Shopping with Chea

As far as holiday activities go, I’m aging and can’t hit the eggnog as hard as I used to, and I’ve been banned by my family from singing “All I Want For Christmas is You” ever again, both with and without interpretive dancing, so all I have left to do is go shopping. Here’s Part One of my useful annual shopping guide, which will allow you to take care of all of your gifting needs without leaving town, and I get to put the loca in local.

Spear’s Store never fails to delight. I bought a pair of sunglasses there this summer and the cashier was pleasantly surprised. “I didn’t even know we sold sunglasses,” she said. Not only do they have those, they have soap from Our Own Candle Company. One of the scents is Lavender, with which I’m familiar, and the other available scent is Butt Naked (not making this up, I swear), which could be delightful, but could also go terribly wrong. At $4.99 each, it’s worth it for research purposes alone.

East Charlotte Tractor Parade calendars are available for $15, as well as various other fun kinds of Tractor Parade merch like baby onesies, adult T-shirts and little wooden toy tractors. The shirts make good gifts for out-of-town family members who moved and left us here to freeze to death and reminds them of the good times they’re missing.

There are stocking stuffers everywhere at Spear’s—Kinco thermal cold-weather work gloves for only $22.99, a handmade-in-Vermont (don’t know who he is, but the sign says, Made by Floyd) ice-fishing jig for $6, assorted bandanas for $2.49, and Method Organics CBD dog treats, made in Middlebury, but not by Floyd, for $30 a bag. That last one seems like a lot of money, but if you’re the kind of person who has a stocking for your dog, you’re not going to flinch at 30 bucks for treats.

Spear’s Store also stocks a hefty supply of pipes and other items that people used to have to pretend they were using for tobacco. There’s a little glass one that looks like a dragon—dare I say, Puff the Magic Dragon?—and another glass pipe that looks like a frightened pickle with eyes.

There is, as always, a lovely and diverse selection of beer, wine and champagne, as well as some fun canned wines, which five years ago were apparently considered low-end but are now fancy. Roseé Water is adorably packaged, and there is also Flora tiki wine spritzers and other canned drinking treats like beer, which is never a bad idea, even if you’re gluten-free: Spear’s has Glutenberg gluten-free beer. They can also make custom gift baskets with all or some of the above attractively packaged.

For your keto-diet friends, head to Fat Cow Farm on Spear Street, where you can pick up super-locally raised sausage, beef, holiday turkeys and more. I think if you love someone, you can give them a wrapped pile of meat, and they will love you back. Carb-lovers can hit Backdoor Bread on Charlotte-Hinesburg Road, which bakes and serves organic, whole-grain, house-milled breads from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesdays and Fridays. The raisin bread is so good, it tastes like there’s already butter on it, and when you butter it, it’s like it’s double-buttered, which is the best way to be.

Philo Ridge Farm sells feet. Frozen chicken feet and pigs feet are available, and they’re under ten dollars, and it will definitely be a fun alternative for your child’s teacher, who is probably sick of gift cards to Starbucks. The farm also has a beautiful selection of pickled cucumbers, giardiniera peppers, dilly beans and other preserved veggies that make a good hostess gift or hors d’oeuvres spread. There are beautiful beeswax candles with dried flowers from the farm in them, adorable stoneware mugs with a big blue rooster on them and fancy-looking instant coffee packs. I love a sea turtle as much as the next gal, but a paper straw makes me want to remove my teeth and fling them at the wall, so I’m excited to try the Hay! Straws, which are straws actually made of straw, are compostable, and won’t disintegrate the second you take a sip.

Horsford’s nursery and garden center has way more than wreaths and trees and garlands, although they do have all of those things. If you don’t think you need a little purple hedgehog planter, you are so wrong. At only $14.50, you can afford to buy his friends, too: yellow giraffe, royal blue pig, teal fox, orange elephant. Throw a succulent in each and you have a whole zoo that’s very difficult to kill.

Speaking of killing, I saw my friend after I visited Horsford’s and I was showing her my phone with all the photos I took, and I said, “Look at all the murder weapons they have!” I’m not a gardener, but she is, so she explained that, while they do look like they’d come in handy in a homicidal pinch, they’re actually really nice gardening tools. And then she backed away slowly.

One of my favorite collections at Horsford’s are the delicate blue and white vases that look like sea urchins. They’re made from kalonite deposits located in the northern province of Thailand, and the colors are chic and soft, and in prices that range from $15 to $50, they’re affordable. They also have salt and pepper shakers.

The garden shop also has paper vase wraps that can turn any container into a floral surprise, as well as Christmas tree ornaments in all shapes—little wooden deer, paper penguins, more hedgehogs and adorable acorn fairies for only $8 that look like they spring right from under a woodland mushroom. There are also glittery glass clip-on mushrooms that, at $3 each, are super groovy, man.

Please join me in the next issue for more shopping, and if you have a good tip about someone I should include, let me know.