Gift-giving season is upon us, and for plenty of folks, the chance to support local businesses is a better reason to go shopping than Black Friday sales. Hey, no shame if you want to get a nice set of pans or a coveted pair of sneakers on major discount, but when it comes to your loved ones, it’s always been the thought that counts. Think a little deeper this year by selecting some handmade, locally sourced items for under the Christmas tree. Your community, and your friends and family, will thank you.
West Hollywood or online
Available at Be Bright Coffee on Melrose, which is where I was introduced to it, this totally unique seed butter is a multi-purpose splurge waiting to become a cult favorite. For anyone who is familiar with the classic dim sum dessert black sesame jin dui or the rice balls, sweet tang yuan, this crunchy butter is basically that filling in a jar. Dubbed as the “Chinese-American Nutella,” this not-too-sweet paste is made with black sesame, peanuts and brown sugar. Once you try some of this, peanut butter just won’t cut it anymore. Be Bright mixes it into iced lattes and serves it on toast, and if you buy a jar for 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 bandwagon jump.
Fashion District and online
Whether you need a bow tie, bespoke scarf or a whole custom suit, Pocket Square Clothing is the place to go. Sure, getting a custom suit as a gift for someone else would be extremely benevolent, but maybe this is the place to go to get yourself a nice present? There’s nothing like entering the new year with a great-fitting suit in your closet, and PSC has been sewing and designing made-to-measure, bespoke suits for Angelenos for over the last decade. Oh, and ties make great stocking stuffers for everyone else, especially totally unique, handmade ones like these.
Newport Beach, San Diego or online
In this day and age, men are wearing more jewelry than ever before. And they look damn fine doing so. That’s part of the ethos that inspires fine jewelry designer Jillian Sassone, who makes bespoke pieces for both men and women. “For many of our male clients, fine jewelry is a natural extension of showing their personal style beyond the closet staples of high end watches and sneakers,” Sassone tells InsideHook. And with stores in Newport and San Diego, and a whole host of products available online, a Marrow Fine piece is the perfect splurge for a high-end Christmas gift.
Santa Monica at the Fairmont Miramar
Pick up a classic, all-encompassing cocktail experience for the snobby boozehound in your life, courtesy of one of the west side’s best hotel bars. Designed to celebrate the origin of the Sazerac — a classic cocktail that dates back to New Orleans, circa 1838 — a richly polished wood box complete with recipe card and elegant mini servings of absinthe, Peychaud’s and Angostura bitters, rye whiskey, cognac and simple syrup. The box can be ordered in the Lobby Lounge if guests want a DIY cocktail making experience, but will probably be more impressive unwrapped 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 beautiful presentation” and that might still be the best description. These little gems are super affordable, super chic and perfect for the California-obsessed woman or candle lover on your list. Available at Silver Lake’s Midland Shop or online, founder Brit Roennigke’s background in the fashion world shines through in the pale pink or cream styles. 29 Palms is desert sage and eucalyptus while Palisades veers into gardenia and ambergris. Get a few for your favorite ladies, and maybe a couple for yourself…it’s never too late to become a candle person.
Located on the ground floor of the new Soho Warehouse hub in the Arts District, Mrs. Mandolin is the natural expansion of the Miami coastal lifestyle brand that started with Mandolin Aegean Bistro. Now the Turkish/Greek couple behind the restaurant have expanded into LA, opening up Mandolin Taverna and the corresponding shop that will feature plenty of local artisans along with choice Miami finds. This is the perfect place to get an evil eye to ward off spirits, a gorgeous, Bali-inspired dress from Natalie Martin for the special lady in your life, or all sorts of fancy seasonings, table dressing, apothecary items and elevated homeware.
East Hollywood and online
Founded by Justin Chao, who has formal training from Paris’ Le Meurice, these traditional French caramels are the sweetest little stocking stuffer. With a whole variety of flavors, from classic sea salt to lavender honey, and more adventurous directions like the ume elderflower, all of Chao’s concoctions are made with the simple ingredients of sugar, milk, cream and butter and packaged in biodegradable wrappers. Chao never uses corn syrup — ever — and recommends three weeks lead time for the freshly made caramels, which come in 8-ounce boxes, or 28-30 caramels.
Leimert Park and online
Shopping local means supporting all neighborhoods in LA, and plenty of residents want to make sure they’re spending their cash at Black-owned businesses in historic neighborhoods like Leimert Park. Hot and Cool Cafe, who have been a fixture in Leimert for years now, stock plenty of freshly roasted coffee from Crenshaw Coffee Roasters. Crenshaw Coffee roaster founder Anthony Jolly has been in the coffee game for over 20 years and specializes in fine Ethiopian coffee. He particularly emphasizes his partnership with the cafe, so if you’re not getting it straight from him, that’s the place to go. The cafe’s also got merch, mugs and gift cards if you need more local goods for your list.
Santa Barbara and online
There’s nothing more classic than handmade leather goods. Make Smith is a family-run company based in Santa Barbara, but luckily they’ve made their wares available online and have been making waves in LA, too, because of the quality of the craft. With options like custom batch gifting, travel essentials and home goods, there’s plenty to choose from for a timeless gift that supports a generational company that has been peddling its own leather items since 1959.
All over Los Angeles and online
If you’re the type who wants to shop through a market, where everything is laid out all in one place then Prosperity Market is the place to be. Another with an emphasis on Black-owned businesses, this weekly pop-up event was created by two Black women, Carmen Dianne and Kara Still, who wanted to both address food deserts and support Black farmers and makers. Keep an eye on their Instagram for where they’ll pop up next, and take advantage of all the online shopping and virtual events they’ve put together in the meantime. With everything from seasonings, sauces and spreads to vegan items and self-care staples like teas, soaps and lotions, there’s something for everyone.
Arts District and online
Fresh off a nod from the Michelin inspectors, this cozy but refined Arts District standout is letting diners take a little bit of their flavor home for the holidays. Camphor is a heady mix of a French cuisine spiked with global influences from chefs Max Boonthanakit and Lijo George, whose culinary backgrounds span food from Thailand, India and beyond. One (or more) of their signature dishes features a South Indian spice blend sometimes called “gunpowder spice” that’s become popular enough the chefs decided to make it available to the public. Made from crispy fried lentils, coconut, sesame, chili and black pepper, a jar of gunpowder spice can go a long way with your favorite home chef.
This natural wine store from Monica Navarro is stuffed to the brim with kitchen and homeware goods, all kinds of specialty culinary provisions and, of course, wine. Inspired by European grocery stores, Wine & Eggs is a haven for bakers and cooks and wine obsessives, and between the tchotchkes and cookbooks, there’s something here to brighten the day of almost anyone with an affinity for the finer things in life.
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