7 Small Businesses to Find One-of-a-Kind Gifts
From Valentine’s to birthday bashes, find your next favorite thing at a small business, and make an impact on more than just your special someone.
Maybe you’re an Amazon addict. Or maybe you like grabbing gifts on the way to the check-out at the warehouse store. Either way, shopping at big chain stores might be convenient, but shopping small has benefits the chains can’t match. Small businesses can be just as convenient and offer perks you won’t find in other stores. If you need a little convincing to step away from the swoosh of the sliding glass doors at the warehouse store, consider the many benefits of giving small shops your business.
Reasons to Shop Small
One of the biggest advantages to shopping at small businesses is the variety of products you’ll discover that you won’t find anywhere else. Unique items, handmade or custom-designed products, and imported finds are just a few examples of the gifts you’ll find when shopping small. When you shop the big box stores, you see the same items on every shelf in every store across the United States, with only a few variations depending on region. If you’re buying for someone with specific taste or style, a loved one who likes collectibles, or that special person who deserves a one-of-a-kind gift, a small business with unique inventory is the place to go.
The customer service you get at a small business is more likely to wow you than that from a big chain store. In a 2022 survey by Active Campaign, only 12 percent of consumers felt the customer service at big box stores exceeded their expectations. From personal attention to in-person interactions, a small business can meet and often go well beyond expectations when it comes to customer service. And because they’re small, they actually remember who you are if you have an issue that needs resolving, unlike a warehouse club that sees hundreds, if not thousands, of customers a day.
If investing in your local community is important to you, then staying small for your shopping will directly impact the people and neighborhoods you love. According to Local First, businesses in your area contribute more into the economy than chain stores—as much as $68 per every $100 they bring in compared to $43 at national chain stores. Much of that money goes to other local businesses, and a new kind of chain gets created that enriches local programs and economic growth.
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Where to Find Small Businesses
If you want to stay local, contact your area Chamber of Commerce, which will have a list of local businesses. Attend local craft fairs or art shows to find artisans selling their creations, or visit Etsy to find the top sellers in the category of your choice.
Online sellers at online marketplaces Mercari and eBay sell vintage, antique, and even new items, and they might offer the same gift you found at the big box store for less. Each year, Wired and American Express publish a list of their favorite small businesses, too. Even Amazon gets in on the small business promotion with its Support Small section that lists small business vendors using its online marketplace.
Even online small businesses make a difference in local economies, and they support the artistic and entrepreneurial efforts of everyday people. So we’ve compiled a list of small businesses—some in person and some online—that offer unique gifts and a change of pace for your shopping experience.
With locations in Dallas and Phoenix, Jade & Clover offers unique and garden-related gifts and accessories, but it’s the bar that people really come to use. No, not that kind of bar. This little shop has what they call The Plant Bar where customers create their own succulent arrangements. Choose your container, layer in colored sand, add plants, and then give it a glow up with glitter or seasonal touches. Gift your handmade terrarium or invite your special someone to create their own and give the gift of creativity.
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In a suburb of Chicago, Absolutely Anything Essential Gift Shop has created more than just a unique shopping experience; they’ve created a neighborhood favorite. Featuring personal care items and soaps by local vendors, like this box of assorted guest soaps, the Black-owned business run by women also serves as a neighborhood gathering spot and offers classes in soapmaking, crafting, and art.
If you’re looking for a personalized gift, stop by the Etsy shop of TwoDayDecor. The Denver small business offers personalized metal and wood signs, frames, cornhole boards, and doormats with your favorite welcoming words. The full custom work is shipped quickly and guaranteed. We like this custom metal address sign, which is perfect for a housewarming gift.
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Giving to a garden-lover? Send them something truly unusual from WalawalaPlants, an Etsy shop that sells a wide variety of rare succulent plants and seeds. Plants like this Echeveria echo ‘Bloody Yan’ cluster are the beauties you probably won’t see at your local nursery. Because succulent plants are hardy, they make perfect beginning-gardener gifts, too.
A San Francisco shopping oasis, General Store has a wide selection of products online for those not in the Golden City. The sunny shop is a peaceful place to browse and offers a variety of gifts, from personal accessories to art books, leather goods to kitchen items like this handcrafted living edge wood cutting board, all curated to create a thoughtful, functional design aesthetic. They even offer vintage items and have a second location in Los Angeles.
This one-of-a-kind shop in Long Beach, Calif., is the place to find giftable antiques and vintage items for the collector or Grandmillenial design fan on your gift list. You’ll find glassware like jadeite, kitchen kitsch, linens and rugs, toys and collectibles, and all sorts of home decor and household items you forgot you needed. Magnolia and Willow online even has what they call the Gentlemen’s Section for that hard-to-buy-for man in your life who would love a vintage pocket knife or belt buckle.
Earth isn’t just the reason you might want to shop at this small business, it’s the name of a zero-waste home goods store in Rockford, Ill., about two hours outside of Chicago. The brick-and-mortar Earth store offers refill stations on personal care items like lotion and bodywash, which you can purchase by weight in your own container. If you’re ordering online, you’ll find assorted eco-friendly products for home, kitchen, laundry, and even pets, like this double-sided wooden pet brush for the dog parent you love most.