This holiday season, many shoppers will join the frantic rush at the “big box” stores and malls. But for those who prefer a slightly slower pace and a unique gift, there are many to be found in the shops of Camas and Washougal.
Store owners say that buying locally adds up to more than a one-of-a-kind gift and not having to fight over a parking spot.
“You’ll find things you just can’t get at other places,” said Carrie Schulstad, owner of The Uncommon Gift in Camas. “You’re putting money into the local economy and supporting local artists and entrepreneurs. And people love the gifts because they are unique.”
True to its name, Schulstad’s store sells a variety of handmade gifts from local artisans. Items include birdhouses, chocolate, silverware, paintings, scrabble necklaces, fingerless mittens, beaded serving ware, purses, fused glass bracelets and more.
Katie Berggren, an internationally known painter who lives in east Vancouver, sells items at The Uncommon Gift.
She began selling paintings while still in high school in the late 1990s. Now, Berggren specializes in motherhood and nurturing themes.
“During a local event, I am so honored to get to meet local families and have touching conversations with them; finding similar threads in our lives and watching them find special personal meaning in specific paintings,” she said. “I have met so many mothers and fathers with whom I’ve shared connections, tears and stories.”
Berggren said that while selling online is a rewarding experience because someone far away has connected with her work, it doesn’t have the same feeling that selling locally brings.
“I do not get to see smiling faces and have eye contact with buyers,” she said. “I do not get to chat with them about why they are choosing a certain piece, and how it speaks to them. However, there have been wonderful email conversations with some, and many mothers have sent photos of their families, just for fun.”
Annice Sampson knits fingerless mittens and hats for sale at The Uncommon Gift. She also sells hand-knitted items at A Twist on Time, an antique shop that recently opened on Fourth Avenue in downtown Camas. In addition, she displays her items at local bazaars.
“I like selling locally because people know you and your craftsmanship,” she said. “People will come up to me and say they enjoy what I make. It’s a really special feeling.”
Sampson added that a benefit for gift givers is that they are buying something that no one else has.
“Not everyone is walking around wearing the same thing,” she said. “I think that is wonderful and very special.”
Ken Navidi, co-owner of Navidi’s Olive Oils & Vinegars in downtown Camas, said there are several items which make great gifts.
“We have small bottles of olive oils and vinegars for stocking stuffers,” he said. “Also, if you are doing any holiday cooking, you can pretty much make a whole meal here. We sell pastas and pesto sauce, and local lamb from Reister Farms.”
Navidi’s also sells fresh bread on Fridays and Saturdays.
“We also have different recipes for how to use the olive oil and vinegar,” he said. “There are great health benefits to using vinegar. Olive oil is great in cooking, too, because it’s a good fat.”
In Washougal, the Main Street Mercantile has everything from garden art to makeup to mobiles.
There is also a small amount of handmade jewelry, crystal sun catchers and ornaments.
“We sell a little bit of everything,” co-owner Heidi Kramer said. “Customer service is the main reason for shopping locally. People also save on money and gas by not having to drive very far.”
Kramer said that she is more than happy to fill special requests, too.
“People get a lot of personal attention that they wouldn’t get in a big store,” she said. “I’ll do the research for them.”
Tessa Condon of New Orleans was shopping in the mercantile for Christmas gifts.
“I think I’ve just about finished,” she said. “Now it’s time for the boyfriend to do some.”
Condon, who is visiting relatives in Washougal, enjoyed her trip to the store.
“It’s great because you never know what you’ll find or what you need,” she said. “The prices are pretty incredible, too. You get a lot more for your money than at the big stores.”