The Not Amazon gift guide: Brooklyn shops where you can spread the wealth


Photo: Brooklyn Women’s Exchange

‘Tis the season for shopping and endless gift guides. This year let’s put our money where our mouths are and support women-owned businesses, Black-owned businesses, immigrant-owned businesses, and locally-owned businesses when possible. If we are saddened by the corporatization of New York neighborhoods, it is our duty to support local shops when and if we can. According to this Gallup report, Americans will spend about $885 per household on gifts this year. Think of what that would mean if we put all that purchasing power towards our favorite local retailers, instead of Amazon. It’s less convenient in the short term, but the extra effort could pay off in the long run, helping to retain our communities.* 

I recently wrote about Choose Love, a store which supports refugees worldwide, and that seems like a grand idea. Black-Owned Brooklyn, which we profiled recently, has some great gift ideas on Instagram with a handy map of black-owned businesses on their site to make your shopping even easier. Then, this Saturday, December 15th, from 11-6pm you can support female founders by shopping at the holiday pop-up, Womyn, held in Long Island City. Brands like Of Her Own Kind, Creagh, and Sunday Morning will be repping. 

Below I’ve also found great gifts at brick-and-mortar and online-only shops in Brooklyn. All are locally owned, and throughout I’ve highlighted a mix of shops with female, African-American or immigrant owners. Once Christmas comes and goes, reward yourself by attending the 3rd annual Kwanzaa Crawl on December 26th, the largest bar crawl supporting Black-owned restaurants and lounges in Brooklyn and Harlem. This year, a portion of the proceeds will go to Barbershop Books, a nonprofit literacy organization that helps inspire young African-American boys to read.

Shopping doesn’t have to be mindless consumption—we can vote with our dollars with each gift that we buy. 

For your nearest and dearest:

Photo: Books are Magic

Books are Magic, 225 Smith St., Cobble Hill

Books Are Magic has a subscription service where books get delivered every month. (6-month subscription: $200; 12-month subscription: $395) This is the perfect gift for a bookworm or one who needs some motivation to get reading. There are fiction, non-fiction, YA, picture book options—all chosen by the kind booksellers at the Emma Straub-owned bookstore. The only problem with this gift is if you enjoy going to the brick-and-mortar store as much as I do, you won’t have as much of an excuse to visit. 

Photo: Rituals and Ceremony

Rituals and Ceremony, 717B Nostrand Avenue, Crown Heights

Rituals and Ceremony have gift options galore. But as we have been interested in CBD oil recently, this selection ($69 for drops) by a local brand, Shea Brand, would be a good place to start. Not sure if a tincture of herbs would be right for your loved one? Read this informative and well-researched guide to the CBD world by BB editor, Nicole Davis. The brand is “full spectrum” and made with medicinal hemp that’s sustainably grown in Colorado, qualities we recommend looking for when shopping for CBD.

Photos: Catbat shop

Catbat shop (Available online)

Last year I interviewed Kat Shuford, the founder of Catbat Shop and a designer of striking capes. Each is a cozy combo of blazer and blanket that ranges in price from $160 to $300. They are genderless and made for everyone and all body types. Although on the pricey side, they are beautifully made with deadstock suiting fabrics, so each one is a limited edition. They strike the right chord of business in the front and Harry Potter in the back. 

Photo: Kings County Distillery

Kings County Distillery299 Sands St., Brooklyn Navy Yard

The Gatehouse Tasting Room at Kings County Distillery is one of my favorite bars in Brooklyn. The ambiance is amazing, but also their locally made whiskey is formidable. The Rare Collection Gift Set ($100, available at tasting room) would truly be an elegant gift for someone who is a fan of brown liquor. The set features three 200ml bottles: Empire Rye, Bottled-in-Bond, and Barrel Strength Bourbon. Kings County is the first whiskey distillery in New York since Prohibition, so you’re supporting a local business as well as a historic one. 

For the Secret Santa gift:

Note: Pigeons pictured on cover are prettier than in real life.  Photo: Nicole Davis

Brooklyn Based x Idlewild Co. custom notebook, Available only online

The new BB notebook ($15), a collaboration between Brooklyn Based and Idlewild, is honestly the cutest Brooklyn design you ever will see. (We are not biased.) This 120-page, 6”x8” lined booklet is perfect for a work meeting, journaling, or capturing elusive ideas. Gift it to a friend or co-worker, and you can get a message inscribed by emailing

And so this is (a) Christmas (ornament). Photo: Annie’s Blue Ribbon General Store

Annie’s Blue Ribbon General Store232 Fifth Avenue, Park Slope

I’ve been frequenting Annie’s Blue Ribbon General Store since it was smooshed into an out of the way corner on State Street. There is something for everyone here, including those co-workers that you really don’t know at all. This Iconic John Lennon ornament ($16.50) is adorable, nostalgic and has great NYC vibes. But there is also a whole section on the website dedicated to Ruth Bader Ginsburg gifts, which I am very much loving for stocking stuffer ideas.  

An easy stocking stuffer or addition to teacher gifts: Fatty Sunday pretzels, sold at Sahadi’s.  Photo: Fatty Sundays

Sahadi’s, 187 Atlantic Ave., Brooklyn Heights. Also expanding to Industry City later this year

Every year I raid Sahadi’s, a cornerstone of Brooklyn and a family-run business that opened 70 years ago, for locally made food to make my own little foodie gift bags to give to kid’s teachers, principals, and Secret Santa recipients. Of course, you can always buy their pre-packaged gift baskets that also include nuts and dried fruits. But I prefer picking my own. I always include the artisanal, sister-run, Fatty Sundays, ($3.50 per package) which are the perfect blend of sweet and salty. They are just chocolate covered pretzels, but they are really good, and come in seasonal flavors with sprinkles and candy canes. I have to give them away quickly before I am tempted to eat them.

Show your Brooklyn love with one of these custom-printed Brooklyn Mojo tea towels.

Brooklyn Women’s Exchange, 55 Pierrepont St., Brooklyn Heights

Before Brooklyn was considered “cool,” somewhere around 1854, Brooklyn Women’s Exchange was churning out handmade gifts—well before terms like “artisanal” or “farm-to-table” came with quotes around them. So, basically, they know a thing or two about unique gifts. As a hostess gift for Thanksgiving, I bought a set of Brooklyn Mojo tea towels, and I will do it again for Christmas. These hand-printed textiles are bright, modern and will look cool in any kitchen.

For the littles:

Photo: @tikipapier

Tiki Papier, Available online, DM for orders

This Bespoke Paper Doll Kit ($25) is made by a Brooklyn artist, who has an inspirational Instagram showing her paper doll in exotic locations around the world, where she travels as a prop stylist. The kit nails that sweet spot between a gift that kids will have fun with and parents will cherish (and probably want to jump in on!). The illustrations are beautiful and the fashions are ripped from the runway (vintage Halston, Isabel Marant, Prada, Osman, Métaformose, and Ulla Johnson) mixed with original garments. “Wool old man slippers found in an off-brand department store in Greenpoint” will teach kids to mix high and low. It’s never too early! 

Photo: @alletrejo

Hazel Village, 510 Third Avenue, Gowanus

Kids love Build-a-Bear, but it’s completely corporate and located in Times Square. Hazel Village is way cuter and located in Brooklyn. Choose a doll or animal (organic of course!), then personalize its heart with a hand-stitched monogram. (From $40). Then design a whole outfit for the creation, and get a matching one for the child too. (OK, that might be going a step too far.) They’ll ship the doll with free gift wrapping, and it will make someone’s holiday. It’s a keepsake that a child will keep forever, buying new clothes each year or new dolls to the trove. 

Photo: Dixon’s Bike Shop

Dixon’s Bicycle Shop, 792 Union Street, Park Slope

If you’re going to deliver a bike under the tree, why not buy one locally? You’ll be starting a longterm relationship for when the tires need to be inflated, the bike helmet needs to be fitted, or the chain needs to be replaced. Dixon’s Bicycle Shop has been a Park Slope institution for 50 years. It’s family-owned and reviewers swear by their honest prices and helpful staff. 

*To make an even greater impact on the health of mom-and-pops, Vanishing New York’s Jeremiah Moss makes the case for demanding change at the city and state level, too

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