The season of gift-giving is upon us, and for many people, the opportunity to support local businesses is a better reason to shop than the Black Friday sales. Well, it’s no shame if you want to get a nice set of pans or popular sneakers at a huge discount, but when it comes to your loved ones, it’s always been an important consideration. Think a little deeper this year by choosing handmade, locally sourced items under the Christmas tree. Your community, friends and family will thank you.
West Hollywood or online
Available at Be Bright Coffee in Melrose, which is where I was introduced, this unique seed butter is a multi-purpose splurge waiting to become a cult favorite. For anyone familiar with dim sum dessert black sesame jin dui or rice balls, sweet tang yuan, this delicious butter is basically a pot filling. Dubbed the “Chinese-American Nutella,” this not-so-sweet paste is made with black sesame, peanuts, and brown sugar. Once you try one of these, peanut butter just won’t cut it. Be Bright mixes it into iced lattes and serves it on toast, and if you buy a jar to use at home, you can do both. The best part? Rooted Fare itself is Chinese-American-, women-owned, so this brand is a legitimate extension of their heritage, not a quick jump on the bandwagon.
Fashion District and online
Whether you need a bow tie, a bespoke scarf or a custom suit, Pocket Square Clothing is the place to go. Sure, getting a custom suit as a gift for someone else would be extremely kind, but maybe this is the place to go for a great gift for yourself? There’s nothing like ringing in the new year with a tailored suit in your closet, and PSC has been tailoring and designing custom-made, bespoke suits for Angelenos for the past decade. Oh, and ties make great stocking stuffers for everyone else, especially completely unique, handmade ones like these.
Newport Beach, San Diego or online
In this day and age, men wear more jewelry than ever before. And they look good doing it. That’s part of the ethos that inspires jewelery designer Jillian Sassone, who makes bespoke pieces for men and women. “For many of our male customers, fine jewelry is a natural extension of expressing their personal style beyond the wardrobe basics of high-end watches and sneakers,” Sassone told InsideHook. And with stores in Newport and San Diego, as well as dozens of products available online, a Marrow Fine piece is the perfect splurge for a classy Christmas gift.
Santa Monica at Fairmont Miramar
Grab a classic, all-inclusive cocktail for the snobby boozehound in your life, courtesy of a western hotel bar. Designed to celebrate the origins of the Sazerac – a classic cocktail dating back to New Orleans, circa 1838 – the richly polished wood box comes complete with a recipe card and a fine serving of absinthe, Peychaud’s and Angostura bitters, rye whiskey, cognac and simple syrup. . A box can be ordered from the Lobby Lounge if guests want a DIY cocktail experience, but it will probably be more impressive if it is rolled up on Christmas morning, and perhaps enjoyed during or directly after Christmas dinner.
Midland Shop and online
I was first introduced to Roen Candles as “a woman-owned soy candle maker with a beautiful presentation” and that might be the best description. These little gems are super affordable, super chic and perfect for the most California-loving or candle-loving woman on your list. Available at Silver Lake’s Midland Shop or online, founder Brit Roennigke’s foray into the fashion world shines through in pale pink or cream styles. 29 Palms are desert and eucalyptus while Palisades turns to gardenia and ambergris. Get a few for the ladies you love, and maybe a couple for yourself…it’s never too late to become a candle person.
The Arts District
Located on the ground floor of the new Soho Warehouse hub in the Arts District, Mrs. Mandolin is a natural extension of the Miami beach lifestyle that began with Mandolin Aegean Bistro. Now the Turkish/Greek couple behind the restaurant has expanded to LA, opening Mandolin Taverna and an accompanying store that will feature plenty of local artisans and Miami favorites. This is the perfect place to find an evil eye to ward off evil spirits, a beautiful, Bali-inspired dress from Natalie Martin for the special lady in your life, or all kinds of luxury spices, table wear, apothecary items and high-end homewares.
East Hollywood and online
Invented by Justin Chao, who has formal training from Paris’ Le Meurice, these traditional French caramels are delicious little treats. With a variety of flavors, from classic sea salt to lavender honey, and tempting recipes like ume elderflower, all Chao mixes are made with simple ingredients of sugar, milk, cream and butter and packaged in biodegradable wrappers. Chao never uses corn syrup — ever — and recommends a three-week lead time for the freshly made caramels, which come in 8-ounce boxes, or 28-30 caramels.
Leimert Park is also online
Buying local means supporting every neighborhood in LA, and many residents want to make sure they spend their money on black-owned businesses in historic neighborhoods like Leimert Park. The Hot and Cool Cafe, which has been in Leimert for years, sells a lot of freshly roasted coffee from Crenshaw Coffee Roasters. Crenshaw Coffee roaster Anthony Jolly has been in the coffee game for over 20 years and specializes in Ethiopian coffee. He puts a lot of emphasis on his relationship with the cafe, so if you can’t get it from him directly, that’s the place to go. The cafe also has merchandise, mugs and gift cards if you need more local goods on your list.
Santa Barbara and the Internet
Nothing is as classic as handmade leather goods. Make Smith is a family-owned company based in Santa Barbara, but luckily they’ve made their wares available online and have been making waves in LA, too, for the quality of the craftsmanship. With options like custom batch gifting, travel essentials and home goods, there’s plenty to choose from for a timeless gift that supports a manufacturing company that has been selling its own leather goods since 1959.
All over Los Angeles and online
If you’re the type who wants to shop at a market, where everything is in one place, Prosperity Market is the place to be. Also emphasizing Black-owned businesses, this weekly pop-up event was created by two Black women, Carmen Dianne and Kara Still, who wanted to talk about food deserts and support Black farmers and builders. Check out their Instagram to see where they’re coming up next, and take advantage of all the online shopping and physical events they’ve put together so far. With everything from spices, sauces and leftovers to meat products and self-care staples like teas, soaps and lotions, there’s something for everyone.
Arts District and online
With a new nod from the Michelin reviewers, this comfortable yet refined Arts District standout allows diners to take their taste buds home for the holidays. Camphor is a delicious fusion of French cuisine with global influences from chefs Max Boonthanakit and Lijo George, whose culinary backgrounds include cuisine from Thailand, India and beyond. One (or more) of their signature dishes includes a South Indian spice blend sometimes called “gunpowder spice” that’s popular enough that the chefs decided to make it available to the public. Made with crispy fried lentils, coconut, sesame, chili and black pepper, a jar of gun seasoning can go a long way with your favorite home cook.
This natural wine store from Monica Navarro is stocked with kitchen and homeware, all kinds of specialty cooking supplies and wine. Inspired by European grocery stores, Wine & Eggs is a place for bakers and cooks and wine lovers, and between the tchotchkes and cookbooks, there’s something here to brighten the day of just about anyone with a close relationship with the finer things in life.
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