Do you really want to fight Black Friday crowds and support big-box retailers when we've got tons of cool, affordable, locally made and sold gifts available throughout the city? We didn't think so. To help you tick some items off your shopping list, we've compiled a few hyper-local options for you — for an Alternative Black Friday, if you will — with favorite shops, items, makers, and more, to cover even the hardest-to-buy-for folks.
Before you hit that "place your order" button, remember Amazon paid no federal taxes last year, its billionaire founder had the gall to cut health-care benefits for some employees this year, and — most importantly — Amazon is not Memphis AF (like, at all).
Cooper-Young is, in fact, Memphis AF. The neighborhood's mix of restaurants and shops makes for a perfect, big-city shopping experience. Gleam in the season's glow as you hustle your holiday gift bags across Cooper-Young's new rainbow-pride crosswalk.
Plan your shopping spree for Saturday, November 30th. That's Small Business Saturday, and some C-Y businesses have teamed up for a day of giveaways, drawings, and special deals and discounts. Ten lucky winners will go home with gift boxes worth more than $100 each. Need some C-Y gift ideas? We did some scouting for you. — Toby Sells
Fox + Cat Vintage: Forget fast fashion. This fashion boutique offers a lovingly curated closet of styles and tastes from a 1920s-era flapper girl hat ($150) to an '80s-style jean jacket with a collection of amazing patches ($112).
- Toby Sells
- Fox + Cat Vintage
Young Avenue Deli: Barbecue is Memphis' civic dish. If it had one, the Deli's french fries might be the culinary standard for Midtown. I took two orders to a holiday potluck once. Folks laughed, but nary a fry was left. And let's not even talk about those cheese sticks. Walls of craft beer, one-of-a-kind sandwiches, wings ... get a gift card for anyone on your list.
Grivet Outdoors: This new outdoor shop has what Memphis needs to run, hike, climb, hunt, fish, or just about anything else. Don't have an outdoorsy type on your list this year? How about someone who has to go outside in the wet Memphis winter? Try the waterproof duck boots from Sorel (men's, $155; women's, $120).
901 Comics: Thanks to a zillion Marvel movies, we know one thing: We're all comic book nerds. 901 Comics has walls full of superheroes you know, like Batman and Iron Man, and some you might not know, like Bloodshot and Count Crowley. But the store has more than books. Think action figures, figurines, posters, games, shirts, masks, and more. Also, check out the R2-D2 toaster ($34) or the Death Star cheese board ($45) for the food geek in your life.
- Toby Sells
- 901 Comics
Buff City Soap: Give your morning routine a local upgrade: Buff City Soap opened in Cooper-Young last year. All of the products are made in-house. So when they offer a bar of soap called Midtown Phunk, they know what they're talking about. But it ain't all bath bombs and body butters. Get that unruly scruff under control with Ferocious Beast beard oil ($15) or Shave and a Haircut beard balm ($15).
- Toby Sells
- Buff City Soap
Cooper-Young Gallery & Gift Shop: It's an art gallery. It's a gift shop. It's a creative workspace. Sometimes the owners call it the "Cute Shop." It all makes sense when you walk inside. Want to paint Ruth Bader Ginsberg by numbers? The kit will set you back $22. Pick up some stocking-stuffers like 38104-ever magnets ($3) or mugs ($15). There's way more to discover in this perfectly eclectic, satisfyingly tidy little shop.
Burke's Books: The Burke's holiday window is a C-Y tradition. Neighbors make annual treks just to see what yuletide treat awaits them there. Inside the store is a book-lover's treat year 'round — new releases, photo books, kids books, and more. Burke's specializes in rare and collectible books, like a nice leather-bound copy of Ernest Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls ($18).
For 35 years, Flashback has been the vintage place to go. Shoppers can find oodles of kitschy, cheesy delights — items of perfect pop culture, things so bad they're good (ugly Christmas sweaters), designs you'd never have in your house until you realize you have to have them. But mostly you'll find wondrous objects of beauty and rarity. Some are new, and many wear their age remarkably well: lovely backlit lithophane porcelains, frequently tasteful glassware and dishes, jewelry, singular shoes and clothing, including rude socks. There are Danish mobiles and bookmarks made from filmstrips (The Wizard of Oz is very popular). Elvii are everywhere.
- Jon W. Sparks
Proprietor Millett Vance has an eye for items that are just right, for yourself or as gifts for your wide range of friends and family. And she knows the price point you're looking for. "Everyone looks for presents for people, and they end up buying something for themselves."
Flashback is at 2304 Central, with the seated mannequin and pink flamingos al fresco. 272-2304. flashbackmemphis.com.
— Jon W. Sparks
In her days at Memphis College of Art, Tootsie Bell wasn't particularly thinking about becoming a silversmith. She needed a job, and a friend at a jewelry store hooked her up. She loves woodworking and sculpture as well, particularly when it's at a bigger scale than the usual silver projects she does daily. That got her some commissions for public art, which you can see around town. But go into her shop — she's been at it for 24 years — and look at the work on display. You'll see a wonderful attention to detail. If you really want to take it to the next level, have her make some jewelry for you.
- Tootsie Bell Silversmith
"My work, whether it's large or small, has a theme to it," Bell says. "I like there to be a meaning or a narrative behind it. When I work with customers, I like to get a background, a story of either the person that I'm making the piece for or something like that."
And if you have a hankering to create some of your own baubles, she can help with that, too. She offers classes on how to craft a piece of jewelry. At present, she teaches four students at a time. "I help them come up with what they want to make and assist when I need to," Bell says. "You make it and take it home." When the new year gets underway, she'll have more classes to accommodate bigger projects. She also offers gift cards, so you can let the giftee choose how they want to take the classes.
Tootsie Bell Silversmith is at 4726 Poplar. 763-4049. quenchstudiomemphis.com. — JWS
BLACK LODGE AND CHILL
After the temperature drops and the hyper-social holiday season winds down, your loved ones are going to want to spend some time quality time in their living room this winter.
If you're looking for gifts to help you chill, the first place to go is Black Lodge. The independent video store that graced Cooper-Young for 14 years has recently reopened in a new space in Crosstown — and not a moment too soon. The Netflix-led streaming video revolution that put video stores out of business in the last decade is rapidly becoming fragmented and expensive. With the launch of Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, and Apple TV (to name a few), you have to subscribe to multiple services to get what you want. That's where the Lodge comes in. Its selection of almost 30,000 titles dwarfs Netflix, and the knowledgeable staff will help you discover new movies and TV shows you may have overlooked. Gift recipients can use their Black Lodge gift cards to pay for the $10 per month membership or to snag something from the ever-expanding lineup of cool Lodge merch.
- Justin Fox Burks
If reading is more your friend's speed, Two Rivers Bookstore has a curated selection of science-fiction and fantasy books, such as Margaret Atwood's The Testaments, the acclaimed sequel to the author's dystopian classic, The Handmaid's Tale. Two Rivers also carries local art and jewelry, and if your gift target is into tabletop role-playing games, you can get Dungeons & Dragons rulebooks and dice bags made in-store.
For the "chill" part, the place to go is Wizard's. The Midtown smoke shop now carries six brands and 13 flavors of CBD flower for your stress-relief needs. To really take the edge off healthily, a Pax 3 or Firefly flower vaporizer will get you there without the cough and smell. Or you can go whole-hog and invest in the newest of the pioneering Volcano vaporizer line.
Then again, maybe your loved one's "chill" is more euphemistic. In that case, a visit to Coco & Lola's lingerie shop is in order. They are the exclusive Memphis home to the Kilo Brava line of teddies, bustiers, and exquisite two- and three-piece lace bra and panty sets.
You won't regret it when you see your loved one slip into a silk kimono, pop in a Blu-Ray, hit the vape, and let the magic happen. — Chris McCoy
My sister said she had a surprise for me. My only instructions: wear athletic clothes and show up to the provided address at a certain time. I pulled up to a small building on Flicker Street. It was Recess 901, a local gym that bills itself as providing a "diverse, curated fitness experience." Inside, I was met by Nick Davis, one of the instructors. My surprise was a one-on-one, 30-minute boxing class with him. With his guidance, I hooked and jabbed my way through the session. Beginning in December, Davis will lead small-group boxing classes through a program called Go Boxing & Fitness. The eight-person sessions, featuring boxing training and bodyweight exercises, are designed to enhance one's mental and physical state.
- Justin Fox Burks
- Recess 901
Davis believes the small-group format is optimal for boxing and brings out "healthy, natural competition. Go Boxing & Fitness not only changes your body," he says. "It changes your mind, your attitude, and your mood."
There are plenty of gifts like this one around town for the fitness junkies, as well as the outdoor lovers, in your life. For the runners, Fleet Feet has gear and accessories at all price points. From hoodies for cold days to reflective vests for night running to the best running shoe, it's all there. Or help your loved ones reach new heights at Highpoint Rock Climbing and Fitness. The gym offers gift cards, so you can give the gift of bouldering and belaying. Finally, do you know anyone in need of a kayak, tent, or bike? Outdoors Inc. has everything for the outdoor adventurers on your list. — Maya Smith
For many musicians, the travails of touring can leave you in the lurch, unless you're crafty with unorthodox merch. Music fans need only stroll over to the merchandise table. The expeditionary noise band Nonconnah, for example, can always make up for a low door take by selling jars of homemade jam or pickles. If they shared a bill with Neighborhood Texture Jam (NTJ), who've been known to shower the audience with Slim Jims, you could have a full meal. Then wash it down when seeing Seance Fiction, from Florence, Alabama, who have offered packets of powdered beverage mix in a Dixie cup sporting the words, "Drink the Kool Aid! Join the Cult!"
For all your romantic needs, merch of a more intimate nature can be had. The Rhythm Hounds, Fuck (the band), and NTJ have all offered underwear emblazoned with the group's logo or name, though in the latter case, it was adult diapers. But Fuck, long hailed as kings of wacky merch, took intimate fandom to a new level by getting inside your eyelids: a camera flash, masked with a stencil of the band name, could be set off in your face, thus burning the word into your retina for a good 10 minutes. Oh, joy!
Some unorthodox merch actually honors the music. When the Lost Sounds were just another struggling combo in need of a deal, Alicja Trout would hand-paint CD-Rs of their albums, each one unique (and highly collectable now). And for those who love the lyrics of Cory Branan, he'll write them out by hand on acid/lignin-free archival paper. One fan framed the words to his "Sour Mash" alongside two Prohibition-era prescriptions for bourbon.
- Alicja Trout handpainted CD
So when you're out at a show, be sure to peruse the merch table, perchance to discover that perfect gift for the music fan who has everything. — Alex Greene
PETS, ART, & 'CUE
Personally, I love shopping for friends and family, so when they tell me they have everything they need, I take it as a challenge. It's fun to defy your giftee's expectations and give someone something nice that they wouldn't normally get for themselves, doubly so when you're supporting a local business with your purchasing power. So let's get started.
Sure, the pet supply store Hollywood Feed has grown big enough to take a St. Bernard-sized bite out of the national market, but the first Hollywood Feed opened on Hollywood and Chelsea in Memphis in the '50s, and the company still keeps its headquarters here. That's local enough for me. And because even the most selfless or Spartan family members will at least pamper their pets, the store is a great place to shop for people who are, well, hard to shop for.
- Justin Fox Burks
- Hollywood Feed
What's more, the friendly folks at Hollywood Feed are knowledgeable and understanding. A month ago, when, after adopting a kitten, I wandered inside in a daze, my head buzzing with questions about litter (clumping? non-clumping?) and food (grain-free or not?), the staff patiently walked me through the ins and outs of what I needed to keep my newly rescued furry friend safe and satisfied. Compared to that, shopping for my family's fur-babies is a varitible romp in the puppy park. I just scoop up some dog toys and handmade treats from the animal-safe bakery, and I can mark a few folks off my list.
When it comes to local, Art Center knows what's up. The full-service art supply store opened in 1974 and has plenty of experience helping Memphians with their custom framing, paints, charcoals, decoupage, and more. And since the owners require their employees to have a strong background in art, says general manager Jimmy Sanders, the staff is qualified to help even the most hapless of customers. Their prices span the spectrum, too, so you can stuff a stocking without unstuffing your wallet, or spoil your little Michelangelo in training to your heart's content. Next!
My brother-in-law lives in Middle Tennessee, and he loves to cook. So I've been buying him barbecue sauce and dry seasoning every Christmas for seven years because, while you can get decent barbecue fixings out east, you can't get Memphis barbecue sauce anywhere else.
Though I mix up which sauce I buy from year to year, The Bar-B-Q Shop on Madison has been winning awards for 32 years, with a 50-year-old sauce recipe that dates back to Brady & Lil's Bar-B-Q Restaurant, making it a shoo-in for my brother-in-law's stocking.
- Justin Fox Burks
- The Bar-B-Q Shop
For bonus points, round out your holiday haul with something seasonably sessionable to sip from one of the local breweries, some coffee from one of the Bluff City's local roasters, a little something to nibble from The Peanut Shoppe at 24 S. Main, and some candles from Maggie's Pharm.
Boom! You've got yourself a very Memphis holiday basket.
— Jesse Davis
I've always been a big fan of flea markets and arts festivals — you just never know what types of one-of-a-kind treasures you'll find. The hunt is where the excitement lies, and it's even more exciting when you're directly supporting local creators.
This season, WinterArts brings a bit of that thrill with a showcase of functional and decorative work from nearly 50 of the region's top artists, including several based right here in Memphis: Dorothy Northern (jeweler); Bryan Blankenship, Lisa Hudson, Becky Ziemer, and David James Johnson (ceramics); Felcitas Sloves, (fiber: weaving); Cheryl Hazelton (wood: marquetry); and others.
Treasure hunters will find handmade work crafted in glass, metal, wood, fiber, and clay. Think beautiful cuff bracelets, vases, wooden trinket boxes, ornaments, and more. Participating artists will have video at their booths, providing visitors virtual demonstrations of their creation process.
WinterArts is presented by ArtWorks Foundation, a nonprofit whose mission is to help artists grow and thrive. In its 11th year, WinterArts runs November 30th through December 24th at 888 White Station (between Poplar and Park, next to Bed Bath & Beyond). Browse the wares for unique gifts Mondays-Wednesdays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Fridays from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m. — Shara Clark
In "Santa Bring My Baby Back to Me," Elvis sings, "Fill my sock with candy." Now, you can fill Elvis socks with — your feet. Lansky Bros. at The Peabody sells socks with Elvis' likeness on them. Elvis playing guitar. Elvis in his "Jailhouse Rock" pose. You even can get black, pink, and white socks — the argyle type Elvis wore in some of his 1950s photos. He probably bought those socks at Lanksy back in the day.
- Justin Fox Burks
- Lansky Bros.
The black socks with the gold lightning bolt on them are their biggest sellers, says owner Hal Lansky. They're inscribed with "TCB."
"If you're an Elvis fan, you'll know what it means," Lansky says. "Even if you're not, you will."
The socks, which are very comfortable, sell for $25 and $27.50. They're fit for a king. Or the King. "Elvis is still the King," Lansky says. "You know that."
After the lucky gift recipient wears these Elvis socks, he'll probably decide to hang up all his other socks and stick with these. He might want a complete selection of Elvis socks. Then he can have a blue Christmas, a green Christmas, an orange Christmas, a red Christmas — you name it. These socks come in various colors.
— Michael Donahue