A Procrastinator’s Guide to Birmingham Christmas Shopping

It’s the most wonderful time of the year for local shopkeepers — gifts bought online won’t make it in time for Christmas morning, and the malls are so busy and crowded that they make Scrooges out of even the cheeriest holiday shoppers. For the next couple of days, shopping small has a bit of a renaissance as lots of us head to local shops out of, well, desperation.


Procrastinating on your Christmas list doesn’t have to mean disaster — you can still have fun and get wonderful gifts for the people you care about. I thought I’d also share a few of my favorite go-to shops for finding gifts and some of my favorite local products that don’t involve a trip to the mall or The Summit. Shopping locally can be convenient and productive and fun, and these next few days are a great time to experience that. Hopefully my list can help — it’s certainly not exhaustive, and I’ve probably left off a few of my favorite places accidentally, but I hope it gives you a place to start.


My Go-To Shops


Charm (downtown Birmingham)

Charm has a really fantastic selection of jewelry, and if you describe the person you’re giving it to (a picture is great), Chattham can help you pick something out that matches their look and personality. She also carries little “extras” like funny socks, stationary, soaps and other stocking stuffer kinds of things.


Lamb’s Ear (in Crestline Village/Mountain Brook)

People are usually surprised that I like Lamb’s Ear because a lot of their merchandise is really high-end. They do have beautiful furniture and decorations that I can only dream about affording, but they also have a strong selection of cost-effective stuff as well. They have some really unique journals and gift items, and their side room is usually stocked with smaller items that make good gifts for friends or moms. (My mom’s favorite gifts the past two years have come from here.)


Seasick Records (Avondale)

Seasick has weird hours (check their Facebook page to be sure you’re not wasting a trip), but they have a really good selection in their tiny space. Vinyl is the perfect gift for a lot of people, but it can be tough to pick out if you don’t know what you’re looking for — just come prepared with a few bands you know your friend or family member already likes, and the staff can help you pick out new stuff that’s right up their alley.


Church Street Coffee & Books (Crestline Village/Mountain Brook)

I won’t say too much about this shop because, well, I own it. But I do think a book can make a great gift. We have a really good selection, we gift wrap for free, and you can pick up a Breakup Cookie and a hot chocolate or a coffee to help you make it through the rest of your holiday shopping. We also sell whole bean Octane coffee and local honey from We Three Beeks.


A’Mano (Mountain Brook Village)

A’Mano has a lot of pottery and dishware, but they also have a really wide variety of small gift items. This is an especially great place to buy individual cards (they have great brands), or to shop for a new parent (they have a whole section for babies). Their side room and the very back corner of their shop usually have really cute little gifts, and I think they still have a 12 Days of Christmas sale going on with rolling discounts on a lot of their best merchandise.


Best Park-and-Walk Areas

A few areas of town have two or three good gift shops clustered together — this gives you the convenience of the mall without all the nastiness. Here are my favorites:



Park on 2nd Avenue North, and you’ll find Charm, Urban Standard and What’s on Second all clustered on the same street. Urban Standard is a coffee shop, but they also sell whole bean coffee, which makes a fantastic gift (for dads and uncles especially, in my experience). What’s on Second is kind of like a thrift store on steroids — they have multiple floors of crazy, eccentric merchandise, all the way from cheap, funny gag gifts and really easy stocking stuffers to unique treasures and serious collectibles.


Forest Park

Park on Clairmont, and you can walk to Full Circle, which has wonderful small gifts, jewelry and stationary (I really love looking at their stuff and always find something for myself as well as the person I’m shopping for), Naked Art, which carries great local art (and they have a good selection of small pieces and jewelry that ring in at lower price points), Zoe’s, which has great vintage clothing but also jewelry and stocking stuffer-type gifts, and V. Richards, which has a good selection of locally made food, beer and wine.



Uptown doesn’t have a lot of shops yet, but if you’re looking for unique food gifts, it’s a good spot. Pick up some whole bean coffee at Octane (or grab geek equipment like a Chemex or pour over setup for the coffee nerd in your life), and walk to Bottle & Bone for a wonderful selection of beer, wine and bacon. (They also have a full butcher shop so you can get some seriously delicious meat for Christmas dinner as well.)



Park at Church Street Coffee & Books and start with a coffee. Pick out a few books and, while you wait for them to be gift wrapped, you can walk over to The Pantry and check out their huge collection of artisanal cheeses, honeys and jams. From there, you can walk to Lamb’s Ear and over to Snoozy’s Kids for toys and small gift items.


My Favorite Gifts to Give


The Localist Book

You knew this was coming, right? I wrote a book this year that’s all about local shopping, and you can find it all over town: Urban Standard and Charm (downtown) carry it, and so do Edgewood Cycles and Little Professor (Homewood) and Seasick Records (Avondale). Naturally, you can find it at my shop, Church Street Coffee & Books, as well. I think it really is a good gift for anyone who’s interested in local shopping or local food, for anyone who’s thinking about opening their own business, or for anyone who really loves Church Street (there’s a big chapter that’s all about the shop).


Piper & Leaf Tea

If you follow me on social media, you know I’m obsessed with Piper & Leaf. You can buy the loose leaf tea in Birmingham at Primeaux at The Summit or at the Birmingham Museum of Art’s gift shop.


Local Coffee

We have some great roasters in town — my favorites are Octane and Red Bike, but any local coffee would make a fun gift that pays off for everyone on Christmas morning. Most local coffee shops also sell whole bean coffee, but you can also buy it at Western Supermarkets or Whole Foods.


Great Bear Wax Candles

I’m loving burning these candles at my house, and I have a few wrapped up under my tree as well. Great Bear Wax is sold at Alabama Outdoors, so you can pick up a few candles there before Christmas (and maybe get a few last-minute gifts for the hiker or climber in your life as well).


Shopping locally the next few days is practical, but it’s also a good chance to see what local stores have to offer, and to experience the difference between local shopping, which is generally pleasant, and buying online or at a chain store, which can be hectic or thoughtless. Plus, local shopkeepers are generally experts in their merchandise, so you can usually just let them know who’s on your list, and they’ll actually do the shopping for you. And small shops usually have gift wrap available (sometimes it’s even free), so you can leave yourself more time to make gingerbread or drink eggnog or whatever. The point is to try to enjoy shopping as much as possible, and to do the best you can to buy gifts that show your family and friends that you really see them and that you value your relationship. Shopping small is a great way to make sure you do just that.


Carrie Rollwagen is the author of The Localist: Think Independent, Buy Local, and Take Back the American Dream.

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