Stumped by a "Niche" Gift? Options Abound in Downtown EL

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Tuesday, December 19, 2017, 7:57 am
Jessy Gregg

Above: Tobacco at Campbell's Smoke Shop

Holiday shopping is either winding down or ramping up, depending on what kind of shopper you are. There are some gifts that practically buy themselves, but not everyone is so easy to buy for. How do you pick a gift for a friend whose interests are much different from yours? That friend who isn’t just into music, they’re into music you can’t pronounce. The friend who always has a half knit sock with them. What do you get for those people?

I talked to some East Lansing business owners about how they handle those blank-eyed customers who don’t know what they are looking for.

In some cases, it helps to get a list.

Above: Flat, Black and Circular

I talked to Jon Howard at Flat Black and Circular on the second story of the Campus Town Mall at 541 East Grand River Ave. He said he’s used to people coming in with lists around the holiday season. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never heard of half the bands on the list, he can help you track them down.

Above: Hollow Mountain Comics and Games

I got the same story from the staff at Hollow Mountain Comics and Games which is just a little further east at 611 Grand River. Parents come in with lists of character names and comic titles that mean nothing to them, but everything to the kid who wrote them down. In addition to a wide selection of comic books and graphic novels Hollow Mountain also has a selection of table top games that are outside of the Parcheesi and Monopoly mold. Even if you went in for Superman you might want to check out Munchkin and Settlers of Catan while you’re in the store.

Above: yarn bowl at Woven Art

That knitting friend with the sock? Let the staff at Woven Art talk you through what might be appropriate. You’ll find this small yarn shop tucked away at 325 Grove Street, directly across from the Grove Street parking garage. Ideally, come armed with information that will help them narrow their suggestions. Does your knitter have a favorite color? Are they a sweater knitter or a sock knitter? (Or a crocheter?) If you’re not confident enough to pick out a skein of yarn, you could choose a small tote so that half-completed project won’t get tangled up with the car keys, or a yarn bowl to keep their yarn from skittering around the room.

Above: growlers at Mackerel Sky

Do you have a homebrewer on your list or a beer aficionado who likes to bring home the occasional growler of microbrew? Mackerel Sky, at 211 M.A.C. Ave., has a selection of Michigan-made ceramic growlers from Grayling Ceramics, with tankards to match. Mackerel Sky also stocks iconic Michigan-made Stormy Kromer hats and vests to fight off the winter cold.

Above: colored pencils at SBS

Perhaps you know a Spartan fan whose whole life is colored green and white. The selection of Spartan gear at the Student Book Store, located at 411 E. Grand River, is huge. You can even get Spartan branded pacifiers! If it can be imprinted, SBS has got one with a block S on it. While you’re there check out the art supply section where you might nab some colored pencils and a 100% recycled notebook from Decomposition Books for the scribbler on your list.

Above: art glass at Saper Galleries

If your artistic friend is more of an admirer than a creator head over to Saper Galleries and let Roy Saper and his staff help you pick out something appropriate. Michigan-based artist Kathleen Chaney Fritz specializes in views of Michigan, some of them quite large, but her smaller limited edition prints start at $30 including a frame. Saper also stocks one-of-a-kind items from around the world, like cocobolo boxed from Costa Rica, and hand blown glass from Palestine.

Evergreen Cycles has many choices for the cyclist in your life, but they also stock disc golf supplies. If you don’t know what discs your frisbee golfing friend might need you could get them a kit to light up their Christmas with a small LED which can be fitted to any disc for a night time game. These can be used on regular Frisbees as well, and might be a stocking stuffer for a teenager.

Campbell’s Smoke shop has been supplying East Lansing smokers with blended pipe and cigarette tobacco since 1956. If you’re not a smoker and aren’t sure what to buy, Manager Josh Woodbury can help you figure it out. Hand carved pipes from Italy start at $40, or you could select a cigar or two from Campbell’s walk-in humidor.

Above: Curious Book Shop

Curious Book Shop at 307 E. Grand River is another long time East Lansing shop. The selection can be overwhelming, so if you’re not sure what to buy you could take advantage of the 20% off sale they’re currently running on gift certificates, maybe pairing it with a vintage postcard from Curious’ stock of antique paper goods.






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