Here’s a goal: Deck the hall and put presents under the tree without getting in your sleigh. “Small Business Saturday” already happened, but here at the Gabber we think every Saturday should be “Small Business Saturday.” To help you keep most of your money local this year (and avoid the fun of mall shopping) we’ve investigated three local shopping districts: Corey Avenue, Gulfport’s Strip and Historic Waterfront, and St. Petersburg’s Grand Central District. No matter which one’s closest to your home, we’ve found ways you can check off every item on your to-do list this holiday season without picking up those car keys. Bonus: The Beach to Bay trolley will take you from the Corey area to Grand Central and back again, and during Gulfport’s special events, you can use the city’s free trolley to make your way up and down Beach Boulevard. Keep reading for ways you can keep your holidays local, both for you and those on your list.
Deck the Halls
Before you put presents under the tree, you’ll have to decorate it. Yes, you’ll need a car to get that live tree, if that’s what you’d like, but as for the decorations? Each of the three districts has a street festival coming up that will help make your walls merrier, so mark December 5, 6 and 7 on your calendar. On December 5, find the perfect holiday decorating touches at Gulfport’s First Friday celebration along Beach Boulevard. On December 6 and 7, the Corey Avenue Business Association will hold a crafts show and Brocante Market (2200 Second Avenue South) will have its final opening before Christmas. On Saturday December 6 only, Grand Central Flea will open from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. along the 2500 block of Central Avenue. If you miss this weekend, head to downtown Gulfport for the December 13 Holiday Hoopla, where you can choose from established small businesses or choose from hand-crafted items at the street fair. For other decor ideas, check the vintage shops along the Gulfport Strip and Grand Central and the small but classy passel of home decor shops on Corey. On St. Pete Beach you also have the luxury of getting all your holiday decor from K. Kringles (310 Corey).
Over the River and Through the Woods
Have an athlete or outdoor adventurer on your list? Find a local kayak or paddle board outfitter. Kayak Nature Adventures (Gulfport Municipal Marina) guides tours through Clam Bayou and also sells its used board and ‘yaks. Gulf to Bay Bait and Tackle (just south of Corey on Gulf Boulevard) has lures galore. For the hardcore angler, consider a custom rod, or just get a kid a fishing license and the basics to start fishing.
Give the Gift of Art Lessons…
Along Grand Central District you’ll find six shops offering art workshops or lessons; Gulfport’s Project Free (2825 Beach Boulevard) also offers classes, and the new Gabriela Valencia Studio and Art Gallery (427 75th Ave North, just north of Corey) offers art classes as well.
…Or Just Give the Gift of Art
No matter your budget, you can find art in each of these three districts. Grand Central has four galleries; Gulfport, two; and Corey has five. That doesn’t count the cafes and shops that also sell the local art displayed on their walls.
It’s the Thought That Counts
Grandma doesn’t need another coupon for “unlimited hugs” (although it never hurts to hug your grandma), so get her a museum membership or make a donation to a local nonprofit that matters to her. Did she read with you when you were little? Consider a donation to Keep St. Pete Lit. Want to teach your kids the value of being a good neighbor? Join Gulfport Neighbors as a family and attend cleanups. Know a history buff? Get him a membership to St. Pete Preservation, Gulf Beaches Historical Museum, or the Gulfport Historical Society. Upgrade her membership with one of the history books these organizations sell, or buy a t-shirt, coffee mug or calendar from their gift shops.
Visions of Sugarplums
You can’t be expected to survive a day of shopping without a little sustenance. Fortunately, you don’t need to go without. No food court food here; each of our three hand-picked areas has everything from beefsteak to vegan. Gulfport has over 20 eateries along the Strip and Beach; along and near Corey you’ll find no less than 10 eateries; and Grand Central has nearly 30 restaurants and bars. Taste or sip something you like? Get a gift card and give it to a friend, then tell them you’re happy to go with them when they use it.
Don’t Forget Santa’s Little Helper
You deserve a treat, too. All three districts enjoy no shortage of places to get a massage, skin treatment, haircut or a manicure. Remember, though, the holidays book fast, so call ahead and make an appointment if you can.
Businesses did not pay for inclusion in this guide. Their inclusion (or exclusion) is not intended to endorse (or disparage) any local business. Please consider the businesses we include here a sampling of what you will find when you shop local.