Gifts from independent retailers keep money close, put smiles on faces
But first, please read this short message from your local writer:
Every person has a quirk, gift or grace that makes him or her an original.
These gifts are something given or innate, something that arises naturally out of whom the person is:
-- Ann Marie’s brother has encyclopedic knowledge of potatoes and Greek mythology.
-- Jan is hospitality personified.
-- Stephanie can manage a classroom full of 6-year-olds without raising her voice.
-- Randy is steady and reassuring.
-- Robert has a dry sense of humor.
Unfortunately, the world seems determined to make all of us the same, to stick Ann Marie’s brother and Randy into the same sweaters, to give Jan and Stephanie—and possibly even Robert—the same fuzzy bathrobe.
If we’re going to spend the time and money to buy someone a gift, why not buy something that speaks to his or her personality? It’s just as easy as pulling a bathrobe off the rack at the big box store, often is less expensive and makes shopping and giving more fun.
And now, back to our story.
Remember, for every $100 you spend at locally owned, independent businesses, $68 stays in our community in payroll, taxes and other spending. Shop at a national chain and that number drops to $43. Shop online, and that number drops to $0, according to the 3/50 project , the national group that supports independent retailers.
This year, we decided to venture a little farther and share treasures from the surrounding communities. For our Janesville readers who don’t like to drive, we’ve offered local alternatives.
-- Quiet Hut Sports, 186 Main St., Whitewater.
Owner Dave Saalsa believes finding the right match between gift and giftee. Snowshoes, for example, are great for people who like to be outdoors but don’t have the energy or balance for a sport such as cross country skiing. He’ll sell you the bike that fits your riding habits, rather than the other way around.
-- Janesville option: Michael’s Cycles, 2716 N. Pontiac Drive.
Snowboards, bikes and treadmills, helmets clothing and shoes—Michael’s is another independent store that will try to match your needs to your gear. Or rather, your speed to the number of gears you want to shift.
-- Reflections of the Past, 182 W. Main St., Whitewater.
Vintage hats, clothes arranged by era instead of by size, carpet purses, box purses, vintage jewelry, ball gowns, dress gloves of all colors and red cowboy boots. Need we say more?
This consignment shop features all of the above, plus a selection of modern clothing, a mermaid costume and a pleasant atmosphere.
-- Janesville option: It’s hard to match the mix of vintage stuff found at Reflections, but several local consignment shops offer both classic and modern styles. Perfectly Plus, at the corner of Racine and Main streets, is for women size 16 and up. You’ll find everything from plain ol’ sweaters to elegant winter coats.
-- Whitewater Aquatic Center, 580 S. Elizabeth St., Whitewater.
This aquatic and fitness center features a large pool with lane lines for lap swimming and an open area for recreational swimming and play.
A separate area contains a large waterslide, a zero entry area with play structures and a short but fast lazy river. A whirlpool features a mini waterfall, and there are plenty of beach chairs for tired grown-ups.
Here’s the best part: It’s $6 for a daily pass. Or buy a pack of ten for $52 and provide a day—or several days—of fun for a family.
-- Janesville option: The YMCA, 221 Dodge St., offers day passes for their aquatic center as well. The cost is $12 for adults and $6 for teens or children. The aquatic center features a lazy river, water play structures, zero entry pool and exercise area and a separate lap pool.
-- The Cornerstone/A Gathering, 103 Beloit St., Walworth.
Don’t ask me what the store’s name means. Rather, let me tell you that the store’s collection of the quirky, the classy and the unusual is a delight.
Here’s a small sampling of the items they carry: Colorful tableware from TAG and other leading designers, the Klutz-line of activity books for kids, locally made hats and mittens, children’s books, cookbooks, gifts for girls who love horses, jewelry, chore magnets for kids, funky handbags and shopping bags, a spending journal to help you with your financial goals, a food journal to help you with your dieting goals, BRAND NAME utensils that add a cheerful note to any kitchen and clever wall art.
My personal favorite? A small sign that says, “Don’t mistake endurance for hospitality.”
-- Janesville option: K & W Greenery, 1328 E. Highway 14.
Many people are surprised by the range of original gifts—garden-related and otherwise—that can be found at this favorite plant store. Check out the painted and powdered poinsettias.
-- On the Square Antique Mall, 101 Beloit St., Walworth.
Connected to the Cornerstone, this antique mall features three floors of antique booths. You’ll find everything from original lithographs from the early 1800s to a funky, late-60’s lamp with colored globes. Old books, postcards, advertising materials, furniture, glassware and Americana between 250 and 10 years old fill the shelves.
-- Janesville option: Carousel Consignments, 31 S. Main St.
What do they have? It would be easier to list what they don’t have. You’ll find inexpensive antique furniture, glassware, china, inkstands, kettles, lightning rods, wagons, World Fair memorabilia plus a large selection of random and whimsical stuff. Try to stay out of the way of the bearded guy carrying heavy stuff.
-- Bibliomaniacs, 324 E. Walworth Ave., Delavan.
This is a used bookstore carrying everything from recent bestsellers to classic works still in their antique bindings. Antiques of other kinds dot the store, which also carries greeting cards and gift items.
-- Janesville option: Quiet and unassuming, the Milwaukee Street Bookstore, 218 W. Milwaukee St., is the kind of place you can get lost in for hours. The collection covers all eras and genres. As an interesting touch, the bookstore carries an intriguing collection of retro and antique tools.
-- Edgerton Pharmacy, 711 N. Main St., Edgerton.
Don’t let the sheet metal exterior fool you. The Edgerton Pharmacy contains some of the hippest gifts in Rock County. It’s like that Madison favorite, Orange Tree Imports—only less expensive, larger and with more variety.