Yujie: Here’s a tip for plant lovers: Several days a week, Amesia Doles’ plant emporium will mysteriously pop up in the parking lot at 18th and Valencia streets. The store, Botanic Panic, is a van covered with brightly colored plants that can be seen from a great distance. It offers wonderful-smelling winter wreaths, botanical artwork and a wide variety of indoor and outdoor plants.
The van is usually open on Monday, Saturday and Sunday. Please check Doles’ Instagram (@botanicpanicsf) for weekly hours.
Annika: Perhaps I’m biased because I recently stopped by the store, but I plan on beelining it to Ian James Made on Valencia Street near 14th Street to pick up some nicer gifts for my family. James’ handmade leather vases are unlike anything I’ve seen, and will please my green-thumbed grandmother. For the whimsical, young, and young-at-heart, Sour Cherry on 16th Street near Guerrero Street offers a great selection of comics and stocking-stuffer-worthy tchotchkes, like pins and stickers. And, as always, you can’t go wrong with gifting a book or coffee. Try Dog Eared Books on Valencia and 20th streets, and head a couple of blocks down near 21st and 22nd streets to nab some beans at Ritual. I’m sure the CoffeeShop on Mission and Cesar Chavez streets/21st and Bryant streets would also love your patronage.
Joe: My father, in an inspired burst of gift-giving strategy that represents his only contribution to this field, liked to buy a number of small presents and pre-wrap them. Because he would inevitably forget the actual gift-giving events for my mom. There was an awkward pause and he’d race upstairs. There was a stash of tiny boxes in his sock drawer.
Dad favored earrings. If, like me, your spouse does not have pierced ears, this is not an option for you. Fortunately, DCopper at 1017 Valencia St., near 21st Street, is just around the corner from our business office . Andrea Vargas is a fourth-generation Mexican coppersmith who, yes, does sell earrings — as well as bracelets, Christmas decor, bowls, pitchers, rings and anything else one could craft from copper. I love going in there just for the color of the copper.
Not everything can fit in a sock drawer (unless you wear very big socks). But maybe Dad’s gift-giving strategy could be improved upon. Maybe.
Will: One hard-earned nugget of holiday wisdom: Consumable gifts are the best gifts. If your intended recipient hates the present, it won’t last long; if they love it, you can get it for them over and over again. With this in mind, Dandelion is my first stop for Christmas goodies. Their hot chocolates can be pricy but, for my money, they are unsurpassed anywhere in the neighborhood.
For the comic book geek in your life, Mission: Comics and Art is a locally owned treat, with lots of stories for children and adults that go far beyond your classic Marvel/DC fare. And if you want to do some good while you embrace rampant consumerism (‘tis the season), check out the Pirate Supply Store on Valencia Street. Sales from the store help fund 826 Valencia’s creative writing workshops for kids.
Eleni: So, a coworker with similar taste beat me to naming one of my go-to places for buying gifts, but thankfully there are plenty of other delightful places for me, a non-shopper, to shop when I need to grab something for family or friends. Two places I particularly enjoy are Luz de Luna and Mixcoatl, kitty-corner stores at 24th Street and South Van Ness Avenue that are both treasure troves of art, jewelry, clothing, and toys for the kids. Both are excellent one-stop shops: you might not know what you’re getting before stepping in, but you’ll find something for everyone, and you’re sure to have a fun time while you’re at it.
Beth: For quirky gifts with a local flavor, I like Serendipity on Valencia Street near 19th Street; you can also pick up cards and gift wrap at the same time. I like exploring the unusual, higher-end gifts like jewelry, animal bones and insects preserved in resin, at Paxton Gate (right across the street from Serendipity). And for more witchy-minded folks, I recommend Scarlet Sage, on Valencia near 23rd Street, where you can shop tarot decks, jewelry, books on herbalism and astrology, and lots of nature-based cosmetics and body care products.
Chuqin:I am a big fan of notebooks and sketchbooks. Topdrawer at 980 Valencia St. is where I will go to get my diary and planner for the coming new year. It’s always a pleasure for me to spend 20 minutes in the Therapy store, pinching all the soft little toys hiding on the shelves. I like their collection of socks and postcards, particularly. And I am always tempted to get a nice candle from Often Wander, Mystery of Scent or Super Simple. The only reason why I haven’t purchased one for my room is that I can’t decide which is my favorite. They are all on Valencia Street!
Anna-Luisa: Adobe Books on 24th Street is a reliable and cozy spot for all manner of used books and zines, including a hefty selection of multilingual material. It’s a great spot to pick up a thoughtful gift for friends or family, with the added perk of a wonderful backroom gallery to check out local artists on display while you’re there.
If you’re looking for something more holiday-specific, recently reopened Lehr’s German Specialities in Noe Valley has delectable German treats from Christmas cookies to the ultimate Christmas food: A proper Dresdner stollen. I recommend the Edelmarzipan Stollen from German baker Lieken Urkorn, one of the few Christmas stollens I’ve been able to find in the Bay with the traditional marzipan center.
Lydia: So many of my favorite places have already been named. But a few remain, including Laku on Valencia Street near 22nd Street. It’s filled with elegant mittens and scarves, as well as knitted and sewn slippers for children and adults. It’s a lovely place to spend a bit of time. I’m also a big fan of Evolved SF on 24th Street. Its hours are limited; it opens at 3 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, but well worth getting there when it is open. They have excellent wearable art in sweatpants and sweatshirts, as well as art to put on the wall. And, of course, Bernal Cutlery on Valencia Street is full of great useful gifts. Also, don’t miss the art supplies, pencils and prints at The Aesthetic Union on Florida Street around the corner from Heath Ceramics where you can find other one-of-a-kind items. And finally, Stuff, the mid-century vintage shop with loads of small items, including a good collection of old albums.
David: I tend to agree with Will’s gift-giving wisdom — get ’em food. No one hates it. It’s easy to get right. And with the rise of self-proclaimed foodies, this applies to younger folks, too.
I usually bake our family recipe for pecan tartlets — but when I don’t, I’ll order from Three Babes Bakeshop on 16th Street, where I recently picked up a perfectly crusty apple pie. I’ll also vouch for the 21st Street plant shop Mellow; last time I visited, the person who helped me was kind and knowledgeable, recommending a peace lily for my colleague, whose family member had passed away. The worker had recently gifted the same lily to a grieving friend.
They also guaranteed the lily’s hardiness and, true to their word, it subsists in our office, to this day, on leftover coffee and meager amounts of water.