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What Wal-Mart doesn't want you to know 

Will buying local make you sexier? Will it benefit your community?

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A locavore is defined as a person who makes an effort to only eat foods that are grown locally. But why stop there? Eating local is great, but gifting local is much easier and now's the time to do it.

With that in mind, we're inviting those readers who'll be buying gifts in the next few weeks to consider doing so at independently owned stores in the Pikes Peak region. If everyone who read the Indy spent $100 this way, we'd pump $11 million into our local economy. That may not be enough to bail out the Big Three automakers, but it could have a big effect in the Springs.

We've scoped out a range of under-$100 gifts from local places that will please your recipients and your conscience. Most of these retailers scored "Best Of Colorado Springs" awards in our 2008 readers' poll, so your fellow readers have effectively vouched for them already.

Forget those online monopolies, cookie-cutter department stores and soulless mega-malls. You can do it! Yes, you can. For more local ideas, click on the Best Of icons on the right side of the homepage.

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For hobbyists

Blindside (293 S. 21st St., 636-1554) has quickly become the place to go for anything snowboard or ski. Jon Easdon's one-year-old west side shop offers a wide range of snow-sports products, including Anon ski/snow goggles for $80 to $95. He's also got quite a few products to keep you warm on your trip up to the mountain: Coal beanies start at $14.99, and you can get a Burton Dry Ride jacket for $99.99.

For those who would never be caught dead skiing (or are afraid they'd end up that way), there are more genteel pursuits such as stringing beads. 1. Silver Sparrow Beads (108 Cañon Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-1226) has only been in Manitou since earlier this year, but it's already attracted a loyal following.

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Visitors can choose from an enormous variety of beads, twine and stones. The selection of materials includes real pearls, bone (!), wood, semi-precious stones and high-quality Czech glass. The choices of what you can make are mathematically infinite, and you can construct necklaces, bracelets and more either by yourself or with the help of on-site experts. Prices depend on the materials you use to make your gift, but don't expect any one creation to run you more than $30. Actually, owner Michele Underwood will be waiving the stringing fee this season.

Graner Music (4460 Barnes Road, 574-2001; 8674 N. Union Blvd., 579-7665) offers year-round lessons for numerous instruments. (Sorry, no harp, associates say.) The lessons are priced depending on the teacher and level of studies, but usually range from $15 to $30 for 30 minutes. So for $100, you can buy someone a gift that will keep on giving power chords or classical filigrees. The lessons can be made specific to any genre, and to any age and skill level.

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For greenheads

If you really want to gift green, head to 2. Mountain Wind and Sun (12 Ruxton Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-1609) for a unique eco-minded gift. Its always-popular Eclipse Solar Gear backpack contains a small panel on the outside that will charge most small electronics, like iPods or digital cameras. Smaller bags are priced at $120. (OK, fine, we went over but you've got to admit, the pack sounds like it might be worth it.) For a stocking stuffer, you can pick out a genuine hand-crafted kaleidoscope, made with real wood, starting at $24.99, or a solar wheel lava lamp for $24.99.

The always-popular 3. Old Town Bike Shop (426 S. Tejon St., 475-8589) peddles more than just bicycles; it carries a variety of environmental gifts made from everyday recycled materials. Save Our Soles Socks, located in Denver, offers a plethora of socks (more than 200 styles) made from a wide range of materials for $9.99. We'd say that they're ideal for a stocking stuffer, but we can't guarantee that sticking socks in other socks won't make the universe implode.

Or you can grab one of Old Town's Green Guru Gear recycled products, like a wallet made from inner tubes for $24.99. Or go for the gusto and buy a Green Guru Gear messenger bag made from old truck tires for $124.99. (There we go again.) Also, if you stay in the same section of Old Town, you'll see various organic cotton T-shirts for $24.99 and who doesn't like T-shirts?

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Envi (12 S. 25th St., 352-7818) is a consignment store for local artists that offers eclectic, green and local gifts as well. This would be the place to go for unique Domino Jewelry earrings for $22.95 to $29.95, or beautiful handmade and painted "Femo Clay" flowers for less than $5. For those with expensive tastes, pick up a Broadway Alchemy necklace, made from recycled hardware, for $65. Felted recycled bags made locally are available for $39.95.

For culture mavens

The long-standing 4. Terra Verde (208 N. Tejon St., 444-8621) looks quaint on the outside, but upon entering you'll find an enormous store filled with bath products, clothing, jewelry, shoes, purses, accessories and even furniture. Local designers are behind many of its wares, including one winning Christmas gift pick: a Tulle Vintage wool coat for $92. (Sales associates say the coat goes perfectly with a scarf from their large selection.) Also: Terra Verde's offering special free gift-wrapping and free shipping this season.

You can also opt for vintage gifting this year. 5. Antique Gallery (117 S. Wahsatch Ave., 633-6070) is 10,200 square feet piled high with 20th-century collectables; paintings, trinkets, musical instruments and much more. For art fans, start your tour with a beautiful Jean Capeinick "Roses" Italian print for $98. For pottery collectors, there's an original Acoma signed pot, in black and white Native American design, for $95. Or you could give the gift of reminiscence to your parents in the form of an antique butter churn (OK, maybe your grandparents), with two styles running from $120 to $135. It'll go great with those wooden-shaft golf clubs at $39 each.

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For kids

"Support your community, support yourself,' says Suzanne Doroski, a 6. Little Richard's Toy Store (324 N. Tejon St., 578-3072) employee who only speaks in slogans on special occasions. The jam-packed toy store is a stockpile of board games, trains, trinkets and much more, making it the ideal place to shop for toddlers and like-minded adults.

A great gift this Christmas is the classic Thomas & Friends deluxe train station. It's made of real wood and comes with two additional tracks and bumpers and a functioning microphone for $79.95. The "kid-powered" toy is made in Canada, from all recycled material, and features lights, sounds and music for $69.95.

Stylish infants (ones that enjoy cashmere sweaters and chic onesies) can stroll (or be strolled) down the street to Couture (109 N. Tejon St., 633-0363). Shannon Dougherty, owner of the downtown boutique, designs her own line of infant fashionables under the name Pipsqueak Couture. From this line, she offers a boiled wool sweater for $75 and her popular Baby Legs in various styles for $12 a pair. If you venture beyond the house brand, you'll find a cute Sweet Baby Tess blue romper for $48 with matching cap for $16, or a Toni Tierney thermal dress for $50.

Finally, 7. RetroMoto Toys (738 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-2475) is home to a wealth of novelty items and children's toys alike. Many of the latter are made locally. Sarah Keller, from Manitou, makes a one-of-kind Hula Chix hula hoop for $24.99. For the aerially inclined, RetroMoto offers a Denver-made Wood Plane Kit for $12.95. Henna kits are competitively priced at $13.95. And ninja, pirate and cowboy adhesive bandages are priced at $5.95, a perfect stocking-stuffer for those injury-prone tikes.

kevin@csindy.com

  • Eating local is great, but gifting local is much easier.

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