I’ve never done Black Friday shopping

And I don’t intend to start now.

I’m just not that into “stuff”, and with options like Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and Giving Tuesday, I know where my alliances lie.

I shopped as much as I could at small businesses last year, and it was such a great experience. No disgruntled employees, screaming children, or major traffic jams getting around.

Rather, I experienced wonderful customer service, got to know the local merchants I purchased from, and then shopped with them the rest of the year (Christmas isn’t the one and only time we need to shop people- birthdays, anniversaries, house warmings, etc!). Forging a relationship with local shops in your area is a great way to guarantee that you will get great service and products for your hard earned money.

The best part about shopping locally is that you’re more apt to return throughout the year for other various occasions. When my dear friend moved into her new house, I went to Sunflower Farm and bought her two new summer wreaths for her entry ways. When I needed a bridal shower gift, or even something for myself, I went to Whipser’s in downtown Milford. There is such a beautiful sense of community that you get by shopping locally that you just cannot replicate sincerely by shopping at bigger stores.

Here is a list of some of my favorite spots to shop locally and some experiences I’ve had doing so:

1) Sunflower Farm, Orange CT.

I stumbled upon this magical farm one day when I was driving back and forth from 34 to my job in Milford. Derby-Milford Road was just an easier (and lovelier) route to take. I passed this farm for a good few months before I decided to stop and venture inside.

What I found was a treasure trove of wonderment. Outside, depending on the season, are handmade wreaths, potted mums, pumpkins, or Christmas trees. Visually, its colorful, welcoming and warm even on the grayest of days.

Inside, you can find handmade, home made soaps, lotions and candles of varying scents, each one more delicious than the last. Jars of preserves that tasted as good as they sounded, and local honey to help with the dreaded allergy season. In the center of the store is a table with fresh pies they get daily from a local bakery, and in the refrigerator, apple ciders in the fall, eggs, breads, and more pies. Check out their website here!

The owners Ernie and Sabrina are the friendliest and most welcoming shop owners I’ve ever encountered. Last year, I bought soaps, candles, and some of the hand made socks they also had from someone who makes them locally.  I went back all this year, stopping in for candles, or other seasonal wreaths, flowers, and of course, the pleasure of doing business with Ernie and Sabrina.

2) Whispers

I love this store. The owner Lori is all about good business and making sure her clients get what they are looking for and that they feel comfortable and fabulous. She and her staff are all approachable, friendly, and great to work with. Their store front and windows are always filled with gorgeous pajama sets, or beautiful unders to make you feel like the ultimate lady. The quality of everything I’ve ever bought from Whispers is also fantastic, from peignoir’s to beautiful sweaters and shirts you can dress up or down, everything has always been wonderful and lasted a long time. I also remember buying my mom a Mother’s Day gift of a necklace this year from there, which she was delighted to receive.  Definitely a great choice to shop for the ladies in your life! Check the link in the title or click here: Whispers

3) Duck, Duck, Goose-

This is a lovely children’s store also located on the Downtown Milford Circuit. Last year when my darling friend Sara was preggo with her second coming, and had her hands full with her newly turned two toddler, I popped into this store to purchase Christmas Gifts for my sweet toddly niece and soon to be nephew. Like the other store fronts of Downtown, Duck, Duck, Goose has an inviting and adorable window design,  usually displaying current fashions for our tiny lovies. I was so happy to know that everything they carried was eco-friendly and made in the USA!  All of their products are free of toxins that could be harmful to tiny bodies, which makes purchases from this store all the more worth it. You know you’re not only getting a quality product, but also one that won’t harm your child!

I’ve shopped here not only at Christmas, but for baby showers, birthdays, and sometimes just for fun!

The owner, Yvonne Stobie was there when I purchased my Christmas gifts last year. She was warm, professional and informative as well as friendly. She clearly opened the store out of love for her own grandchildren, and delighted in her work. Please read more about this business at their website here: http://duckduckgoosect.com/about-us.html

4) Kandu Beads

Recently I read a book called ‘Paddle Your Own Canoe’ by Nick Offerman. In it, he details the pride, pleasure and love that comes from making someone a gift. I completely agree with him.

My first experience at Kandu Beads was when I was looking for something very special for someone who was moving away. I wanted to give them something that represented our amazing friendship and something that they would love to wear and would compliment them. I called upon my dear friend Alisha who just happened to be teaching a class that day at this marvelous bead shop. My creation was exactly what I was looking for, mostly because I made the image in my mind materialize in front of me.

If you’re the type to get creative with your gifts, check out Kandu Beads. They have a massive selection of jewelery already made, as well as the materials and helpful staff to help you make your own ideas come to fruition.  Kandu Beads

5) Cafe Atlantique

I love giving the gift a night out. Whether its newly-wed friends, new parents, or just people who deserve a break, I love giving people restaurant gift certificates. My all time favorite is Cafe Atlantique. Its the perfect place for a date any night of the week, and in all the years I’ve been going there, I have NEVER had a bad meal or negative experience. Certain nights (I think its Thursday and Friday, but don’t quote me) they have BOGO glasses of wine (buy one, get one for $0.38, or something amazing to that effect). The atmosphere is always cozy, and in December in particular, the Cafe looks inviting with its Holiday decor and busy espresso bar, pumping out delicious holiday concoctions to warm you from your finger tips to toes.

Cafe Atlantique

6) Local book stores everywhere.

If you’re shopping for someone like me who is a constant reader, sure you could always present us with the holy grail of a Barnes and Noble gift card (Barnes and Noble will not be open on Thanksgiving, which is why they will in fact get some of my business this holiday season). But if you listen to your beloved bookworm carefully, you will probably hear mention of a few books that they have a desire to read that you can find at a local book store. Not sure what to get them? Surprise them with a trip to their favorite book store and purchase them a book of their choosing. This kind of gift is perfect because not only do we get to spend time with someone we love, we get a new book too!

Some great local book stores around CT:

The Book Trader- New Haven

Atticus Bookstore- New Haven

Books and Company – Hamden,

The Book Trader- Niantic

Books-A-Million- Trumbull

The John Bale Book Company- Waterbury

Morning Star- Danbury

Branford Book and Card Shoppe- Branford

R J Julia Booksellers- Madison

Happy smart shopping!

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