By Sabina Mollot
With Hanukkah here and Christmas around the corner, time is running out to get holiday gifts, but fortunately there are plenty of options available at neighborhood stores. In fact, this year more than ever, we can’t recommend shopping locally enough. Read on for Town & Village’s ideas for gifts $30 or under, all found at local, brick-and-mortar stores.
- Forget candles and picture frames and find a quirky home gift at new boutique Boyar Gifts, 383B Second Avenue between East 22nd and 23rd Streets.
One recommendation from shop owner Tali Alexander is the store’s five-piece wine kit, $25, which at first glance appears to be a bottle of red wine, but is actually a set that includes a stopper, opener and other bar accessories. Alexander noted this has been especially popular as a housewarming gift. “Most of the time you buy a bottle of wine and then it’s like, ‘How do you open it?’” she said.
Other popular gift items are trinket trays for displaying jewelry or other small items, that read things like, “You the Mensch” and “Matzah matzah man,” $15, and one set of three trinket trays shaped like Russian nesting dolls, $25. A set of five decorative tins of Kusmi Parisian tea is $15 while mugs with various sayings, including, “Who are these kids and why do they keep calling me Grandma?” are $15.
- Surprise a friend or loved one by turning a photo they shared on Facebook into wall art. Wonder Photo, 176 Fifth Avenue between 22nd and 23rd Streets, can turn just about any photo brought in by customer on their phones or a USB card into items ranging from mugs, $8, to 8 x10 inch puzzles, $12 to 5×7 wood canvases that can be hung on a wall, $13. The store offers same-day pickup and there’s a long list of options on how to turn a special photo into a gift on computers at the store, which is also how orders get placed.
- If purchasing a bottle of alcohol as a gift, when in doubt about what kind to get, make it champagne or sparkling wine. At Morton Williams Wine & Spirits, 270 Park Avenue South between 21st and 22nd Streets, store employee Ari Klein informed us, “Everyone drinks champagne. If you don’t know what someone drinks, a bottle of champagne never goes to waste.”
This is especially true on the holidays.
For $30 or less, “There are a lot of good, domestic and imported sparkling wines,” Klein said. One option at the shop is California Conundrum sparkling wine at $25. Other gift items include a set of four wine glasses at $25 or four tumblers at $30.
- For the foodie, head to Bedford Cheese, 67 Irving Place between 18th and 19th Streets, where a representative for the shop, Nina Sparling, noted there are also plenty of items besides cheese to choose from.
“Holiday gifting is a unique opportunity to explore pairings and shop beyond the cheese case,” she said.
Instead, Sparling recommends specialty items the store carries like a jar of Marcelli honey, $16, alongside a small format treat like a robiola wrapped in cherry leaves, $16. Other options include Three Little Figs Pub Chutney from Portland, Oregon, $15, with a chunk of Prairie Breeze cheddar ($18 per lb.) “and, we recommend, a pint,” she said.
“Alternatively,” she added, “skip the cheese altogether: Larchmont Charcuterie makes both pork and beef saucisson ($14, $22 respectively) that we’d travel miles for – alongside a jar of cornichons ($8.50) or cocktail onions ($8.50). It’s our go-to housewarming gift.”
Another option is a “DIY dinner kit” that could consist of Masciarelli spaghetti ($8-$10), Sicilian cherry tomato sauce (Pianogrillo, $9) “so sweet it’ll transport you back to August,” said Sparling, and some Cravero Parmigiano Reggiano ($27 per lb.).
For the best presentation possible, Sparling recommends asking a monger to package items in a cheese box with fake hay, at an additional $5.
- For jewelry, Outlette, 6 West 23rd Street, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, has a selection of charm necklaces on chains made from 14 karat gold-plated sterling silver in gold as well as silver tone that range in price mostly from $18-$30. Charms include the Eiffel Tower, rings, bows and high-heeled shoes. There are also cubic zirconia stud earrings that ranging in price from $20-$30 a pair.
Note: Customers should come by the store before mid-January when this location closes due to a bank moving into the building. Outlette has just opened its new location on the Upper West Side but is still looking for another space close to the original one in Flatiron.
- At Rizzoli bookstore, 1133 Broadway between 25th and 26th Streets, you’ll find two of the year’s hottest political reads, What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton, $30, and Shattered by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes, $28, both dissecting Clinton’s loss in the presidential election.
For those uninterested in politics, however, there’s no shortage of art and picture books. Three options include Driben, Vargas and Elvgren, each featuring pinup art by a master of the genre, Peter Driben, Alberto Vargas and Gil Elvgren, respectively, at $10 each.
Other gift options include sets of stationery featuring paintings by famous artists averaging $10-$17 in price.
- At Whisk, a kitchen supply shop, a surprisingly practical gift can be found in an apothecary-style cabinet full of bitters. Many there are made by a company called Hella Cocktail at $9 for a 4 oz. Bottle, $13 for a 6.7 oz. bottle.
A brand ambassador at the store, Claudia Smith, said they’re appreciated by drinkers and non-drinkers alike. For those who do drink, they’re a way to help re-create the elixirs made at craft cocktail bars (chili pepper is an especially popular choice).
“They realize, ‘oh I can do that at home,’” said Claudia Smith. “But a lot of people who don’t drink will drink bitters with their sparkling water. It cuts out all the sugar and calories.”
Other gifting possibilities include mugs designed to look like traditional street corner coffee cart coffee cups, $12 and Bodum French presses, $30.
- Gifts for the proud New Yorker can be found at Fishs Eddy, 889 Broadway at 19th Street. Home chefs or just anyone who brown bags their lunch might appreciate the set of four small glass bowls decorated with drawings featuring the Manhattan streetscape, $30. Each one comes with a lid for travel.
Other gift items celebrating New York City include mugs covered with a painting of the Brooklyn Bridge, $15, a New York City map puzzle, $23, and packs of city map napkins, $6.
- Ibiza Kidz toy and clothing store, 340 First Avenue between 19th and 20th Streets, has recently stocked up on project-based gifts that allow kids to make something, from home science labs to jewelry making kits.
One especially popular item is the Pizza Garden by Faber Castell, $28, which children use to grow their own herbs in a pizza shaped planter. Other items include a light-up doodle set, $28, a made-to-assemble glowing creature, $28, a comic book kit, $28, a terrarium, $28, and an electronic energy lab, which allows kids to make their own electrified burglar alarm, $24.
Ibiza Kidz owner Carole Husiak said these items are intended for kids ages 4-12, but noted there are also similar ones for toddlers.
If giving clothing, the shop’s short tulle skirts, $28, and crystal covered tee shirts, $18, have been popular items. The shop also offers free gift wrapping with any purchase.
- Deals can also be found at H. Brickman & Sons, 312-316 First Avenue between 19th and 20th Street. Though it’s a hardware store, there is a wall full of classic board games under $30, including many that are under $20. Some of the items when we stopped by included Operation, Hungry, Hungry Hippos, Scrabble and Yahtzee.