For those who don't want to fill their stockings with generic goods from department stores this holiday season, consider the shops nestled along the local downtown strips. Be it for the techie, the animal lover or the athlete in your life, local shops have less orthodox, more personal little gifts that will fit perfectly into the socks hanging over your fireplace this year.
Find the joy in getting your holiday shopping done in one place, and bring your friends and family cheer with local gifts this year.
Town & Country Village, Palo Alto
Paper Source has an assortment of appealing items for teens, students and adventurers. Techies and teens alike will be excited to find ban-do ear buddies, sparkling phone decals and ornate iPhone cases in their stockings this year. Students could benefit from fashionable planners ranging from $13 to $20, or a tin Kate Spade pencil set, also under $20. Pick up a digital travel scale or a portable power strip for the travelers on your list, and adorable cat and dog calendars for the pet lovers.
Athletes and Cardinal fans alike will adore anything you find at U-Threads Stanford apparel store. Fill a fan's stocking with a Stanford scarf for the winter season, or throw in a couple of reusable beverage glasses, which cost under $5 and are advertised as "great for tailgating." Reusable water bottles starting at $13 are great for fans and athletes.
More terrific sports gear can be found at Athleta. According to the sales associates, lycra running headbands, all $10 and SmartWool running socks are among the best-selling small items. Visibility strobe lights are perfect for joggers, bikers and walkers who venture out at night.
Sur la Table is the go-to shop for anyone who loves to cook, bake, barbecue or entertain. Some of the more fun small merchandise includes a two in one sand timer, the buttercup butter maker and a variety of pizza cutters, all costing less than $15. Specialty holiday items include reindeer-themed rubber spatulas and a collection of $1 holiday cookie cutters.
For any child on your list, visit Ambassador Toys for a vast range of gifts for kids of all ages. Sales associates point to the black-lit backroom full of spaceship models, glow-in-the-dark stars and neon yo-yos as some of the kids' favorites. The store owner confirms that "Animal Toobs," full of various animal figures, kiddie watches and Kid-O birdie whistles are a big hit with the little ones, too. Spot-it and Bamboozlers are best-selling games and fit neatly in stockings due to size and price.
Santa Cruz Avenue, Menlo Park
No matter the interests of the people that made your gift list this year, Village Stationers (also on California Avenue, Palo Alto) has an array of fun little items to fill everyone's stocking. Charming trinkets, soaps and paper goods are suitable for all sorts of personalities. A section for children boasts TY plushies and colorful slippers called "Snoozies," both for under $13. For animal lovers, store favorites include "Lil Clips" animal-shaped paper clips for $5 and delightful sunglass cases featuring cats and dogs.
For just under $15 grab a bunny or owl-shaped computer-screen cleaner or a vibrant cell-phone seat for your techie friends. Darling kitchen accessories like San Francisco-themed muffin cups or cupcake cooking timers make great gifts for the bakers on your list.
For more toy options, head to Cheeky Monkey where there is a gift for any kid on your list. According to the stock manager, Aaron's Thinking Putty and Mindcraft mini-figures are among best sellers and both cost less than $5. A multitude of card games and brain teasers range from around $5 to $10 and can cater to almost any age child. Light-up key chains, goofy ear buds and small model kits are always a big hit during the holidays as well.
Buying for athletes isn't always easy due to steep prices and size issues, but Fleet Feet Sports offers several useful items for the active recipients on your list. For less than $20, running gloves are a perfect stocking stuffer for those who like to workout outdoors in the cold winter months. "Sweaty bands," also under $20, are cute and functional for long-haired athletes, and rock tape is a favorite among many customers. According to sales associates, wearable LED reflectors, which cost $10, are a big hit every year.
Castro Street, Mountain View
Beyond the surplus of novels at Books Inc., one can find an abundance of tiny presents that have little to do with reading. Box calendars with themes ranging from English vocabulary to "The 365 Stupidest Things Ever Said" cost around $15 each. Grab a mini globe for your jet-setting friends and a bike-ride or road-trip guide for the adventurer on your list, both under $20. Fill the kid's stockings with bendy "Wikki Stix," sketchbooks, build-able fun straws and felt markers for under $10 each. The techie on your list will get a kick out of the "icubes" tray that creates App-imprinted ice cubes for under $10.
For the musicians on your list, check out West Valley Music for a sweet stocking filler. Stylish music pins and instrument-case tags cost less than $3 and are suitable for any type of musician. According to sales associates, a holiday shipment of musical scarves, instrument-shaped Christmas ornaments and composer statues will be available in the next couple weeks for under $20 and are best sellers every holiday season. Guitar straps are great accessories and range from $5 to $20.
At Therapy, it's hard not to find something for everyone on your list. Aside from the hats, scarves, soaps and jewelry, a flood of quirky gifts are sure to take your stockings to the next level. For less than $25, the techie on your list might enjoy a utility-charge tool, a selfie-snap device or the ever-festive "Merry Charger" featuring tiny Christmas lights strung along the charging cord. A plethora of silly oven mitts and measuring cups, all under $25, will entertain any cook. More fun kitchen items include popsicle-shaped spatulas and bunny or skull breakfast egg molds. The kid section includes do-it-yourself "mark-mat" place mats and bucket bibs, both under $25. Gifts for the rest of your list include beanies, tablet cases, puppy coin purses and animal coasters. The staff advises choosing magnets, all under $5, for a bargain buy that will please any friend, co-worker or family member.