Last-minute gifts

Pub date December 18, 2012
WriterMarke B.

SHOPPING Dearest Christian and Christian-adjacent reader: it’s too late for the Internet. Unless you want to shell out Santa-sized bucks for overnight delivery, you’re gonna have to fill those loved-ones’ stocking IRL, with a good ol’ fashioned brick-and-mortar dash through the metaphorical snow.

We mean you’re going to have to go shopping, duh. And your flight leaves on Saturday, or their flight lands on Friday, or you’re actually on your way to a holiday house party tonight! You can do better than a gift card. Yet even though you seem surrounded by retail options every moment of your life, when you’re forced to suddenly think about what to get tea party maven Aunt Tilly or your nine-year-old second cousin who you think is named Erica (Caitlin? Amy? Danica?) or your drunk sort-of-friends, the mind blanks and the plan nogs.

So some of the options below may seem obvious any other time of year, but here they are to help kickstart your Christmas consumer creativity motors. get ready to fill your sack with goodies! (Don’t forget to bring your own sack.)



Calendars, calendars, calendars! No gift crisis cannot be solved by a glossy 2013 calendar featuring soft-focus lighthouses of Nova Scotia, baby baboons smearing ice cream in their hair, or various memes of yesteryear, repackaged helpfully for the Web-tardy. Oh, by the way, Green Apple is the largest bookstore in California, so there are books — and extremely helpful staff recommendations! — for everyone on your listicle.

506 Clement, SF. (415) 387-2272,



Heartfelt is the very definition of a last-minute gift emporium, a place filled with low-cost creative items for all ages. Italian cookware, spandex log pillows, a hanging mobile you can customize with your own art … it’s an affordable world of creativity at your fingertips in Bernal Heights! Joke gifts (really creative ones), retro gifts, classic gifts, cool stuff you won’t see anywhere else .. you can cover almost everyone on your list in one heartfelt stop.

436 Cortland, SF. (415) 648-1380,



OK, more than 200 artists are showing off their goods all weekend in Berkeley — pottery, jewelry, t-shirts, hats, wall art, candles, leatherwork — surely you can find something for your dad while enjoying all the colorful characters, groovy tunes, and interesting eats that Berkeley can bring? It’s a bargain bonanza.

Dec 22-24, 11am-6pm, free. Between Dwight Way and Bancroft Way, Berk.



There are handmade smores. There are marshmallows made of vanilla and Maker’s Mark. Adorable candy-filled Christmas tree ornaments? Yes ma’am. A cornucopia of season-perfect foil-wrapped chocolates; pre-wrapped “round of four” gift packs featuring four kinds of house made candy; large jars of gianduja, chocolate-hazelnut spread that puts Nutella to shame? What were we talking about again?

1507 Vallejo, SF. (415) 921-8000,



Put a bird on them! Everyone needs a little twee under the tree, and this store — recently relocated to Divisadero in the place of our former butcher store — has lovely trinkets for all, in that naïve-sophisticate hipster style so popular with the kids these days. Everyone’s koo-koo for Rare’s impeccable jewelry collection and neato home decor and kitchenware collections — there are actually coffee mugs with birds on them, yasss. Unique kaleidoscopic printed blocks by Lisa Congdon will brighten anyone’s season, while festive Leah Duncan pillows add punch to every couch.

600 Divisadero, SF. (415) 863-3969,



What says love more than an exquisite aluminum egg timer, or cheer more than a fanciful cutting board shaped like a chicken? You’ll be ladling out the love (ladles available) and satisfying every cook and non-cook’s desire for kitchen accessories at this supercute Mission cupboard of culinary delights. This year, stick a whisk in their stocking and whip up some fun! (Sorry.) Or simply gift a unique recipe zine from P+P’s neat library. Great for everyone? Sparq stones — soapstone cubes you can use in hot or cold drinks to maintain temperature — and kicky colored salt cellars.

593 Guerrero, SF. (415) 206-1134,



The venerable and much-loved Four Star Video rental shop in Bernal Heights found that its business model had run its course, so it morphed into Succulence, a yummy boutique plant store that features (of course) succulents but also a wide range of gardening supplies and cute classes for kids of all ages. Creative and artsy plants and planters, terrariums, hanging plants — plenty here for anyone who likes to fill their home with greenery. Plus: Really cool hand-carved ballpoint pens, which, in the $50 range, are cheap for one-of-a-kind writing instruments.

402 Cortland, SF. (415) 282-2212,



We’ll take any gift you’d like to gift us from this liberal bastion of bookery on Market Street. A wonderfully curated selection of tomes focuses on history and social and environmental issues, with a generous sprinkling of poetry, theory, and California-centric items. (While researching for this article, we were compelled by joy to snag a set of dish towels with old-time maps of the Golden State printed on them.) You’ll find great stuff for out-of-towners, armchair prophets, and new San Francisco arrivals here, or anyone who loves this kooky-beautiful land of ours.

1680 Market, SF. (415) 431-6800.



We have teenage boys in our life! Possibly you do in yours. They like to dress cool. Upper Playground has so many uniquely SF cool and boyish t-shirts, hats, hoodies, and related items that shopping for our cool teenage friends was so easy we began to suspect the whole enterprise. Is this reality? (There are also tasty items for women and walls as well.)

220 Fillmore, SF. (415) 861-1960,



This Noe Valley treasure is billed as “San Francisco’s Original Chocolate Boutique” — but we call it Dr Coacoa-nassus’ Chocolatarium of Head-Explosion and Wonderment. There is every kind of fantasy chocolate bar combination to be found within its charming bounds — maple-coconut chocolate, blueberry chocolate, gingerbread chocolate, luscious vegan chocolate truffles, tiny bon bons with the face of Mrs. Claus sculpted upon them! People, they had Obama chocolates here during the election. The walls are lined with mystery cabinets labeled with street signs indicating the theme of the candy within, making for an adventurous shopping experience as well.

4069 24th St., SF. (415) 641-8123,



Seriously, there is so much of interest here you can’t go wrong. Insanely detailed, completely untranslatable magazines devoted to singular cats and manga insanity at Kinokuniya Books; novelty fruit and animal eraser sets at Mai Do Fine Stationery so full of squee you want to eat them; scary-good replica samurai swords at Katachi; exquisitely wrapped boxes of chocolate strawberry mochi at Nippon Ya … spend a couple hours wandering this mall and you’ll come out with some really unique presents. Plus you’ll be full of delicious sushi and hot tea.