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A SHOPPER’S GUIDE TO KEEPING IT LOCAL

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Summer vacation feels like it could’ve been last week, and Halloween was just yesterday, right? There’s no way it’s Thanksgiving already. At least, that’s how it feels, and yet here we are, heading full-force into the holiday season at breakneck speed. Might as well embrace the chaos – get those Christmas sweaters ready, throw some lights and tinsel festively around the house, stock your bar, and make your shopping list.

We all know about Black Friday – the day after Thanksgiving, when shoppers rush to big-box stores amidst crowds and chaos to get the best deals on big ticket items, but over the past few years its counterpoint Small Business Saturday has been on the rise; falling on November 25 this year, Small Business Saturday is an incentive launched to encourage shopping at local independent businesses.

Shopping small is important in so many big ways: it helps to create jobs here in our own community – and more money goes to support the local economy in a larger sense, since businesses pay sales tax to the city and county where they’re located. It helps keep our community diverse, interesting, and unique – a city filled with nothing but cookie-cutter chain stores and restaurants would be a bleak, bland prospect indeed. Also, small businesses are known for better, more personalized customer service. There’s something so great about building a solid rapport with a local business owner – they’re experts in whatever they’re selling, be it books or toys or beauty products, and they’re genuinely interested in getting to know the needs of their customers. And it just feels cool to walk into a store and have someone greet you by name and take the time to tell you about something new they think you’d be into.

Small Business Saturday has skyrocketed in popularity since its inception in 2010, which is wonderful, but small businesses need community support every day to stay afloat. So by all means, head out to your favorite independently owned spot on Nov. 25 to get a head start on that Christmas list. Stop for lunch somewhere locally owned – and maybe grab a few beers or a cup of coffee at another local spot later in the day. But do yourself a favor and implement small businesses into your shopping routine as often as you can; by doing so, you’ll be supporting the immense hard work and dedication of someone right here in your own community.

I’ve highlighted some of middle Georgia’s best and brightest small businesses in the guide below, but it is by no means an exhaustive list – I suggest using this list as a jumping-off point and doing some exploring on your own. Happy shopping!

DOWNTOWN

Travis Jean Emporium offers a fun, eclectic, unique shopping experience – here you’ll find adorable Georgia-shaped gift baskets filled with Georgia Grown items, Macon-made Southern Bon Vivant candles, original artwork by local artists like Priscilla Esser, and so much more. They’re also the downtown source for Macon Bacon merchandise, which would be a great gift for anyone on your list. Be sure to check out their newest Georgia-made product: handmade adorable collars, leashes, bows, and ties for your four legged friends, from Snellville’s A Hot Dog on a Leash.

Boutique clothing at affordable prices for women of all shapes and sizes? Yes please! Daphne’s 525 is a new addition to downtown, and their wonderful selection of clothes and accessories, combined with fantastic customer service, is earning them some very good word of mouth. Children’s clothing is also available here – be sure to check out their adorable tutu selection –  and they also offer monogramming services at competitive prices.

A new addition to downtown, Falling Star Records, located right next door to the Cox Capitol Theater, is a great destination for gifts for the vinyl lover, or for the equipment you’d need in order to turn someone into a vinyl lover – and you can check out Priscilla Esser’s musician series of paintings on display while you’re at it. And Fresh Produce Records, a longtime downtown staple, is full of wonderful weirdo goodies – go explore and see for yourself, and while you’re in there, be sure to register to win a record player courtesy of 41 NBC’s 12 Days of Giving contest.

Ex-Allman Brothers Band tour manager, talented photographer, and lifetime music lover Kirk West is one of Macon’s treasures. His music photography, which spans over 40 years, captures an impressive lineup of legends with honesty, awe, and obvious affection, and you can find lots of it on display at Gallery West, along with copies of his two coffee table books The Blues in Black and White and Les Brers: Kirk West’s Photographic Journey with the Brothers. The gallery will have a whole month of musical events beginning in December, plus discounts on books and prints – come by, chat with Kirk and his lovely wife Kirsten, and get a signed piece of musical history that’ll thrill the rock ‘n rollers on your list.

The Golden Bough is a bookstore that feels the way a bookstore is supposed to feel – it smells like books in there in a way that’ll weaken the knees of any true book lover. Plus, there are cats! The stock is mostly used (and reasonably priced) books, and owner Eric Wakefield makes sure to keep a steady influx of inventory coming in; he updates the store’s social media with photos of new arrivals often. This is a great spot to find regional specialties, talk about writing with a knowledgeable dude, and special-order any new titles you might need for the holidays.

INGLESIDE VILLAGE

Sometimes it’s hard to make time for good self-care all on your own – that’s why gift certificates for massage therapy make amazing gifts. Kay-Lynn Massage & Bodywork Studio is owned by two sisters who have true passion for what they do, and it shows. At Kay-Lynn, all services are priced by time; clients come in and have a relaxing foot soak while discussing specific massage needs with the therapist, so each session is personally customized. And the studio offers handmade, organic body products, as well as a range of cute, artsy little zipper pouches that’d make a great gift with a gift certificate tucked inside.

Christmas wouldn’t be nearly as fun without toys, and if you want to find something really special for the kids on your list, William’s Fun Smart Toys is the place to go. Owner Florence Allen (aka The Toy Lady) has been in the toy business for years, and she knows her stuff – the store is stocked with classic favorites like the PlasmaCar and Tegu magnetic wooden blocks, and an ever evolving array of new, innovative playthings. You won’t find cooler stocking stuffers anywhere else, either.

A Macon institution since 1917, Karsten Denson is an old-school hardware store that seemingly has a little bit of everything- camping gear, gardening supplies, baking pans, bird feeders… the list goes on. They’ve also got a reputation for some of the best customer service in the game.

       Head into specialty grocer Village Marketplace for gift baskets full of Georgia Grown goodies – they have a stock of premade baskets, or you can pick what you want and have them fix it up especially for you. They’ve got Wisham pepper jellies, Southern Soul Barbeque sauce, Phickles pickles, Back to the Basics 101 baking mixes, and so much more – while you’re there, you can pick up some snacks for that holiday party and even grab stuff to make a healthy dinner while you’re at it.

The Village’s newest addition, The Society Garden, has gift cards available as well, so parents of parents…. you know what to tuck inside that grown-up stocking… the gift of craft beer and cool atmosphere! Or sign-up a loved one for The Garden’s monthly wine club!

OTHER COOL STUFF

Give the gift of musical knowledge with a tour from Rock Candy Tours – these walking tours explore Macon’s rich, varied musical background and help bring it to life with insider information and sincere enthusiasm. Even if you’re a lifetime Maconite, you’ll come away having learned something new and cool. And if you pick up a Rock Candy Tours t-shirt (available at Travis Jean or the Downtown Welcome Center), you get a discount on the price of a tour.

Everybody’s always fussing about getting themselves and their kids outside more. Put your money where your mouth is and pick up a bike from Bike Tech this holiday season. They sell new and used bikes and accessories, and their shop is staffed with friendly experts who’d love to help you choose what’s best for the people on your list.

Here’s a suggestion for a great way to find a truly unique gift and support our local museums at the same time – spend some time and money in their gift shops! The Big House – Allman Brothers Band Museum, The Hay House, The Tubman Museum, The Cannonball House, The Museum of Arts & Sciences, The Museum of Aviation, Ocmulgee National Monument, and The Georgia Sports Hall of Fame all have gift shops featuring art, jewelry, toys, books, housewares, and more – all distinctive, and all carefully curated to reflect the little slice of middle Georgia their museums represent.

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