Don’t dread holiday shopping this year. Make it an adventure by seeing what you can find from handcrafted to carefully curated designer merchandise at locally owned businesses.
With gifts ranging in cost from 10 cents to more than $12,000, local shops have it all.
Why not start out at the historic Harrison Brothers Hardware in downtown Huntsville? It’s the city’s oldest operating business, since 1897. If you’ve never been there, this time of year the brightly colored holiday decorations in the storefront windows will draw you inside just to look around. And if it’s been a while since you’ve visited the store, take the time to go.
A trip to Harrison Brothers is about more than just shopping. It’s an experience. The store is also a museum, capturing an important piece of history. You won’t find any self-service kiosk here. They still use a 1907 National Cash Register to ring up sales if you find something you want.
If you buy something, it will be made in the USA with many products handcrafted by Huntsville area or North Alabama residents. The most popular item sold in the store are 10-cent marbles.
“People buy them by the hundreds,” says Fran McFall, who has volunteered and worked at the store for eight years. She also points out larger, hand blown marbles, which sell for $3.75 a piece.
The first table you come to upon entering is filled with “Gifts Made Locally.”
There and throughout the store you’ll find old-fashioned candy and treats like Hammond’s chocolate bars, including a popular Pigs N’ Taters chocolate bar with bacon flavored bits and potato chips.
There are angel ornaments made of cotton, specialty soy candles, paintings by local artists and pottery, greeting cards, and books by local authors, classic toys – even an astronaut suit. There’s jewelry, knitting gift sets, dog food bowls, novelty socks, lotions and soaps, a large selection of gourmet foods and so much more.
The nonprofit Historic Huntsville Foundation keeps the store open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Sales support the store’s operation, with employees and volunteers, as well as other community events.
After you’ve perused Harrison Brothers, you’re bound to be ready to seek out what else local shop owners have to offer for holiday gift giving. Here’s a small sampling of what’s available in the area.
Greene Street Market
Monday-Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Sunday 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Just a short walk from the downtown square, on the same side of the street, you’ll find the Greene Street Market at Nativity, a shop that offers limited produce and farm fresh eggs. You’ll also find a variety of gifts, mostly from local artists and crafters at a variety of prices.
Marilyn Evans, the shop manager, says a sidewalk holiday market will be from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 16 with locally grown produce, farm fresh foods, fresh baked goods, and offerings by local artisans.
Jefferson Street and Clinton Avenue, hours vary
From the historic to the new and trendy, a few streets away one of the area’s most unique shopping areas awaits at Clinton Row. This is the place where ground level storage units have been turned into a downtown shopping destination.
Dee Dee Crawford, manager of the Downtown Storage Huntsville, says you can spend anywhere between $10 and $500 or more at one of the featured shops like The Little Green Store, Clinton Row Gifts, Maxwell Music, the Carole Foray Art studio, In Bloom gift shop, SassyFrazz Boutique, Clachic Boutique and 81 Home Gifts and Glam.
At the shops you’ll find photographs, frames, candles, personalized monogramming, old and new music, unique and trendy clothes, jewelry, handbags, cotton towels with fun sayings and much more.
“There are many nice and fun gifts to be found here,” Crawford says.
Railroad Station Antiques, Gifts & More
315 N. Jefferson St., Monday-Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays 1 to 5 p.m.
A few blocks away from Clinton Row you’ll find another treasure trove.
From $1 to $12,000, Railroad Station has an eclectic mix of old, vintage and new.
“We have everything from fashion accessories to fine antique furniture,” says Suzanne Conway. “It’s really an emporium, unlike any other shop in our area. Our historic building and diverse merchandise make us a destination shop unlike any other.”
You’ll find gifts for everyone from kids to seniors. Vintage toys, fabulous jewelry, furs, candles, a book shop, and even local honey and cheese straws from the Shoals.
“With 24,000 square feet and a limited word count, I can only touch the surface of what we have!”
222 Washington Street, Monday-Friday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday 7:30 a.m. to noon.
Another downtown fixture for 90 years, Lewter’s is a true hardware store with hand and power tools and any manner of home building or repair supplies.
This time of year, you will find a variety of Flexible Flyer red wagons and other vintage toys like cap guns, model airplanes and whirly gigs. Other gift ideas for this time of year include the collection of Lodge cast iron skillets.
974 Airport Road, Monday-Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
8213 U.S. 72, Madison, Monday-Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
What started 11 years ago primarily as an overstock shoe store has transitioned into two area trendy clothing boutiques for teens to women in their 70s.
“Many think we’re just for high school and college age and while we do sell a lot to that age group, we have customers of all ages,” says owner Amy Word. “Our idea is to have trendy clothes at a reasonable price so 90 percent of what we offer is $49 or less.”
The stores get new shipments every week so the inventory is always fresh.
“We carry a lot of unique pieces, and sometimes you’ll find the same looks here that you’ll find in larger department stores, at lower pricing,” Word says. “I know people are spending more time shopping online but there is something to be said about the experience of going into a store and trying something on, whether it’s a mother and daughter or friends.”
Mint Julep Market
7540 S. Memorial Parkway (next to Rosie’s Cantina), Monday-Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
If you have a person on your gift list who has everything or is hard to buy for, then Hillary Dunham says she’ll help you find the perfect present at Mint Julep Market.
“We have become the place to go to for something different. We have everything from paint supplies and classes, local artists who create pieces special for our shop, custom-made pottery from local and Alabama potters, clothing, luggage, custom embroidery, candles, jewelry, just all kinds of things,” Dunham says. “And if you find something we have in pink and you need it in another color, we’ll find it for you.”
Dunham says keeping collections easy to browse and a wide variety keeps customers coming back.
1801 University Drive, Monday-Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. through Dec. 22.
This little shop is packed with gift ideas. Their best selling item this season is the PJ Harlow Pajamas. There are more than 15 styles in eight colors. The shop is known for its embossed graphics stationary, raised ink and embossed stationary, which is made in house.
You’ll also find everyday and holiday collections of handmade pottery from Etta, Miss. With many serving pieces to choose from, they are dishwasher, microwave and oven safe. The store also features Earthborn pottery from Birmingham, jewelry at every price point, fur capes and jackets, leather goods for men and luxurious lotions and soaps for women.