It’s gift-buying season again and, if you’re like me, it’s an anxiety-inducing time. That’s because I don’t consider myself particularly good at buying thoughtful gifts, nor at finding bargains. I want nothing more during the holiday season than shopping help. As I surfed the Web recently and thought about how to write a gift guide given this predicament, I saw something I hadn’t before: an increasing number of Park Slope business are using social media sites to guide shoppers and gift givers. All we need is a smart phone or access to the Internet and we can walk the streets of Park Slope following Google maps, Twitter posts, Facebook updates and store blogs to the latest deal or unique present. With that in mind, I reached out to local businesses asking what we will find on the “social network” and in stores this holiday season. Here’s a guide to some of the gifts and online assistance you’ll find.
Not surprisingly, there are many options when buying for a woman. Check out a. cheng Shop Inc. for subtle, stylish clothing, as owner Alice Cheng describes the wares at her Fifth Avenue boutique. “I source all the fabrics for our collection in Japan and Europe and design the a. cheng line. We also get new deliveries every week.” When asked for a gift recommendation, Alice suggested the “Marla sweater with pointelle stitch yoke . Romantic and dramatic.” It’s a stylish item that will stand out and remind the special women in your lives of you. For product updates and event announcements, visit a. cheng’s Facebook and blog pages. Join the mailing list online at www.achengshop.com – all newsletter recipients receive an extra 10% discount.
For handmade accessories and clothing created by local New York designers, visit Eidolon. Eleven years after opening Eidelon, the first boutique to set up shop on Fifth Avenue, owners Amara and Mimi have proven their ability to spot up-and-coming trends and run a sound business. When I emailed asking for gift ideas, Amara and Mimi replied, “we have some great hand-knit items; leather handbags in olive, brown and black; and we always do great with our socks as gifts (although not handmade). Our jewelry selection is abundant and unique, and the prices are reasonable.” Also check out the shop’s selection of colorful print dresses and new line of Fidji shoes and boots from Portugal. Visit Eidolon’s Facebook page to view photos of new arrivals and special promotion announcements. The best way to receive coupons and sale alerts, however, is to join Eidolon’s email list by visiting the store or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
For everyday deals, there’s nothing quite like rummaging through a good old thrift store. Beacon Closet is a great place to buy, sell and trade vintage and modern clothing. “Many people don’t realize that there is always a 50%-off sale going on for items that have been in the shop for over two months, and that our stock changes by the hour,” said Beacon Closet’s co-owner Carrie Peterson. Purchase gift certificates as stocking stuffers or, for $12, choose from “a small selection of new jewelry, little sterling and gold plated owl earrings,” suggests Carrie. For gift givers who simply need shopping money, trade in your own fall and winter items for holiday cash. You’ll find Beacon’s Closet on Fifth Avenue, online and also on various social media sites, where the store posts its new looks and seasons.
Ask Alison Houtte, owner of Hooti Couture, for gift ideas and you’ll receive guidance galore and a wonderful glimpse into her enthusiasm for the job. Located on Flatbush Avenue, her shop has been in business for 13 years. What many don’t realize about Hootie Couture is that it “is extremely reasonable and prices are negotiable,” says Alison. “Lots of people think that we are only a high-end shop,” but in reality it sells gifts that cost as little as $5 and are appropriate for a clientele that ranges from 12- to 85-years-old. Find everything from cocktail rings, costume jewelry and holiday broaches (starting at $5-$10 and going up to $45-$50) to men’s cuff links ($10-$15), vintage tie clips ($5-$10), baby head hats, head bands ($5) and evening bags for black tie events and New Year’s Eve parties ($85-$250). Men usually purchase vintage jewelry sets as presents. “One customer comes in every year to buy jewelry that we wrap in vintage handkerchiefs for his wife.” Check its Facebook page for shout-outs about sales, specials and new shipments.
Calling all parents: Area Kids describes itself as “a funky, fun, unique and friendly place to shop with or for your kids, with great deals and an even better selection!” It has a strong following throughout Brooklyn, New York City, and even beyond. Presents for the little ones range from “big” items like Schoenhut Pianos, Bruder trucks, and Xootr scooters to more manageable ones such as Sophie the Giraffe, stocking stuffers, and a large selection of clothing. Its clothing lines include Tea Collection, Appaman, Trumpette and the more local BrooklynRock. Area Kids constantly updates its blog and Facebook page with new items, deals, events and promotions. Also visit its Facebook page to make suggestions to the owners or read what other customers are saying. One last tidbit: Area Kids gift wraps free of charge!
For gift recipients who prefer plant life to toys, there’s Root Stock & Quade, run by John Rattigan and Kerry Quade. It’s off the Park Slope “beaten trail” on Myrtle Avenue (in Fort Greene), but in Kerry’s words, customers can expect to find an “ultra hip flower and plant shop, cool urban gardens, beautiful but edgy bouquets, amazing events.” Kerry and John are artists in their own right. Kerry works with both flowers and molten metal, spending spends days creating fresh florals and evenings designing environmental installations and mixed media 2-D work (check out Facebook @ Quade Handmade for details). John creates outdoor living spaces and, off-season, uses his talent for combining colors to transform interiors. One holiday gift idea is to schedule a consultation with John; email him at email@example.com. Also ask about the “Handmade Holiday” menu that offers soaps by Stella Marie Soap Company, Candles by Aunt Sadie’s, small works by Kerry Quade and items by other local artists. Follow the shop on Facebook and Twitter to learn about daily deals, the latest news and class schedules.
Home decorations and furnishings are also available at 3r Living. The eco-friendly home and lifestyle store was located on Fifth Avenue for six years. In February 2010, however, it moved entirely and solely online to 3rliving.com. “Although we are now an internet business, we are still the same small store that Park Slope was familiar with. We are completely focused on eco-friendly products for your home and lifestyle,” says co-owner Mark Caserta. When searching for presents, keep in mind that 3r living is constantly bringing in new products, so it’s best to check the Web site often. Best of all, devoted followers on Facebook and Twitter are likely to receive Park Slope-only deals for the neighborhood.
Wine and alcohol are usually hits with gift recipients who are friends. Head to Slope Cellars to find high-end French, Italian and German wines cellared at the shop. Another gift idea is “magnums of grower Champagne,” says manager Patty Lenartz, as well as “gift certificates, Spiegelau stemware, Built wine totes and we can customize a wine-of-the-month club for anyone.” Visit the store’s Facebook page for announcements about its tastings, usually held on Fridays and Saturdays.
Friends and loved ones may also enjoy receiving a print, picture framing and/or conservation service from Brooklyn Frame Works. When I contacted the store for ideas for presents, co-owner George Winter replied by email: “during the holidays we sell more of our ‘Brooklyn’ print by Ork Design, ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ prints, original subway maps and other Brooklyn-themed maps and prints.” Personally, I can’t think of anything better for a proud borough resident. Also look out for holiday sales on the store’s newest antique and modern prints. Shoppers can visit its Facebook page for upcoming events and promotions.
In my family, presents from Lion in the Sun of Park Slope would be popular because my relatives are still fans (and I don’t mean “fans” in the Facebook way) of printed materials. This paperie stocks a unique selection of cards, stationery, wrap, notebooks and paper related gifts, and also specializes in custom printed goods for all occasions. According to co-owner Melinda Morris, popular holiday items include the shop’s seasonal greetings cards: “we carry a lot of small independent artists and Brooklyn- and New York-inspired designs and those are always very hot items.” Check out its blog and Facebook postings to view the shop’s new items, latest favorite invitation designs and clients’ real weddings invitations. Follow Lion in the Sun on Twitter to learn about new arrivals or simply to read “our general musings of the day.” Also sign up for the store newsletter to receive special notices about sales and promotions.
Finally, I will end this article with advice from Melinda at Lion in the Sun: “Don’t underestimate the power of sending a personal holiday card. I think Facebook and Twitter are great ways to keep up with friends, family, colleagues and clients, but nothing replaces the thoughtfulness of a personal hand-written holiday card that shows someone you are thinking of them. It’s a little effort that really goes a long way!” Stressful as it is for someone like me (i.e., an insecure gift giver) to hear those words, I know them to be true – I need to put in more than the minimal effort if I want family and friends to feel appreciated. Here’s to adding a personal touch to our gifts this holiday season and to turning to Park Slope’s store owners for help, both online and off!