Online shopping is great, but I still love ducking into stores at this time of year. I really enjoy picking up sweaters to determine if they're "soft enough," chatting with cheery salespeople about new spices and chocolates, and dreaming of the painting a friend will produce with a brand new set of watercolor pencils.
And there's nothing like driving right by the packed mall parking lot to seek out local treasures. Earlier this year, we described shops from around town in our InSider, which you can find in its entirety at here. Below, though, I've highlighted about 20 of my favorites from that list and organized them by recipient — you know, in case you, too, want to avoid the mall, but don't love the hunt as much as I do.
For the active:
• Blindside (293 S. 21st St., blindsidecolorado.net): skateboards, snowboards, skis and gear.
• Mountain Equipment Recyclers (1005 S. Tejon St., merecyclers.com): high-quality resale outdoor gear, with part of their proceeds supporting local military nonprofits.
For the artist:
• Meininger Art Supply (201 S. Weber St., meininger.com): art supplies for professionals and hobbyists.
• Table Rock Llamas Fiber Arts Studio & the DyeWorks (6520 Shoup Road, Black Forest, tablerockllamas.com): yarn, wool, books, patterns, looms, dyes, needles and notions.
• Van Briggle Pottery & Tile (1024 S. Tejon St., vanbriggle.com): American art pottery that carries on the legacy of Artus Van Briggle, begun in 1899.
For the foodie:
• Asian Pacific Market (615 Wooten Road, #160, 573-7500): superstore of Asian food products and assorted home products.
• Pikes Peak Chocolate and Ice Cream (805 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, pikespeakchocolate.com) or The Art of Chocolate (481 Hwy. 105, #208, Monument, artofchocolate.com): fancy chocolates for hostess gifts, stocking stuffers or tired shoppers.
• Savory Spice Shop (110 N. Tejon St., savoryspiceshop.com): freshly ground spices and more than 140 original seasoning blends.
For the kids, of all sizes and ages (and breed):
• American Toy Store (906 Manitou Ave., #104, Manitou Springs, americantoystore.com): toys and games made in the U.S.A.
• Compleat Games and Hobbies (326 N. Tejon St.; compleatgamer.com): D&D, puzzles, model planes and much more.
• Republic of Paws (2411 W. Colorado Ave., republicofpaws.com): anything you can imagine to dress, treat and pamper your pets.
For the ladies:
• Lucy & Louise Atelier (1925 Briargate Pkwy., #615, 635-2077): Free People and Johnny Was clothing alongside fabrics by Amy Butler and Anthropologie-esque home accessories.
• SWISH (1816 W. Colorado Ave., swishvintage.com): excellent-condition vintage and vogue resale apparel.
• Terra Verde (208 N. Tejon St., terraverdestyle.com): women's clothing, gorgeous but not-too-expensive jewelry, and assorted home accessories.
And last but not least, the hard-to-buy-for:
• Black Cat Books and Safron of Manitou (720 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, manitoubooks.com): books, clothing and accessories, and a house cat to greet you.
• Celebration Conscious Living Store (2209 W. Colorado Ave., celebrationstore.com): books, crystals, jewelry, CDs, tarot cards, incense and wands.
• Yobel Market (2528 W. Colorado Ave., yobelmarket.com): global, fair-trade products, like purses, jewelry and home accessories.