By Amber Tyner
Halloween is freshly gone, Thanksgiving is most of the month away, Christmas isn’t anywhere close — and yet shopping season is upon us.
From now until the end of December, stores will be filled with people trying to find presents for family and friends.
But awash in pricey electronics, endless online options and friends and relatives who seem to have everything — and have it on their doorstep in two days, free shipping — how do you find that perfect gift?
Below is a guide with gift ideas to help you find a present for everyone on your shopping list.
Howling good gifts
There’s always that one person on your list who is a total pain around Christmas — a metaphorical brick wall standing athwart your gift ideas like writer’s block.
But there’s usually one solid way around that wall, and it’s through the doghouse.
Gainesville and Hall County have what feels like a nonstop supply of gifts and ideas for the dog owners we all know and love.
Over on Dawsonville Highway, few pet stores are getting into the spirit like Pet Pleasers, the all-in-one store offering boutique dog foods, supplies and — most especially — an in-house bakery.
Think your dog buddy might like a liver brownie? How about beefy bones or chicken stars? You could go all-out and pick up a pack of Bark-B-Q ribs. And if you don’t know your dog buddy well enough to shop for him or her, the store offers gift certificates.
If that tricky person on your list doesn’t have dogs, Pet Pleasers also sells its own cat treats and — get this — horse treats.
On Skelton Road, Fido’s World is a one-stop shop for most dog services and equipment. The business and its offshoots (Barkin’ Brews and Rucker Dog Training) offer boarding, grooming, coffee and supplies for the dog owners of the area.
Schedule that athletic dog owner a few agility classes at Rucker Dog Training or get you and your friend (and your dogs) a couple of spots in one of the group training courses.
If you want something a little more lasting, check out Wild Hound Outfitters in Cleveland.
At www.wildhoundoutfitters.com, Bridget Tuckey and her husband sell their handcrafted leather goods for dogs and their people.
From rustic to bejeweled, the leather collars from Wild Hound can get as rough-and-tumble or fancy as you’d like. The Tuckeys also sell bowls, beds and, for those who travel often with their dogs, waxed leather seat covers, which keep dirt and hair off of the back seats of your vehicle.
This one goes out to the teens
Try sending your daughter, niece or friend back to school with some new accessories this year.
Some of the most popular brands this season include Brighton, Kendra Scott and tried-and-true Pandora.
“Pandora is really popular,” said Carleigh Hulsey, sales associate at Nest Feathers, a gift shop in Oakwood. “There’s something for everyone in Pandora, from the youngest age to the oldest age. There’s different categories of charms that suit everyone. Lots of people look for something that’s significant to them.”
For the kiddo who has to personalize everything — including that bit of family jewelry you’ve been nervous about her wearing — a bangle bracelet will let her put her own spin on your gift. As a result, Alex and Ani jewelry is also a hit this year.
“They’re little bangle bracelets,” said Deanna Allbright, assistant manager at Nest Feathers. “They’re trending right now on Instagram and Twitter. So they’re a big brand.”
Better homes, better gifts
At their heart, the best gifts are reflections of the friendship or the relationship shared between people. A thoughtful gift, especially for the decorator, can last a lifetime.
To help capture the spirit of the season — and the message behind the gift — turn to Willow Tree.
“They all have a meaning behind them,” Hulsey said about the figurines. “And then on the back of the box they explain what the meaning is. Willow Tree is a really cute idea that lots of people like to give whenever they really don’t know what type of gift to give.”
Tricia Meyer, store manager of White Dog Home, a decor shop in Gainesville, said paintings or framed graphic designs also make good and lasting presents for the home.
“We have some art pieces that (are) a nice gift for somebody because a lot of people don’t buy art themselves,” she said.
Hostess gifts — small favors brought by guests to the host of a party — also give your hard-working friend or loved one the chance to put your Christmas gift to use.
“We have some unique cement apples and pears that you can put on a tray that look really nice for the holidays,” she said. “It’s a nice hostess gift. We have a good selection of hostess towels, both Christmas and normal ones.”
And if your pockets are overflowing with Christmas cheer, you can help someone complete their home with a larger piece.
“We specialize in unique lamps that you’re not going to see in a lot of different places,” Meyer said. “They’re unique shapes and unique materials.”
Why not even spring for a piece of furniture?
“We’ll have an entire new upholstery line available at Christmas time,” Meyer said. “We are taking on the Norwalk upholstery line, which is 100 percent made in the U.S.A.,” she said.
Look for chairs, ottomans, sofas and bar stools from the American company before the holiday gets here.
“For a family, we’ll have a selection of recliners,” she said. “That sometimes, particularly for an elderly person, is a wonderful Christmas gift — something they wouldn’t buy themselves.”
We smell a deal
Candles are always a go-to gift for the new friend or that person who’s a pain to shop for.
Atlanta-based Tyler Candle Co. offers homemade scents in three categories: stature, prestige and exclusives. The company also puts together seasonal scents and gift boxes and baskets that include not only candles, but soaps, lotions and other tidbits.
“They’re probably our No. 1 selling candle,” Hulsey said about the brand. “‘Diva’ and ‘High Maintenance’ are two of the most popular (scents). And there’s a new Christmas one called ‘Seasons Greetings.’”
Have that friend who’s not so wild about wax? Shopping for a new mom or a family with a newly walking toddler? Try a diffuser, which will save on some stress in a home with little ones.
Nest Feathers sells a brand by the name of Lampe Berger — and unlike candles, scents can be mixed and matched.
“It’s a really popular item that we always have people coming in to ask about.”
Dishing on dishware
The kitchen and dining room offer an endless source of gift ideas, whether you’re buying for the reluctant cook or the at-home masterchef.
But rather than picking up yet another set of plates, try something a little more unique this year.
Along with serving pieces, dishware maker Nora Fleming sells little figurines called “minis” that attach to the plates.
“You can change out the little minis,” Hulsey said, mentioning there is one for every occasion from holidays to sporting events. “They are great for anyone who entertains a lot.”
Not only do they add some personality to the potluck, some charm to the china, they also help your guests keep track of whose plate belongs to whom.
If you’re looking for a little wisdom at the bottom of your bowl, Mud Pie is another unique brand that sells dishes, but these plates “all have a cute saying on them.”
“There’s Thanksgiving (and) there’s just more general sayings and platters,” Hulsey said. “It’s always a really cute idea for a gift.”
If you want to go casual or work some men into your kitchen roundup, consider Corkcicle, which sells drinkware and barware.
“It’s kind of unisex,” Allbright said of the brand, adding that Nest Feathers sells many Corkcicle products that cater to men as well, including Whiskey Wedge glasses.
“It freezes sideways so it keeps your whiskey cold,” she said. “And then we also have the Cigar Glasses now. So it’s a glass for your whiskey but then it has a cigar holder.”
The shop also has Corkcicle tumblers.
“There’s a variety of colors and sizes,” Hulsey said. “You can always put the vinyl monogram on them.”
The weird and the wonderful
If you can’t find anything in a store, there are tons of quirky websites that can help in your gift search.
If you’re looking for a one-stop shop online, visit www.uncommongoods.com. This online marketplace sells products designed by independent makers, from toys and games for kids to garden supplies. You can shop by gender, and then you can get even more specific by looking at items for “mom,” “grandma,” “husband,” or “boyfriend.” They also have categories for different products like “home” and “art.” No matter who you’re shopping for, there is bound to be something they would like on this website.
For the macho men on your list, you can also take a look at www.mancrates.com. They offer a selection of gifts for men, from wooden crates filled with personalized whiskey or golf gear to ammo cans with survival tools. You can also choose from their “jerkygrams” for those guys who like meat, or even take a look at some of the site’s do-it-yourself project kits, which provide tools and materials for things like knife making and pipe carving.
The best part of these shipments might just be opening the box itself — but leave the scissors in the drawer. The crates come with a small crowbar, and the recipient gets the manly task of prying open his crate.
Gifts that keep on giving
Rather than a traditional present, you can consider getting your family or friends some type of subscription, from a magazine to monthly goodies.
For wine lovers, local wineries are catching onto the wine club phenomenon and offering inside deals and perks for their members. If you find yourself heading to the hills or to Braselton with your girlfriends often enough, look into wine clubs at Chateau Elan, Kaya Vineyard and Winery and Wolf Mountain Vineyards and Winery.
The three wineries offer discounts and perks for members, access to members-only events and, most importantly, wines delivered to your door on a regular basis.
For dog lovers, check out www.barkbox.com. You can surprise your friend with a box of treats for their pet each month. If you’re shopping for a foodie, look at www.snackcrate.com. You can give someone a box of snacks from around the world each month, or just send a one-time present. Another good site for food is www.crowdcow.com, which lets you order sustainable, small-farm beef, chicken, pork and salmon directly from farmers around the country and world.