Yeah, everybody hates to be labeled, but face it: Most people fit a type. If you'll excuse a quick Fight Club quote: "You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake."
And neither is your brother, sister, mother, father, daughter, son, friend, co-worker, significant other or anyone else you might possibly be shopping for during this fine holiday season in Tucson. (Which we're pretty sure will be devoid of actual snowflakes—beautiful and unique or otherwise.)
The fact that most everybody fits a type can be really useful this time of year, because it gives you great insight into what gifts you can buy for people, even those who've been able to buy themselves all of the stuff they already knew they wanted. You need a lot of insight to buy people the stuff they didn't know they wanted.
All you have to do to make that happen is shop at stores that cater to exactly the person for whom you're buying—so we've compiled a comprehensive catalog to make your gift-buying a snap.
Of course, even if human individuals aren't unique in every way, we at the Weekly like the stores we frequent to be unique—so every one on our list is a one-of-a-kind, local, independently owned establishment.
If you know your loved ones at all, we're certain you can fit them into one of the amusing (if not quite generic) categories we've created for them. And if not—well, squish them into one anyway. Or skip to the last store on the list.
3016 E. Broadway Blvd.
You know that person whose house you can barely stand, because the things in it make you so jealous? If that person doesn't already shop at Zócalo (or even if she does), she'll love you for getting her gift there.
This place has a huge variety of beautiful items for the home, with one thing in common: They're high-quality, hecho a mano and bought from some of the most skilled artisans in Latin America. Many of these artisans are featured in the store's bible, a book that your Exquisite Yuppie probably owns: Great Masters of Mexican Folk Art—and many of them are known personally by the store's owner, Robert "El Jefe" Stowe, and his wife.
Zócalo's most superb big-ticket items include a queen-size bed carved out of alder ($4,990); an immense, hand-carved Guatemalan chair (more accurately described as a throne) with an intricately hand-embroidered pillow ($2,999); and a solid, 7-foot-long mesquite table fit for an Aztec king's private banquet ($3,099).
Moderately priced items—like a 5-foot iron candelabra complete with bees' wax candles ($389), a hand-painted ceramic jaguar from Chiapas ($119) or a massive wall mirror (prices vary)—would likely be perfect for your giftee's foyer.
And, of course, Zócalo offers plenty of very affordable gifts that will actually fit under the tree, from milagros little and big ($1 to $5) to handcrafted alpaca silver jewelry boxes (about $40 to $70) to traditional ceramic piña coin banks of every size. And if you don't believe us that there's a lot more stuff, hear this: The store's owner annually travels to southern Mexico and brings back a 53-foot semi packed with goodies for you to buy for that culturally aware Yuppie in your life.
Heroes and Villains
4533 E. Broadway Blvd.
Anyone who wouldn't get mad at you for calling him a Comic-Book Nerd would love a gift from Heroes and Villains, possibly the best comic store in the city (at least our readers voted it as such in our Best of Tucson® in 2009 and 2010).
Not only does it offer a huge variety of comics, from Scott Pilgrim ($2) to Walking Dead ($10 to $15) to Barack Obama: The Comic Book Biography ($14.99); the store also has some pretty kick-ass action figures, like the foot-tall Incredible Hulk ($220); posters ($8.99 for regular-sized paper posters and $34.99 for 10-foot-long vinyl ones); and stocking stuffers like Pez dispensers ($4.99), Magic: The Gathering card packs ($3.99) and buttons featuring comic-book characters and fun sayings—like Batman with the words "needs anger management" (99 cents).
For the literary-minded (or high-schoolers who don't like reading assignments), get a comic adaptation of a classic title like Moby-Dick or Pride and Prejudice; for old-school comic lovers, get a Complete Peanuts hardcover ($28.95); and for kids, you can't go wrong with books featuring Archie, Scooby-Doo or a Disney favorite.
The store is well-organized and neat, and the staffers are friendly and knowledgeable. One worker recommends deluxe hardcover comic books (about $40) as great gifts, since they last forever and look much nicer than normal comic books—and even if your Nerd already has the comic you buy him, he probably doesn't have the deluxe edition.
1110 E. Sixth St.
You know that bike sticker that reads, "My bike's cooler than your car"? The Bicyclist Who Is Cooler Than You wholeheartedly believes this statement, but would never risk the perfect paint job of his bike by affixing such a monstrosity. Instead, he frequents shops like FairWheel, where he can find almost anything he needs to keep his prized bicycle(s) in prime condition and looking hip, such as a toasty-warm and stylish Craft black thermal bike jacket ($200), or all the Challenge Criterium tubulars (those are, of course, racing tires) that he can go through in a year ($89 each).
If you really love your bicyclist (and you're loaded), get him a brand-new Wilier Izoard road bike ($4,083). If you love him but can't afford that, FairWheel has plenty of cheaper but still totally awesome complete-bike options he probably won't sneer at.
If you know that the person you're buying for loves bikes and is cooler than you—but you have no idea what he might need or want in the bike department—just ask a FairWheel employee. They're all cooler than you, too, but they usually won't let that get in the way of kindly sharing their extensive knowledge and thus helping spread the joy of beautiful bikes and bike accessories.
HOPE Animal Shelter
2011 E. 12th St.
Does your favorite eccentric aunt own lots of cats (without crossing into mental-illness "hoarder" status)? Chances are, one reason your oddball aunt collected so many cats in the first place was to rescue them.
That means the best place to gift-shop for her is a place like HOPE Animal Shelter, a no-kill nonprofit that houses bunches of cats in comfortable floor-to-ceiling enclosures where you can pet, hold and play with each one before you adopt. (Other adoptable animals, also meetable, are housed in foster homes.) Any cat-lover would be glad for her holiday gift to simultaneously benefit herself and a great Tucson organization and a furry kitty in need of a "forever home." After all, holidays are about helping the needy (and are not about supporting corporate pet stores).
Of course, HOPE also houses and adopts out lots of dogs (and occasionally other creatures)—and what kid wouldn't be delighted to open a gift box and have a puppy pop out, à la Lady and the Tramp? (Although we don't recommend using the box so charmingly depicted in the Disney movie. The point is to save an animal, not suffocate it. Tie a ribbon on a pet carrier, OK?)
HOPE's adoption fee for all animals is $90, which includes spaying/neutering, shots, a microchip and a wellness exam.
1725 N. Swan Road
What do you get that kid who has everything? We can't say exactly, but we know you'll find something excellent if you go to the toy store that has everything. And, no, we don't mean Toys 'R' Us—we're talking about Tucson's own Kid's Center, which is independently owned but has a selection almost on par with any corporate mega-toy shop.
Got a little girl in mind? Corolle's 12-inch Tidoo dolls ($39.99) are nice, because they're soft and light for sleeping with and toting anywhere, but they can still go in the water when their owners don't want to part with them at bath time. Little boy? He probably doesn't have a tabletop soccer game—so get him an actual mini foosball table (almost as cool as a big boy's pool table) for $30.
This store also has a kazillion options for helping youngsters get arts-and-craftsy, from the Build and Paint a Birdhouse kit ($12.99) to the Drawing for the Artistically Undiscovered instruction book ($19.95) to simple little presents like sidewalk chalk ($3) and colorful modeling clay ($2).
And if your list of giftees happens to include a certain ... uh ... maturity-challenged adult, Kid's Center has plenty of options for boys in men's bodies (like hand-painted dragon action figures, $16.50; electronic flying saucers, $16; and kits for making solar race cars, $21.95), and for grown-up women who just can't stop with the girly stuff (like Breyer model horses, $13 to $30, or the Make Your Own Twinkly Tiaras book, $12.95). If these people are kid-at-heart enough for you to know about it, they won't be offended by a children's gift.
The Book Stop
214 N. Fourth Ave.
Despite technological "advancements" like the e-book and the Kindle, there are plenty of people out there who will never stop loving the sweet smell, the solid feel and the page-turning action you get with good, old-fashioned real books.
And no real Bookworm would scoff at getting a used book as a holiday gift. In fact, she'd probably like it better than a new book, because used books have more character, which is the whole reason that books are better than e-books in the first place. Plus, buying used means even out-of-print books are at your fingertips.
That brings us to one of our favorite used bookstores in the city: The Book Stop. Its new(ish) location on Fourth Avenue houses shelves and shelves of all kinds of titles and genres, from historical romance to science fiction to nonfiction categories like gardening and psychology. Prices range from just a dollar for a paperback (in-prints start at $1; out-of-prints start at $2) to hundreds of dollars for a rare hardback—a first edition of Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man goes for $600, while Anton LaVey's Satanic Bible goes for $500. (Other hardbacks start at about $5.) The store also has some very cool unframed art prints selling at any price, from 25 cents to $300.
Maybe the best reason to shop at the Book Stop is that if you know your Bookworm's favorite types of books, but don't know what she already has on her shelves, co-owner Tina Bailey will help you think of something that your giftee had no idea existed. Can the folks at Barnes and Noble do that?
627 S. Vine Ave.
The Foodie is easy to shop for, as long as you give him good food. Any good food will do, but Italian is especially fun—so you can't go wrong with Roma Imports.
This grocery and deli has all kinds of wrapable imported goodies, from organic whole-wheat and gluten-free pastas (starting at $4 a bag) to homemade cranberry-walnut white chocolate biscotti ($5 to $6 per package), to fancy imported olive oils and coffees, to countless varieties of canned tomatoes and olives, to cheese and meats (yes, you can put a present in a cooler). If your Foodie is as into making food as eating it, a CucinaPro fresh pasta maker ($34.99) would make a great gift—or maybe a pizzelle-baking machine ($55.99). (As your Foodie will tell you, pizzelles are delicious Italian waffle cookies.)
And if you're a Foodie, Roma is a great place to get grub for your own holiday festivities. For a family meal, you can pick up frozen rigatoni, ravioli, tortellini and other dishes ending in "i" starting at about a buck a pound, as well as microwaveable lasagna ($6.99), oven-ready eggplant parmesan ($10.99) and fresh-baked Italian breads ($2.25 per loaf).
For the holidays, the store will carry special Italian Christmas cakes called panforte ($11.99), Italian New Year sausage called cotechino ($6 to $7 per pound) and all kinds of homemade Italian candy and cookies. Roma will also cater your holiday party; we're told that budgeting about $10 per guest will get you a good deal here.
4300 N. Campbell Ave., No. 20
Are you a well-meaning husband who wants to rekindle the flames of your union—and use holiday gift-giving to do it? Good plan. But remember last year, when you got The Wife that expensive set of Martha Stewart Collection chopping knives (to use while cooking for you, of course), and she threatened to "cut you" with them?
Let's not repeat that—in fact, let's make up for it.
This year, get The Wife something for her, something she'll like—no, love. We can almost guarantee you'll find that thing at Limited Additions, a posh but unique boutique full of beautiful handmade items that will make your lady feel like a work of art (in fact, the store labels its own merch "wearable art"). If something like our described knife incident really happened, go all out with something extra-fancy like a supple Bianca black leather "gypsy jacket" ($658), or maybe a Renee/Renee razor-cut scarf—made of pieces of fine fabric sliced and woven together by hand (about $225).
Also popular are the store's one-of-a-kind hand-dyed silk jackets from the Ego Originals Art-to-Wear collection ($200 to $560) and Limón Piel purses from Colombia ($225, and some of the proceeds go to a women's medical group in the country).
If you're looking for something less spendy, buy The Wife a cool handbag that looks like newspaper print ($56), a Lauren Vidal "star tunic" ($48) or a pair of "verso leggings" she can wear four different ways ($28).
Stocking stuffers here include a keychain mirror with a built-in light, perfect for date night ($10.50); tweezers hand-painted with cartoon women ($7.50); and little boxes of Hanky Panky thongs shaped like Christmas ornaments that you can hang on the tree.
The Wooden Tooth
417 N. Fourth Ave.
When asked what kind of people might enjoy a gift from the Wooden Tooth, owner Tabatha Christian said most people who go gift-shopping there end up buying stuff for themselves. So we're giving you permission.
Enter this tiny but crammed-full shop, and see which of its one-of-a-kind, incredibly cool "collectables and curiosities" calls on you to make it yours, whether it's a $300 mechanical scarab beetle from the 1800s or a $25 antique metal duck-family wind-up toy (complete with its ancient original box).
And it gets curiouser and curiouser: There are fossils, rocks and gems; crazy antiques galore; handmade necklaces, bracelets and rings; and even a complete line of Sia Botanics natural skincare products (which you wouldn't expect to find in a curiosity shop, but we think that makes The Wooden Tooth all the more charming).
Lots of this store's stuff is made by Tucson artists, like an amazing $2,000 crucifix statue by Wayne Belger, and fashions by local designers Hemless, Backstitch Betty and Revolta. (We liked the colorful pedal pushers hanging on the wall, $28 to $32.) But Christian gets her wares from all over the world, and insists: "My focus isn't local. My focus is awesome."
Williams Magic and Novelties
6528 E. 22nd St.
OK, so let's say by some crazy ill luck, there's still a person or two you're shopping for who doesn't fit into any of our categories. Is it your fault this individual is so complex as to defy the Weekly's handy, almost-all-encompassing Gift Guide personality-type system? No. Don't agonize—just buy them a joke gift. Got it?
Williams Magic and Novelties has dozens of funny gifts, from the adult diaper ($3.95) to the double-barreled electronic fireball shooter ($59.95) to the fake-but-authentic-looking hypodermic needle that makes it look like you're shooting up ($5.95). We promise that no one you're shopping for already has a fake-but-authentic-looking hypodermic needle that really makes it look like you're shooting up—or any of the other gags this store carries. How can you go wrong?
(We should note that Williams Magic and Novelties also has gifts galore for actual magicians. But those aren't too common, so they didn't make our list.)