In honor of the most frantic shopping day of the year, I would like to declare today Avoid the Mall Day. Today is the day before the big commercial holiday—there is no need to stress yourself out circling wildly looking for parking, jostling and bumping the other frantic last-minuters, scrapping over picked-over DVDs, sweaters or kitchen items, and being subjected to the unintentional rudeness of burned-out retail staff.
I can prove that it can be done, although my last minute shopping was yesterday. I thought I was finished, but I was going over my list and found three gifts I hadn’t purchased. This sent me on a quest to downtown Santa Rosa, where I found everything I needed, including parking, in under sixty minutes.
Here’s where I went, and what I got:
El Coqui—Puerto Rican Restaurant. This place is fun and only moderately expensive. Dinner for two runs about $25 without drinks or wine—and they do gift certs.
Treehorn Books—Used and Antiquarian. I found a chicken calendar (a traditional gift for someone) and a beautiful Sierra Club day planner for $5 each. During the holiday season, Treehorn always has beautiful calendars and by far the best prices in town. As I was leafing through the calendars yesterday I was starting to panic because I wasn’t finding the chickens, so I asked the man who was re-shelving books if they had any. “Just these two,” he said, reaching right into the box I was pillaging and pulling up two calendars. Bingo!
If you want to spend more money this shop has wonderful antique books, and discounted new releases; fiction, non-fiction, poetry and picture books. I did get self-indulgent and buy a $6.00 copy of The Essential Koran for myself.
Corrick’s—This store is a Santa Rosa institution. It’s been downtown as long as I can remember. Corrick Brown, the founder, also conducted the Santa Rosa Symphony for many years. The store has books, although they’ve reduced their inventory drastically and now mostly do special orders; stationery, office supplies, and very high-end gifts, china, flatware and so on. They have some of the most unusual (and expensive) Christmas ornaments I’ve seen this year. They also have some lovely less expensive ones, and a fine selection of pens and pencils, so I was able to buy three Uniball pens for a friend of mine who journals. I also found an exquisite ornament for her package. One thing stands out about Corrick’s and that is the unfailing helpfulness, friendliness and good humor of the staff there.
Sift—a Cupcakery. I was done with my shopping and stopped for a cupcake at this local bakery’s Santa Rosa location. I discovered that Sift gives gift cards! So in addition to bringing a dozen gourmet cupcakes to your holiday event, you can give the gift of frosting year-round to someone. Sift has a diverse choice of flavors already and they will also do custom orders. Cupcakes are the new craze and Sift often provides cupcakes at weddings now, instead of a big cake. Behind me in line, a nearly-eight-year-old and her mother discussed their order for her eighth birthday in early January. The shop is small, deliberately cutesy (it’s a cupcake shop!) with asymmetrically-backed chairs, tiny round tables, and polka dots on the window and walls. Again, staff are knowledgeable, helpful and friendly. If you want to eat your cake there you can have it with coffee, tea, an Izzy soda or a sparkling water. I had the Thanks a Latte cupcake, a chocolate-coffee cake with a buttercream frosting. I liked it. Maybe the sweetness of the frosting slightly overpowered the subtlety of the cake—or maybe not. It was still a great treat.
Less than one hour and it cost me a dollar to park. And I enjoyed it! If you have to go out today, try it; try shopping at the little local shops, and stay out of the mall.