I can't believe the holidays are nearly upon us, and I have yet to cross even one item off my shopping list. Neck-deep in cookbooks rummaging for the perfect fluffy stuffing recipe, all I can think to buy for presents are neckties and nightgowns (like I did last year). What I desperately need is some place special to spice up all of my holiday shopping.
This year I'm skipping the malls and going to the Knox-Henderson area in Dallas. This region is named for the two streets that cross Central Expressway north of downtown. Knox, on the west side of the freeway, boasts a slew of well-known restaurants and furniture shops. Henderson Street, on the east, is the more quirky one. It is filled from end to end with one-of-a-kind, independently owned stores. Local Leslie Roden-Foreman says, "This part of town is full of character and personality. It's where all the creative shops are. Plus it's walkable, which makes it a great shopping area." Thus begins my pilgrimage to Henderson, my favorite street, for some bargain hunting that will have my friends and family giddy this holiday season.
Crossing the Border
I begin my spree at La Mariposa, the happiest shop in town. Looking for a bride-and-groom piñata? How about an antique sombrero? Well, this cultural haven has both. Owner Ray Grawunder makes four trips to Mexico per year in search of maracas, serapes, paper flowers, pewter crosses, and handmade jewelry. Looking as if a rainbow exploded, the back room of the place is filled with so many piñatas you can't even walk without smashing the brim of a hat or some other papier-mâché piece. The prices are reasonable, and you're saved a trip across the border.
On a Whim
Next, I leave pseudo Mexico and head down the street to The Whimsey Shoppe, Inc., for a flavor of France. Owners Wendell and Suzie Patterson travel overseas more than 10 times a year in search of all things français. From antique soap dishes and wine pitchers to restored armoires and tables, this 11,000-square-foot store is packed with true collector's pieces.
Grab your imaginary passport, because now you can head to England. Next door is Canterbury, another antiques store where everything for sale is from England and France. Granted, many things sold here are big items not ideal for holiday gifts. Still, there are accessories--such as pillows and vases--that might be a nice surprise to place under the tree.
For furnishings with a much different flair, visit The Nest. The owner of this store, Robin Brown, calls it a gallery because of the many handmade pieces here such as tables, chessboards, and chairs. Unlike the traditional furnishings at Whimsey and Canterbury, the things at this shop are contemporary, funky, and even Art Deco. I personally liked the collection of handmade stained-glass windows.
A Worldly Adventure
Emeralds to Coconuts is where you shop for the woman who has everything. I should know because that woman is my best friend, Libby. Every year I get her something at this ethnic boutique. The store owner, Lulie Scott, has been shopping all over the world--Nepal, China, Africa, India, Mexico, and beyond--for 22 years. Her store sells Chinese slippers and piano shawls, masks from Africa, and Nepalese bracelets. The shop is jam-packed with clothing, beaded jewelry, clocks, calendars, soaps, and even shoes. It's like traveling all around the world in no orderly fashion but inexpensively and without the jet lag.
For more cultural finds, stop in Another Time & Place. There's less clothing here, but lots of ethnic jewelry and gifts. Surprisingly durable Japanese paper wallets are $5.75, a Chinese calligraphy set is $17.95, and Nepalese prayer flags range from $9.95 to $18.50.
For the Outdoors
If you have even a small patio or back porch you like to decorate, you'll go gaga over Sticks and Stones Garden Market, a totally organic center specializing in perennials, natives, and herbs. Yes, the plants are impressive, but the garden gadgets and decorating fragments will make you drool. This open-air market sells old fences and bedposts that look terrific when covered with ivy. Owner Mike Thompson continually seeks out pots, architectural remnants, and teak furnishings--all treasures.
I'll be the star of the holidays this year, thanks to all of my creative gifts. The good news is that it didn't take me long to complete my shopping because I wrapped it up on one street. And just think, it's not even December 24 yet. I'm ahead of the game.
For More Information
La Mariposa: 2813 North Henderson; toll free 1-877-826-0069 or www.lamariposaimports.com.
The Whimsey Shoppe, Inc.: 2923 North Henderson; (214) 824-6300.
Canterbury: 2923A North Henderson; (214) 821-5265.
The Nest: 3007 North Henderson; (214) 827-5300.
Emeralds to Coconuts: 2730 North Henderson; (214) 823-3620.
Another Time & Place: 2815 North Henderson; (214) 824-1875.
Sticks and Stones Garden Market: 5016 Miller Avenue at North Henderson; (214) 824-7277.
Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau: 325 North St. Paul Street, Suite 700, Dallas, TX 75201; (214) 571-1000 or www.visitdallas.com.
"Get a Head Start on the Holidays" is from the November 2002 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.