By Mary Boyle
Maybe you were busy and the time just got away from you. Maybe you have people in your life that are impossible to buy for. Maybe you'd rather sew your head to the living room carpet than slog through a crowded mall or big-box store. I feel you, and I'm here to help. The conventional method of holiday shopping is so ingrained in us, it's easy to overlook the many treasures we have right in our own community. Supporting local businesses and organizations is the gift that keeps on giving; the money you spend at these places not only stays in our community, but oftentimes helps to support important organizations that make Ozaukee and the greater Ozaukee area so wonderful. Read on, and find the perfect gifts for everyone on your list!
For the Kids (and Kids at Heart)
Hands down, my favorite place to buy toys in Ozaukee County is the Cedarburg Toy Co. Owners, Zach and Natasha Loos, make sure that everything they sell is made locally or in the US, and not only will they assist you in finding the right gift, they'll wrap it for you. They are also experts at covert operations, if you happen to actually have your children with you and need to shop. Wink, nudge, or pass them a note, and they'll have all the presents wrapped and ready for later pick up, or whatever other crazy antics you can think of. CTC truly has gifts for all ages, from blocks and rattles to puzzles and books, and things you didn't even know existed! Don't miss this magical little store in the heart of downtown Cedarburg.
Toys are wonderful, of course, but another way to give a gift that isn't "stuff" is to give an experience. How about tickets to the Rivoli and dinner at The Chocolate Factory? What about a day at the Port Exploreum and a treat at the Chocolate Chisel? How about a hike at Harrington after breakfast at Hobo's? Or a few hours at Just 4 Fun and a treat at Sweet Trio? Time spent together is one of the best gifts you can possibly give.
For the Foodies
We are so lucky in Oz to have excellent CSA's (Community Supported Agriculture), and purchasing a share for the Foodie in your life not only makes a good gift, but you're supporting the local food culture of Oz! Wellspring in Newburg is the longest running CSA in Wisconsin, and they are offering a $20 credit towards the 2019 CSA season when you pay in full by December 31, 2017, as well as a $20 referral bonuses that you can earn for every new member that you enlist for the 2018 season. Rare Earth Farm and Willoway Farm in Belgium are two other great CSA's. Each farm offers different choices for shares, so look to see which is the best fit, but they are all wonderfully dedicated to growing healthy, local food.
We are also lucky to have a cooperative like Outpost in Mequon. An Outpost membership is an excellent gift for the foodie in your life (and you'll find all kinds of other gift ideas in the store, as well!).
For the Nature Lovers
Oz is home to two amazing nature preserves: Riveredge in Newburg in the north and Mequon Nature Preserve in the south. Memberships to both offer access to trails and programming, but also help support environmental restoration and education in Oz. Besides memberships, Riveredge has a Visitor's Center full of great gifts for the Outdoorsy person in your life, including the syrup they make onsite each spring.
For the Art Lovers
The art community is strong in Oz, and there are a variety of places where original artwork of all kinds can be purchased. In Port Washington, Blue Heron has locally made jewelry, food, crafts, and more, but only until December 31st, as the owners are retiring, and the shop will close. In Cedarburg, try the Cedarburg Art Museum, Cedarburg Cultural Center, or the Wisconsin Museum of Quilts & Fiber Arts gift shops, but memberships to these organizations also make great gifts. In Grafton, look no further than the NSAA Arts Mill, where a wide variety of treasures await.
For the Coffee Lover
If there is one thing the Land of Oz has aplenty, it's good coffee shops. Gift Certificates are great, of course, but most also offer t-shirts, mugs, and other fun items to show your coffee shop pride. In Port, there's Java Dock Cafe and Smith Bros. Coffee House; in Grafton, we have AM Coffee and Colectivo (also in Mequon); in Cedarburg, there's the Cedarburg Coffee Roastery, Java House, and Fiddleheads (with locations in Thiensville and Mequon, and soon to be in Grafton, as well). There is no lack of caffeine in Oz, people.
For the Theatre Lover
Being a complete theatre junkie myself, I can't help but direct your attention to the wonderful gift of theatre tickets! The Greater Ozaukee area has an incredibly impressive and lively theatre scene, and tickets to a performance don't require any storage or upkeep, but the memories last a lifetime. The Rep, First Stage, Skylight, Next Act Theatre, Milwaukee Ballet, In Tandem, Optimist Theatre (Shakespeare in the Park), Sunset Playouse, Waukesha Civic Theatre, Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, American Players Theatre—check out their seasons and choose some tickets, or make a donation in someone's name. If you really want to blow a theatre fan's mind, though, get them tickets to Hamilton.
The important thing to remember about gift giving, especially this time of year, is not to buy stuff just to buy stuff. Slow down, really be present with people, and when you do want to give something, consider giving a gift that gives back to our community. Happy Holidays, everyone.