Thinking outside the big box store
Quirky and unique gifts available locally

By Katherine Michalets - Special to The Freeman

Dec. 4, 2014

Want a keepsake from the street you grew up on? Delafield is
selling old street signs for decorative purposes.

Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

DELAFIELD - There’s always one person on everyone’s holiday shopping list who is hard to buy gifts for and another person who shuns the traditional gifts bought at the big box stores. Local retailers - and even a municipality - have unusual and quirky gifts for sale this holiday season.


Signs of their times

What’s more unusual and even sentimental than a sign bearing the name of your childhood street? The city of Delafield is selling its old street signs and other traffic signs like “no parking”, arrows and stop signs that it had to replace when the federal guidelines changed.

Available for $15, the signs can be a fun and unexpected gift.

Delafield Public Works Foreman Paul Zellner said a lot of people have bought the signs as gifts. It’s the second year the city has been selling them, and while the signs are available year-round, the city clerk puts a reminder about them being for sale on Facebook and in the city’s newsletter, which stirs additional interest. Last week Zellner said he sold about six or eight of them.

When the federal government changed the laws on sign sizes and reflectivity, Delafield began to systematically replace them to meet the mandates, Zellner said.

To learn more about purchasing a sign, call City Hall at 646-6220. A list of available signs is also posted on the city’s Facebook page.


Giving the unexpected

The Gallori in Oconomowoc carries various gift items that could be given to the guy looking to complete his “man cave” to a person still in touch with her inner child.

Owner Lori Boldig said she has the Ultimate Cookie Spoon for sale for $3.25 that allows the eater to dip a cookie into a glass of milk without getting their fingers wet. The made-in-the-USA spoon has a curved part that fits around the cream of the cookie. The Ultimate Cookie Cup, made with cookie dunking in mind, is also on sale.

These unique guys are made by two sisters in Maine. The Gallori in Oconomowoc sells them as well as a wide variety of gifts the big box stores won‘t have.
Ryan Billingham/Enterprise Staff

Another unusual item The Gallori carries is a rock dispenser for liquids with a stainless steel tapper that is perfect for the man cave, Boldig said.

Other fun items are tavern puzzles made of forged steel that come in a variety of skill levels, and which truly capture a person’s attention, she said.

Whether it’s a handmade item like animal-shaped pillows made by a woman in Montreal or elves made by two sisters from Maine, Boldig likes to sell the unusual.

“I think it’s the uniqueness that people don’t know where it’s from,” she said of why these items make great gifts. “When I am giving a gift, I want to make sure it’s unique and unusual and it’s not seen everywhere.”


A gift from childhoods past

When people shop for gifts at Fox Lake Country Antiques Mall in Oconomowoc, they often gravitate toward items a person had as a child.

“It seems like people still like what reminds them of their past Christmases,” owner Cindy Budde said.

Whether that’s the big, sparkly ball ornaments that hung on their childhood Christmas tree or the toy Santa left for them when they were 6 years old, such as a vintage version of a Barrel of Monkeys game or Cootie game, they like to recapture memories, Budde said. Toy purchasers often like to simply display the old toys under the Christmas tree as decorations.

The Ultimate Cookie Spoon allows people to dip cookies into a glass of
milk without getting their fingers wet

Ryan Billingham/Enterprise Staff

Sometimes what sells surprises Budde. She said a lot of women have been buying rusted toolboxes and similar items that have worn paint and are in “original condition.”

“That is the stuff that sells first. The rougher, the more banged up it is and in original condition, they want it,” she said. “That rustic simplistic look is still really huge.”

Other popular gifts are vinyl records, such as classic Santana or The Beatles, especially with turntables back in style, Budde said.

For holiday decorating, Budde said people like to buy original department store boxes with Christmas illustrations and keys that they repurpose into gift tags.


Delectable gifts

Jon Rasmussen, owner of Great Harvest Bread Co., wants his business “to be the farmers market when the farmers market is not up and running.”

For the holidays, people can purchase gift baskets full of treats made by Wisconsin and northern Illinois food artisans, such as soups and honey.

Items made in-house that also serve as fun hostess gifts include animal-shaped breads and bread trios.

The honey bear is made of honey whole wheat bread, which Rasmussen said is also versatile because people will carve out its belly to place dip inside.

“We have gotten some nice reception in that we have been open for three years and we have customers who come in and request those,” he said, adding they are festive and kids enjoy seeing them.

Another delicious item is Great Harvest Bread Co.’s trio of sweet breads: pumpkin chocolate chip, ginger and egg nog.

Rasmussen encourages people to shop local and find unique items.

“Obviously it supports the local. When you are shopping downtown Delafield, it benefits the local community,” he said. “The trend is people are stepping away from the big box stores.”

In fact, Rasmussen said, he sold out of bread on Black Friday.