As the holidays approach, sticky notes tend to accumulate — scribbles and scrawls capturing ideas and inspiration for holiday gifts. And with each year it can be an increasing challenge to find something new and meaningful to present to friends and family.
Luckily, your muse may very well be just around the corner. Southern Minnesota is home to countless innovators and artisans who share their creativity in boutiques, at studios, and through classes across the state.
We’ve rounded up a list of spots that might not currently be your go-to list — but cross the threshold and you’ll find much more than a stocking stuffer. These shops have character. They’ve been shaped by the towns that host them and the locals that support them, staff them, and create their inventory, and all this adds up to a shopping experience that will have you returning year-round.
When you’re drawing a blank and need inspiration
Finally, a Gift Store – Faribault. ‘Sorry, no pointless things to dust,’ states the bio of Faribault’s densely packed apparel-and-accouterments store. It’s both a nod to the quality of items the gift store offers, and also the large array of humorous gifts. A must-stop when you’re seeking gifts for those family members with a strong funny bone.
18 2nd St NE, Faribault
Open Mon-Sat 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Sun 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
SummerHouse Farm – Waseca. This refurbished barn, built in 1940, houses vintage wares, farm-fancy home goods and garden trinkets. You’ll find everything from rustic home décor to sturdy furniture, and with the owner’s deft design eye, it’s worth a trip just to wander through the homey-chic tablescapes and room settings.
From the owner: My inventory changes weekly: most pieces are vintage and therefore ever changing. – Diane Kortuem
2412 State St N, Waseca
Open F-Sat 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and by appointment.
Annie Belle Creations – Faribault. Owner LuAnn Heyer has a way with wool that began nearly thirty years ago, sewing stuffed animals for Faribault Woolen Mill’s gift store. She has since expanded to winter wear and accessories that she sells from her Faribault studio, where she also takes requests for custom designs.
39 Willow Street, Faribault
Open Tues-Sat 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
From the owner: Using locally made materials, designed and sold locally makes me able to make the highest quality garments at a reasonable cost available to anyone. – LuAnn Heyer
Stained Glass Studio of St. Peter – St. Peter. Local artist and painter Bob Vogel (he painted Prince’s house in ‘91-92) crafts glass lamps, windows, jewelry and more, displaying and selling works in the historic district of St. Peter. The studio also offers equipment for DIYers and regularly works with customers to create custom glass pieces that capture memories in a unique, one-of-a-kind gift.
215 N Minnesota Ave, St Peter
Open daily 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
From the owner: We can do photographs and get pretty close with the painting on the glass. We’ve got photographs our worldwide travels and souvenirs from these countries: bronze pieces, wood carvings and crystal. – Bob Vogel
Art in the Attic Studio – Lonsdale. Maker Cassy Simon shares her talent for molding and designing ceramics by inviting groups and crafty individuals to play with clay in her charming, wood-trimmed studio. The classes provide a relaxed, hands-on atmosphere — ideal for friends who want to share an experience, learn a new skill and leave with a meaningful creation.
14453 Shieldsville Blvd, Lonsdale
Classes typically held Tues-Thurs 6-9 p.m., Sat 9 a.m.-10 p.m. and Sun 12-6 p.m.
From the owner: What’s unique about my studio is that rather than purchasing my own work (which I do sell, just not that often) it’s more about the experience. – Cassy Simon
Tunnel Mill Crafts – Spring Valley. For those friends who like exploring bygone ages, a trip to Tunnel Mill Crafts, 20 miles south of Rochester, will have them getting their hands dirty learning to craft and forge metal into works such as coffee mills, ward boxes, and more. Owners John and Carol Adams lead group classes on metallurgy and quilting in the restored mill, offering courses that range from multi-day metallurgy workshops to day sessions on wagon construction and portable bread ovens.
28036 County Highway 1, Spring Valley
See website for class times.
For the Cook
Northfield Olive Oils and Vinegars – Northfield. Jesse James Museum visitors can head next door to stroll the perimeter of this specialty olive oil store, sampling award-winning oils and vinegars infused with herbs, berries, and spices. Olives are harvested just twice a year, owners Joe and Sherry explain, so to provide the freshest oils, they source from growers in both southern and northern hemispheres. Find unexpected flavors to inspire your next dinner party or package up a gift of oil, crusty bread and a wodge of local brie.
18 Bridge Sq, Northfield
M-F 10 a.m.-7 p.m., Sat 9 a.m.-7 p.m., Sun 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
From the owner: What sets our store apart is our commitment to providing the utmost in customer service and providing a quality experience to everyone who walks through our doors. We are a full service tasting room where customers are encouraged to sample before they buy. – Joe and Sherry Morgan.
Friendly Confines Cheese Shoppe – La Sueur. Plan a DIY gift basket filled with local and imported cheeses and specialty foods from La Sueur’s Friendly Confines, which has cheekily outfitted its store in baseball and cow paraphernalia (yes, that includes cow statues wearing baseball uniforms). Don’t pass up the chance to grab a slice of brick oven-baked pizza on your way out.
719 N Main St, Le Sueur
Open Mon-Sat 10 a.m.-8 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m.-7 p.m.
Gifts that Give
District One Hospital “Angel’s Attic” – Faribault. In addition to a variety of accessories, home accents and art, you can pick up fresh floral arrangements at Angel’s Attic, located in the lobby of Faribault’s District One Hospital. Any gift bought here goes an extra mile: proceeds benefit District One patient and community projects.
200 State Avenue, Faribault
Open M-F 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Common Closet – Wabasha. Filled with lightly-used clothing, books, furnishings and necessities, Common Closet is run by more than 60 volunteers, and sales support the Wabasha Area Community Resource Center and its mission. Past proceeds have funded scholarships, food vouchers and educational programs for low-income children, families and seniors in the area. Spend the afternoon thrifting, and you’re helping the community serve those in need.
154 Pembroke Ave PO Box 51, Wabasha
Open Wed 2-6 p.m., Thurs-Sat 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
By Isabelle Wattenberg