Last year’s holidays feel like so long ago. Maybe you remember standing in long lines, battling crowds in a Black Friday shopping frenzy, or slipping into a busy restaurant just to take a breather. This year, retailers predict holiday shopping will look a lot different amid the coronavirus pandemic. Social distancing may mean more people are doing their gift-buying online or picking out presents closer to home.
“Shop early, shop local” is the mantra being encouraged by big retailers and mom-and-pop shops across the state this year. If you’re hoping to keep your holiday dollars in The Mitten, we’ve pulled together a handful of unique Michigan gift suggestions from across both peninsulas. Nearly all offer customized gifts that can be shipped, purchased locally or picked up curbside. Add to this mix the countless small-town and downtown shopping destinations across the state – from West Michigan’s waterfront Saugatuck and Grand Haven storefronts to Detroit’s delightful Eastern Market. There are also thousands of area restaurants, breweries, wineries, resorts and adventure activity businesses that offer gift cards – so there’s no end to the cool holiday ideas our state holds.
“We’re encouraging shoppers to not wait until the last minute this year, because there could be shipping issues and supply chain glitches. Local stores are ready to serve you now,” said Meegan Holland, vice president of communications and marketing for the Michigan Retailers Association.
“Your shopping dollars have power. The more you patronize your downtown stores and restaurants this year, the more stable they’ll be coming out of the pandemic. No amount of saving a few pennies online will make up for empty storefronts in your downtown. It’s so important to shop local this year and every year, if you want to live in a thriving community with a cool downtown.”
Want to make a fun daytrip out of your holiday shopping by heading to one of your favorite Michigan towns? Check out these destination suggestions from Pure Michigan, a sponsor of our holiday gift guide.
See something in this list that inspires you to start shopping? Share it with a friend or relative and add your own suggestions. They just might move you to the top of their holiday gift list.
Headquarters: 6026 South Lake St. in Glen Arbor, (231) 226-3016
Other retail locations: Holland, Charlevoix, Traverse City, Ann Arbor and Frankenmuth
The holidays are one of the busiest times of the year in this little corner of Northern Michigan. The Glen Arbor headquarters and its five retail locations across the state do brisk businesses while helping people celebrate with all things cherry. Think oodles of dried cherries, chocolate-covered cherries, cherry-nut mix, jams and salsas and their big Boomchunka cookies. Shipping gift baskets and customers’ hand-picked selections is a big part of the season. “We send gifts all over the world and we have been for 30 years,” said Andrew Moore, Cherry Republic’s marketing manager.
Their holiday gift guide has some of the most popular items fans are searching for. Among them is the Bounty of the County basket, a bestseller that combines cherries, chocolates and even iced pretzels. “It’s really a good little selection of what we sell here.” A very Michigan touch that people love receiving with their gifts? A piece of birch bark, a pine cone and a sprig of cedar are tucked into every delivery – consider it a little “wish you were here” from Northern Michigan.
See Cherry Republic’s Holiday Guide here.
Sidetrip: Doing your shopping in Glen Arbor this year? Don’t forget to check out Michigan’s tiniest wine trail, right in town.
GROCER’S DAUGHTER CHOCOLATE
11590 Lacore Road (M-22) in Empire. Phone: (231) 326-3030
The holiday season started early at one of Michigan’s favorite chocolatiers. Grocer’s Daughter Chocolate near Sleeping Bear Dunes is kicking it off by rolling out its melt-in-your-mouth Peppermint Bark, which is only available this time of the year.
While any of their items can be boxed up and delivered, their gift bundles are specially selected to highlight Michigan-made ingredients like local cream and honey from Leelanau County. Some of their offerings are delightfully unique. “Drinking chocolate seems to be really popular for the holidays,” said owner Jody Hayden. This ground chocolate gives drinkers a silkier texture than the usual cocoa powder. “You make it on your stovetop. We add in cinnamon and chili. There are lots of fun ways to doctor it up.”
Hayden believes her hand-crafted treats have loyal enthusiasts because direct-trade chocolate is the primary ingredient. It makes items lower in sugar, with no corn syrup or other recipe-stretchers. “Anything we add to it just compliments the flavor of the chocolate.”
There’s also a big serving of home-state pride in these gifts. “Our holidays are always a really special time,” she said. “I think people want to support Michigan products.”
Check here for Grocer’s Daughter gift collections and information on its virtual tasting sessions.
FUSTINI’S OILS AND VINEGARS
Headquarters: 141 E. Front St. in Traverse City. Phone: (231) 944-1145
Other store locations: Ann Arbor, Petoskey and Holland
These stores are a treasure trove for artisan oil and vinegar lovers, whether you’re picking out an elegant gift for your favorite foodie or trying to find a new flavor combination for your own next simple vinaigrette.
Customers can head into the stores or peruse Fustini’s online shopping site for gift ideas. A couple popular items that have risen to the top this season are the Taste of Michigan 4-pack and a collection of hand-selected extra virgin olive oils and riserva balsamic vinegar, said Denise Walburg, the company’s director of marketing. The Taste of Michigan features three balsamic vinegars that use local fruits – Traverse City cherries, West Michigan blueberries and Michigan apples – and a basic olive oil.
“They all come with idea cards – ways to mix and match them,” said Walburg. “That one I think has been really popular because people like to do something Michigan-ish, especially if they are sending it to somebody who maybe doesn’t live here, just to give them a taste.”
The select/riserva comes with three oils with different flavor profiles – a delicate, a medium and a robust – and an artisan balsamic. It can be a good gift for oil purists who want to add their own flavors. Not sure what to pick for a basic gift that won’t miss the mark? Walburg recommends the Sweet Italian set – two popular oils and two balsamics that all play well together. “That is the go-to. Everyone can drizzle it on pasta or roasted veggies or use it as a bread dip,” she said.
See Fustini’s gift collections here.
Sidetrip: Headed to the store in downtown Holland? Don’t forget to check out nearby shops like the classic Holland Peanut Store, Readers World Bookstore, and the Apothecary Gift Shop. Don’t leave town without filling up your growler at New Holland Brewing, or grabbing a bite at Hops at 84 East or The Curragh Irish Pub. Or come see the city’s Kerstmarkt, a Dutch Christmas Market, on select weekends in November and December.
Heaquarters: 411 E. Lake St. in Petoskey. Phone: (888) 735‑6700
Other Locations: Harbor Springs, Charlevoix, Traverse City and Saugatuck.
This Petoskey-based company began attracting a loyal following in the 1980s, selling its handcrafted preserves that are still made in small batches with fruits sourced from Michigan farms. Now its gift boxes have become anticipated treats no matter the season. Its jam collections arrive with the colorful jars looking like little jewels nesting in a box. But don’t overlook the granola or breakfast goodie selections. Jenna Zerbo, brand marketing manager for American Spoon, said the Holiday Jam Box and Classic Pancake Breakfast box remain bestsellers.
New this season is its Christmas Cheer Collection (available beginning in late November). “We are most excited about this gift this season! Includes all the ingredients to a warm, cozy Christmas morning (Whiskey Maple Syrup, Pancake Mix, Peppermint, Star Thistle Honey) plus our brand new limited release, Christmas Cherries made with Michigan sour cherries preserved in vibrant cherry syrup brightened with orange and warmed with festive winter spices. Spoon it over pancakes or serve with holiday desserts,” American Spoon staff recommends.
Sending a gift for a big crowd? Check out their Buy The Store collection. “The big mama of gifts! Make a big impression by bringing the whole store to your front door. Comes in a gorgeous wooden crate filled with all of our favorite preserves, condiments, toppings, pancake mix, granola.”
See American Spoon’s gift collection here.
Sidetrip: Headed to downtown Petoskey? Order something fabulous to-go from Roast and Toast Cafe, treat yourself to something creamy and delicious at Petoskey Cheese, or find the perfect gift for that hard-to-buy-for person at Grandpa Shorter’s or J.W. Shorter & Son Mercantile. Related: Petoskey Cheese offers Old-World flavor in darling new shop.
Sidetrip: Headed to the Traverse City location? You’ll have blocks of downtown stores to browse. Hungry? Check out what’s being served at The Little Fleet, or grab a hot slice from Paesano’s Pizza. Heading inland? Leave time to wander through the Mercato shopping district at the Village at Grand Traverse Commons. Head across the street to pick up some take-out from Spanglish, then stock up on your favorite pours at Left Foot Charley. Related: Northern Michigan winery offers unique new Barrel Room tastings
Online shop: Call toll free 8 a.m. to10 p.m. (888) 636-8162
Foodies have been known to drive quite a distance to Ann Arbor and stand in lines just to wrap their hands around a Zingerman’s Deli sandwich or a treat from their bakehouse. At the holidays, those cravings are meant to be shared. Zingerman’s online shopping website is a veritable buffet of sweet and savory gifts that can be purchased as pre-made packages or customized to match your festive fancy.
Its meal kits have become a popular way for people have their favorites delivered to family and friends. One clear winner is the Corned Beef Reuben Sandwich Kit – big enough to feed a group and tasty enough to “make grown men weep in appreciation,” according to their staff.
Another popular choice is the Sour Cream Coffeecake, a classic Bundt laced with Indonesian cinnamon and toasted walnuts.
Want to send a little love from the home state? Check out their description of the Made in Michigan gift basket: “This handsome wicker gift basket is stuffed with a jar of Cherry Berry Spoonfruit preserves from American Spoon in Petoskey, a jar of Koeze’s Cream-Nut Peanut Butter from Grand Rapids, a bag of Bell Stone’s Dark Chocolate Toffee from Livonia, a bag of Al Dente pasta from Whitmore Lake, and from here in Ann Arbor a bottle of Clancy’s Fancy hot sauce, a bag of Zingerman’s sea salt potato chips, a bag of whole bean High Flyer coffee, a Zzang! handmade Candy Bar, and a loaf of Zingerman’s Sourdough Bread.”
See all Zingerman’s holiday gift collections here.
BRONNER’S CHRISTMAS WONDERLAND
25 Christmas Lane in Frankenmuth. Phone: (800) 361-6736
More than 50,000 holiday gifts – from nativity sets to stocking stuffers to delicate ornaments – are on display inside Bronner’s, the world’s biggest Christmas store. Of those, about 6,000 items are available via their online store.
Bestsellers this year include special ornaments for the tree, including the Christmas 2020 ornament that features a snowman and his woodland friends, and a religious-themed ornament designed to include all the names of Jesus.
Shopping tip: If you’re headed to Frankenmuth to shop Bronner’s in person, try going on a weekday when crowds are thinner and it will be easier to stay socially distant, staff says.
See the all the Bronner’s online shopping gifts here.
1238 Wall St. in Ironwood. Phone: (888) 455-2253
If there was ever a piece of clothing that embodied a whole peninsula, it is Stormy Kromer’s signature cap. The Ironwood-based retailer sells this piece of U.P. gear and more on its website, which has new items this year for holiday shoppers.
Gina Thorsen, the company’s president, said she expects online shopping to be brisk this year, but you can also find Stormy Kromer items at more than 150 retails partners throughout the state.
Bestsellers include the original Stormy Kromer cap with earflaps, as well as the women’s petal pusher cap. “Those two are always tried and true,” Thorsen said. The mittens are popular for gift-giving as well. New this year are a big variety of children’s mittens. While the adult mittens are made of wool and leather, Thorsen said the kids’ versions are crafted from wool with waxed cotton on the palms. “They are really warm and really rugged, and they come in lots of fun colors.”
Another recent addition is a collection of bags – think little Northwoods wristlets, which are the perfect size to hold your keys, credit card and phone, or a larger crossbody bag. “They keep really selling well,” she said.
See their online clothing, accessory and gift ideas here.
LAWRY’S PASTY SHOP
2164 U.S. Highway 41 in Marquette. Phone: (906) 226-5040
If you want to send your favorite people a taste of the U.P., it does not get any more delicious than an order of hand-made pasties. Lawry’s has been wrapping their signature mixture of beef, potatoes, onions and rutabagas in flaky crusts for more than 70 years. As the holidays approach, the family-run operation is expecting to fill more than 100 orders a week. The 17- and 12-ounce pasties come in packs ranging from eight to 24, all shipped in coolers packed with dry ice. Recipients can heat and eat them when they arrive, or freeze them to enjoy later. In addition to the beef pasties, Lawry’s also makes a Garden Medley recipe blending potato, broccoli and carrot with a bit of cheddar cheese. If you plan to order, do it early. Holiday shipping may end after Dec. 11.
To see all the sizes and varieties, check Lawry’s Pasty Shop’s online ordering information here.
THREADS OF MACKINAC
1500 Astor St. on Mackinac Island. Email at [email protected]
The word for the holidays is sherpa, as in Threads’ sherpa blankets, jackets and hats, which are all turning out to be seasonal bestsellers, said owner Micah Paldino. Not to be outdone, Threads’ Icon T-shirt is finding fans year-round. Its design incorporates the islands’ horses, forests, bikes and lakefront. Paldino hopes every time someone pulls on a Threads shirt, jacket or hat, it brings back those fun island memories.
“These have been huge hits and big winners for our customers,” he said. “Our Icon T-shirt is … inspired by the idea of being a ‘wearable postcard’ where you can find some of the elements that we think make Mackinac Island so special: the horse that makes the island ‘hummmm’, the trees you see in our amazing state park, the water of Pure Michigan, our bicyclists who make the 8-mile trek around the island each year, and our super secret design element – the outline of the island underneath the crook of the horse’s neck.”
See all the clothing styles and gifts available on the Threads of Mackinac website.
Looking for more ideas for the Mackinac Island lovers on your list? Check out all holiday shopping deals on the Mackinac Island Tourism website. There are specials being offered by Doud’s Market and Deli, Little Luxuries of Mackinac, Canvas & Paddle, and the Artists Market of Mackinac.
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