Still looking for the perfect gift? Or maybe you haven't even started your shopping. Whatever your holiday sitch, the staff of Gapers Block is excited to offer some great gift ideas for last-minute shopping from some great local shops.
Chicago Architecture Foundation Shop
224 S. Michigan Ave.
You probably figured we'd have a place to get Chicago-themed gifts, right? That place is the Chicago Architecture Foundation's gift shop. Located across from the Art Institute, it's full of great architecturally inspired items -- as well as the standard tchotchkes that appeal to every grandma. For the lovers of the city, we recommend Real Chicago: Photographs from the Files of the Chicago Sun-Times ($35) or The Burnham & Bennett Plan of Chicago ($75). (It's also a good place to pick up The Encyclopedia of Chicago, rather than at Borders -- why not keep that money in local hands?) There's also a good selection of functional design, such as the Kitchen Tape Timer by Jozeph Forakis ($19.95).
League of Chicago Theatres
Looking for a different kind of gift certificate? Give the gift of theatre with Play Money. Buy it in denominations of $25 and redeem it at locations like the About Face, Bailiwick, Athenaeum, Raven Theatres and more. Order online at ChicagoPlays.com, purchase at HotTix locations, or call 312/554-5800.
The Coffee & Tea Exchange
3311 N. Broadway (at Broadway & Aldine in Lakeview)
The Coffee & Tea Exchange, which will be celebrating its 30th anniversary next year, has some terrific last-minute gifts for the caffeine addict in your life. Bodum coffee presses and tea presses start at $19.99, as do beautiful modern Wovo thermal carafes. There's a wide assortment of coffee mugs, tall latte mugs and funky demitasse cups for espresso. And of course, there are the beans: dozens of varieties (including their certified organic Fair Trade Coffees) in barrel after barrel, available for you to pick and choose. They'll also put together a gift basket for you; examples (and full bean and leaf menus) are available at the store's website.
Early to Bed
5232 N. Sheridan Rd. (Just north of Foster)
If you're looking for a gift to use on those cold Chicago nights, head to Early to Bed, Chicago's first woman-owned sex shop, which prides itself on its welcoming environment, geared toward shoppers of all genders and sexual orientations. Sometimes you need a little something to spice it up and the Tickle and Tease Kit ($21) has a bunch of little somethings: A feather for sweet tickles, Touch of Honey dust, massage cream, and more. You'll even be able to find something that won't make your mom embarrassed. Pick up a some Sensua Organics Homeopathic Lubricant Menopause Formula ($18). OK, maybe you need to have a special kind of relationship with your mother in order to give her this, but not only does this slippery stuff help with that pesky dryness, it also contains ingredients that can help with some of the irritating menopause side effects. Got a girlfriend with roommates? Get the SuperBall ($22), a handy little vibrator that's super-quiet, waterproof, and discreet.
1902 W. Montrose Ave.
Located in Ravenswood near the Montrose Brown Line stop, Hazel is a one-stop boutique for unique gifts, greeting cards and wrapping paper. Pick up a stocking-stuffer for your stressed-out friend, such as the holiday bath confetti from Two's Company in Snowflake, Christmas Tree or Candy Cane shapes ($3.50). Or, for the special lady in your life, check out their fantastic selection of designer jewelry. Standout collections include the glass, crystal and semi-precious stone jewelry by Chicago-native Sophia Forero (starting around $110). There is even stuff for the kids, including Colorforms playsets featuring characters like Dora the Explorer, Sponge Bob and Strawberry Shortcake ($5.95 each).
Healing Earth Resources
3111 N. Ashland Ave.
Healing Earth Resources is both a store and a gathering place for the local New Age community. Not only do they have a good selection of books, music, gifts and supplies, but they also offer a wide range of workshops, classes and other events. So if you're stuck looking for a gift for your spiritually minded friend, why not sign him up for flute making workshop ($20) or a seminar on shapeshifting and shamanism ($20). Or, pick up some incense sticks, such as the herbal incense from Triloka that comes in fragrances like Sierra Cedar and Tibetan Bouquet ($2-3.50).
Intelligentsia Coffee and Tea, Inc.
3123 N. Broadway
Intelligentsia is Chicago's own local coffee roasting company, and their beans are a great choice for the caffeine addict on your gift list. Favorites include the Arabian Mocha-Java ($10.75/lb.) and the Quetzal Breakfast Blend ($9.85/lb.). For the recovering caffeine addict, Intelligentsia also has a wide range of decaf blends like the Decaf Librarian's Blend ($10.65/lb.). And finally, check out their mugs ($6.99), gift boxes and coffee accessories for even more gift ideas.
4716 N. Lincoln Ave.
Merz Apothecary, located in the heart of Lincoln Square, has been a Chicago staple for nearly 130 years. Today their eclectic selection of international bath and body products is second-to-none. For the friend or relative who needs a little extra pampering, pick up the Merz Apothecary Spa in a Box, which includes a bath pillow, candle, soap, eye mask, body lotion and much more, already packaged to go ($60). Or, for the tea-lover on your list, try the candles, soaps and body lotions from Shadow & Light. Scents include Earl Grey, Chai Tea, Green Tea and Oolong ($5-12). Finally, don't miss their wide selection of candles from Archipelago Botanicals, which come in unusual scents like Bergamot & Tobacco, Apricot Basil and Wasabi Mint ($20).
3149 W. Logan Blvd.
This cool independently owned and operated store features something for everyone in your life, and as an added bonus, Rinky Dink also sells gift cards and wrapping paper, so it's truly a one-stop shop. Pick up a Hello Kitty evening bag for your best girlfriend or a favorite niece. Available in an assortment of colors and fabric, there are several "grown-up" Hello Kitty bags for any fancy occasion, for the adult Hello Kitty fan. Comes in clutch and shoulder styles. Or get simian with a Monchichi. Yes, that cute little thumb sucking monkey with the huge head that you grew up with. Rinky Dink also offers dishes, highball glasses, serving platters and bowls in Herman Miller-inspired patterns.
Seminary Co-op Bookstore
5757 S. University
If you are shopping for a serious booklover, skip that chain bookstore gift certificate and buy them a membership to the Seminary Co-op instead. By purchasing three shares of stock for $30, your gift recipient can enjoy a lifetime of discounts and savings at one of the best academic bookstores in the world. The discount is also good at the nearby 57th Street Books (1301 E. 57th Street, 773/684-1300), which carries popular titles, and the Newberry Library Bookstore (60 W. Walton, 312/255-3520) with its eclectic collection of historical and literary titles.
The Spice House
1512 North Wells St.
1941 Central St., Evanston
If you've got a chef on your gift list, the Spice House is the place to go. Their selection of exquisite spices -- like grey sea salt or fennel pollen and multiple types of cinnamon -- will delight any cook. They also offer a range of spice mixes for a variety of cooking styles and cuisines, available alone or in great gift-boxed sets. We recommend their Ethnic Chicago sets, with mixes such as Back of the Yards Garlic Pepper, Bronzeville Rib Rub and Argyle Street Asian Blend. A four-jar gift box runs $17.95, while the jumbo set, containing all the neighborhood mixes, is $39.95 and comes packed with cinnamon sticks and nutmeg. Our recommendation for the backyard chef is the Barbecue/Grill Lovers Box ($17.95), loaded with great rubs and seasonings for meat.