It’s December 22, you haven’t done your holiday shopping yet, and the last place you want to be is the Mall of America. Or Target. Or the grocery store. Don’t worry: you’re one of us. You wanted to make all of your own gifts, but you were too busy, or you forgot to put baking powder in that batch of candy cane cookies that took four hours to make, or you realized that you’ve been giving mix cds wrapped in newspaper for over a decade. You wanted to put a lot of time into finding the perfect thing for everyone all at once, but suddenly that time slipped away into mountains of snow.
Luckily we live in an area where local businesses thrive. Mom-and-pop shops still linger at old streetcar stops. Immigrant entrepreneurs developed one-stop-fits-all markets to rival the biggest chain stores. And somehow, by some twist of fate, there seems to be a liquor store within three blocks of every independent bookstore, so your bespectacled uncle’s Franzen-n-bourbon New Year’s dreams can be achieved in one fell swoop.
The crew of the Twin Cities Runoff has compiled a number of places where you can shop for the whole family, plus pick up lunch and a few other things in the meantime. In the name of efficient, creative gift-giving, here’s our Twin Cites Stressless Shopping Guide to Leave You DeMalled and UnChained, organized East to West:
El Burrito Mercado, 175 Cesar Chavez St., St. Paul
Know someone who is way too stuck on IKEA’s idea of streamlined, muted decor? Force some Mexican folk art upon him! El Burrito Mercado’s gift selection consists mainly of home decorations, ornamentation, furniture and jewelry from Jalisco and Oaxaca, filled with spectacular design and color. There’s jewelry for your teenage sister in her Frida Kahlo stage, colorful glassware for your cousin’s New Year’s cocktail party, and beautiful wooden crosses covered in milagros—literally, miracles, but they’re plated symbolic charms—for your eclectic Catholic mother (hi Mom, let’s hope you’re too busy to read this!).
Bonus: El Burrito Mercado is also a grocery store, cafe, and catering service, so you can eat lunch and pick up some last-minute snacks for your festivities, whatever they may be. They also sell the biggest piñatas I’ve ever seen, although admittedly I haven’t seen too many piñatas. Let’s make that a resolution for 2011: more piñatas. —D.C.
Selby and Dale, St. Paul: Girls and Boys, Plus Full Stomachs
Primp, 618 Selby Ave.
Describing itself as a “chic and cheap boutique,” Primp has a frequently changing selection of hip clothing for young women. It’s not SoHo high fashion, but it’s certainly comparable to clothes showcased in other, much pricier boutiques. Their stock rotates, so if you don’t find something you like, wait a week or two and check back again. Gift certificates are also a great idea.
Black Blue, 614 Selby Ave.
For the well-dressed man: it may leave a slightly bigger dent in one’s pocket, but it will be worth it. Nearly everything in the impeccably designed shop could be filed under “Things I Want My Boyfriend to Wear.”
Treats are available at Bars Bakery, the Mississippi Market Co-op can help with your grocery needs, and if you need a break—hey! it’s the holidays—or a gift for the booze-inclined you can find some beer and a vodka on Cathedral Hill. —E.E.