Gift Guide - In Case You're Stumped

by Ted S. McGregor Jr. & r & So if you peruse all our recommendations and are still stumped, here are 10 Inland Northwest shops we guarantee will have something you can wrap up with pride. As an added bonus, these are all locally owned -- so while you won't find a $20 DVD player, you will get the satisfaction of voting with your pocketbook and keeping our local economy healthy. We would list Boo Radley's here, but that downtown Spokane shop has ascended to a higher plane in the gift-giving universe. It goes without saying that you can get something unique at Boo Radley's -- but there, we said it anyway.

Cabin Fever & r & 113 Cedar St., Sandpoint & r & Now that Sandpoint has become ultra-trendy (with mentions in Sunset and Outside magazines as one of the best places in the West), Rebecca Edwards can say she helped. For 17 years, she has owned Cabin Fever, and she says for many of those years she felt her mission was to bring the outside world to the town on Pend Oreille Lake.

"It was different back then," says Edwards. "Nobody got it, but now people love it. It's like a mini Neiman Marcus in here."

Edwards describes their housewares as "civilized rustic with a European flair," and she points to their lines of Italian pewter and jewelry from New York and San Francisco as local favorites. You can buy a Pink Martini CD and even a tobacco candle. "It sounds weird, but they're really great," Edwards promises.

Christmas at the Lake & r & 517 E. Sherman Ave., CdA & r & Yes, this is the busy season for a year-round Christmas-themed shop, but the surprising part is Christmas at the Lake is steadily busy from June through January, says owner Mary Peak, who is celebrating her fourth Christmas in business after moving to North Idaho from New York City.

Peak says Christmas d & eacute;cor makes a great gift, and she'll even personalize ornaments you buy there. You just have to pick one -- a dog ornament (they have 30 different breeds), a musical instrument ornament, a fishing ornament, an NFL team ornament. You get the idea -- they have lots to choose from, along with 30 fully decked out trees.

Peak's shop is also the home base for Northwest Santa Creations, a craft shop that has been written up in Better Homes and Gardens where local artisans create Santa sculptures that are sold here and shipped all over the world.

Finders Keepers & r & 112 S. Cedar St. & r & If one-of-a-kind gifts are your style, Finders Keepers in Carnegie Square will have something for you. For eight years now, owner Deena Caruso and her team have scoured estate sales to bring to market jewelry from every era.

"Our store is more for women," says Caruso, "but we do have a case for men, with vintage cuff links, pocket watches, cigarette cases."

Caruso also reuses old trinkets they find to create pieces that blend the new with the old, like key chain charms and even charms for your cell phone.

Candles are always a safe bet at Christmas, and Finders Keepers offers a locally made candle that is lead-free and dye-free for the environmentally conscious person on your list.

They also carry a selection of vintage Christmas ornaments, so you can trim your tree the way they did back in the 1940s.

Mel's & r & 8800 N. Division St. & r & For 25 years, Mel and Sue Shaw's North Spokane landmark has beckoned to holiday lovers -- it's a spectacular place to get geared up for Christmas. Dozens of decked out trees feature all the latest ornament styles, and you can even buy live holly or evergreen trees for your home -- or as a gift. In fact, many people give holiday d & eacute;cor as Christmas gifts, says Diane Newton at Mel's. "Since we're a nursery, too, people do come looking for live holiday trees to give."

But after Mel's gets you in the spirit, you can also find other gifts, too, especially the Brighton line of jewelry, says Newton. "Those are very big at Christmas. We get a lot of men in here at the last minute buying Brighton jewelry."

Mel's also carries the Davenport Hotel's famous Bruttles candy, along with other gourmet food items.

Moose Lake Co. & r & 707 W. Main Ave. & r & Owned by the company responsible for bringing The Lion King to Spokane, WestCoast Hospitality, Moose Lake offers a nice mix of clothing and home furnishings. Most of their products come with a well-respected brand behind them. "I think something like half our products are backed up by lifetime warranties," says assistant manager Gordon Wright. "I know Patagonia and Pendelton are."

They also feature Outback Trading Co. vests and coats, Ex Officio clothing, and Moose Lake is one of the few places to get H.S. Trask shoes and boots. Made in Bozeman, Mont., of buffalo, elk and longhorn steer hides, Trask footwear has a strong following -- Wright says they have many regular customers who keep coming back just for Trask shoes.

Other Montana-made items include the Big Sky Carvers' duck and bird sculptures, which look great on any self-respecting Northwestern mantle.

The Museum Store at the MAC & r & 2316 W. First Ave. & r & What was a bit of a secret in recent years has become well known as holiday shoppers have discovered the wide variety of choices available at the Musuem Store at the MAC.

"The Campbell House is decked out for the holidays, and we even have a caf & eacute;," says manager Laurie Bertis, adding that the shop has a lot of stuff that reflects their current shows on Yellowstone Park and explorer David Thompson.

The Museum Store is one of the best places to find regional history books, and there are also a lot of books and activity kits for kids. But they also carry cards, soaps, frames, jewelry and CDs. So kill two birds with one stone: check out the exhibits and do some shopping. The store is owned by the MAC, and all profits go to support the museum's mission.

Simple Pleasures & r & 221 E. Sherman Ave., CdA & r & For going on five years now, Simple Pleasures in downtown Coeur d'Alene has brought hip home d & eacute;cor to the Lake City. Marilyn and Terry Cooper own the shop, and Marilyn has laid in a supply of hot items for this Christmas.

"Feathers," Marilyn says. "Feather trees, feather wreaths. Feathers are huge, and all the color combinations are just beautiful.

"Roosters have been real big, too," she adds. "They've been literally flying out of here."

But there's more than that to be found in the cozy nook on Sherman -- a great selection of cards and candles ("the hurricane mosaic candles make the most beautiful reflection," she says) keep locals coming back. You can even get a votive candle tree.

And Marilyn reminds shoppers that carriage rides are available in quaint downtown Coeur d'Alene during the holiday season.

Simply Northwest & r & 11806 E. Sprague Ave. & r & Sometimes you can't pick one item, and you'd rather give someone a lot of little things -- like a Christmas stocking, only bigger. That's where Simply Northwest can help. Best known as the top local choice for corporate giving, Simply Northwest has a retail shop to go along with its online business. There you can pick and choose from their selection of thousands of goodies -- from food to toys to housewares to wine -- and bundle it up in a basket, and you're good to go. You can even include a gift you bought somewhere else. It's also a great choice if you're shipping anything to friends outside the region.

"We're always watching trends," says owner De Scott, who started Simply Northwest in 1989, "and the items unique to the Northwest are hot during Christmas. People love anything huckleberry. Regional wines have really taken off, too."

And watch for Simply Northwest's new shop at the Spokane Airport to open in 2006.

Wonders of the World & r & 621 W. Mallon Ave. & r & Not everybody remembers it, but Pamela Barclay does -- the old Import Market that occupied the space on North Monroe that now houses REI. "That place was my idea of heaven," says Barclay, who was so inspired that she opened Wonders of the World in the Flour Mill back in 1992. "We have stuff from China, India, Nepal, from Tibetan people living in Nepal, from Mexico, Peru."

Wonders of the World has a huge variety of items, and Barclay says they're used to helping last-minute shoppers. "Last year, the 23rd was our biggest day ever, and it was mostly comprised of desperate people," she laughs.

Barclay offers crystals, jewelry (including a huge selection of beads), animal carvings, educational toys, wind chimes, Galileo thermometers, yard art -- the list goes on.

And best of all, you can drive right up and Barclay will validate your parking whether you buy anything or not.

The Zoo & r & 210 E. Sherman Ave., CdA & r & For four years now, Mel Wachter has been offering up a one-of-a-kind selection of gourmet food and gifts from around the globe to shoppers at the Plaza Shops in downtown Coeur d'Alene.

"We travel all over the world," says Wachter, "to India, Thailand, China."

One item he brings up with pride is the Serenity Fountain, just like the one they donated to the recent home built in Sandpoint for the TV show Extreme Makeover. The stone fountain is made to run indoors or out, and it's one of his hottest items this year.

But his food offerings have been popular, too, including their homemade truffles and wines from two California vineyards that only sell to the Zoo exclusively in all of Idaho. Other popular items include the Victorian-era balance toy reproductions and brand new picnic baskets and backpacks.

American Original: The Life and Work of John James Audubon @ Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

Tuesdays-Sundays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Continues through Sept. 19
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