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Your all-local guide to great holiday shopping

Shopping local is all the rage these days and for good reason:  you’re likelier to find a one-of-a-kind gift from an independent retailer (especially when the owner is artist-in-residence), and more money stays in the community.  Plus, who among us doesn’t want to favor family and friends with a truly memorable gift?  With that in mind, let us guide you this holiday season.
A florist first and foremost, Hepatica has been a Regent Square fixture for nearly thirty years.  Owner Rachel Chalk also stocks her cozy shop with carefully-selected items that appeal to a diverse clientele including the many dog lovers who frequent nearby Frick Park.  “Happy Painted Bookends” in pastel hues will resonate with kids while artfully-painted clipboards are so charming you’re sure to find use for them.  Chunky candles and wide-striped tapers keep company with exquisite silk slippers, and table lamps sporting marching robots or birds at play are full of whimsy.  The best ornament around may be a shimmery globe that depicts the earth and trails a ribbon proclaiming “Peace on Earth.”
Mary Irwin Scott is co-founder of the Riverside Design Group, a Pittsburgh studio that designs tableware for the hospitality industry.  Giving back to the community is important to Scott, which is why she’s created “Plates With Purpose.”  A portion of the sale of each custom glass plate goes to community organizations such as Forbes Hospice and the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force & Persad Center.  The plates feature unique designs and it’s up to you to choose a cheeky elephant or chaff of wheat.  Contemporary Concepts in Squirrel Hill carries the line.
Stevo Sadvary may call himself Mr. Versa-tile but the artist-craftsman is so much more.  Sadvary’s  gallery/studio space, Stevo Mosaics, is filled with tile art that’s fanciful and fun.  Colorful fish swim upstream and long for a bathroom wall while shooting stars beg to grace a girl or boy’s room.  Consider a scene of Pittsburgh bridges or a tiled mirror guaranteeing the sweetest reflection.  Stevo accepts commissions and is equally facile with a bathroom wall or kitchen backsplash.  Sadvary is also an accomplished weaver and his scarves are drenched in color.  Oh yeah, he’s a guitar teacher, too.  Hours by appointment with this Pittsburgh original.
Penhollows is a home furnishings store in Shadyside that would be right at home in New York or L.A.  Channel your inner sophisticate as you browse plates, knives, napkin rings and tapers for the perfect holiday party and, post-feast, invite guests to linger over a new coffee table book from the store’s gorgeous selection.  Paperweights near owner Roger Guzik’s checkout table are hefty glass ovals showcasing everything from the Union Jack to a skull and crossbones and mother-of-pearl coasters add “Mad Men” glam.  The red felt stockings from a New York artist should be the heart(h) of your home this holiday season.
Ironworker John Walter has been creating sculptural, functional pieces from his studio, Iron Eden, for over 25 years.   Looking to consolidate studio and gallery space, Walter and his wife, Jody, are holding a moving sale that knocks 30% off this week and 40% next with a final auction of everything left on December 18.  An iron-legged dining table with pine planks salvaged from a Lawrenceville church will go to one lucky shopper as will a slender floor lamp with copper leaf flourishes.  Jewelry stands and garden stakes, wine stands and flower-patterned hooks... what to choose?  Hmm, maybe a Jetsons-inspired “Astro” light fixture...
Jay Design is no ordinary soap store.  Co-owner Jim Savarino has been making soap in the back of his snug Lawrenceville shop for decades and every bar is a sensory treat (and lasts far longer than those other brands).  Seasonal scents include Frosty Cranberry, Blue Twilight and Gingerbread Oatmeal and holiday gift packs feature Jay’s signature artsy packaging.  The Maggie Scrub Baggie, a towel bag plump with soap flakes, is a perennial bestseller as are the catnip fish cat toys favored by Larry, the resident cat.  Don’t leave without browsing the dozens of soaps on the baker’s racks.
Tired of shopping yet?  Take a break at Espresso a Mano, possibly the most chill coffeehouse in the city.  The Butler Street cafe pairs exposed brick walls with a glass garage “door” and tables are invariably occupied by laptop-toting hipsters chatting in hushed tones.  Owner Matt Gebis stocks Counter Culture Coffee from Durham, N.C. and Common Place Coffee from Indiana, Pa. and if you tie a ribbon around either, you’ve got a great stocking stuffer.  Coffee grinders and accessories are available for the java junkie in your life.
The Society for Contemporary Craft in the Strip District is dedicated to the art of craft.  Sales of the one-of-a-kind pieces in its store are by artists from around the U.S. and help support free exhibitions and outreach into the community.  Cindy Luna’s spun stainless steel baskets are made from one continuous wire whereas Mel Griffin’s animal imagery on functional earthenware earned her this year’s LEAP Award, which recognizes emerging artists in the field.  Jewelry shoppers should direct their gaze toward the work of Pittsburgh artists Olga Mihaylova (crocheted beads in colors of the sea) and Darlene Durrwachter-Rushing (boldly-colored glass), both of whom offer classes at the museum.
Sprigs of boxwood and magnolia garlands draw you in to Roxanne’s Dried Flowers, a Penn Avenue shop that’s the go-to place for handmade fresh wreaths.  Cotton is in this season in the form of winter-white puffs that dot wreaths made of birch or juniper, boxwood or cedar.  A wreath graced with pepper berries and dried oranges is a singular creation as is the peace sign wreath comprised of tiny holiday ornaments.  Roxanne herself will happily consult on a wreath that’s right for you.
Ask any kid you know and they’ll tell you the reason for the season is spelled c-h-o-c-o-l-a-t-e.  Make your way to Edward Marc Chocolatier on the South Side for wish fulfillment.  Santa’s boot comes in milk or dark chocolate and the Rudolph and Grinch choco-pops are dueling bestsellers.  Need a corporate gift?  Check out the chocolate towers, stacks of two, four or six blue boxes filled with an assortment of chocolates.  Everything is made at the factory in Trafford, Pa. including vanilla salt caramel truffles and pecan caramel terrapins (ten points if you can guess Tom Cruise’s favorite).  Wind down with an eggnog shake from the store’s ever-popular Milkshake Factory.

More suggestions? Order a Pop City calendar or buy tickets to any number of great theaters in town, from City Theater to Pittsburgh Public Theater to Quantum. Or how about a museum annual pass? Or anything from any of the museum gift shops in town. Get shopping. Locally.
New Girl In Town Elaine Labalme is a regular at Milkshake Happy Hour every Wednesday at the Milkshake Factory.  She knows how to live.

Captions: Mosaic by Stevo Sadvari; garden stakes by Iron Eden; soap at Jay Designs; coffee at Espresso a Mano; Olga Mihaylova and Mel Griffin at Society for Contemporary Craft

Photographs copyright Brian Cohen
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