Find the Best Gifts by Shopping Local

Whether people on your gift list have been naughty or nice, there’s no excuse not to find them a gift as unique as they are, this holiday season, in one of the 40 locally owned shops in Fort Wayne.

Small Business Saturday, traditionally held the Saturday after Thanksgiving, has been extended to every Saturday through Dec. 18 and is called Holly Shopping.

Many stores are offering special deals and have extended hours. Christmas music and activities like the Snowman Scavenger Hunt and Holiday Passport are taking place throughout the season to encourage people to shop downtown. For a full list of what’s happening, visit

“Our customers are amazing,” says Melani Wilson, owner of The Find, 133 W. Wayne St. “We’re seeing our regulars, as well as a lot of new faces. I think the opening of the Bradley Hotel and more and more restaurants in the downtown area is really helping drive some of the foot traffic.”

She says people are shopping in person and loving it, since pandemic restrictions on businesses have been lifted.

“Customers seem to be buying loads of gifts,” she says. “I think everyone wants a little treat this holiday season. We’re selling everything from stocking stuffers, mainly lip gloss and votive candles, to things people want for themselves.”

Big sellers this year include faux fur fingerless mittens, soft and cozy socks and throws, and a selection of men’s clothing, the latter new to Wilson’s inventory this year. Helping people with their selections, whether or not they’re comfortable getting outdoors, is the store’s updated website that includes a local pickup option so customers can save time if they know what they want.

The Find also carries items for babies and children, items made by local artists, and skin care products, candles, clothing, jewelry and more.

Olive Twist, 6410 W. Jefferson Blvd., specializes in ultra-premium extra virgin olive oil, infused and specialty oils, dark and white balsamic vinegars, wine vinegars, teas and other beverages, 26 flavors of bulk tea, cooking utensils, gifts, snacks, olives, pickles, relishes and small-batch, in-house blended herbs, spices and rubs, says Lori Berndt, owner.

“I’m doing a lot of custom baskets for people who have been very thoughtful in deciding what they want to give someone,” she says. “They aren’t just buying something. They’re thinking about what they’re purchasing.”

One of the most popular items she’s selling this holiday season are “grab and go” gift-wrapped sampler boxes of five olive oils and/or vinegars and free recipes to inform people how to bring out the flavor in dishes.

Some of the most popular olive oil flavors are Tuscan Herb, Butter infused and Garlic. An 18-year-old aged balsamic vinegar, raspberry and cranberry/pear are among the fastest selling vinegars, she says.

Artist Julie Wall, founder of The Hedge Creative House, 1016 Broadway, says many people are shopping local this holiday season and merchants couldn’t be happier.

“Our statement earrings are always popular and this year our hand-poured candles in up-cycled vessels and artwork have been flying out the door. It’s great to see so many people wanting to give unique gifts to their loved ones,” she says.

The shop specializes in jewelry, stationery and artistic housewares, and creates fine art prints. Workshops are offered at The Studio to teach techniques for creating your own gifts.

JBD Home, at landscape design company Jim Brubaker Designs, 909 Lawrence Dr., offers a year-round retail shop specializing in silk florals and garlands, unique ornaments, figurines, home décor and accessories, indoor and outdoor specialty lighting, and fresh greens.

The ornaments are a big seller at JBD Home. One collection from Germany is made from 100-year-old original molds, hand-painted and available in 20 varieties.

The Paradigm Gallery is located inside the Fort Wayne Museum of Art, 670 Lafayette St. Browse the shop’s hand-blown glass art, ornaments, paintings, jewelry and other items created by local and regional artists.

Creative Women of the World, a downtown boutique at 125 W. Walnut St., is a place to shop for gifts that keep on giving. It sells handmade goods made by marginalized women from around the globe.

Sharon’s Victorian House of Gifts, 634 W. Berry St., is on the first floor of a three-story brick historic family-owned home. The shop displays items related to Fort Wayne’s history.

Country Kitchen SweetArt, 4621 Speedway Dr., stocks more than 14,000 baking supplies and offers classes, ideas and inspiration to people of all ages. Shop in-person, online or schedule a store pick-up.

Of course, some of the best gifts are gifts of time.

Purchase a membership to Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, the Botanical Conservatory, Science Central or History Center. Learn about the Dream Pass at And remember that gift cards to locally owned restaurants make good gifts.

Get information on local events, retail stores, restaurants and more at the Visit Fort Wayne Visitor’s Center, 927 Harrison St, Suite 101. It features a wide array of Fort Wayne prints, apparel, goods from local artist and vendors.

It’s refreshing to get away from big-box and online chain-store shopping. Shopping and dining at locally owned stores and restaurants not only strengthens the local economy, but also leads to finds that are as unique as the loved ones we’re buying for. ❚