Gifts of the Magi

Wise holiday shopping means a stop at these local spots featuring unusual items.






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Publication: Syracuse New Times
Author: Oppedisano, Lorna
Date published: November 23, 2010

'Tis the season. The season for bundling up and trekking out in search of the Perfect Christmas Gift. The season for Santa to prep his reindeer for that heavy load of presents. Lucy would tell us it's the season of commercialism, you blockhead. But don't forget, 'tis the season of giving-of giving hope and giving back, be it locally or globally. This year, make the holidays about community, not commercialism. By shopping at these stores, you'll not only find the Perfect Christmas Gift, but help other families around the local and global communities.

Syracuse Cultural Workers' Tools for Change

What: cards, calendars, posters, buttons, bumper stickers, books, bookmarks, shirts, CDs, DVDs, mugs, flags, cloth bags

Where: 400 Lodi St.

When: Mondays through Fridays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; open Saturdays, call for holiday hours

How much: $2-$150

Why: "Keeping your business in the community keeps your community in business."

-Donna Tarbania, Syracuse Cultural Workers Associate Publisher

These 11 words explain why Syracuse Cultural Workers should be a stop along the path of your Perfect Christmas Gift search this year. Housed in an unassuming building off James Street, Tools for Change publishes items such as calendars, cards and buttons, a.k.a. great holiday gifts and stocking stuffers. By supporting Tools for Change, the money spent stays in the local community and helps to support the Syracuse Cultural Workers.

"We try to do as much locally as we can," Tarbania says. "We get involved in the life of the neighborhood, we try to be good neighbors." By supporting causes such as environmentalism, peace, justice, sustainability and community, the SCW lead a work life infused with values, as Tarbania put it. All shirts sold at Tools for Change are made organic and fair wage, and other items are printed locally.

Tools for Change's items can be found online, as well as in-store. Check out their website every Thursday when one selected item is available for 30 percent off.

For more information, call (800) 949-5139 or visit www.syracuseculturalworkers.com.

Craft Chemistry

What: housewares, clothing, jewelry, wall décor, hair accessories, ceramics, novelty soaps

Where: 745 N. Salina St.

When: Wednesdays and Thursdays, 1 to 7 p.m.; Fridays, 1 to 9 p.m.; Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

How much: $5-$175

Why: For anyone on your Perfect Christmas Gift List who appreciates unique art and funky, alternative crafts and jewelry, look no further than Craft Chemistry. This small and vibrant shop, located in Syracuse's Little Italy district, serves as an art boutique and gallery. "{We're about} showcasing and selling locally handmade goods, in a gist," says Briana Kohlbrenner, who devised Craft Chemistry.

In a city blooming with artistic creativity and shoppers looking for outlets for the out-of-the-ordinary, Craft Chemistry is a perfect fit. "Craft Chemistry provides an alternative shopping experience offering goods that are unique, original, inspired by contemporary trends, and can't be found elsewhere in the city," boasts Kohlbrenner. "Shop at Craft Chemistry for yourself, friends and family, and feel good about buying local, buying handmade, and supporting your local artists."

Not sure exactly what would make that Perfect Christmas Gift? Don't get your Santa hat in a bundle-gift certificates are available.

For more information, call 424-1474 or visit www.craftchemisty.com.

Way Off the Beaten Path

What: scarves, handbags, leather goods, sweaters, dresses, yoga clothes, silk skirts, pajamas, robes, handmade jewelry

Where: 136 Walton St.

When: Mondays through Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

How much: $10-$150

Why: Upon entering Way Off the Beaten Path, located in Armory Square, you will feel transported to another land. Brilliant colors will chase away your holiday stress. And you will no doubt find that Perfect Christmas Gift for the clothes and jewelry lover on your list.

All items in Way Off the Beaten Path are designed by owner Angelique Mango and made by her and others in India or Bangkok. "I work directly with all my people," Mango says. "I know what goes into everything; I eliminate the middle man."

While Mango is abroad connecting with her peeps, her associate Kayla Nolan manages the store. "Shopping locally is all about community. You should do holiday shopping in the community. Everybody's got a family," Nolan says. "All we want to do is make people's day."

The positive energy that flows through the store will make your day. With scarves starting at just $10, and a large collection of handmade jewelry, the Perfect Christmas Gift is waiting to be discovered. "With the different price ranges," Mango notes, "I can offer what's in someone's budget."

For more information, call 701-5950 or visit www.wayoffthebeatenpath.com.

Fair World Marketplace

What: ornaments, cards, holiday décor, table candles and linens, jewelry, scarves, handbags, games, chocolate, coffee, musical instruments, Putumayo CDs

Where: 4471 E. Genesee St., DeWitt

When: Mondays, noon to 6 p.m.; Tuesdays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

How much: 35 cents-$400

Why: Is World Peace and Equality an item on your List? While buying the Perfect Christmas Present from Fair World Marketplace won't achieve that right away, it certainly is a step in the right direction. Fair World Marketplace, a member of the Fair Trade Federation and Co-op America, strives "to promote social justice and economic independence for disadvantaged people in countries around the world by providing a market for their original handmade crafts," the website states.

"Fair trade is about providing good living wages, as opposed to minimum wage or even less," says Maurine McTyre-Watts, Fair World Marketplace's founder, "and making longtime partnerships with those people."

All items in the store, with the exception of the Putumayo CDs, are produced by small co-ops and family groups, and purchased from fair trade groups. Fair World Marketplace also promotes sustainability, selling items made from recycled or locally found materials. With a wide variety of items available, you are sure to find a Perfect Christmas Present, while putting out some good karma into the world.

Keep your eyes on Fair World Marketplace's website throughout the holiday season for coupons. For more information, call 446-0326 or visit www.fairworldmarketplace.com.

Around the World

What: ornaments, baskets, home décor, jewelry, toys, gloves, hats, socks, clothing, nativity sets, crosses, handbags

Where: Second floor, Lord & Taylor wing, Carousel Center

When: Mondays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Sundays, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; call or check www.carouselcenter.com for extended holiday hours

How much: $4 and up

Why: If the season is not complete without a stop at the mall to experience the bustling holiday spirit, make your first stop Around the World. The store name is no lie-goods found here are literally from around the world. With 60 percent to 80 percent of the store being fair trade items, and merchandise ranging from home décor to toys to clothing, your Perfect Christmas Present is just waiting to be found.

Store owner Kevin Dabit spends two to three months a year overseas purchasing fair trade items from a number of different countries including Thailand, Peru, Egypt and Nepal, just to name a few. "We just got back a few weeks ago, and now we're starting to get the store into Christmas mode," Dabit says.

Dabit's mission is to keep expanding how many countries his store represents and supports. "We try to work with different groups," Dabit says. "We like to spread the money to different people."

Around the World also supports the local community, featuring items made by artists from Rochester and Syracuse. So as you wander through the mall in all its holiday bliss, don't forget to stop into Around the World for that Perfect Christmas Gift. Not only will you make the person on your list happy-you'll also help someone around the world.

For more information, call 701-4544.

¡Qué Colores!

What: Table linens, women's accessories, hand-crafted jewelry, handbags, wallets, backpacks, natural skin scare products, baby slings, toys, baby accessories, books, note cards, art, glass tableware, coffee

Where: Online

When: Whenever you want!

How much: $15-$90

Why: Not a fan of the huge holiday crowds? Not to worry. You can sit back and relax by the fireplace with some hot cocoa while you shop for that Perfect Christmas Gift. From the comfort of your own home, you can complete your List, while helping those less fortunate in Guatemala. "My focus is the more in-depth focus on one country," says Muriel Medina, ¡Qué Colores! founder.

¡Qué Colores!, formerly located in a store in Fulton, has future plans to take up a storefront window once more in Florida. But for now, their items can be bought at the website.

One item from ¡Qué Colores! that would make a great stocking stuffer is the macadamia oil. This help gives people in Guatemala a cash crop, food crop and firewood. "It's great skincare products. It's really great stuff," Medina says. "You're welcome to order it online and try it."

So with just a few clicks, make the holiday season brighter not just for your loved one, but also for those less fortunate across the globe. For more information, call 256-8280 or visit www.quecolores.com.

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