In 2009, after 63 years in business, St. Pete Beach Hardware closed its doors for good. Customers were stunned when they heard the news. “You just don’t get the same service at the big stores,” one regular said at the time.
Plenty of shoppers would agree. Independently owned shops offer touches that chains and bigger stores often don’t, from personal service to whimsical goods you’ll never find at the mall.
Sadly, in an economy that each day seems to invent new ways to pummel the little guy, it’s independents like St. Pete Beach Hardware who suffer the most.
That’s why this holiday season, we’re turning the spotlight on local businesses for this Independent Shopping Guide. We surveyed Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties to find 60 of our favorite locally owned businesses. Our goal: To offer holiday shopping suggestions for anyone who wants to support the local economy. From clothing and jewelry to home decor, from gifts for foodies to gear for weekend warriors, we’re confident you’ll be able to find something for everyone on your list.
We couldn’t list every independent business in Tampa Bay — for every shop we visited, there were probably five more we wish we could have included. But we think that’s okay. Our hope is that once you check out the wares at these shops, you’ll be encouraged to visit the locally owned businesses in your own neighborhood.
You’ll never know what you might find. And you’ll never know what you might miss when they’re gone.
Arts and novelties
Support Florida artists with a handcrafted gift from Florida Craftsmen. The statewide organization provides exhibitions, workshops and programs to promote established and emerging fine craft artists. During the holidays, the gallery brings in even more artwork, jewelry, ornaments and other gift items from more than 250 Florida artists. It also adds Sunday hours. 501 Central Ave., St. Petersburg; (727) 821-7391; floridacraftsmen.net
A shop for the girliest of girlies, Embellish specializes in monogrammed and personalized baubles and tchochkes, from jewelry to slippers to note cards. “You can grab it on the way to a lunch or take it to somebody’s birthday right then,” owner Michelle Burtch said recently. A set of bright and whimsically colored stationary might be the perfect stocking stuffer for the 9-year-old diva-in-training on your list. Two locations: 914 Fourth St. N, St. Petersburg; and 2225 S Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa. embellishboutique.com.
For the quick, easy and eclectic gift, Nicholson House is a sure thing. After various locations (including International Plaza), it reopened a few months ago in Whaley’s Plaza in South Tampa. It sells colorful crafts, housewares, small furniture, greeting cards and novelties. Owner Charlie Purcell’s sister, Missy, took over the jewelry side of the business and branched out into a new store, Sparkles Plenty (3215 S MacDill Ave., Tampa). 533 S Howard Ave., #4A, Tampa; (813) 251-1144; nhsoho.com.
The Green Boutique
If you could fit an entire mall into one store, it would be this one. We could’ve placed Green Boutique under any number of headings for the variety it carries: dog breed Christmas ornaments, shoes with interchangeable decorations called SwitchFlops, men’s and women’s clothing, Vera Bradley handbags and luggage, fragrances and more. The store looks manageable from the outside, but plan to stay awhile. 1032 Bloomingdale Ave., Valrico, (813) 685-9494; greenboutique.net.
Tampa Artist Emporium
You never know what you’ll find here. And that’s exactly the point. Artist Shelby Boggs opened the emporium to give veteran and emerging artists a venue for displaying their wares. Artists rent space by the month, resulting in an ever-changing collection of paintings, sculpture, glassware, jewelry and crafts. Monthly mixers give the public an opportunity to meet the artists. 3415 Bay to Bay Blvd., Tampa; (813) 835-0212; tampaartistemporium.
Books and music
Green Shift Music and Comics
Your budding musician is sure to dig a present from this longtime music store, which also has an extensive comic collection. On the gritty fringe of Seminole Heights, you won’t stumble across this place on the way to the mall, but it’s worth the trip. It sells everything you need to start a band, from the guitars to the amps, and it repairs equipment. Its comic collection includes back copies of old favorites and current favorites, from X-Men to Batman’s Blackest Night series. 5226 N Nebraska Ave., Tampa; (813) 238-4177.
Haslam’s Book Store
If you’re looking for a first-edition Twain or Kerouac, or a signed Stephen King, Bill Gates or Sidney Poitier, Tampa Bay’s biggest and best used bookstore is your stop. The special editions, locked behind glass and key, are worthy gifts, but you’ll find many other options in the store’s impressive array of kids’ books, leatherbound tomes and Floridiana. 2025 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. (727) 822-8616, haslams.com.
Mojo Books and Music
If a gift card from Borders or Best Buy seems a bit too impersonal or generic, try a book, CD or DVD from this USF haunt. Collectibles, classics and hard-to-find titles are the main draw, so don’t expect to find Twilight or the latest James Patterson book. Tight on cash this year? The store buys books and other items for cash or a store credit. 2558 E Fowler Ave., Tampa; (813) 971-9717; mojotampa.com.
If you get a Best Buy or FYE gift card this Christmas, fear not — Tampa’s vaunted independent record shop will trade them for Vinyl Fever cards. That means you can buy cooler records, cooler magazines, cooler vinyl, cooler accessories, cooler box sets ... cooler everything, really. How cool is that? 4110 Henderson Blvd., Tampa. (813) 289-8399, vinylfevertampa.com.
Gifts for foodies
The counter serves up a generous selection of prepared meats, cheeses, sandwiches, soups, salads and the like, making holiday entertaining a snap. You can also leave with a pre-made gift basket — always good to keep handy this time of year — or one full of items you choose. Browse the aisles for wines, dipping sauces, coffees, olives and other delicacies, and with a day’s notice, Careme’s can package them into a present. 16319 N Florida Ave., (813) 443-5753; caremesmarket.com.
Castellano & Pizzo
For the foodie on your list who would rather starve than serve Ragu over pasta, there’s Castellano & Pizzo. Family-owned since 1892, this gourmet Italian market, cafe and catering company sells everything for an authentic Italian meal, from imported cheeses to fresh olives, specialty pastas and wine. Its large selection of olive oil and Italian cookies make good, consumable gifts. While there, have lunch at the cafeteria-style cafe or order a turkey dinner with all the trimmings. 4200 S Henderson Blvd., Tampa; (813) 289-5275; castellanoandpizzo.com.
Chris’s Cookies & Gifts
It’s unlikely anyone will turn down a cookie, brownie or cupcake from Chris’s. This purveyor of sweets and gifts as been around for 24 years, which is quite remarkable for an independent niche store. Baked goods are made on site and sold the same day. In addition to festive green and red gift baskets, Chris’s sells glass fusion holiday-themed plates, sock monkeys, Scout tote bags and other gifts. And for the person who has everything, there’s a Santa toilet seat cover. 3215-D S MacDill Ave., Tampa; (813) 837-4402; cookiesandgifts.com.
Florida Orange Groves and Winery
The Gulf Coast isn’t known as wine country, but for a true taste of the Sunshine State, head to this family-owned citrus operation, which became a winery in 1997. Known for no-frills fruit-flavored wines like Kiwi and Tangelo (try the cranberry “Festiberry” wine for something seasonal), the gift shop is full of locally produced treats, like guava jelly and peach-a-cot jam, as well as beachy jewelry, souvenirs and wine supplies. 1500 Pasadena Ave. S, St. Petersburg; (727) 347-4025, floridawine.com.
Harr’s Surf & Turf Market
Blink and you’ll miss it when driving past strip mall after strip mall on Tampa Road, but North Pinellas locals crowd the narrow aisles on the weekend while waiting their turn at the meat and seafood case. Although the variety and cuts of beef are fantastic, the store’s hidden gem is the buckets of marinating kabobs in flavors like mojo chicken, sweet and sour pork, Greek lamb and teriyaki beef. The market also stocks a variety of prepared appetizers and salads, craft beers, hundreds of wines and Pie Factory pies all perfect for your holiday entertaining. Don’t forget to grab a twice-baked potato on the way out — the Bacon Cheddar rocks. 3235 Tampa Road, Palm Harbor. (727) 785-8873;
Mazzaro’s Italian Market
It’s as close to an authentic Italian grocery as you’re going to find on the Gulf Coast, with imported oils, spices, wines, cheeses and coffees. The family-owned market also offers great meats, pastas and sides, making it an ideal place to shop for your next holiday get-together. 2909 22nd Ave. N, St. Petersburg; (727) 321-2400, mazzarosmarket.com.
This family-run cigar shop sells everything a smoker would need, from cutters to humidors to magazines. Most impressive are the boxed cigar sets, which make quick, easy-to-wrap gifts. Be sure to mention to the recipient that Bill Cosby is a friend of the owners and has been known to stop by for a stogie. His picture hangs on the wall. 2014 E Seventh Ave., Tampa. (813) 248-3304, metropolitancigars.com.
MJM Fine Cigars & Tobacco
Tucked in a shopping center, the shop is unassuming. But walk in and you’ll notice two things. The store is maintained as its own humidor instead of using a walk-in model, and owner Mike McCarthy stocks noteworthy boutique cigars rarely found elsewhere. MJM also carries mass market brands and stocks pipe tobacco. It features monthly “tasting” events where cigar aficionados can try new lines, and McCarthy is quick to offer suggestions. 31816 US 19 N, Palm Harbor, (727) 259-2447, mjmfinecigars.com.
Health & beautyIndigo Bee
Fed up with soaps and skin care products filled with chemicals and preservations, Trista Page, a.k.a. the “Crazy Soap Lady,’’ decided to start her own soap-making business using natural ingredients. Customers can buy her soaps, lotions and bath products off the shelf or design their own. Her Rosemary Peppermint soap is a sniffer favorite. 3205 W Bay to Bay Blvd., Tampa; (813) 374-2273; indigobeesoap.com.
A few bars of Sister Agnes Soap from this store, and you’re on your way to a good Christmas stocking. Milagros sells embellished glycerin soaps, bath gels and lotions made daily under the premise that cleanliness is next to godliness. The soaps come in a variety of scents and themes. The store also sells funky saint-related jewelry, crosses and knick-knacks. Two locations: 1603 W Snow Circle, Tampa, (813) 251-1255; 1104 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, (727) 821-7555. sisteragnes.com.
For the kidsSilly Dilly Tot Spot
A store “for giddy kiddies of all ages,’’ Silly Dilly Tot Spot sells children’s toys, books, clothing, gifts and accessories, many of them handcrafted in Europe. Owner Katie Kyres, a former lawyer, researches every product to ensure the manufacturers follow fair-trade practices. The result is a unique collection of adorable specialty items you won’t find in chain stores. All get the seal of approval from her young daughter, her inspiration for the store. 4035 W Kennedy Blvd., Tampa; (813) 282-8855; sillydillytotspot.com.
Giggle Box Couture
Up a kid’s coolness factor with a gift from this trendy children’s clothing boutique. Giggle Box sells distinctive high-end couture for divas and dudes in training, from infants through size 10. In September, Giggle Box leased part of the space to Kooky Kidz, an online children’s store for funky toys, gifts and clothes. 3211 W Bay to Bay Blvd., Tampa; (813) 805-6382; kookykidzonline.com
Leave it to Westchase, a mecca for families with young children, to have a top-notched children’s boutique within stroller distance. Located in the West Park Village, Mi Bebe carries fine clothing, special occasion and accessories for infants and young children. Any mom would consider a gift from here to be special. 10113 Montague St.; Tampa; (813) 792-7988; shopmibebe.com.
Petite Elite Baby
Whoever can set foot in this store and not go “Awww” has a heart of stone. Owned by Worcestershire, England, native Bernadette Maccarone and her daughter Mary Sparshott, the spacious shop teems with all things soft and cute, from “My first Hanukkah” bibs to a sonogram picture frame with a recorder for the baby’s heartbeat. Other items include nursery furniture, custom bedding and high-end prams. 2876 Providence Lakes Blvd., Brandon, (813) 643-1411; thepetiteelite.com.
This shop is a slam dunk for anyone shopping for a new momma, a momma-to-be or a young child. Seedlings carries everything you need to raise a happy, healthy child, from bottles to toys to organic frozen food, all of them safe for little ones. It has a big selection of wooden toys and gifts designed to spark a child’s imagination. 1530 S Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa; (813) 251-5111; seedlings.com.
Clothing and jewelryReborn Couture
Before you party like a rock star, stop here for the perfect outfit. Reborn carries clothing, shoes and accessories for men and women who realize the Ed Hardy look is so over. Find a sequin dress for your sorority sister, a cool T-shirt for your kid brother or the perfect jeans for yourself. With hip music pumped in and a swanky sitting area in the back, the whole place feels very Vegas. 701 S Howard Ave., Tampa, (813) 254-4400; reborncouture.com.
Bernie’s & Son Jewelers
Family-owned and operated for 33 years, this jewelry institution on Beach Drive sells a slew of baubles both pricey and affordable, with intricate and creative designs incorporating many styles of gemstones. If you want to hear a gasp on Christmas morning, go here. 154 Beach Drive NE, St. Petersburg. (727) 823-2000, berniesandson.net.
Every woman on your list would find plenty to fancy at this fun, fashionable accessories store. This South Tampa favorite is a treasure trove for glittery Gasparilla, Florida Gators and Tampa Bay Bucs gear. The handbags, jewelry and watches are surprisingly affordable and stylish. Its Valentino-inspired purses look straight out of Neiman Marcus but sell for a fraction of the cost. Two Tampa locations: 3104 Palmira Ave., (813) 902-0044; and 4017 Henderson Blvd., (813) 281-8917; dkmaccessories.com.
This country and western apparel boutique proves that hip and country can go together. Keys Country declares itself to have a heart of country and a soul of rock ‘n’ roll. Its collection of clothing, cowboy boots and accessories caters to cool cowboys and cowgirls with attitude. Think Keith Urban, not the Hee Haw crowd. 1910 S Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa; (813) 253-5397; keyscountry.com.
Owner Marion Mitchell’s shop offers an array of jewelry, purses and home accessories in the Vera Bradley and Brighton mold, along with a number of Christian-inspired bangles and trinkets. The staff is more than happy to help male shoppers with ideas, too. 1301 Fourth St. N, St. Petersburg; (727) 821-2345, marionsonline.com
In Search of Balance
Steve and Julie Meyer brought their relaxed outdoor-lifestyle ethic from St. Thomas to St. Petersburg in 2007. The shop is all about Colorado comfort, with labels like Patagonia, Prana, Horny Toad and their own eponymous line of Life Is Good-style T-shirts (check the $5 bin for some good deals). The recycled rice bag totes and hiking sandals are good sellers. 300 Beach Drive, Suite 135, St. Petersburg. (727) 823-0320, insearchofbalance.com.
Kit’s Well Heeled & Well-Dressed
Ladies, this is one of those rare stores where you can find an outfit for yourself, your mom and your grandmother, and you’ll all come out stylish. The boutique emphasizes feminine flair with flowery blouses, blinged-out heels, evening gowns and leopard-print everything. It also carries basis like jeans, exercise clothes, shapewear and even luggage. 714 S Village Circle, Tampa, (813) 250-125; kitswelldressed.com.
This boutique is stocked with everything a girlie-girl needs. You’ll find basics like jeans and tank tops, but also party dresses, lingerie and an assortment of jewelry, including trendy cuffs. There’s also sassy stuff like painted wine and martini glasses, blinged-out Gators and Bulls accessories and aprons that read “My next house won’t have a kitchen. Just vending machines.” 4109 S MacDill Ave., Tampa, (813) 902-0500; lovethatonline.com.
Owen Sweet Design Studio and Gallery
“To my mind a piece of jewelry is a sculpture in miniature against a human background,” says North Redington Beach art jewelry designer Owen Sweet, whose curving, modern bracelets and necklaces bring to mind Frank Gehry’s architecture. Sweet, who owns the store with his wife, incorporates inspiration from his new home in Florida with his South African roots, creating whimsical gecko or shell pendants as well as stunning cuffs fit for ancient Egyptian queens. 16701 Gulf Blvd., North Redington Beach. (727) 392-6936; ohsosweet.com.
If you hear someone at this boutique say SoHo, assume they’re talking about New York City, not Tampa’s South Howard Avenue. Zoey Bloom sells jewelry, handbags and shoes for the fashion-forward buyer looking for big-city names without going to a big city. Its purses by Hammitt Los Angeles have been spotted on Angelina Jolie, Paris Hilton and Kelly Ripa. 1710 S Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa; (813) 251-1706, zoeybloom.net.
Vintage giftsARTpool Gallery
The vintage boutique and artists’ co-op offers a slew of hats, pins, and jewelry (including men’s baubles like tie tacks and cuff links), all of it funky, all of it the vision of its gloriously fabulous founder, St. Pete scenestress Marina Williams. You can also buy artwork and photos, knowing that local artists will get a cut. And on Dec. 19, ARTpool will host an outdoor craft village from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with lots of local, handmade goods for sale. 919 First Ave. N, St. Petersburg. (727) 324-3878, artpoolrules.com.
Blue Moon Trading Company
Geared toward the young, hip Anthropologie crowd, Blue Moon sells antiques and vintage decor that’s funky, stylish and full of personality. The selection is more chic than shabby, says owner Katie Gagnon, with an emphasis on mid-century furniture and accessories. Almost everything is original and sold on consignment, with the exception of a few reproduction pieces. In November, Gagnon added a section of clothing from local consignor, Fresh Threads. 4129 S MacDill Ave., Tampa; (813) 839-2056; thebluemoontradingcompany.com.
EBay isn’t the only place to find an “I (heart) Culture Club” button or vintage Buccaneers glassware. With several rooms to explore, Squaresville feels like a fun house of souvenirs from the ’50s to ’80s. There’s enough clothing for a rad Halloween costume, plus accessories like vintage eyewear, Cher wigs, sparkly gold men’s platform shoes, Reno 911-style sunglasses and a collection of quad roller skates. There are also plenty of potential housewarming gifts: furniture, kitschy nude art, autographed Farrah Fawcett pictures and the like. 508 S Howard Ave., Tampa, (813) 259-9944; myspace.com/squaresvilletampa.
This is anything but a dusty antique store. Owner Aura “Mina’’ Brinkey and her husband go to great lengths to make every item look new, even when the very opposite is true. They hunt estate sales and flea markets looking for funky antiques and vintage goods, staying clear of the stuffy grandmother stuff. Glass ornaments, 1940s books and vintage handbags are some of more gifty items. Her blog on bohemian decorating has a pretty big following. The store opened a few months ago after being exclusively online. 3418 S Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa; (813) 443-5637; bohemianvintageonline.com.
This Seminole Heights shop is a time capsule of well-maintained clothing, shoes, accessories, furniture and housewares, mostly from the 1940s to 1980s. On our visit we found, among other things, rows of faux fur coats, a mug commemorating the wedding of Lady Diana and Prince Charles, various colored glassware, Richie Rich comic books, dolls and so, so much more. 5207 N Florida Ave., Tampa, (813) 231-2020; yesterdazevintage.com.
Weekend warriorsAdventure Outfitters
As the name implies, this store is only for the intrepid. Find gifts big and small for your outdoorsy friends, including gear for camping, mountain climbing and scuba diving. But that’s not the cool part. The store also offers scuba certification classes, and the staff organizes frequent adventure expeditions, from climbing Kilimanjaro to rafting in Costa Rica. Gift certificates make it possible to partially fund a loved one’s trip without covering the whole cost. 4330 1/2 S Manhattan Ave., Tampa, (813) 832-6669; wattsadventures.com.
The Energy Conservatory
Celebrating its 30th year in business, this 12,000-square-foot bicycle mecca just off the Pinellas Trail’s northern end sells all the parts, gear, supplies and clothing you could want. It’s big enough that you could spend some serious time browsing there — but not so massive that you won’t want to come back for classes or advice from the experts. 745 Main St., Dunedin. (727) 736-4432, energybicycle.com.
Reno Beach Surf Shop
Owner Jon LaBudde is a relentless supporter of St. Pete businesses; his support network (The Bloc) and weekly e-mail blasts tout all that’s going on within the downtown scene. His surf shop, Reno Beach, is crammed with nooks and crannies full of surf supplies, bathing suits and super-cool T-shirts, plus jewelry, skatewear and sunglasses. 1031 Fourth St. N, St. Petersburg. (727) 896-7873, renobeach.com.
Bill Jackson Shop for Adventure
Want to test-paddle a canoe? Fire a rifle? Slap on some skis? Bill Jackson is your place. For decades, the shop has sold everything you need to make it in the wilderness, from crossbows to fishing poles to scuba gear, and they’ll even train you to use it. 9501 U.S. 19 N, Pinellas Park. (727) 576-4169, billjacksons.com.
Tampa Bay Outfitters
In addition to necessities like freeze-dried meals, quick-drying underwear and water treatment drops, this store carries merch even mainstreamers may find handy. How about a travel alarm clock for your jet-setting best friend, a fleece vest for your nephew’s Boy Scout Jamboree or CamelBak to go with your sister’s new bike? 701 S Howard Ave., Tampa, (813) 254-844, tampabayoutfitters.com.
Gifts for guysIt’s Bucs and Bulls Heaven
There couldn’t be a more perfect name for this store. Upon entering, you’ll find a sea of green and gold to your left and an ocean of red to your right, both with plenty of paraphernalia for a fan who already owns the team gear. There are autographed jerseys, scoreboard alarm clocks, tailgate cornhole, pajamas, even lingerie. And clothes. Lots and lots of clothes. There’s even a small selection of Lightning and Rays swag. Maybe they should change the name. 14823 N Florida Ave., Tampa, (813) 908-2827; bucheaven.com.
Kirbys Mens Wear
Three generations of well-dressed men have shopped at Kirbys, which turned 50 this year. Founder Mark Shine named it by randomly picking a name from the phone book that was easy to remember and not already associated with a men’s store. His sons run it now, selling everything from ties to tuxedos for today’s professional man. 1707 S Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa; (813) 253-2681; kirbysmenswear.com.
If you’re looking for a grab bag gift to bring to the family party, this is probably not the place to shop for it. But if you’re looking for a gift for a husband or love interest, The Todd is your place. This adult couples superstore sells toys, lingerie, DVDs and novelty items proven to make your man jolly. It’s clean and comfortable, without feeling sleazy. 13417 N Nebraska Ave., Tampa; (813) 979-4001; toddcouples.com.
Give your guy the gift of fashion with some clothing from Urban Body. This men’s-only store carries the latest trends and labels in jeans, tees, woven shirts, shoes and accessories. Owner Scott Moore has a knack for picking clothes to accentuate a man’s best features and personality. 715 S Howard Ave., Tampa; (813) 251-5522; urbanbody.com.
Like a lot of businesses, Being moved from its home at BayWalk this year. But the tasteful new shop on Fourth Street is airy and light, and the decor is as sleek and fresh as ever. There’s a palpable (and stylish) 19th century nautical theme running throughout the store at present, with several decor pieces inspired by ships, maps and creatures of the deep. But you’ll be able to find something here to match any design mix. 1675 Fourth St. N, St. Petersburg; (727) 822-6252, shopbeing.com.
Lisa Lalaounis’ store is an artisanal ode to seaside living — shell-flocked chandeliers and mirrors, shell-filled scented candles and one-of-kind wall sconces that look like an artist pulled them right out of the ocean. Glass jars display polished and gleaming shells. Paintings by local artists fill the walls. Cabana houses its kitsch-free Florida wares in a bungalow-inspired building just off Dunedin’s main drag making it a perfunctory stop after late lunch at one of the local cafes. 712 Broadway Avenue, Dunedin. (727) 733-1596; coastal-cabana.com.
Domain Home Accessories
For gifts both kitschy and creative, this tiny Gulfport outpost a short walk from the water is full of groovy and covetable decorations, including some made by local artisans. During a recent visit, some shoppers gushed over the kooky door knockers and handles, but the real giggle-worthy goods might be the martini glasses, high-heel cake servers and Betty Boop-like wine stoppers. 3129 Beach Blvd., Gulfport; (727) 302 9299, domain-gulfport.com.
You might wish you could live here. This store offers elegant yet comfortable furnishings, largely inspired by nature. The gentle whites, grays and browns give everything a sophisticated New England beach feel. Seashell covered lamps and sleek modern accessories add some pop. The store sells a lot of furniture but has plenty of gifts and “objects of charm,’’ from architecture coffee table books to star fish ornaments and pirate regalia for the Gasparilla crowd. 303 S Magnolia Ave., Tampa; (813) 254-3337; magnoliastyle.com.
Val’s Basket Warehouse
Baskets are just the beginning of what this massive space has to offer. You’ll find just about everything you need to dress up your home yearround and deck it out for the holidays. Pick out items for a customized silk floral arrangement. And don’t miss the clearance section in the corner for $3 vases and other doodads. 3920 Gunn Highway, Tampa, (813) 963-6717.
Shoppe Around the Corner
Walking through the front door of Palm Harbor’s nonprofit boutique during the holiday shopping season is like being blasted with glittering Christmas cheer. Bedecked Christmas trees hang upside down from the ceiling, beribboned garland swags curve around entrances and tabletop surfaces are covered with sequined trees, whimsical snowmen and ornaments. The store stocks everything from Department 56 goodies to Jay Strongwater’s heirloom-quality picture frames. As you fill your basket with all your holiday wants, know you’re also spreading cheer to others, because proceeds from your purchases go to Pinellas County’s Neighborly Care Network Meals on Wheels program. 1015 Omaha Circle, Palm Harbor. (727) 289-7467; shoppearoundthecorner.org.
Halle’s for the Home
When the three-generation family-owned store, formerly known as The Cherry Tree in Dunedin, moved further north to the Trinity Town Center, it also decided to embrace the Halle family’s roots and changed its name. It’s a local go-to stop in South Pasco as it stocks everything from toys for your tots to stunning candlestick holders for grandma. Discerning shoppers will recognize the names of some of the fine lines of products it carries from Match Pewter to John Derian to Low Country Luxe candles. 9040 Tryfon Blvd., Trinity. (727) 264-8812; shophalles.com.
For the longest time, we passed the sign for this place on I-275 and assumed it was a Chinese restaurant. Well, it isn’t. As we learned on a recent visit, Silk Gardens is a massive warehouse of Christmas decorations, furniture, rugs, art and artificial flowers, which the staff can custom-arrange for you. The effect could be tacky and overwhelming if not for the fact that the store is broken into themed rooms, and the holiday items are organized by color. 3420 W Main St., Tampa, (813) 877-2773, silkgardensfl.com.
Robert’s Christmas Wonderland in Clearwater
Simply put, Robert’s is the Tampa Bay mecca for all things Christmas. The store’s main room screams “ornamentpalooza” with thousands of glass, or plastic, or wood-carved treasures hanging from trees, on racks and in cases. But the shop’s second room, lit only by hundreds of thousands of twinkling Christmas lights, brings to mind a true wonderland. Strands of icicle lights crisscross the ceiling as people meander through the store’s Christmas tree forest that tastefully displays an amazing variety of artificial trees for sale. 2951 Gulf To Bay Blvd., Clearwater. (727) 797-1660; robertscw.com.
Orange Home Accessories
If Oprah visited East Hillsborough County, she’d declare most of the merch in this contemporary decor shop among her favorite things: Bold lamps and vases, divine-smelling candles, funky clocks and wall art, silver dog bowls, Tea Forte samplers, mirrors that are themselves works of art. There are also local touches, including Christmas wreaths in Gators and Seminoles colors. 1046 Bloomingdale Ave., Valrico, (813) 681-8686; orangehomeaccessories.com.
Green giftsTampa Street Market
Give a gift that makes a statement on behalf of Mother Nature. Every item in this green boutique is gentle on the environment, from the yard art made from recycled metal to floor mats made from flip-flops. Particularly noteworthy is is the custom furniture made from salvaged wood and metal. 4715 N Florida Ave., Tampa; (813) 236-4900; tampastreetmarket.com.
Why Not Boutique
Reduce your carbon footprint a little bit with a gift from Why Not Boutique. This eco-chic boutique carries everything from stationery made from elephant poop to little black dresses made from organic fabric. Stainless steel canteens, tote bags, jewelry and children’s clothing round out the eco-friendly offerings. While there, be sure to wish owner Jennifer Dutkowsky a happy first birthday in business. 3217-A S ?MacDill Ave., Tampa; (813) 374-2394; whynotboutique.com.