Good things come in small ... shops

Pure Design
Pure Design
Posted: December 22, 2012

'Tis the weekend before Christmas and time's running short, to go shop for presents of any sort.

OK, you don't like crowds or getting up early, so you missed Black Friday. You had lights to put up, cards to send, too. In any event, you still have shopping to finish.

You could climb into the car and drive to a mall, which is always a fine option, but the atmosphere is going to be holiday hectic. Want a more sedate alternative? Try some of the area's smaller stores for one-of-a-kind gifts the recipients won't have seen a million times.

Shopping small does more than reduce stress, says Max Milgram, of a.k.a. music in Old City. It may also make you "that hip person who got unique gifts that one Christmas."

And small stores can give their customers a different level of attention, says Michael Fox, the owner of Joseph A. Fox Booksellers in Center City. At a small shop, "you're not greeted as the 'next in line,' " Fox says. "You're greeted with your first name and as a neighbor and friend. You get the attention you deserve."

So put on your sneakers, hit the sidewalks, look in the little shop around the corner for some presents that nobody will expect.

Stuff to read. Pick out a rare book for your friend or family member at Joseph A. Fox Booksellers (1724 Sansom St.), Center City's 60-year-old independent bookstore. "It's difficult for customers to leave without finding something they like, and it's usually something they didn't expect," Fox says. Information: 215-563-4184, foxbookshop.com.

Stuff to consume. Historic Shane Confectionery (110 Market St.) is decked out in holiday cheer. Handmade candy canes, peppermint bark, peppermint marshmallow, and toy soldiers are offered, as are molded chocolate trees and Santas. There are a Gift of the Magi set (frankincense truffle, myrrh truffle, and chocolate with gold plating) and little bags of chocolate coins for Hanukkah. Information: 215-922-1048, shanecandies.com.

Find hand-molded chocolate items at Lore's Chocolates (34 S. Seventh St.), along with hot chocolate mix and caramel marshmallow buttercream pretzels. Information: 215-627-3233, loreschocolates.com.

Get your Italian fix with the fine cheese and meats of Di Bruno's (1730 Chestnut St.). Choose from gift boxes, coffee, pasta sauces, and gourmet meats. Information: 215-665-9220, www.dibruno.com.

Stuff to wear. While everyone else is getting the same patterned scarves from the same stores, you can pick specially designed scarves by Alexander Stadler, made with Italian merino wool, at Stadler-Kahn (1724 Sansom St.). The shop also sells unique T-shirts, jewelry, stationery, soap, and toys. Information: 267-242-7154, stadler-kahn.com.

Stuff for the house. The holiday items at Kitchenette (117 S. 12th St.) have taken over the entire store. Festive aprons, mixers, magnets, towels, and cookie cutters make for creative yet useful gifts. There are cocktail shakers shaped like penguins and holiday coasters made of recycled paper. Information: 215-829-4949, shopkitchenette.com.

Pure Design (500 S. 22d St.) is a little floral shop that has a wide range of interesting gifts from unique botanical scented candles (including Cuban tobacco leaf) to preserved butterflies and dragonflies. Services include creating unique new floral arrangements each month for customers' homes. Information: 215-545-6666, www.facebook.com/philapure.

For your friend whose hobby is collecting vintage items, Era Atomica (1726 E. Passyunk Ave.) is a one-stop shop. It sells midcentury modern furniture and kitchenware. Everything is handpicked, and home decor from a different time will add a quirky touch to a bland living room or bedroom. Information: 215-551-2345, www.era-atomica.com.

Stuff to listen to. Check out a.k.a.music (27 N. Second St.) in Old City, which has one of the largest used-CD collections in the city, but primarily sells new items. This season, huge Beatles LP boxed sets of everything the Fab Four ever sang are special selections. Information: 215-922-3855, www.facebook.com/pages/aka-music/93787481572.

Stuff from museums. Find gifts for the art lovers or aspiring artists in your family at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway). The museum gift shop offers jewelry, T-shirts, posters, and books on art that make classy and thoughtful presents. Information: 215-684-7960,philamuseumstore.org.

Portfolio, the gift shop at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (128 N. Broad St.), also offers gifts for the artistically inclined. Located in PAFA's Hamilton Building, the shop sells jewelry, ceramics, books, greeting cards, and accessories. Information: 215-972-2075, www.pafa.org/Shop/31/.

Animal lovers will appreciate the options at the Philadelphia Zoo gift store (34 W. Girard Ave.). There are things you'd expect - like themed apparel, ornaments, and stuffed animals - and more unusual items, such as drums and rainsticks. Information: 215-243-1100, www.philadelphiazoo.org.


Contact Anna Pan at annapan7@gmail.com.

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