Some of My Favorite Gift-Supplying Stores

Seeing how it's November and everyone has had holidays on their minds for at least two months (seriously, our Target had the Christmas section up and going in the middle of September -- move school supplies out, move holidays in), I thought it'd be nice to do a round up of some of my favorite stores around Bloomington and the internet so you could be thinking of places to get gifts. November and December seem to go by more quickly than any other months, so the holidays will be here before you know it.

I like to shop local as much as possible, or at least to support "small" artists versus big box stores, for what I can. (Target has its place, but not on this list). Obviously depending on where you live, you will not have access to the physical stores I list below. Some of the stores and artists might ship directly to you (call them up and ask). You can also use this as a catalyst for getting out and exploring your own community.

This is by no means a comprehensive list, just some places I personally like around town that I have either bought gifts at or would consider buying gifts from. There are literally hundreds of shops around the area! And, hopefully this is obvious, but I like more stores than just listed here! Disclaimer: none of these businesses even know I am plugging them, and I'm not receiving any compensation for being on this list.

Gather :handmade shoppe & Co: -- Small business located in Fountain Square Mall (Suite 112). They have lots of local and small artist products, and they get new products in regularly. Personally, I really like them and enjoy supporting two small businesses with one stone (I bought my Indiana necklace here). They also offer classes which might be a fun, different sort of present! PS. They are having a "last minute gift fair" on Dec 14 from 12-6pm.

By Hand Gallery -- Small business located in Fountain Square Mall (1st floor, right next to Gather). This store also features local artists, but there is more of a "fine art" appeal to it. You can get some really nice items here. I got a limestone Indiana ornament for Eric here last year (the only place in the world I could find an Indiana-but-not-IU-related ornament!). I enjoy going in here to browse and see all the beautiful things people make.

Sahara Mart -- Local grocery store; main location on 3rd St near 46, second location on 2nd near Walnut. You might think it's weird that I'm mentioning a grocery store, but this is seriously the coolest grocery store ever. You can get all kinds of cool international food products (I got my dad some candied marzipan last year), dozens of products are available in bulk, there is a giant olive bar, they have an immense selection of natural/organic food and home products, you can find loads and loads of chocolates, and their wine and beer selection is unmatched. Hundreds and hundreds (maybe thousands) of wine bottles line half the store, and beer is not forgotten either. When I want Russian beer (Baltika), I get it here. At the very least, you should just go in and check it out. It will be hard to leave empty-handed.

Bloomingfoods -- Local coop grocery store; multiple locations but the biggest is on 3rd near Target. Again with the grocery store, but you could go in and buy all kinds of crazy organic products here. I could see bringing some tasty foodstuffs as a hostess present, or just buying organic products for someone you know likes them but for whom it might be a little pricey.

Wineries and Breweries -- you can't really go wrong with beer and wine as presents. I would recommend every brewery in town for a growler or 6-pack pick-up based on your loved one's taste preferences. Upland Brewery, Quaff On (Big Woods) Brewing Company, Function Brewing, and Lennie's/BBC (Bloomington Brewing Company) all have great beer. The Tap also has great beer (yes, they're now a brewery too) and will start selling growlers next week. Oliver Winery is the main wine player in town (and it's good -- and cheap, and available in every grocery store), but Butler Winery is also here!

Markets -- There are several annual holiday markets that happen in November and early December. At the very least this season, I will be at the Handmade Market this weekend, and on November 29th, the Holiday Market at the Farmer's Market. You find a comprehensive list of all the fairs going on from now until Dec 24th at this link. There are tons!

Nearby -- Nashville
There are a bazillion shops in Nashville, halfway between Bloomington and Columbus. It's an artist colony/art mecca/artist's retreat and it really shows. There are dozens of art galleries and woodworking/furniture/leatherworking galleries to visit, lots of little tourist-y type shops (Life is Good, stuff like that), loads of "for the home" stores, lots of homemade soaps and candy stores, and some real gems. There are a couple antique/vintage stores that I like a lot -- The Emerald Pencil (run by an artist) and Olde Magnolia House Inn/4th Sister Vintage (also run by an artist), as well as the large Brown County Antique Mall. But really, there are "over 200 unique shops" to look through in Nashville and something to suit virtually everyone. There are also two wineries and a brewery -- the Brown County Winery, Chateau Thomas Winery, and Big Woods Brewing Company.

There are a few stores I gravitate to when searching for presents online, if I can't find what I'm looking for in a store. I actually find a lot of what I'm looking for on Amazon, which doesn't jive with local business ideals, but sometimes you need something mass produced :) Some other big players with more interesting gift options I like to check out are Fab and UncommonGoods. Of course, there's always Etsy for some homemade or vintage goodness. And the other store I like to browse (and usually find some cool stuff) is called ScoutMob (the one is really my favorite -- probably because it directly supports small businesses).

Other Places Worth a Mention
Visitor's Centers and museums usually have gifts -- books, ornaments, various artifacts of the area, etc. Check out the Bloomington Visitor's Center, Monroe County History Center, and Brown County Visitor's Center for items local to the area -- and to find out what else you might be missing! I actually found the limestone ornament last year by contacting the Bloomington Visitor's Center; they are a great resource.

Other Gift Ideas
"Experience" gifts are some of the best kinds, and you can easily share in the experience (if you want).
Food -- there are hundreds of interesting restaurants/bars/food stores/liquid stores around town that offer gift cards and would make for a great present or excuse to see your friend/loved one again after the holidays.
Luxury -- Spa/nail salon/hair salon gift cards are always welcome. You can buy some ubiquitous spa gift cards online (like and make sure that there is somewhere nearby the person can go to.
Events -- Tickets to shows, sporting events, concerts, etc. are all good ideas. Bloomington has an abundance of cultural events to get tickets to. (And you can always buy tickets for the person in their own town, too. The internet makes all things easy.)
Excursions/To-do's -- Zip lining, caving, and historical tours are all popular things to go do in south central Indiana. But you could also gift a yearly or lifetime park pass to Brown County State Park (or another state park of your choosing) or a National Parks park pass. You can also gift yearly or lifetime memberships to museums. There are also all kinds of paint-your-own/make-your-own stores around that you can gift classes to, among all kinds of other classes or events you can set people up with.

[update 11/7] Just saw this Local First Bloomington group!
Some of My Favorite Gift-Supplying Stores Some of My Favorite Gift-Supplying Stores Reviewed by Maria on 3:54:00 PM Rating: 5

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