survey, the website explains that if the average Southern metropolitan household of 2.5 residents would invest what it spends on average in a year ($45,225) on local purchases, an estimated $20,350 would be returned to the local economy. With approximately 510,000 households in Richmond, that would be a return of $10.4 billion in wages, manufacturer’s products, taxes and donations to non-profits.
“As our economy slowly regains its strength and begins to improve, putting money into our local businesses… is a great way to ‘give back’ without even rolling your sleeves up,” says Amy ‘MiMi’ Wentz, founder of BlackRVA, an online guide focused on African American culture in the Richmond area.
Melody Short, founder of ARTisan Café, agrees. She explains, “When we shop local we support and invest in our community; we reduce environmental impact, put our tax dollars to work in our own neighborhoods and encourage area prosperity. Ultimately, we support ourselves. Shopping locally this holiday season demonstrates that we value RVA local artisans & business owners, the people that ensure our city remains vibrant, stable and relevant in this economy.” Partnering with local businesses is a key component of the ARTisan Café which sponsors day-long events featuring vendors that offer handmade, natural and holistic products; visual artists, literary artists, wine vintners, creators of home décor, live musicians and gourmet organic food.
When thinking of gift-giving, one of the businesses both Short and Wentz recommend is Box Brown Imports. The fair trade retail store, located at 518 N. Second Street in historic Jackson Ward, carries a variety of gift options such as handmade jewelry, home décor, art, sculpture, Historic Jackson Ward memorabilia, sorority and fraternity apparel, books, candles, postcards and natural body products. A gift idea suggested by the store is its Box Brown Skincare for Men products which include pre shave oil, shaving soap, facial wash, facial scrub and pure shea butter. All items support artisans who would otherwise be unemployed or underemployed in Richmond as well as in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. Gift certificates are available and can be purchased online at www.boxbrownimports.com.
For products for the mind, body and spirit, Short recommends Kindred Spirits, located at 106 W. Broad Street. “The Kindred Spirit family has been a pillar in the Richmond community for 20+ years so it’s critical that we continue to support them and their wonderful offerings,” says Short. The boutique features books, custom jewelry, African incense, scarves, oils and the Brown Sugar Naturals product line of soaps, skin care, hair care and candles.
Wentz recommends a gift certificate to La Petite Pazzazz as a unique gift for youth. Located at 1420 N. Parham Road in Regency Mall, the hair salon and spa serves children ages 2-17. Some of the services provided include hair cuts for boys, relaxers, hair braiding, manicures, pedicures, facials, massage and glitter makeup.
For adults on your list who could use some pampering, consider a gift certificate to Main Street Spa and Wellness Center. The center strives to “consistently offer a complete spa experience that will bring new levels of vitality, health, and natural well-being” to the lives of their customers. Located in Suite A of 3037 West Cary Street, Main Street offers massages, aromatherapy wraps, waxing, facials for men and women, and wellness services like reflexology and colonics. Gift certificates as well as holiday specials are available online at www.mainstreetspa.org.
There are many ways to give gifts that indulge the taste buds. Umami Gourmet Coffee and Exotic Tea, for instance, has over 130 delicious antioxidant-packed blends of loose teas. Black, oolong, fruit, herbal and green teas as well as tea accessories can be purchased at the store and online at www.umamiteas.com. Sample packets, which are ideal for gift baskets or as stocking stuffers, can be purchased at the shop for only $1.
For anyone who loves home cooking, Wentz recommends a gift certificate to Mama J’s restaurant. This family-owned restaurant serves southern food in the tradition of Sunday dinner at grandma’s house. Favorites on their menu include pan fried catfish, candied yams, macaroni and cheese, greens and homemade cakes. To purchase a gift certificate, visit the restaurant at 415 North 1st Street and ask for the manager.
Giving tickets to a local event is a way to give loved ones an enjoyable experience with lasting memories. One such event is The Lyric Ave Show, a monthly event that’s packed with poetry, comedy, and live music. Featuring guest artists like Comedian Eddie Bryant, Lyric Ave has been compared to shows like “Def Poetry Jam,” “Showtime at the Apollo” and “In Living Color.” Tickets can be purchased at www.thelyricaveshow.com.
Giving gift cards from national companies can also give back to our local community. For instance, purchasing a gift card through the Scrip program at St. Paul’s Baptist Church provides a percentage of the normal purchase price of the gift card to support people in financial need. A variety of stores participate in the program such as Target, Wawa, Best Buy and Longhorn Steakhouse. During the holidays, some stores give as much as 20% of the cost of the card to the church’s emergency assistance program. For the same $25 you would spend on a gift card at a neighborhood drug store, you can give a $25 gift card to a friend and a donation to people needing help to pay for necessities like electricity, rent or food. Scrip program gift cards can be purchased online or at the church. Call 804-643-4000 for more information.
There are many opportunities to invest in our local economy this holiday season. If we think, shop, and buy local, perhaps the presents we give away will yield benefits for us all.