2021 Gift Guide: Shopping local at the last-minute

By Zach Hagadone
Reader Staff

True to form, I have procrastinated on most aspects of this season — including everything from the mustering of holiday spirit to the writing of this article. I suspect I’m not alone and, if you’re like me, you find yourself scrambling this time of year to do important things immediately before other important things are supposed to happen (all for which you’re unprepared). 

In my case, it’s writing this with a quickness before I’m meeting my mom for lunch, then picking up my kids from a half day of school, then cleaning my house, then packing before we get on the train in the predawn hours to spend a few days with family on the Oregon Coast.

The “Camp Chef” gift bundle at Outdoor Experience. Courtesy photo.

Suffice it to say, I am woefully unready for any of this; yet, Christmas always occurs this way for me — I doesn’t “unfold” as an “experience,” it lands on me like a meteorite that I’ve known for months has been hurtling toward me, but is somehow still a surprise when it lights the atmosphere on fire before burying me in a smoking crater.

Last-minute gift buying is mostly the only kind of gift-buying I do, so I know a thing or two about how best to channel that frantic, 11th-hour purchasing energy (pro-tips: always, always, always shop local — the internet will not help you at this time — and never, never, never make a “coupon” for someone that promises you’ll do something you should be doing anyway). 

Without further ado, because we’re running short on time, here are only a few suggestions that I hope will help:

Local schwag

For a lot of people, living in Sandpoint is one of the defining features of their existence. I have no beef with that — I was born into it — and there’s no better way to flaunt that identity than sporting clothing or raising a glass that bears the logo of any of our cherished local institutions.

Some of my favorite items that telegraph locality are coffee mugs from Evans Brothers (I have two that I use religiously at home) and, in a recent discovery, little glass snifters from The Fat Pig. The former are hefty and utilitarian, the latter are dainty yet sturdy.

I’ll offer a few other words on those Fat Pig glasses — for real, these are a fabulous gift for anyone. They’re just big enough to hold a hefty shot of booze or a healthy snort of port, plus they’re tastefully etched with the Fat Pig logo and (critically) the place name of “Sandpoint, Idaho.” This would be just as suitable for a close loved one or a work pal. 

Other places with especially high-quality schwag are Idaho Pour Authority, which boasts a wide range of clothing items including hats, and MickDuff’s, which inside the main entrance of its brewpub on Second Avenue displays a huge selection of items.

As stated already, these are just a few suggestions — explore downtown and you’ll find that lots of them have items on offer to show local pride and, super huge bonus, no matter what you buy you’re supporting local business. That’s what a real local does, after all.

Adventuring kits

This is something cool that I just noticed the other day: Outdoor Experience, on First Avenue, not only sells some of the finest goods for all kinds of adventuring, but even offers “bundles” of gifts specially curated for various interests.

For instance, OE has the cross-country ski package, with top-notch mittens, a Merino wool beanie and ski maintenance products. There’s also a climbers’ bundle (with guide book, chalk, tape, a lotion bar and bouldering brush); the “camp chef” bundle with a portable stove and fuel, mug, spoon, dehydrated meal and vegetarian backpacking cookbook; and a “casual hiker” bundle, with local guide book, HydroFlask water bottle and a pair of binoculars. Beyond that, there are also bundles for runners, bikers and more. 

There is no better gift for a last-minute gift buyer than having someone else do all the thinking and thoughtfully build a complete package of gifts that pretty much anyone around here would love. Seriously, this is next-level gifting.

Local art

It can sometimes be easy to forget, but when we’re sitting in our favorite local restaurant or bar, oftentimes the art on the walls is not only for sale but made by local creatives. Talk about doing good with your giving, buy a piece of local art and you’re enriching (literally and figuratively) everyone involved in the transaction.

And that’s not to mention the numerous galleries we have around here, including but not limited to the Pend Oreille Arts Council space on Main Street and Second Avenue, the Ross Hall Collection on Cedar Street and the work of local legend Ward Tollbom at his space on First Avenue. Spread your dollars even further and check out the Hope Marketplace, which has a great variety of locally created art pieces to fit any taste.

Sandpoint prides itself on being an “art town,” which means that if you’re looking for it you can find art for sale just about anywhere. Buying last-minute gifts is an artform in itself; why not elevate it with some actual (local) art.

Books by local authors

Much like local art, local writing is an enrichment for us all. As Sandpoint and surrounds are renowned for their fine arts, this is also an amazingly literary area, especially for its population size. 

We can claim big-name, award-winning novelists like Marilynne Robinson (a PEN and Pulitzer winner), Emily Ruskovich (an O. Henry and Dublin International Literary Award winner), Patrick McManus (beloved writer on the outdoors and humorist) and Allie Brosh (whose blog and subsequent books have been viral and critical sensations).

We also have a deep field of local writers whose names might not be as big, but that’s only because The New York Times Bestseller folks haven’t heard about them yet. Some especially notable names (as far as we’re concerned) are Sandy Compton — a local literary institution with a broad catalog of work at Blue Creek Press — and Ryanne Pilgeram, whose sociological study focused on Dover (Pushed Out: Contested Development and Rural Gentrification in the U.S. West) has become a regional sensation among professional social scientists and “regular people” since it was published earlier this year. We also recommend the works of authors and retired educators Dick Cvitanich and Marianne Love.

You can find various of these local authors’ books (and others’) at Vanderford’s on Cedar Street, The Corner Book Store on Fourth Avenue and, as already state, online; but, of course, that’s not going to help you if you’re only now hitting the bricks for gifts.     

Donation made in their name

Finally, perhaps the best gift you can give is literally giving — that is, donating cash to any number of local organizations. Some suggestions: the Panida Theater, the Bonner Community Food Bank, Kinderhaven, 101 Women, POAC, The Festival at Sandpoint, Sandpoint Area Seniors, Rotary, Angels Over Sandpoint… the list goes on. And if you need a list, find a directory of community and service groups on sandpointonline.com. 

If you have someone on your list who already has everything (thus you’re still running around trying to buy for them even as Santa is readying for takeoff) give a gift that gives to more than one individual and truly support the community with a donation in that loved one’s name.

Now that’s the spirit.

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