City

Shops to buy fun last minute gifts for everyone on your list

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If you’re at all like me, you’ll want to avoid malls in the next few days leading up to Christmas.

Instead, stick to these five stores near the downtown core for fewer crowds and unique gift ideas.

For the Toronto and Canada lover, you can’t go wrong at Royal Canadian Gifts at 229 Spadina Ave.

This Chinatown shop is jammed with every souvenir imaginable but in neatly categorized sections. Some highlights are Toronto racoon calendars, keychains of toy mounted moose, Christmas ornaments featuring both moose and deer.

      

Our top 3 picks are:

The stuffed heads — as in stuffed toy moose and bear heads to hang on the wall,
The funny clothing — a shirt with a beaver that says DAM IT or a pair of long-johns with the words “bear cheeks” on the cheeks area … with an appropriate picture of bears, and the
Canadiana food — maple biscuits, maple syrup, maple-flavoured hot chocolate, maple bacon, maple espresso chocolate, okay fine, maple everything. Also: ice wine chocolates and wild smoked sockeye salmon.

Blue Banana at 250 Augusta Ave. is a staple at Kensington Market. I’m convinced that if you just wanted to do all your shopping in one place, this is it.

Here’s a selection of items you can buy there: notebooks, pencil cases, candles, calendars, perfume, reading glasses, selfie sticks, candy, chocolate, glassware, trinkets, artsy knobs for dressers and doors, hilarious shirts (Justin Trudeau on a horse!), magnets, ball caps, superhero robes, and socks. See, we weren’t kidding about something for everyone.

      

Our top 3 picks are:

Novelties — Things like as a beer-making kit and marionette puppets make great stocking stuffers.
Cards — The selection is wide, so much that the shop has two sections dedicated to cards. There are so many funny ones, again something for everyone. One card I spotted said “Happy birthday to my favourite parent,” another one says “Old AF.”
Jewelry — Canadian-made and super affordable with unique rings priced at $4.99 each, or if you buy any two items from a full wall of jewelry, you get 10% off.

For the food lover, Good Egg at 267 Augusta Ave. is amazing. The shop has a high-quality selection of everything food-related, such as cookbooks, glassware, egg cups, and utensils.

There are several unique gifts too, like a book about how to draw, an origami paper set, a, and tarot cards. The books are mostly Canadian, but all compelling, a couple of titles that caught my eye were “Difficult Women” and “There are more Beautiful Things than Beyonce.”

   
Our top 3 picks are:

Magnets of world leaders — There are the usual suspects; Hillary Clinton, Malcolm X. But what got me giggling was Noam Chomsky and Jesus Christ himself.
Pop chart lab posters — Funky and colourful posters which are huge flow charts of various random things like fruits and vegetables, beer, and superpowers.
Custom pet portrait service — An artist named Rachel Brown puts recreates your fur baby’s face, using acrylic on wood. Just provide a photo of your cat and dog, and you’ll have a memorable and lasting gift for $150.

If you’re feeling peckish and want to buy an edible gift, head over to the Toronto Popcorn Company at 147 Baldwin St.

The small shop offers more than 50 flavours of popcorn! You can try most of them, with samples lining every corner of the shop.

The best sweet sellers are the sea salt maple, the cheesy caramel, and the churro. On the salty side, people love the buffalo kick, the garlic parmesan, and the cheesy dill.

Tracy, who laughs as she’s preparing bulk orders, says it’s tough to choose, but kettle corn is her favourite flavour. “It’s a little sweet and a little salty,” she explains.

The shop offers seasonal flavours too such as the holiday mix, which is made up of candy cane and red cherry. The tuxedo is a classic caramel with white and dark chocolate.

If you don’t think you can refrain from eating an entire gift bag, don’t fret, they ship all over Canada and to the U.S. too.

      

Our top 3 picks:

Cheesy dill — For the savory, deliciousness that is cheese. And dill.
Chocolate mint — Because I was surprised I liked it so much. Subtly sweet.
Cheesy Caramel — For all the reasons above. Cheese. Sweetness, so addictive!

For the daring fashionista on your list, head to hat shop Goorin at 320 Queen St. W.

Melissa, the store manager, tells me the best seller is a hat called “Dean the Butcher,” because it suits everyone. The hats range in price from $60 to $400. Dean costs $172.

“Flat caps are making a big return,” Melissa tells me, explaining the best-selling hats.

The newsboy hat is also popular and easy to buy and has a wide selection.

There are lots of things that make hat-buying easy at Goorin, with sizes starting at small all the way to double XL. They offer stretch or sizing foam and also do minor customizations.

And to fancy up your hat, even more, they offer bands, feathers, and pins.

There’s even a staff pick that is on display. What are they? Well, Melissa explains.

“They’re badass hats that we sometimes customize with feathers,” she says, laughing. “We switch them around to what staff is digging.”

The store stocks hats made in both the U.S. and in China. All the American ones are handmade, and the ones in China have a lower price point. Then there are special hats, like the Greek fisherman hat, made in Greece, as well as hats made in Italy and the U.K.

Even if you are not a hat-wearer or a hat-buyer, just being in the store is a treat. It’s stunning, and it’s nice to know that Goorin is a family business, which opened in 1895. The current owner is the fourth-generation after the company’s founder, Cassette Goorin, whose photograph hangs on the wall. The Queen Street shop has been open for five years and is part of the community. It often hosts music events in store and recently had a spiked cider event!

      

In this case, I don’t have a top 3 hat list for you, because all the hats are classic and fun, they are the number one reason to visit. I can say these are the *other* top 3 reasons to visit are:

The staff — Helpful and willing to explain everything hat-related
The store itself — It’s gorgeous and seems like another world, organized and clean
The community feel — A store that hosts music and booze events? Count me in!

So if your list is a mile-long and has several different items on it, you’re covered with these stores. I mean, what else could you even want? The variety is enormous.

 

Diana Pereira

Diana Pereira is a journalist, a university journalism teacher, a world traveller, a fair-weather kayaker, and a frequent bruncher. She's working on her mermaid status, travelling to as many countries as she can that include a body of water and when she's home in Toronto, you can find her in a kayak on Lake Ontario.