Previously home to Spiral Light, this space has become more of a Spiritual Center than a store. But they still offer literature on various religious and spiritual philosophies as well as unique giftable items. For instance, I found Michael Pollan’s book The Omnivore’s Dilemma ($16) on the shelves. They also offer a selection of candles ($4.95) with various scents to invoke Joy, Friendship and happy Housewarming thoughts. Check out their Web site for more information on upcoming events, including Tarot card parties and meditation classes.
329 Ludlow Ave., Clifton, 513-381-3436, www.aquariusstar.com
The Art of Entertaining
This cute, quirky shop not only sells gifts for the hostess in your life but also helps you host the best party at their welcoming store. They seamlessly host special events, such as wedding or baby showers, and offer cooking classes for kids and wine tastings for young professionals. One of my favorite gifts was a personalized wine stopper ($16) with a large, single-initial monogram on an oversized stopper. An elegant cheese tray and spreader ($17) make a great addition to your party trays, and table topics (cards with conversation starters, $26) keep your party guests chatting away.
2019 Madison Road, O’Bryonville, 513-871-5170
This children’s book shop exudes a sort of community feeling not found at other book stores. A child’s birthday party was going on in the back, and someone’s dad was buying cups of coffee for others in attendance. On the other side of the café is the bookstore, bursting with good reads for toddlers through tweens. For my 2- and 5-year-old nieces flying in town for the holidays, I got a “Going on a Plane” sticker book ($6.99) and a Klutz activity book ($14.95) complete with colorful markers attached to the book so they’re less likely to lose them. Younger kids will delight in a “Count with Maisy” book and numbered blocks ($11.99) to start learning numbers, as well as letter and alphabet washable placemats ($4 each) to protect my countertops from little hands.
3054 Madison Road, Oakley, 513-731-2665, www.bluemanateebooks.com
Civic Garden Center
When you shop at Civic Garden Center this holiday season, you’re not just helping your friends and family tidy up the yard – you’re also contributing to the company’s Youth Education Programs and Neighborhood Initiatives. Proceeds from Civic Garden Center’s “Blooming Boxes” help fund these programs. Purchase chocolate brown gift boxes tied with raffia for $10 that contain 10 fragrant heirloom Grape Hyacinth bulbs; four creamy white Daffodil bulbs for $15; or one unique Amarillys bulb for $25.
2715 Reading Road, Corryville, 513-221-0981, www.civicgardencenter.org
This small store packs a lot of holiday shopping power thanks to their enduring holiday gifts and low prices. I immediately found two packs of golf balls encased in a painted gift pack made to look like a full snowman ($5 each), perfect for the avid golfer on your list. Nutcracker-addicts will enjoy their wide selection of dolls and figurines, or select a miniature Nutcracker holiday ornament ($2) to tie onto another gift’s tag. Indulge someone special with round bath fizzies ($9.99) or special jewelry ($7.99 for a silver bracelet), and purchase a Santa tea light ($5.99) for your own home décor. While shopping, I got to talking with the owners, who mentioned Santa would be stopping by for a visit on Dec. 21 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and posing for a free picture with kids.
36 S. Miami Ave., Cleves, 513-498-3415 or 513-498-0430
Dress for Success
I’d heard that Dress for Success provided clothes to women who were in abusive or bad relationships and needed an outfit or two to help land that new job interview. But I didn’t know they also ran a boutique to sell their surplus wares that might not be interview-appropriate or are just not needed at that time. Not only does the store benefit the Dress for Success organization, but they also offer amazing deals. There’s a flat rate for most items, which means you can get great business suits for just $25 or a blazer for $15. Bracelets and watches will cost you just $7, and hats are $8. Similar to a thrift store, you have to hunt for the good items, but once you find a stunning chunky orange bracelet ($7, a fraction of what this would have cost at a name brand store), you know it’s all worth it.
135 W. Fourth St., Downtown, 513-651-3372, www.dfscincy.org
I stopped by Everybody’s Records and loved the music they were playing so much that I bought the CD (Morphine, $7.99). But what I really went in for was a Flight of the Conchords CD ($14.99) for my quirky friend. The store also offers T-shirts and vinyl records for the die-hard music lover.
6106 Montgomery Road, Pleasant Ridge, 513-531-4500, www.everybodysrecords.com
For a full selection of hemp-based products, check out O’Bryonville’s long-standing Hemptations store
2034 Madison Road, O’Bryonville, 513-871-4367, www.hemptations.com
King Arthur’s Court
I happened into King Arthur’s Court during a storewide 15-percent-off sale and was delighted to find quite a selection of gifts for the kids on my list. A wooden xylophone ($22.99) is great for my cousin’s musically inclined child, and the old-school Battleship game ($21.99) will be a classic to play with my brother and his daughter. And a make-your-own ornament kit ($22.99) will keep my cousin’s daughter busy for hours on end.
3040 Madison Road, Oakley, 513-531-4600, www.kingarthurstoys.com
Every time I stop in, the friendly staff comes right up to meet me and to suggest the perfect wine. Most recently, I picked up a Terrazzo Rosso, a Sangiovese and Montepulciano mix that promised to be a perfect pizza complement, and it delivered. While there, I got sidetracked by the delicious-looking gourmet foods and marinades at the front of the store. Foodies will delight in pesto gourmet dipping oil ($14.50) made locally in West Chester by a company called Little Dipper, and a jar of seedless red raspberry preserves ($6.99).
6078 West Chester Road, West Chester, 513-942-9463, www.littlesonomawines.com
Margot Madison Stationery
For invitations for every need, stop in Margot Madison’s brightly lit invitation studio. Personalized note cards ($22) will be a great gift for a new bride’s last initial. Or find a cute onesie and burp cloth set ($19.95) for the new mom in your life. And for those celebrating any new event, check out the Boyland-replica juice glasses ($7.95) with entertaining designs based on the popular Boyland sodas.
2026 Madison Road, O’Bryonville, 513-871-2069, www.margotmadisonstationery.com
Meier’s Wine Cellars
This holiday season, step out with a celebrity and try Meier’s No. 44 Cream Sherry ($11.99), voted one of Wine Enthusiast’s Best Buys. Or try one of Meier’s old standby’s, including their lip-smacking Spiced Wine ($5.79) or Blackberry wine ($7.29). In the mood for some food? Check out their Web site for gourmet dishes that pair perfectly with their wines.
6955 Plainfield Road, Silverton, 513-891-2900, www.meierswinecellars.com
If you walk past this eclectic dining spot in the heart of Northside, you’re likely to wonder what kind of spices are wafting through the Hamilton Avenue air. There’s not really a way to tell, as Melt makes all its dressings, soups and sides homemade and uses local ingredients for most of its dairy, produce, coffee and baking needs. A $25 gift card will provide your friends or relatives with a great lunch that will keep them coming back to Melt for years to come.
4165 Hamilton Ave., Northside, 513-681-MELT, www.meltcincy.com
I stopped into Naru Gifts on a quiet Sunday and was delighted to find a wide range of gifts for harder-to-please friends on my list. For my office secret Santa I found a $10 makeup bag with circular holder, already in a clear gift bag. There were also beautiful Thai purses ($20) in various styles that could please anyone. But the best find was a group of cafeteria trays modeled after those used in New York’s Sing Sing prison ($12). I doubt you’ll see many of those during your holiday gift exchanges.
362 Ludlow Ave., Clifton, 513-221-4432, www.narugifts.com
Discover industrial furnishings with a trendy flair, local art and T’s and accessories you won’t find elsewhere. This season the store offers screen printed infant onesies by Amber Reis ($11 each), featuring limited edition original designs by Reis herself printed on secondhand fabrics. Choose the perfect size for your babe and select your desired fabric (onesies come in stripes, polka-dots and other styles with Amber’s designs overlayed on them). The unique boutique also offers jewelry, glassware and T-shirts.
4577 Hamilton Ave., Northside, 513-542-4577, www.nvisionshop.com
There are quite a few stationary shops in the area, but On Occasion sets itself apart by also offering distinctive calendars for the upcoming year along with photo frames and placemats for different occasions. For the past Thanksgiving holiday, kids’ turkey placemats ($5.75) would have been great for the children’s table. Susan Wallace Barnes calendars ($24) provide a fun and functional addition to your 2010 walls. But my favorite gift is a set of party invitations with a cheeseburger painted on them that includes green confetti that looks like 3D lettuce ($16.50).
3440 Edwards Road, Hyde Park, 513-321-7898
When I walked into Park Vine one Saturday morning, I found a Vegan cooking class already in session. It’s that kind of community involvement that brings customers back to this fun eco- and vegan-friendly store. Park Vine sells a wide range of gifts for your pet, your baby, your friends who like to clean and those who like to help save the environment one re-usable lunch bag ($23) at a time. While there, I also found a smaller version of that lunch bag for just $9, which I can use to hold a small lunchtime treat like a sandwich or yogurt. Other reusable bags there are $12 and locally made. Use these to hold dry snacks, pens and pencils or makeup. For your friend’s inner homemaker, choose a two-pack of Mrs. Nellie’s dryer balls ($18, which, when placed in your dryer, cut down on drying time and decrease wrinkles.
1109 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-721-7275, www.parkandvine.com
Bob Roncker’s Running Spot
For running shoes, apparel or even just running advice, Bob Roncker’s is the perfect place to stop in for a fitting or a chat. They also have a wide selection of gear and accessories. For instance, my running partners will love the woman’s smartwool ultra comfy socks ($16.95) and the men’s low cut sockers ($12). My volleyball-playing niece will enjoy thin ($14.99) or thick ($17.99) headbands to keep her long bangs out of her eyes.
1993 Madison Road, O’Bryonville, 513-321-3006
Schneider’s Sweet Shop
There’s bound to be a few sweet tooth’s on your Christmas list this year, and for those beloved BFFs stop by Schneider’s for a box of assorted chocolates and Opera creams ($16.45). Schneider’s has been making these homemade candies since 1939, specializing in Opera creams. They also have a delectable selection of caramels, cordial cherries, pecan carmelettes, fudge and other delicacies to sink your teeth into.
420 Fairfield Ave., Bellevue, 859-431-3545, www.schneiderscandies.com
Shake It Records
With approximately 30,000 CD titles and 8,000 vinyl albums, you’re sure to find something you need for even the hardest-to-find person on your list. You can also purchase Shake It T-shirts and gift certificates in various amounts. The store is always filled with cutting-edge musical selections, but they don’t just specialize in audio and video gifts. You can also find a retro “I heart Public Transportation” coffee mug ($11.99) for the bus riders in your life or $2.99 monster and robot zipper pulls for your hoodie-loving friends. The literati will also delight at the store’s expansive book collection. I caught myself reading Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed book ($14) until the next song came on, at which point I had to go find out the artist’s name for a possible future purchase.
4156 Hamilton Ave., Northside, 513-591-0123, www.shakeitrecords.com
One of Cincinnati’s best kept secrets, this small consignment boutique offers great deals on everything from clothes to jewelry to shoes. Perusing their selection, I found a long-sleeve New York & Co. shirt for just $8. There was also a stunning black and white dress (perfect to wear to a holiday party) for a meager $16. Moving on to the jewelry, I lingered over a beautiful green bracelet with a gold color clasp. Priced at just $3.50, I couldn’t pass it up.
4041 Hamilton Ave., Northside, 513-541-9200
Tapestry Gifts & Collectibles
Tucked away on the Streets of Union Centre, Tapestry Gifts & Collectibles offers a wide variety of gifts for the special woman in your life, as well as children and infants. Two perfect Secret Santa gifts are small gift boxes made to look like mini plastic coffee mugs ($3.99 each) filled with warm, tasty drink mixes like cinnamon spice cappuccino and mocha cappuccino. Or purchase a Lolita wine glass ornament ($14.99) for a more non-traditional Christmas tree.
9448 Water Front Dr., West Chester, 513-759-0222
Ten Thousand Villages
Offering a wide variety of international goods from thousands of artisans, this fair-trade organization and store sells unique Christmas gifts from craftsman in 38 countries. My first must-have item in this store is a Kenyan-inspired toy that looks like a boy on a bicycle, attached to a large metal stick ($6). When a child holds the stick and runs the bicycle along a hard surface, the boy’s attached feet to the pedals makes it look as if he’s furiously cycling his bike. More distinguished gifts include the Vietnamese photo album ($3%uFFFC that features metallic silvers and blues with shiny photo album paper and a Bangladesh piggy bank ($17) that makes a distinctive focal point, thanks to its unique carvings and large, bulbous design. The store also has a wide selection of jewelry – I spied a pair of Indonesian gold earrings ($24) with red and metallic accents that matches my mom’s style perfectly.
2011 Madison Road, O’Bryonville, 513-871-5840