Local alternatives to Amazon abound for safe, convenient holiday shopping

Organizers of the Holiday Reimagined pop-up market at Edina’s Galleria mall had hoped to promote shopping local without drawing too big of a crowd. They required free, timed tickets to enter and provided contactless ways to shop.

But after Gov. Tim Walz announced new COVID-19 restrictions last month, they decided to cancel the in-person event altogether.

“We thought we had the ideal event planned, with safety being the number one thing in mind. Of course, bringing people together is what we love to do, but it’s the wrong thing to do right now,” said organizer Mollie Windmiller, owner and creative director at marketing company LAB MPLS.

Instead of an in-person market, Holiday Reimagined is now a contactless display, where window shoppers can purchase locally made goods like abstract painted ornaments or hand-embroidered sweatshirts by scanning a QR code with their phone. It’s running through December in the windows of the former Gabberts store.

Plenty of Minnesotans have pledged to shop local this upended holiday season to support community makers and small businesses. But with many holiday markets going virtual, keeping it local might be a bit harder this year.

Alternatives to Amazon still abound for those willing to make a little effort. Shoppers can explore Minnesota artisans’ work online in many places — from individual websites and Etsy pages to the shelves of local shops that are available online.

They also can outsource the search entirely by purchasing curated gift boxes, relying on virtual personal shoppers and curbside pickup at local shops or doing it the old-fashioned way: in-store shopping. (Many, but not all local shops are open, but limit the number of shoppers.)

Minneapolis candlemaker Emma Remer, who refills vintage containers with scented wax to make her Burnboss Candles (burnbosscandles.com), decided to offer virtual shopping appointments on her website in place of in-person markets.

“I’ve missed those experiences and connections this year and hope these online appointments can recreate a bit of that magic,” said Remer, who plans to shop locally online and through social media.

“I’ve seen many local, small businesses getting extremely creative with their approaches to holiday shopping this year,” she said. “It’s vital that we show up and support them now so they can be a part of our community for years to come.”

Virtual markets

Most of the holiday markets and pop-ups in the Twin Cities have gone virtual, with pages that link to vendors or display goods. You can shop them without leaving your couch — from the Black Business is Beautiful holiday market (blackbusinessisbeautiful.org/shop) to the online holiday shop created by the Northeast Minneapolis Arts Association (shop.nemaa.org/holiday-shop/).

Some, like St. Paul’s European Christmas Market (stpaulchristmasmarket.org), also offer streaming music and story times with Santa. The American Swedish Institute’s Julmarknad virtual holiday market (asimn.org/virtual-julmarknad) includes free Zoom panels with some of the featured artists on Dec. 5 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. And the Minneapolis Craft Market (shop.mplscraftmarket.com), a digital marketplace with more than 230 makers, also hosts live shopping events on an app called Popshop Live.

Curated gift boxes

Gift boxes full of goods from Minnesota artisans and small brands that ship directly to your loved ones are an easy way to shop local. A growing number of businesses are offering gift boxes. Minny and Paul (minnyandpaul.com) has more than two dozen options, with themes like chocolate and caffeine and rustic happy hour.

Duluth-based White Spruce Market (whitesprucemarket.com) boxes sets with a focus on northern Minnesota makers, and Twin Cities online boutique Winnie Lu (shopwinnielu.com) also has several, packed with goods like Minneapolis-based Kind Lips lip balm, on offer.

Local shops

Small Twin Cities shops like Patina (patinastores.com) and Mischief Toy (mischieftoy.com) are offering virtual shopping appointments, where store staff tour the merchandise and offer suggestions via Zoom.

Like many small shops, St. Paul vintage store Up Six Vintage (etsy.com/shop/UpSixVintage) offers curbside pickup and private shopping appointments, but it’s also assembling unique vintage “swag bags” at a range of price points.

Not all websites are easy to navigate, but some — like Forage Modern Workshop (foragemodernworkshop.com), which is closed to in-person shoppers — manage to recreate the browsing experience online.

In addition, there are online-only ways to shop locally, like the new web portal UrbanRoostershop.com, which collects Twin Cities brands in one place.

Custom and personalized

Some local artists are booking Zoom portrait sessions, creating custom digital portraits, painting homes by looking at a provided photo and making other super-personal gifts. It might be too late to have something to wrap for Christmas, but if you’d like to give an experience, this is a fun and personal option.

Minneapolis painter Lisa Luck (instagram.com/daughtersandsuns/) is taking Zoom portrait bookings (in 15-, 25- and 45-minute sessions) for 2021. Minneapolis artist Lindsay McCall creates custom watercolor paintings of homes (lindsaymccall.com/custom-watercolor-home-portraits-shop). And Rosalie Quintana (etsy.com/shop/PortraitsByQStudio) and Adora Vang (etsy.com/shop/AdoraVangDesigns) are some of the many Minnesota artists creating digital family portraits.

 

 

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