Local vendors offer unique gift ideas

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Local vendors offer unique gift ideasIf you are looking for something more personalized than a gift certificate or a new tablet for your loved one this year, scores of local Mom & Pop Shop vendors are sitting on hidden treasures just waiting to be discovered by holiday shoppers.

Just Imagine owner Jim Henry (who noted that “if you’re a small business it actually owns you”) said that now that the frantic kickoff to holiday shopping season is over, shoppers typically shift their focus to smaller, more specialized, stores like his.

“Black Friday is generally geared toward big-box stores and flat screens … and stress. We’re a stress-free store,” said Henry.

He said that Just Imagine carries merchandise that appeals to anyone who wants unique, educational or long-lasting gifts.

“A lot of people who come here want games that families can play together. So much in our society we’re isolated now, or focused on our gadgets. During this time of year, people are looking for interactive things they can do together.”

His shop carries everything from rockets to board games and puzzles to guides to a murder-mystery dinner party to building kits to teaching tools and more. Some of the popular gifts this year for young children include magnetic toys and hand puppets.

“Specialty stores are created for individuals who want to do things together, who want to participate in hands-on activity,” said Henry.

Albert White of the Body & Bath Boutique, next door to Just Imagine on China Lake Boulevard, makes and sells a wide variety of bodycare products.

“Everything you see was made right here. I’ve been doing this for almost 10 years now,” said White, who now has another store in Tehachapi as well as a thriving online following. “We’re actually slowly changing over to a new name — E3 Skin.”

His products range from body sprays to soaps to creams and powders to specialized face products. “Our rosascea line works wonders.”

He attributes the success of his formulas to the fact that he does not use any petroleum-based chemicals. “Everything we make uses fine molecules — which penetrate the skin to where it can do good things.”

White added that his products are not just for women, but for anyone who appreciates quality. (At 70 years old, and nearly wrinkle free, he is a user himself.)

Catering mainly to women — and the men who love them — is Kim Metcalf of Romancing the West on Balsam Street.

“Our customer base is very diversified,” she said, adding that her store carries an eclectic variety of clothing, accessories, gourmet foods, candles and more in Western, Victorian and vintage motifs.

“We carry something for everyone — all ages, tastes and styles,” she said. “And we try to stay unique. We have lines that are offered only here. If someone else starts to carry it we usually discontinue and offer something else — which means we also are always offering new products.”

One line the store offers an exclusive for is Crabtree & Evelyn. “This is a very popular line which has been around for a long time. And you can only find it here.”

The “it” item of the season, said Metcalf, is the scarf pendant. “It is exactly what it sounds like,” she said, displaying one of the many elaborately styled ornaments that fits onto virtually any scarf.

The holiday season is also when her store amps up its gourmet offerings. “They’re not here yet, but the Tortuga rum cakes are on their way,” she said. The Caribbean-inspired treat sells out every year.

Also on their way — and also expected to sell out quickly — are the gourmet truffles. “These are just to die for,” said Metcalf. “They are made to order from scratch, and we have them shipped in from Washington state. They are just amazing.”

Red Rock Books owner Ann Rizzardini said that although her store still offers new and used books for the bibliophiles in your life, the store also carries much more than the name implies.

“We have a lot of Melissa and Doug toys that are popular,” she said. “They make wooden puzzles and games and little make-your-own trains and piggy banks and things for kids. And they are sturdy — especially for how inexpensive they are.”

Calendars, cards, purses, accessories and other novelty items can also be found throughout the store.

This year’s hot titles include anything from the 50 Shades of Grey series by E.L. James and the Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher. “Also, anything about Lincoln is really popular right now,” said Rizzardini. “Bill O’Reilly’s ‘Killing Lincoln’ is big. There are a couple of others as well.”

Another big trend in literature is in biographies of classic rockers. Pete Townsend, Jimmy Page, Gregg Allman, Rod Stewart and Keith Richards are among those who have told their stories, now available at Red Rock.

But like most things, the quality and appeal of these and other locally sold gifts are best testified to by a visit in person.

Story First Published: 2012-12-05