By Polly Keary
The holiday shopping season is in full swing, but it doesn’t have to involve pushing a cart through the crowded aisles of an impersonal chain store.
There are lots of quality gifts to be found in Sky Valley small businesses. Not only do gifts purchased from locally-owned businesses tend to be unique and of good quality, the money spent returns to the local economy, making your purchase a gift to the whole community.
Each year the Monroe Monitor highlights a number of local shops with great gift ideas, but they are only a few of many great options. For a complete list of local shops, visit the websites of the chambers of commerce in the Sky Valley, www.choosemonroe.com, and www.skyvalleychamber.com.
For the Skier or Snowboarder
The Stevens Pass Snowboard Shop in Gold Bar consistently places in the top five in the annual King 5 Best of the Northwest contest, and the vividly-painted building is hard to miss as you pass through town.
Anyone who skis or snowboards will appreciate a gift of a pair of gloves or mitts. Don’t worry about whether or not that person already has gloves, it’s hard to have too many, because they quickly wear out against the rope tow many people use to return to the parking lot at Stevens Pass.
Also, because of the varied light at the resort, which can go from brilliantly clear to a disorienting white overcast to the otherworldly blue of night skiing, any devoted snow sports enthusiast needs a variety of goggles. The Stevens Pass Snowboard Shop carries goggles priced from about $20 to more than $200, so you can find a balance between price and features to suit any budget. Also find all the little things that make a day of the slopes pleasant, from ski wax to lip balm to bright knit hats.
Address: 617 Croft Ave. W., Gold Bar
Phone: (360) 799-0613
For someone who has everything
For a hyperlocal gift that is not only found in a local small business but also made in the Sky Valley, check out the eclectic array of gift items found at GROW Washington in Sultan.
The store is a collective of local entrepreneurs who make all the products on display.
There are lots of the kinds of things that one can never have too many of, such as greeting cards, candles, scented soaps and jewelry.
But there are also some things for people with specific interests, such as small, handmade tackle kits made of tough nylon for people who like to fish, and forks affixed to long handles for campfire cooking.
And if you find wrapping presents a bit of a chore, stop by GROW Washington to pick up a few elaborately hand-decorated gift boxes that cost about the same as a department store gift bag, but with more personality.
Address: 923 U.S. 2, Sultan
Phone: (360) 789-2146
For kids’ brains
There is no shortage of places to find gifts for kids, but finding gifts you can feel good about giving is another matter.
Gumby’s Emporium on Main Street in Monroe has a vast variety of gifts, all priced affordably and most unlikely to be found anywhere else nearby.
At the back of the store is a children’s section, with very fun, science-based gifts for curious kids. Find crystal-growing kits, dinosaur kits, solar robots and more.
And it is also one of the few stores in the entire region to carry the ancient Japanese game of Go, a deceptively simple strategy game that is thought by its devotees to be more mentally challenging than chess.
Gumby’s Emporium is also a great place to find a gift for a white elephant party; you can’t go wrong with PooPooPaper, paper made with real poop from fiber-eating vegetarian animals.
Also find unusual t-shirts that turn colors in the sun, decorator objects such as stained glass star-shaped lamps, jewelry and more.
Address: 111 W. Main St., Monroe
Phone: (360) 282-0202
For the Monroe High School student
Bearcat pride is serious business at Monroe High School, so much so that the Everett Herald this fall even did a feature story on the creative way kids wear the school colors.
If you have a student on your list, check out RD Sportswear on Main Street. You’ll find lots of orange and black apparel there; the store is owned by two high school coaches who know all about what kids like to wear to games and to school.
If you are feeling particularly generous, RD Sportswear offers a very popular letterman jacket made to order with your student’s name. The coats start at about $300; order soon to get them by Christmas.
Also, because of the friendship between the store owners and a couple of the cast members of the show “The Deadliest Catch,” there’s a selection of shirts with the show logo.
Address: 113 W. Main St., Monroe
Phone: (360) 863-2847
For the decorator
Got someone on your list who loves to decorate for the holidays, or any time of year? One surprising place for great home decor items, as well as a good spot to pick up a Christmas tree, is Monroe’s Falling Water Gardens.
In the spring, summer and fall, Falling Water Gardens is a popular stop for people looking for plants, shrubs or fish for ponds, as well as for outdoor landscaping installations.
But year-round, Falling Water Gardens also has a fun gift shop that is loaded this time of year with unique Christmas items. Find large, elaborately-feathered bird ornaments for the tree, countrified stuffed Santas and snowmen in flannel and battered hats and stylish statuettes of Christmas trees, among other things (motorcycle-riding St. Nick, anyone?).
It’s never a bad time of year to get a great garden ornament, either, and there is a nice selection at the shop.
Address: 17512 SR 203, Monroe
Phone: (360) 863-1400
For the host/hostess
It’s always nice to have something in hand to bring to a holiday dinner or party, and you can’t go wrong with a box of candy from Sweet Indulgence.
The small candy shop next to Ben Franklin in Monroe is chock-full of high-quality treats including glass cases of a huge assortment of chocolates, and old-fashioned glass jars of licorice, hard candy and more.
The shop will customize gift boxes endlessly; pick out the chocolates you want and get them in an attractive box with a ribbon.
This time of year, Sweet Indulgence has a variety of holiday candy such as chocolate peppermint fudge, shortbread cookie bites enrobed in white peppermint chocolate, and more.
Also, a gift box of holiday cupcakes is sure to please, and for people avoiding carbs or restricting sugar, there’s an assortment of sugar-free candy, as well.
The store is usually closed on Sundays, but is staying open Sundays through Christmas.
Address: 19555 U.S. 2, Monroe
Phone: (360) 805-1440
For the musician (or anyone who would like to be one)
Buying for musicians can be a bit bewildering. There is a huge variety of strings, drum sticks and accessories, but what does your musician prefer?
At Player’s Music Mart in Monroe, there are some items that will please just about any musician, from the beginner to the seasoned pro.
A quality music cord never goes amiss for anyone who plugs anything into an amp, for example. And little gadgets that help wind strings faster or that are good for small repairs are great, as are music stands and instrument stands.
Players sells a large number of entry-level instruments, as well, from violins to banjos and all manner of guitars and basses. Ukuleles are a top seller there, as well, and look for a nice selection of practice amps, too.
And if you know someone who is just getting started learning, it’s a good place to buy music lessons.
The people who work at the counter are all working musicians, and can answer your questions and offer advice to help you make sure you find just the right thing.
Phone: (360) 243-3197
Address: 126 E. Main, Monroe