Smile Politely

Holiday shopping off the beaten path, pt. 2: Stocking up for the holidays

There’s no better feeling than watching a loved one’s face light up as they gaze into a perfectly wrapped holiday present, delighted by the unique and personal gift inside. But finding that unique and personal present can be nearly impossible. I can’t help but notice that every store in the mall sells the same Christmas sweaters. I’m not sure about you, but I’ve received more than my fair share of holiday chocolates and candles over the years, and I’m not sure how many more my cupboards can hold. Traditional holiday presents are starting to become one dimensional, overrated, and overdone. But that’s where we come in.

The chaos and commotion surrounding Black Friday might be over, but that doesn’t mean businesses are winding down; in fact, with the holidays right around the corner, shops in Champaign Urbana are lining their shelves with whimsical little trinkets and quirky knick knacks that have the potential to put a smile on anyone’s face. Time is running out and the holiday bells are ringing in the giving season, so don’t hesitate to explore the opportunities C-U has to offer for you to stock up for the holidays!

Haus + Home, 206 W. Main St., Urbana

[co][lab]‘s space has once again been reinvented, this time with the holidays in mind. Two small businesses, Norden Design and Dear Home Vintage, are offering a number of deals at their cozy pop-up now through December 22nd. 

From Norden, you’ll find simple and tastefully-designed items like a collection of bamboo dinnerware based on Japanese serving plates, origami greeting cards designed with animals and symbols, and cherry pit heating pads that deliver lasting warmth during the colder seasons to your loved ones.

From Dear Home Vintage, you’ll find unique and stylish vintage goods that bring design-inspired objects from the past into your home. Items for sale include a mix of vintage housewares with a focus on mid-century modern and Scandinavian pieces. Other items include vintage furniture, clothing and accessories, cameras, books, and travel ephemera.

New items will be added weekly, so stop by several times over the next few weeks to find the perfect item.







What to get:

– silk scarves
– brass sculptures
– napkin rings
– holiday cards
– mugs and dinnerware

Who to get it for:
– vintage lovers
– design-minded people
– dinner party hosts
– locavores
– flashy dressers
Mad Men lovers

More like it:
– this is an Urbana original

Priceless Books (see below)
Heartland Gallery

World Harvest, 519 E. University Ave, Champaign

Walking into this store is like walking into Germany, or Saudi Arabia, or Japan, depending on which two shelves you’re between.

The store has an aroma of foreign spices from various countries and the shop has a rustic, homey feel. The shelves are lined with cookies, candies, jams, spices, and other products from more than 50 countries from around the world, and a holiday gift from here could consist of anything from traditional Arabian sweets to coconut oils and creams that are impossible to find elsewhere in Champaign-Urbana. In fact, two of the spices available here, “Schezwan pepper” and “Grain or Paradise,” aren’t available in most grocery stores in the state!

The international ambiance of the store gives visitors a truly worldly experience. And one extremely alluring aspect of the store is the incredible hospitality of its owner and employees.




As I explored this place last week, I was ushered in by the owner and offered a cup of tea and a warm-hearted, genuine show of support for my mission to explore the smaller businesses in Champaign. The owner is extremely genuine and easygoing and creates a very friendly and warm atmosphere in the store that is much appreciated by its customers. 

What to get:
– Arabian sweets
– olives and oils
– teas
– unique spices
– Lebanese soap

Who to get it for:
– homesick international students
– grandmothers who love cooking
– chocolate-loving colleagues
– tea addicts

More like it:
AMKO Asian Foods
Walnut Street Tea Co.

Record Swap
Le Shoppe
Go Retro

Priceless Books, 108 W. Main St., Urbana

If you or a loved on is a fan of old-fashioned novels and the smell of ink and parchment, this is the perfect store to explore. It is host to tall, looming bookshelves full of books dating back decades.

Whether it’s a an old, forgotten book or a totally new book you never thought you would read, there are books in this store to please every reader. The shop is chaotically filled with books that cannot be found in a Borders, and it’s charm lies in the dust gathered on the spine of the texts lining the shelves. Mismatched shelves and trinkets add to its eccentric atmosphere and collections.

This shop has all types of books; it has collections and series for the avid reader who spends his or her days on the couch and never wants the series to end and shorter, nonfiction and fiction books for the college student who simply wants a novella to read in between textbook notes.

Among the shop’s treasures are obscure manuals, anthologies, and critical essays. For those who love classical music, the store also carries a large collection of CDs. Finding the perfect book or CD requires browsing, but the satisfaction of finding that book or CD Is truly priceless.

What to get:
– classical CDs
– philosophy collections
– The Bible
– The Classics
– old encyclopedias
– new and old novels

Who to get it for:
– your grandmother
– Jane Addams’ fans
– old neighbors
– Voltaire-lovers
– history buffs

More like it:
Jane Addams Bookshop
Friendshop Used Book Store
Say3 Books

Heartland Gallery
Haus + Home (see above)

Pard’s, 306 N. Maple St., Urbana

If you’re into Old West Gunslingers, western films, and equestrianism, than Pard’s is your personal haven. Walking into this shop is like walking into a spaghetti western; the store is stocked with every cowboy supply you can imagine. It has an entire room devoted to cowboy boots in more styles and colors than I knew existed.

From the western grandma to the newborn horse-rider, there are sizes for every member of the family. To accessorize the cowboy boots, the walls of the store are lined with studded leather belts and hats. Pard’s revolves around cowboys and horse-riding: the children’s section contains little horse figurines, key chains, and Lego sets, and the clothes section contains racks of plaid shirts and jeans.

The decorative section of the stores has beautiful equestrian frames and paintings sprouting traditional cowboy wisdom. The most unique section of the store is to the utmost left; there are rooms filled with horse saddles, spurs, and bridles that would put any equine in heaven. Studded and painted with beautiful designs, the saddles are delicately crafted. The store contains every possible item a cowboy or cowgirl could want; its endless supply of cowboy boots and button down shirts make for a perfect holiday shopping spot for any equestrian.

What to get:
– anything in plaid

– western apparel and supplies

– saddles, bridles, and old-fashioned spurs

– cowboy boots

– studded purses

– horse figurines (Barbie included)

– leather phone cases

Who to get it for:
– local farmers
– equestrian champs
– Wild West lovers
– your horse
– your dad (if he’s into button-downs)

More like it:
…I’ve never seen any!


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