There’s never been a more important time to shop local. With the pandemic ravaging economies and weighing heavily on small businesses, purchasing a Colorado-based gift can make a huge difference for someone in your community. So this year, instead of making a tiny contribution to the wealth of Jeff Bezos, shop local and shop small.
Everything on our list is from a Colorado small business and is under $200.
Lifestyle & Culture
The Lowdown: There’s something special about buying local art. Not only is it beautiful, but it’s an opportunity to get to know and support a Colorado creative. This year, we’re suggesting a wide range of styles. For someone who loves the great outdoors, these gorgeous watercolor paintings by Beimborn Art ($20) feature breathtaking Colorado landscapes. Coming in at $20 a print, each one feels handcrafted. On that note, Strange Dirt‘s prints ($20-40) are also all about the natural world — but in a completely different way. Combining art deco elements with flowers and insects, the artist captures the ornate beauty of both. If you want something a bit more indicative of this year, Austin Zucchini-Fowler ($17-70) made waves with his pointillism portraits of frontline workers like doctors, nurses, teachers and more. You can snag a print, t-shirt or sticker to give to your frontline friend as a token of appreciation. Similarly, this site also sells Zucchini-Fowler alongside Koko Bayer’s iconic hope stickers ($3)you’ve probably seen plastered all over Denver. Purchasing either will help continue their mission of spreading hope and positivity around the Denver Metro area.
Cost: Prices varies
The Lowdown: For all the house plant moms and dads, adding a new baby to their collection is the quickest way to their hearts. Denver has a wide variety of plant stores from quirky boutiques like ReRoot in RiNo (which delivers seven days a week) or Green Lady Gardens off Sante Fe to large variety shops like Echter’s in Arvada or City Floral near Park Hill. If your recipient is an expert plant parent, ask each shop what rare plants they may have. If you’re not sure about their expertise but want to hit a home run, you can’t go wrong with a funky cactus or a lush (but easy to take care of) pothos.
The Lowdown: While no one really knows when we’ll be able to travel again, planning a future staycation can give someone the best gift this season — something to look forward to. We’ve put together many guides on great places to stay all over Colorado including affordable and cozy Airbnbs to more unique (or even bizarre) stays in the state. We even have a list of lake houses you can set your sights on for warmer months.
Crafts, DIY, Games, Paper Goods etc.
The Lowdown: As we head into another round of cold pandemic months, picking up a hobby or two isn’t such a bad idea. To stave off looming winter boredom check out Adults & Crafts ($29-$37) — a local DIY and craft company that sells kits to help you make everything from your own clock to candles and plenty in between. You can also check out Hope Tank, a South Broadway shop with a robust online store (and curbside pick-up) of games, DIY kits, puzzles and unique gifts (like RBG cufflinks). They support many local creatives and for every purchase, a percentage goes back to non-profits. If your person is dealing with perennial wanderlust, check out the new Made in Japan pop-up at The Source. Featuring hand-selected items from the island nation, you can pick up everything from a wood covered bento box ($62) to a Monocle Tokyo Travel Guide ($18), they can enjoy the simple pleasures of Japan while planning their dream trip.
Fashion & Beauty
The Lowdown: Ah, the reusable facemask. The ultimate 2020 stocking stuffer. As this year’s most necessary accessory carries over into the new year, why not stock up on locally-designed, quality masks for everyone on your list? From Denver designer Jasmine Lewis’s ($12.99-$44) embroidered and studded styles, to Phunkshun Wear’s ($19.99) funky styles, there are plenty of local offerings for everyone.
Jean Jacket from Rich Mob Tendencies
The Lowdown: Rich Mob Tendencies has created wearable art with their Black History Month Jean Jackets. Immortalizing the likes of Martin Luther King, Harriet Tubman, Spike Lee and Beyonce, these one-of-a-kind jackets are a statement all on their own. While these styles are selling out fast, Rich Mob Tendencies carries tracksuits, and tees and hoodies emblazoned with ‘Denver,’ for those that carry our fair city near and dear to their heart.
The Lowdown: Two Denver creatives, Amy Lisojo and Olive Moya recently teamed up to create a capsule of eight unique pieces. For the vibrant spirit on your list, who hasn’t quite succumbed to the perma-athleisure brought on by the pandemic, this collection (ranging from hoodies to rain jackets to a full suit) is a welcome pop of color. The swirling designs and playful patterns can brighten up even the dullest of winter days.
Custom Local Apparel
The Lowdown: In a holiday season where we have plenty of time to sit in front of the computer and shop online, why not get something unique for the sartorially-inclined person on your list (…or maybe yourself): a custom piece from CR Lee or Winterash. Internationally-renowned, local designer Crystal Lee creates each of her pieces by hand, resulting in one-of-a-kind statement pieces that are easy to wear. As a designer of women’s, men’s and kid’s apparel, Winterash founder Ashley O’Winter loves to create in collaboration with her clients. Plus, through November, Winterash is donating 30% of sales to the NAACP.
Hand-painted bag from Zavala Bespoke
Cost: Varies – $250+
The Lowdown: For the person on your list that has just about everything, look no further than a hand-painted bag from Zavala Bespoke. Each piece is customized in collaboration with lead designer, Lauren Zavala and unique to the person wearing it. From handbags, to luggage, to jackets, Zavala Bespoke creates wearable works of art that are sure to turn heads. While Zavala can customize pieces from around the country, she offers one-on-one (socially distanced) consultations for those in the Denver Metro area. Prices usually start at $250, but according to their site they can work in a wide range of budgets.
Traveler Bag from False Ego
The Lowdown: This lightweight, waterproof roll top bag from local brand False Ego is the perfect blend of form and function. It’s expandable to fit plenty of gear if you’ve got a long bike ride ahead of you, or for a student that’s into more than just the average backpack. Plus, it’s made from upcycled bicycle inner tubes and durable nylon.
Custom and unique patches
The Lowdown: Continuing along with more playful gift options, Contrarium Chainstitch, is a ’90s patchwork dream. Chainsticher and founder Steph McCourt, a Denver native, creates handmade patches, jackets and jewelry out of her studio. Not only are these pieces high quality and customizable, they’re just plain fun.
Originate Clothing Panders ‘Dad Hat’
The Lowdown: It’s not for regular dads, it’s for cool dads. Panders, the vibrant mascot for RiNo-based apparel brand, Originate Clothing, is meant to evoke creativity and inspire the wearer to “live out their dreams.” The Panders Dad Hat has an easy fit and is extremely durable, for whatever dad activities are in store.
Carry On Starter Box by Black Travel Box
The Lowdown: As the winter months settle in, so does dry, cracked skin. Give a gift of rich, smooth Shea Butter-based products from Black Travel Box. Made for beauty on-the-go in travel sizes and luggage-friendly packaging, The Carry-On Starter Box, is the perfect gift for any wanderlust on your list — even if they’re not wandering as far as they’d like to this year. Designed with women of color in mind, it’s a thoughtful gift for POC and curly girls alike.
Custom Makeup Kit from FIXY Makeup
Cost: $43.99- $55.99
The Lowdown: FIXY is not only a solution for all of the shattered powders and eye shadows sitting in your makeup drawer, it’s also just a fun art project. The PRO Broken Makeup Repair Kit & Custom Makeup Blender comes with everything you need to create custom eyeshadows, blushes and powders. “We are more than just a solution to broken makeup” founder Jill Rossini told 303, “we are an at-home makeup press. You can fix or create new colors and use them immediately without adding any additional ingredients to your makeup”.
Handmade Pillows from Melanin in America
The Lowdown: From local designer Donna Hobley, Melanin in America offers not only beauty products and art, but handmade pillows inspired by the Black community. Hobley seeks to “capture the stories and experiences of Black people in America” with her designs. Supporting this brand means supporting the Black community and giving a voice to those who deserve to be seen and heard.
Plastic-Free Storage Starter Set
The Lowdown: For the eco-conscious person on your list, give the gift of zero plastic from the Conscious Merchant. Complete with a half-gallon Stasher silicone bag, a glass meal cube, an Itzy Ritzy snack pack storage container and a GoSili silicone hot/cold to go cup, this starter set is a gift that makes you feel just as good giving it, as you do receiving it.
Food & Beverage
The Lowdown: Whether your loved one is a great cook or needs some help, these pantry (or fridge) essentials will elevate their game. First up is something every cook should have on hand — chili oil. But unlike the store-bought variety, Linji Market‘s ($5-15) rendition is handcrafted. Created by Thailand native Rasami Storm, you can taste her time growing up in both Asia and Europe in every jar. It’s deeply savory, spicy and above all — addictive. Now for the sweet side of the pantry. No cupboard is complete without a great jam. And we have it on really good authority that Brad B Jammin’ ($9) is some of the best out there. We also love to stock up on Moksha chocolate ($5-16)— not just because the organic bean to bar chocolate is super delicious, but also comes with 20 mg of CBD. For a year like 2020, it’s truly essential. If you want a box that can do it all for you, Colorado Crafted ($54.50-$106.50) has teamed up with Dryland Distillers to put together the perfect foodie gift. It includes a bottle of unique cactus spirit or whiskey made from Colorado grains and an assortment of local coffees, chocolates and more.
The Lowdown: Remember when Denver tried to shut down the liquor stores during COVID? Then we shouldn’t have to remind you how important a well-stocked home bar is this winter. As it gets colder, a great whiskey is a must-have on anyone’s shelf. After a highly anticipated wait, The Block Distilling ($35-68) finally released their rendition of bourbon with Batch Two dropping December 4-6. The wheat and rye-free whiskey features yellow, blue and red corn, millet and malted barley all packaged in a gorgeous bottle you’ll want to keep after you’ve siphoned out the last drop. Speaking of beautiful packaging, Wander + Ivy ($68 for eight) offers chic single-serving organic wines from world-renowned family-owned vineyards. A bottle of wine is always nice, but these truly feel like a gift. Mythology’s Needle Pig Gin ($37) is also a delight for any juniper lover. It took home the silver medal at this year’s World Spirits competition and deserves an equally worthy spot in the liquor cabinet. For the beer lovers, Weldwerks ($4-14) is impossible to go wrong with. The Greeley-based brewery has garnered a cult following for their innovative but continually excellent beers. Their “May Those Who Love Us, Love Us…” is a great example of their drive to make classics done right as this is a straight-up dry Irish stout that’ll make you question your affinity to Guinness. Bruz Beers ($23) will also please any true beer lovers with their take on Belgian brews. This four-pack provides a single, dubbel, tripel and quadrupel that’ll pair excellently with every part of the meal.
Coffee and Non-alcoholic Beverages
Cost: $9.99 – $44
The Lowdown: If you’re like us, learning how to make a cafe-quality cup of coffee was a necessary skill to pick up this year. Plus with all the money we’re saving on not heading to the coffee shop every day, it’s a great time to splurge on the fancy stuff. Corvus Coffee has truly outdone itself with its well-crafted coffee subscriptions ($22) this year. Featuring different regions across the world, each batch showcases interesting single-origin coffees from emerging producers or high-scoring distinct lots. Not to mention each delivered batch of beans comes in a beautiful illustrated airtight tube and a brief but beautifully written description. They also have a cache of rare coffees ($21-$44) that will tickle the fancy of any die-hard caf(fiend.) If you have a friend that’s back in the office or loves a great cup of joe, but hasn’t mastered the home skills yet, Novo released their steeped coffee bags ($12 for six). Offering freshly ground coffee in a compostable bag free of any additives, it’s as easy as a K-cup but 1,000% better for you and the environment. For those trying to do better by their body, Gruvi offers alcohol-free beers and wines ($9.99-$26). Brewed like craft beer they offer all the favorite styles like IPAs, lagers and stouts so you can enjoy everything you love about a cold one without the hangover. The brand also introduced a rosé and prosecco that brings the bubbles without the booze. They also clock in between 26-60 calories, so they can help shed that beer belly while keeping the beer.
Restaurant Gift Cards & Cookbooks
The Lowdown: Local restaurants need your support right now and gift cards are one of the best ways to help them through this winter. Some restaurants like Ace Eat Serve and Steuben’s Uptown are offering deals that’ll give you a kickback for your support. Now through December 31 buy a $50 gift card and get an additional $10 gift card, or buy a $200 gift card and get a $40 gift card. Ace is also offering a gift card to try their Peking duck experience ($99) with all the fixins’ either for dine-in or take out. Bridge & Tunnel Restaurant Group — which includes Rosenberg’s Bagels, Rosenberg’s Kosher, Lou’s Italian Specialties, Sherry’s Soda Shoppe and Famous Original J’s Pizza — is also giving you a $10 gift card if you by a $50 gift card in-store. If you want to send your loved one more of an experience rather than a gift card, these restaurant to-go and meal kits are a great way to give them a fancy meal while safely at home. The list includes everything from at-home paella, ramen and multi-course meals. These are especially nice as a surprise date night for you and your significant other. If your person is a bit more hands-on in the kitchen one of these gorgeous local cookbooks will undoubtedly please. The list showcases brand new books from the award-winning Frasca to an old favorite from Mizuna that features lovely oil paintings. Plus, if they make you a meal — it’ll be a gift for you both.
303 Vinyl Vol. 3
The Lowdown: Our collaborative Colorado vinyl ($24) in conjunction with Vinyl, Me Please is a testament to the amazing musicians who comprise the Mile High City. Each year, we curate 12 tracks spanning all bands and artists of all genres and enlist a local artist to design the cover. No two volumes are the same, and each one is jam-packed with musical gems from our own backyard. Also 25% of the proceeds go towards supporting Youth on Record, a non-profit that provides musical opportunities to at-risk kids.
Music Venue Gift Cards
The Lowdown: With the coronavirus upending almost an entire year’s worth of concerts, independent music venues are struggling to make ends meet. There is no better way to support them, than by putting money back in their pocket by buying a gift card for future shows. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, but we have to ensure our beloved venues makes it there with us. Many venues like the Oriental Theater and the Hi-Dive have online merch stores with apparel as well. Other independent venues to support include the Black Box, Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom, Mercury Cafe and more. Visit your favorite venue’s website to see how best to support them.
Twist and Shout, Wax Trax Gift Certificates, Band Merch, Vinyl, etc.
The Lowdown: Shop local for all the music freaks in your life. Record stores like Twist & Shout and Wax Trax among others sell far more than just vinyl. These shops carry memorabilia, band merch, action figures, posters and more. Without concerts in full rotation, there are many different ways to bring the merch table to the Christmas tree thanks to these stores.
Meet Me at the Table Cookbook
The Lowdown: This one-of-a-kind cookbook is a fan’s dream. Meet Me at the Table presented by the Marigold Project is a compilation of 35 national and local musicians’ favorite recipes paired with profiles of 19 food justice organizations. The book features the likes of Nathaniel Rateliff, the late John Prine, Grace Potter and many more. Not only are you raising the bar in the kitchen, but the proceeds of the cookbook will also go to support organizations fighting food inequality — the type of gift that’ll fill your belly and your heart.
Photographer Concert Prints
The Lowdown: The venues may be out of commission for a while, but there are ways to still relive the magic. Concert photographers have captured many of your favorite musicians at venues across Colorado, and they have the prints to prove it. From drone shots of Red Rocks to breathtaking shots of FKA Twigs and Florence and the Machine, there’s something for every fan base from very talented local photographers. For suggestion, try Nikki Rae, Kyle Cooper, Nikolai Puc, Alden Bonecutter and Kennedy Cottrell.
Local Band Merch
The Lowdown: Local venues aren’t the only ones who could use some support right now — our homegrown artists do as well. These musicians have stocks of merch they can’t sell due to the reduction of concerts amidst the coronavirus. You can support our local music scene by buying merch directly from these musicians — it’s one of the best ways for them to generate income, oftentimes more than their music itself. Acts like Ramakhandra and many others have brought their A-game, creating unique apparel that really stands out. Fans are encouraged to DM artists on their Instagram pages or contact them via email for their available inventory.
All photography by Amanda Piela, unless otherwise noted
Styling by Ashleigh Perri
Location provided by Marla Rutherford Studios