The best way to give truly original and unique presents for the holidays this year is to stay at home. Well, not literally at your home; that wouldn’t be any fun. We mean you should buy local — do your holiday shopping at businesses here in Memphis and Shelby County. Shopping local helps Memphis-area merchants and the local economy. And it says you care enough to get off your duff and go pick something out instead of just staring at your laptop and tapping into the internet.
There are many great local shopping options and areas — Broad Avenue, Downtown, Cooper-Young, Laurelwood, Saddle Creek, Overton Square — to name just a few. Try our local bakeries, breweries, boutiques, bistros, and even places that don't start with "b." For even more ideas, just browse the pages of the Flyer and see what our beloved advertisers have to offer.
And, just because we're helpful that way, those of us on the editorial staff also came up with a few suggestions.
Now, get out there and do your civic duty and shop! You'll be glad you did. And so will we.
- Illustrations by Greg Cravens
Every year, Mid-Southerners find themselves asking: What sort of locally sourced holiday gifts might make a good stocking stuffer for the pot smoker and/or ninja in my life? This once-unsolvable challenge has finally been addressed thanks to the creative team behind Stoned Ninja, a small, Memphis-made comic book title drawn by cartoonist/illustrator (and frequent Memphis Flyer contributor) Greg Cravens. In addition to creating weed and martial arts-themed stories about a street level hero who can vanish in a puff of smoke, Stoned Ninja also produces its own line of 100 percent hemp rolling papers and Stoned Ninja T-shirts.
"When I was a kid, comics were in every grocery store and quickie mart in the country, and they aren't anymore," Cravens says, explaining the potential for headshops to expand comic distribution. "The market has narrowed down to where you have to go hard target search for a comic shop to go get comics," he says. "What we've got is something we can sell in another store to another targeted audience. So, that's the pitch when we approach larger publishers. There are potentially 25,000 more shops you can put your comic into if you'll just pay attention."
Stoned Ninja writer and mastermind Gabriel DeRanzo credits 901 Comics owner Shannon Merritt for his new business venture. Shortly after opening shop in Cooper-Young, Merritt launched Bad Dog Comics to publish locally produced graphic literature. Cravens and DeRanzo met at 901, and their collaboration on Stoned Ninja began after a meeting to organize the first Bad Dog Comics Anthology.
Stoned Ninja was originally inspired by the classic Kung Fu comedy Drunken Master and developed as a means to explore pot culture beyond the usual burnout stereotypes. "So I asked myself, if there can be a Drunken Master, why can't there be a Stoned Ninja?" DeRanzo says.
DeRanzo's vision extended beyond the glossy pages of a monthly title. The right merchandise wouldn't just tie it all together, it could be a bridge to new markets. "Given the content of the comic, I figured there was no reason to go less than 100 percent pure hemp," DeRanzo says of Stoned Ninja rolling papers. "So it's as good a quality paper as anything out there, and we're offering fun packaging. On the inside flap, there's a comic and we're going to change that flap every time we put in a new order. So Stoned Ninja will be like Bazooka Joe Bubble gum."
Stoned Ninja comics are available at 901 Comics and Whatever stores. Stoned Ninja starter packs, which include a comic book, a T-shirt, and a pack of papers are available online at stonedninjacomics.com. — Chris Davis
A new gaming paradigm has emerged recently, based on creating total immersion in an environment. The chief example is Virtual Reality (VR), where a visual/audio headset fills your senses, projects a 3D space around you, and senses your movements in it.
You can buy a home VR rig, but to really experience the state of the art, a VR arcade is the way to go. It is a remarkable experience. David Callahan of Bluff City VR in Cordova says it's impossible to describe. "The technology is so amazing, it's like trying to explain color to someone who's color-blind. Until you put the headset on, you just won't get it."
For that reason, he says, "everyone that walks in the door gets a free demo. It's more realistic than the most realistic 3D movie you've ever seen. It really feels like you're inside the video game."
While none of the 30 available games can be played by more than one person, Callahan says, "each booth also has a TV set that displays what the person's seeing in the headset. So it's perfect as a group activity to sit there and watch the person play. And you can talk back and forth."
There's no limit to how many can share a one hour room rental ($39), swapping time with the headset, and you can even rent all five gaming rooms for larger events. www.bluffcityvr.com
If your tastes are less techy, try one of the challenges at Memphis Escape Rooms. For one hour, eight people come together to puzzle over clues and mechanisms that will unlock a door (although anyone who needs to leave can do so). Up to eight friends can book time together at around $20 per person. But if it's just you, says assistant manager Brianna Berg, "you could end up working with total strangers, which is always fun, because people work in different ways. Sometimes having people from outside your group can really open your eyes to different ways to solve the puzzles."
And if you've tried such rooms elsewhere, keep in mind that these are unique: "We create the rooms completely ourselves. All the themes, puzzles, and rooms are built by us." Many scenarios are available at their two locations. Gift the gift of game! — Alex Greene
Fitted To a Tee
What can we say? Your friends are total homers, but their T-shirt game is tight. Help them build on it with a well-thought-out, Memphis-centric gift.
If your friend bleeds blue, then a stop at the Tiger Bookstore is a must. Steer clear of the gingham blazer, no matter how snazzy. The back wall is where it's at. They've got your grays and royal and navy blues, your standard logos and fancier prints, in both long sleeve and short. They run about $14 to $15. tigerbookstore.com
Memphicity Design is the go-to place for Grizzlies and Tigers fans, with their nods to gritting and grinding and One Cent. Pancho's and Piggly Wiggly lovers are covered as well. T-shirts run from $10 to $20. Buy three, get one free. memphicitydesign.com
City pride never looked so elegant with the etchy sketchy designs with the Pyramid in comfy grays available at B. Collective. That doesn't mean they can't get funky — witness their dead Elvis shirt and the 9.oh.1 one with the bridge. Prices range from $25 to $35. bcollectiveshop.com
The pickup line "Are you from Tennessee? Because you're the only ten I see" is a real groaner, but ablazed on your chest, it's damn near a thing of beauty. The Five in One design is particularly swell: a retro color scheme, the Hernando-Desoto bridge, a funky-fonted "Memphis." Five in One also carries a Crosstown-proud shirt and other Memphis-y tops. There's also a great hoodie with a yellow "Memphis" with '70s flair. The only thing you'll be arrested for in this hoodie is being too cool. T-shirts are $32; hoodie $62. fiveinone.org
The mecca for the hip T-shirt hound is West Tn Print & Trade Co. on Cleveland near Crosstown. They're the ones who birthed the "Memphis as F**k" shirt. Among their inventory: "Santa's Favorite Memphis Kid"; "Go Tigers, Y'all"; "Memphis: Be Nice or Leave"; "Keep Midtown Sketchy"; "Memphis vs. All Y'all"; "Memphis BBQ Kicks Ass"; "Memphis F**king Tennessee"; and more. All shirts can be made into a dog shirt for $20 for any pups that are living large. T-shirts are $20 or three for $50. westtntradeandprintco.com — Susan Ellis
There are a handful places in town to send your friends and family to get their creative juices flowing, but if they want to put their hands to work, get a little messy, and create a masterpiece, Seize the Clay is a good choice. This year, gift the creatives in your life the experience of creating.
At Seize the Clay, they can make and paint pottery, as well as fuse glass. Owner, Adam Loeffel says all three options lend to having a "fun, creative time." It's a nice break from the corporate commercial retail world, he says.
"It's an opportunity for people to take time out of their day, be creative, and have quiet time," Loeffel says. "It's a chance to make something. We live in a world where everything comes at us so fast, but making things takes time. So there's a big sense of accomplishment when you see your finished product."
Loeffel says painting pre-made pottery, specifically coffee mugs, is the most popular option. The turnaround time is much faster, he says. You simply pick a ceramic piece, costing anywhere from $8 to $100, paint it to your heart's desire, and then the staff does the rest. In three to five days, the piece is fired and ready to be used.
For those who are more patient and have more time (and money) on their hands, Loeffel says the studio also holds four- and six-session potter's wheel classes, priced at $250 and $350, respectively. Meant for beginners, the in-depth classes cover how to throw bowls, plates, and mugs. Class attendance requires a reservation. Loeffel says making pottery from scratch is a bit of a process, but it's a nice therapy-like way to relax.
Finally, on Thursday evenings, a class-fusing workshop teaches participants how to design, cut, and assemble their own glass pieces. There's no cost to attend the class except for the cost of the project made. — Maya Smith
Seize the Clay, 3084 Poplar, is open Tuesday through Sunday with varying hours. Gift cards for any dollar amount are available.
Give the Flyer
Here's an idea: Give the Memphis Flyer for Christmas. Not literally, of course. I mean, we're free, and you'd look really cheap stuffing a Memphis Flyer in Mom's stocking. But you can give a Frequent Flyer membership for as little as $5 or $10 a month. In return, your giftee will get some swag — a snazzy Flyer "wings" pin, a T-shirt, a decal, invites to our parties and events — depending on the gift level you choose for them. They'll get weekly updates on events, and special ticket offers, and your lucky Frequent Flyer will will get their name printed in the paper several times a year, and on the ever-growing list of members that can be found on the Flyer website.
For more information and details about how to become a Frequent Flyer, go to support.memphisflyer.com — and help keep Memphis' only progressive news source free. — Bruce VanWyngarden
Park It Here ... or There
Tennessee State Parks again invites you to "skip the Black Friday shopping and join us on the day after Thanksgiving for a post-holiday hike with family and friends." Parks officials have offered free hikes in Tennessee's 56 state parks for a few years now (and this year with the handy hashtag #thankful4hiking).
"We have hikes for all ages and abilities, from easy peaceful strolls to rugged ramblings," say state park officials.
And the parks website makes it easy to find a hike near you. Easily, the closest hike to Memphis is the After-Thanksgiving Day hike at Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park. Ranger Colton Garner will lead a hike down the bike trail to the Woodland Shelter, where he'll talk about the creation of the park. The hour-long hike starts at 3 p.m. from Shelter No. 2. — Toby Sells
'Tis the Seasoning
If you say you're giving someone vinegar for Christmas, people might equate that with ashes and switches. But hold on. The Mighty Olive sells an array of flavored balsamic vinegars, which make dandy gifts. They even sell a variety gift pack of vinegars, complete with ribbon.
Still not sold? I might not have been either, until I tried a small cup of vanilla ice cream topped with The Mighty Olive's dark chocolate balsamic vinegar at the recent Art on Fire party at Dixon Gallery & Gardens. I didn't stop at one cup; I think I had four or five. It was incredibly delicious.
It's got the taste of chocolate and it's "got some tartness," says The Mighty Olive owner Sam Braslow. "When you put it over ice cream, it just works."
It's great on strawberries, too, Braslow says. And if you mix the dark chocolate with the raspberry balsamic vinegar, you've got a great taste treat.
Once, you get started with the dark chocolate and strawberry vinegars, try some of the other balsamic vinegars, including blackberry ginger and mission fig. All of those sound like they'd be dandy on ice cream. Or yogurt. Or just salads. They also sell traditional style balsamic vinegar, but Mighty Olive's aged balsamic vinegar has no caramel coloring and no sugar. The Mighty Olive sells olive oils, too, if you want variety in your stockings. Vinegars range from $10 to $40.
And remember: Balsamic vinegar and olive oil are presents that are good for you. Kind of like Christmas pajamas. — Michael Donahue
The Mighty Olive is at 4615 Poplar No. 18; 901-240-6226
Shab Chic Marketplace
Skip the big-box store melee and shop in a box at The Edge District.
The Shab Chic Marketplace kicks off its inaugural Holiday Market on Friday in The Edge and will run every weekend until the Sunday before Christmas Eve. The market and its vendors operate out of "articulately designed" shipping containers, located across the street from Edge Alley and High Cotton Brewing on Monroe.
The market's innovative look matches its innovative mission as a sort of business incubator for local startups. It's a partnership with the Memphis Medical District Collaborative.
"When our team created Shab Chic Marketplace, we understood the influence it could have on the community and small businesses, and we're ecstatic to see our community being a part of such a unique project and a part of the Holiday Market," say Marketplace owners Brian Christion and Ebony Doss.
The market will feature Memphis-only vendors such as My Heavenly Creations Soap and Sundries for bath bombs and (you guessed it) soaps. Get your subtle/fresh Memphis-themed hats, hoodies, and more from 9.oh.1 TheLabel. If you — like Janey Bees Jems — believe "life's too short to wear boring jewelry," look for their shop at the Holiday Market. With apparel from The Crybaby Club, you can wear your sad on the outside.
Marketplace visitors should also expect a coffee vendor, booths from local nonprofits, and a Memphis Medical District Collaborative information station. Weekends at the market will also feature gift-wrapping, entertainment, contests, and more.
The market runs Fridays (4 p.m.-7 p.m.), Saturdays (noon-7 p.m.), and Sundays (noon-4 p.m.) through December 23rd. — TS
For more information, look for Shab Chic Marketplace on Facebook.
That's Oil, Folks
Let's face it: Even if you love Christmas music and tinsel, the holidays can be stressful. Maybe the best gift you can give someone you love this season is a little relaxation.
Cannabidiol is derived from the hemp plant, but it's not psychoactive. It is, however, nontoxic, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic. Most importantly for holiday purposes, CBD is anxiolytic, which means it helps reduce anxiety that might be generated by, say, a political discussion with your intense uncle.
America is in the midst of an explosion of CBD products, and Tennessee is no exception. Several companies have sprung up in the last year, since industrial hemp production was legalized in Tennessee. Maggie's Pharm in Overton Square carries CBD products from Veteran Grown from Clarksville. Veteran Grown Anxiety Starter Kit includes a vial of their popular Hemp Extract Tincture, along with CBD infused candies and lollipops.
Memphis-based Simply Hemp offers their own extremely popular Full Spectrum CBD Oil, which helps with everyday aches and pains. Their Sleep Support Oral Spray combines CBD, melatonin, and valerian root to help put you down for a long winter's nap.
But the sleeper in Simply Hemp's product line is their selection of CDB herbal teas. The Optimum Focus and Clarity tea includes peppermint, gotu kola, ginkgo, and lemongrass. The delicious White Spicy Peach Blend mixes organic white tea with orange, cinnamon, and allspice. The Decadence Heart Health and Anti Inflammatory is a rich blend of chocolate red rooibos, ginger, and cardamom. And the Optimum Chill Time chamomile blend sells itself. Add in a CBD infused honey stick, and a cup of tea will be your ticket out of holiday headache land.
Oh wait, this is supposed to be a guide to gifts you can buy for other people. Well, you can do that, too, I guess. — Chris McCoy
Gift a Museum
One way to give the gift of Memphis is to give the opportunity to experience our art, history, and culture — and there's a lot to choose from. For history buffs, music nerds, or art aficionados, Memphis' museums offer a veritable smorgasbord of sights and sounds. Another great thing about museums? They're warm in the winter and air-conditioned in the summer, making them a great way to get out of the house — especially when family's visiting and the house feels two sizes too small. Here are a few to choose from:
Pink Palace Clarence Saunders invented the self-serve grocery store and, in doing so, made himself a fortune. He never got to move into the pink marble mansion he commissioned with the proceeds, but the city of Memphis turned the mansion into a museum. (And don't worry, Saunders wasn't destitute.) The museum has grown and expanded many times since then, but it has remained a destination for Memphians. Every year, Mid-South children fight squeamishness as they ogle the shrunken head or the wax dummy of a Civil War-era doctor amputating a soldier's leg. And the shrunken head, the giant-sized Burton Callicott murals, Elvis' GI uniform, and W.C. Handy's trumpet are just a few of the treasured artifacts that make their home within the Pink Palace Museum. Individual and dual memberships are $75, and family memberships start at $100 a year.
National Civil Rights Museum MLK50 happened this year, a series of events commemorating the memory and the message of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and that makes a membership to the National Civil Rights Museum a timely gift. Located at the former Lorraine Motel, where civil rights leader Dr. King was assassinated, the Civil Rights Museum continues to promote activism and is considered to be one of the nation's premiere cultural and heritage museums. Individual memberships are $50, and family memberships start at $75 a year.
Stax Museum Booker T. & the MGs were my dad's favorite band, and Stax hits were the soundtrack around my childhood home, so maybe I'm biased when I say that the Stax Museum might be the coolest museum in the country. The museum offers a totally immersive experience, setting the stage for soul music's ascendency with information about gospel and the blues, the musical forebears that mixed to give birth to soul. The museum has maps of old Memphis neighborhoods, an exact replica of the legendary converted movie theater where Stax artists cut records, and even Isaac Hayes' funky Cadillac Eldorado. Individual memberships are $50, and family memberships start at $100 a year.
Dixon Gallery & Gardens A stroll through the Dixon grounds makes for an idyllic way to while away the hours, ambling up and down the paths that wind through the gardens. The Dixon is tucked away in a quiet, tree-lined property off Park Avenue, and it makes for a great destination to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. And all that before even entering the gallery, which houses traveling exhibits and regional art. A past exhibit of French impressionism was so comprehensive, I had to make multiple trips back to take it all in. Individual memberships are $45, and family memberships start at $60 a year.
Brooks Museum of Art This year, the art broke out of the museum and onto the walls of buildings all over town, as part of Julien de Casabianca and the Brooks' Outings Project. Of course, every inch of the Bluff City would be covered if all of the Brooks' artworks were so displayed. For the avid art lover, a membership to the Brooks is an ideal gift, as it would take days to view and appreciate every artwork in the expansive museum. Individual memberships are $45, dual memberships are $65, and family memberships start at $75 a year.
Cotton Museum Long before music and food tourism, Grizzlies basketball, and FedEx, cotton was the cash crop of Memphis, which is why the Cotton Museum purports to "tell the story of how Memphis came to be." It's a cozy museum on the corner of Union and Front Downtown, and it's the doorway to some of Memphis' formative history. Individual memberships are $45, and family memberships start at $75 a year. — Jesse Davis