Holiday Gift Guide: A Letter from Santa

In this latest holiday gift guide, the jolly old elf shares a few of his favorite locally owned businesses where you’re sure to find gifts that surprise, delight and amaze even the grinchiest among us.

Dear Northwest Quarterly Reader,

Season’s Greetings! And a hardy “Ho! Ho! Ho” to you all.

The Christmas season is almost upon us, which means that my elves and I have been very busy making our lists, checking them twice, and finding out just who has been naughty and nice.

This year I have good news: our nice list is the longest it’s been in history! Congratulations to all of you. Thanks to your relentless optimism, smiling faces and friendly demeanors, this year’s Christmas will be the best yet!

And now, the not-so-merry news: our extra-long nice list is causing a bit of a fly in the milk and cookies, so to speak. So many people are getting gifts this year that my elves and I can’t possibly make them all in time! Unless everyone in the world agrees to move Christmas to April 25, I’m afraid there are going to be quite a few empty stockings this Christmas morning.

But you can help! I’ve made a list of some of the finest local shops and businesses you can find in your region. If everyone reading this goes to one (or more) homegrown shops to buy a few extra presents, Christmas will be saved!

I just know that I can count on all of you to save the holiday season by supporting your local businesses while seeking the perfect gift for your loved ones. After all, you’re reading Northwest Quarterly Magazine. Clearly you have excellent taste!

Thank you for your help and Merry Christmas!

Yours Truly, Santa Claus

Rock County, Wisconsin

Known as “Wisconsin’s Front Porch,” this is always the first place I fly into when my reindeer and I start our trek through the Badger State. A wonderful place to visit, even in the wee hours of Christmas morning!

Velvet & Tulle
217 W. Milwaukee St., Janesville, (608) 289-1818
Women’s clothing boutique with a wide assortment of clothing, shoes, accessories, home decor, soaps, balms and perfumes.

Paradise Guitar & Repair
431 Park Ave., Beloit, (608) 364-4960
Founded in 1986, this locally owned guitar shop puts the “rock” in Rock County with a large selection of guitars, amps and gear. Also offers lessons and repair services.

Double P Western Store & Boutique
14 E. Main St., Evansville, (608) 882-1515,
A family-owned boutique that sells clothing for children and adults, cowboy boots, bags, belts, jewelry and other accessories.

The Old Junction Mill
613 W. Madison Ave., Milton, (608) 868-5555,
A restored 170-year-old feed mill now houses a variety of stores and vendors that sell home furnishings, gifts, home decor and other locally made items.

Bath+Body Fusion
430 E. Grand Ave., Beloit, (608) 299-8036,
Luxurious, handcrafted bath and body products. The store is famous for its Dream Cream, a moisturizer recommended by a number of skincare and medical professionals.

Classy Rascals Children’s Boutique
219 W. Milwaukee St., Janesville, (608) 921-5987,
A children’s boutique that offers unique and stylish boys and girls apparel, gifts, toys and clothing for newborns.

Sawdust & Iron
207 Allen St., Clinton, (608) 774-6776,
Home furnishing and decor created with a rustic and industrial flair. The shop also sells an assortment of salsas, sauces and dips. Rustic barrels can be rented for weddings and events.

Green County, Wisconsin

I sometimes get confused when I fly into Green County because I think I’m back in Switzerland. This is a gorgeous county with plenty of beautiful scenery to enjoy as I take my sleigh from town to town, spreading good cheer. Fröhlichi Wiehnacht!

The Bramble Patch
102 5th Ave., New Glarus, (608) 527-4878
Polish pottery, award-winning maple syrup, slippers, socks, seasonal decor and locally made goods.

Baumgartner Cheese Store & Tavern
1023 16th Ave., Monroe, (608) 325-6157,
Operating since 1931, this is the oldest cheese store in Wisconsin. Plenty of varieties of cheddar, Swiss, mild white and blue/washed rind cheeses available, as well as delicious local beers and menu items.

523 1st St., New Glarus, (608) 527-2882,
A children’s toy store dedicated to brain-driven fun, with a huge selection of toys, books, sensory toys, baby toys and room decor.

Hardware Hank
W5485 County Hwy. DR, Monroe, (608) 325-6400
One-stop-shop for house paint, lawncare items, pet supplies, power tools and other hardware needs.

New Glarus Brewing Co.
2400 State Hwy. 69, New Glarus, (608) 527-5850,
Home of award-winning Wisconsin beer that cannot be purchased outside the state. Clothing and gift items also available.

Healing Notes LLC
1205 17th St., Monroe, (608) 732-0061,
A wellness and serenity center that offers sessions in card reading, Reiki, pilates and Akashic reading. Also sells wellness products.

Pioneer Valley Outdoor Store
561 1st St., New Glarus, (608) 636-0508,
A shop for outdoor fun. Products include bicycles, camping supplies, spin and fly fishing needs, and outdoor apparel. Also rents electric bikes.

Walworth County, Wisconsin

My trips to Walworth County used to mean leaving peanuts and giant gift-wrapped shoes under the tree, back when it was a winter home for the circus. These days, it’s still a wonderful place to visit. Elkhorn is Wisconsin’s Christmas Card town, after all. What could be more Christmasy than that?

My Sister & Me
911 W. Main St., (262) 729-4129, Lake Geneva,
A lovingly restored Italianate-style home hosts this vintage goods store. Carefully curated antiques, clocks, figurines, jewelry and home decor items are lovingly displayed in six separate rooms.

Pet Pals
210 E. Walworth Ave., Delavan,
This family-owned pet shop sells pet food, supplies and animals such as birds, reptiles and fish while also offering wing and nail trimming and boarding for small animals.

Breber Music
801 E. Geneva St., Elkhorn, (262) 723-2233,
With an outstanding selection of new and used musical instruments, equipment and accessories, the store also offers instrument rentals, repairs and music lessons.

Clear Water Outdoor
744 W. Main St., Lake Geneva, (262) 348-2422,
Top-quality brands in outdoor lifestyle clothing, yoga gear, outerwear, footwear, backpacks and paddling gear. Also rents kayaks, snowshoes and cross-country skis.

Haywain Pottery
292 Wildwood Dr., Darien, (262) 724-8099,
Paul Boland is a full-time potter who creates custom pieces and offers pottery workshops for anyone, at any skill level.

Angelus Home & Garden
325 Kenosha St., Walworth, (414) 815-6638,
A colorful shop with an ever-changing inventory of modern country and cottage home decor, new and vintage furniture, and handcrafted soap, candles and essential oils.

Zinn’s on the Square
2087 Division St., East Troy, (262) 441-0280,
More than 20 local vendors have come together to offer handmade home decor items, jewelry, baked goods, artwork, clothing and other intriguing sundries.

Winnebago County, Illinois

I remember one Christmas, back in the 1930s, when sock monkeys were all the rage. They were so popular that most parents in the Rockford area chose to make their own Christmas gifts that year, so I barely made any stops in town. I saved a lot of time, but it’s nice to be back.

640 Meats
6410 E. Riverside Blvd., Loves Park, (815) 633-9443,
Independent, locally owned butcher shop and deli with a wide selection of meats, side dishes and other savory eatables.

Eurostyle +
510 E. State St., Rockford, (815) 222-7384
Stylish women’s clothing imported directly from Europe, with brands that include Mat, Rimini, Twister and Yoek.

Flower Girls
102 N. Elida St., Winnebago, (815) 335-2787,
A flower shop that also offers flower arrangement classes.

Gustafson’s Furniture and Mattress
6651 E. State St., Rockford, (815) 636-8608,
A family-owned furniture store for more than 90 years with a showroom featuring over 100,000 square feet of home furnishings and more than 1,000 mattresses in stock.

Barnstormer Distillery
6969 S. Main St., Rockford, (815) 269-4069,
A farm distillery that grows many of its own ingredients to create delicious and unique whiskeys, vodkas, rums and moonshines.

Lallygag Boutique
4616 E. State St., Rockford, (608) 345-7802
Women’s clothing boutique that specializes in comfortable yet chic women’s fashion, accessories and gifts.

Lucky Quilt Company
516 Main St., Pecatonica, (815) 239-1026,
Quilting supply shop that carries a variety of fabrics, kits and quilting supplies. Also offers classes and retreats. Official seller of Janome sewing machines.

3065 N. Perryville Road, Rockford, (815) 282-8881,
This store offers a one-of-a-kind selection of jewelry, home decor, garden art, baby gifts, bath products and candles.

The 3R’s Learning Materials Center
5388 Williams Dr., Roscoe, (815) 270-0406
Family-owned store that specializes in educational materials, toys and games for children.

3622 E. State St., Rockford, (815) 398-4900,
A one-stop shop for do-it-yourselfers and professional contractors. Buys, sells and trades new and used hand and power tools.

Zavius Jewelers
2636 McFarland Road, Rockford, (815) 654-4000,
Jewelry store that specializes in custom-designed, handmade original pieces of wearable art.

DeKalb County, Illinois

Given its natural beauty and small-town charm, it’s hard to believe that DeKalb County is a short drive from Chicago. With so many charming towns to choose from, the area is chock full of fantastic finds, food and fun. Plus, Mrs. Claus is a die-hard NIU sports fan. Go Huskies!

Robin’s Nest Bookshoppe
218 E. Lincoln Hwy., DeKalb, (779) 225-1191,
Independent bookstore offers a curated collection of new and classic books as well as board games, puzzles, book bags and candles.

Blue Moon Bikes
211 W. State St., Sycamore, (815) 899-3100,
This bike shop sells new and classic models and has a selection of antique biking equipment and parts. It also offers bike restoration and repair.

J.K.S. Creations
313 W. Navaho Ave., Shabbona, (815) 824-2613,
Gift shop specializing in handmade items including hand and shoulder bags, quilts, table runners and wall hangings.

Chilton’s Sporting Goods
248 E. Lincoln Hwy., DeKalb, (815) 758-3152
Sporting goods store with equipment, uniforms and plenty of licensed NIU gear.

The Happy Hen House
8329 E. Sandwich Road, Hinckley, (815) 286-9055,
This gift and home decor shop offers everything from seasonal gifts and beauty accessories to vintage furniture, clothing and gardening items.

Maggie’s Déjà vu
421 E. Church St., Sandwich, (815) 786-9331
Resale and collectibles shop with blown glass, tools, old and new toys, canister sets and other unique finds for your home.

Ms. Mary’s Boutique
202 S. Walnut St., Ste. A, Cortland, (815) 596-0866,
Ladies boutique specializing in quality garments such as bras, panties, camisoles and more for plus-size women.

Heartsy Crafts
16053 Owens Road, Hinckley, (331) 222-2682,
Craft supplies and accessories abound, with plenty of ideas for candle making, leather crafting, soapmaking and other creative endeavors.

Ogle County, Illinois

Full of lush, green spaces and friendly faces, Ogle County offers stunning aerial views from my sleigh. Sometimes, if I’m ahead of schedule, I let the reindeer loose for a quick frolic through the woods before we take back to the sky. You should take a frolic through the many local shops that can be found here. You won’t be sorry!

Quinn’s Jewelry Inc.
426 Lincoln Hwy., Rochelle, (815) 562-2426,
Local jeweler with bridal and diamond jewelry including rings, bracelets, bangles, earrings and men’s jewelry items.

Bad Ash Cigars
114 N. River Road, Oregon, (815) 201-3848,
Cigar shop and lounge that hosts game nights and wine tastings with pairings.

120 W. 2nd St., Byron, (815) 406-8060,
Consignment shop with clothing, picture frames, purses, books, toys, home decor and other treasures.

Merlin’s Greenhouse & Flowers / The Other Side Boutique
300 Mix St., Oregon, (815) 732-2969,
Family-owned, full-service flower shop, greenhouse and gift shop that has served the Oregon area for almost 40 years.

A&L Antiques
203 E. Chicago Ave., Davis Junction, (815) 378-6159
Antique store with a range of antiques, collectibles, concrete statues, metal garden art and other finds to add elegance to your home.

Angel Treasures Resale Shop
201 Ill. Rt. 64, Mt. Morris, (815) 734-0504,
A nonprofit resale store with an eclectic selection of clothing, housewares, collectibles, games, movies and seasonal items.

Oregon Soap Shoppe
91C S. Daysville Road, Oregon, (866) 411-6614,
Handmade and handcrafted soaps made with the purest oils and other natural ingredients. Specialty soaps available for sensitive skin or to help treat a variety of skin conditions.

Grungy Roots LLC
8094 Ill. Rt. 2, Grand Detour, (815) 615-8381
This garden center specializes in unique house plants and everything to complement. The knowledgeable team also equips you to care for your new purchase.

Jo Daviess County, Illinois

When the Christmas season comes to an end, Mrs. Claus, a few of the elves and I head to Jo Daviess County for a little rest and relaxation. There’s nothing like a relaxing spa stay in Galena or a drive through the rolling hills of the beautiful Driftless region. If you happen to see us, be sure to say hello! I’m the one with the beard.

A Bushel and a Peck Country Store
1009 E. Schapville Road, Elizabeth, (815) 823-5678,
This two-story store offers a variety of vintage antiques and furniture in addition to local homegrown delicacies including fresh eggs, cheese and old-fashioned soda.

At Home in Galena
114 S. Main St., Galena, (815) 776-0811,
This gift shop sells a multitude of products including all-natural soaps, travel candles, urban candles and wickless soy candles.

Goldmoor Inn
9001 W. Sand Hill Road, Galena, (815) 777-3925,
A historic and romantic bed-and-breakfast with stunning views of the Mississippi River and a restaurant that serves up a top-rated gourmet dining experience.

Nature’s Treasures
3602 E. Woodbine St., Woodbine, (815) 858-3722,
This gift shop carries everything from gemstones and crystals to home decor, jewelry, self-care products and more.

Dusty’s Closet Antiques
401 Tisdell Ave., Warren, (815) 291-3556
An antique that store offers an assortment of items including antique furniture, vintage collectibles and gift items.

Knotty Ideas Woodworking
8822 N. Veta Grande Road, Scales Mound, (815) 845-2491
This woodworking shop sells handmade wood products including cuckoo clocks, chainsaw carvings, dried flowers, planters and benches.

Anchors & Arrows
1713 Ill. Rt. 35N, East Dubuque, (319) 849-4471,
This home goods retailer carries repurposed and upcycled antiques, gifts and more while doubling as a full-service salon.

Bangles & Bags
202 S. Main St., Galena, (815) 333-6008,
This boutique store sells a number of goods including necklaces, earrings, watches, handbags and sunglasses.

Eshelman Pottery
238 N. Main St., Elizabeth, (815) 858-2327,
This pottery store carries handmade pottery from cups and bowls to sushi trays, flatback trays, casserole dishes and other decorative dishes.