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Good Things Come in Small Shops

Buying local for the holidays

Nov. 30, 2011
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As gift-giving season descends upon us again, the temptation to go to a national big-box store and buy for everyone on your list is strong. But perhaps this is the year to expand your gift selection and give the local economy a boost, too. When Milwaukeeans spend their money in local establishments, it creates a ripple effect throughout the city. Economists estimate that for every dollar spent in a locally owned business, 68 cents stay in the community. By comparison, well less than half of each dollar paid to a nationally owned chain remains in the area. By patronizing local shops and buying Wisconsin products, you can spread some holiday cheer not only to family and friends, but also to the Milwaukee community as a whole.

The following are some of the many independent, local establishments that will help put a more personal touch on your gift-giving this year.

Almont Gallery

Original art by a local artist is a unique gift to be treasured by anyone on your list. The Almont Gallery features work from a wide range of local artists. Paintings and drawings in a variety of media, glass sculptures, ceramics, photographs and handmade jewelry are all available in this eclectic shop. A special holiday exhibit runs through Dec. 31. Visit them at 342 W. Main St., Waukesha. For more information, call 262-542-1522 or visit www.almontgallery.org.

Buy Local Gift Fair

From noon-4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 4, visit the Lakefront Brewery (1872 N. Commerce St.) and peruse the wares of nearly 40 Milwaukee-area businesses at the annual “Buy Local Gift Fair.” Among the many Milwaukee establishments participating in the fair are Bolzano Artisan Meats, Boswell Book Co., Hunger Task Force, Milwaukee Cupcake Co., Outpost Natural Foods and the Urban Ecology Center. Admission is free.

Fair Trade for All

A locally owned and operated specialty gift shop, Fair Trade for All offers a variety of international and local handmade gifts. Products include unique clothing, jewelry, coffee and chocolate. All gifts from developing countries are made by independent artisans or small producers that pay workers a living wage and provide safe working conditions. Fair Trade for All is located at 8730 W. North Ave., Wauwatosa, 2223 E. Capitol Drive, Shorewood, and 101 E. Grand Ave., Port Washington. At all three locations, Fair Trade for All will be holding its “Free and Fair Holidays” benefit Dec. 3-10. Part of the proceeds from this event will be given to Basics in Milwaukee, a group that aids victims of human trafficking. You can also visit online at www.fairtradeforall.net.

Green Fields Trading Co.

Having recently opened a second location on Brady Street, Green Fields defied the odds in a tough economy and expanded its business. The original location, on the corner of Farwell and Royall, is a great place to shop for premium incense, tie-dye T-shirts and vintage clothing. The Brady Street store emphasizes women's clothing, jewelry and home décor items. Both stores are stocked with fair-trade products from Southeast Asia and locally made jewelry and handbags. Visit them at 1800 N. Farwell Ave. (414-224-7762) or 1239 E. Brady St. (414-988-9585).

Milwaukee County Winter Farmers' Market

Rather than grab a mass-produced food gift basket, build your own with a visit to the Winter Farmers' Market at State Fair Park. You can pick up Wisconsin-made artisan cheeses, honey, maple syrup, jams and jellies, cider, locally made salami and other smoked sausages, and an amazing selection of fresh bakery and pastries. Visit them in the Tommy Thompson Youth Center, Wisconsin State Fair Park, Ag Village, Gate 5, 640 S. 84th St. For more information, visit www.mcwfm.org.

Olive, Fine Organic Living

Committed to finding eco-friendly alternatives without sacrificing style, Olive only stocks green, sustainable, fair-trade products. Gift ideas include down jackets, hand-knit sweaters, locally made soap sets and children's wind-, solar- and hydro-power science kits. Holiday specials will run throughout the season. Visit them at 2624 N. Downer Ave. For more information, call 414-332-2710 or visit www.oliveorganic.org.

Project M Boutique and Fashion House

Project M Boutique and Fashion House is one of Milwaukee's premier destinations for independent fashion. The “M” in the name represents that everything carried in the shop is either made in Milwaukee or the Midwest. Project M specializes in handmade clothing for women and men, jewelry, accessories and screen-printed items, many of which are created from recycled materials. They also offer fabulous vintage items. If you're not sure what size or style your fashionista desires, pick up a gift certificate during the shop's extended holiday hours. Gift certificates are good for any in-shop item or, for the aspiring designer in your life, the Indie Fashion School sewing class. Project M Boutique is located at 1726 E. North Ave. on Milwaukee's East Side. For more information, call 414-881-2733, visit www.projectmboutique.com or become a friend on Facebook.

South Shore Cyclery

This cool bike shop in Cudahy offers seasonal specials, including a stocking-stuffer deal that will please the cyclist on your list. South Shore Cyclery also has an extended layaway offer that will allow you to purchase a new bike without putting as much stress on your bank account. What makes this store extra special is the vast collection of vintage bicycles from the 1930s to the 1960s on display for the viewing pleasure of shop patrons. Visit them at 4758 S. Packard Ave., Cudahy. For more information, call 414-831-0211 or visit www.southshorecyclery.com.


If you need the convenience of online shopping, it is still possible to support local artisans. With more than 2,500 Wisconsin-made products displayed on Wisconsinmade.com, you will find something for everyone on your list. Gifts for sale include bratwurst, sausage and cheese, Packers and Badgers gear, works by local artists, books by Wisconsin authors, homemade pet treats and much more. They will ship anywhere in the country, so you can easily send a bit of local love to transplanted Wisconsinites. Visit them at www.wisconsinmade.com.

Susan Harpt Grimes is a freelance writer living and working in the Milwaukee area. After many years of experiencing mall holiday madness, she enjoys the more personal, relaxed pace of shopping small stores.


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