It’s officially holiday shopping season. I’m proud of all of you for holding off on the Christmas music and decorations until after Thanksgiving. But today’s Black Friday, so go nuts.
As we all shuffle to the computer or the big box stores in a turkey-hangover daze, we encourage you to take a pause: there are an increasing amount of amazing local artisans and small companies creating unique and thoughtful products right here in the Milwaukee area. If you #shopsmall, you’ll get something for your friends and family that they won’t be expecting, while supporting the continued renaissance in this city’s entrepreneur community.
Still not convinced? We’ve made it easy for you: here’s a list of five fantastic, local Milwaukee holiday gift ideas for 2015 that we’ve tried out and personally recommend.
HANmade Milwaukee Lakefront Jigsaw Puzzle
Puzzles are cool again (who said they ever stopped?) as people try to find ways to “Unplug. Unwind. Connect…with family and friends.” The two women behind HANmade Milwaukee designed this awesome cartoony Milwaukee Lakefront map and turned it into a puzzle printed nearby in Waukesha. It’s the best way to spend a fun, affordable night in during those cold Wisconsin winters. Find it for $24 on their Etsy page or at local retailers.
MilwaukeeHome Tree Ornament
MilwaukeeHome is one of forebears of today’s crop of startups. Besides partnering with PBR, the Bucks, the Wave, Summerfest, and many other local institutions, they’re still expanding on their own Milwaukee pride-based lineup of gift ideas. Our tree this year will be rocking one of these simple but elegant MilwaukeeHome ornaments, but they’ve got clothing and accessories and knickknacks galore. MKEHOME is one of the best brands to rep civic pride.
The only item on this list we haven’t personally tried, simply because it’s so new! The PubPass is a small booklet, essentially a passport to beer bars in Milwaukee (and now the Twin Cities, too). $25 (via their website) snags you a pass, which comes out to only $1 per participating bar. Bring your PubPass to any of the 25 bars, get your passport stamped, and you’ll get a FREE beer. Beer in Milwaukee doesn’t get much cheaper than that. And $1 from each PubPass purchase goes to Hunger Task Force, so you can feel good while drinking good.
I can guarantee you we’ll be using ours in 2016. See you at the pub.
City Tins bills themselves as “Extra Gifty, Ultra Thrify,” and we have to agree. This Milwaukee-based coupon company has recently expanded to Madison, with sights set on Minneapolis next. The idea is simple: $30 gets you 20+ artful coasters, each good for $10 off your bill (of $25 or more) at different establishments around the Milwaukee area. Besides the Restaurant edition shown above, City Tins Milwaukee also offers a Bar & Lounge version. Use 3 of the 20 and it’s already paid for itself! We’ve had our own City Tins for a couple of years now, and it’s definitely helped us check out great local dining and drinking spots we wouldn’t have otherwise visited.
Their most recent edition is for Performing Arts, which has 20 coasters each good for a Buy One, Get One ticket at a local arts venue. We’re pumped to be able to try this out in 2016 and support the arts scene! City Tins can be found on their website or in shops around town.
SoulBoxer, the newest bottled cocktail on the scene, is here to “be Wisconsin in a bottle.” Rather than having to go out and get sugar, bitters, orange peel, and cherries, muddle it all, add Brandy and sour or sweet soda, SoulBoxer aims to be the “Ready-to-Pour” alternative. It’s as easy as pairing it with a soda or splash of sour, though I can vouch for its ability to stand on its own on the rocks. This isn’t one of those gross, sugary syrups: SoulBoxer is only made with real, quality ingredients that you would’ve put into your standard Old Fashioned anyway. The only difference you’ll notice is it takes much less time and effort to make one. Get it at most liquor or grocery stores in Wisconsin for around $20.
As the co-founder of SoulBoxer told me, “There’s something cool about Wisconsin in the world today.” All of the items listed prove that sentiment. We’ve made it easy for you to give a unique, affordable holiday gift made by local people who’re proud of their products.