When last-minute holiday shopping needs attention, it’s often just too late for online deliveries. Your best bet is a quick trip to a local store with a shopping list in hand. Think family-owned independent businesses to give your favorite neighborhood folks a boost. Here are five retailers who will help you out in a jam, with reputations that deservedly go well beyond their own patch of the woods. Let us strive to be somewhat more creative than the suggestion attributed to native son William Randolph Hearst, “In suggesting gifts, money is appropriate, and one size fits all.”
Green Apple Books
506 Clement St.
San Francisco, CA 94118
Going into its 47th year, this shop is fond of saying that the books always change but the dust smells the same. Meander around the Inner Richmond bookstore shelves and hear the wooden floor creak just like in the good old days of browsing for a good read. Skim the shelf talker snippets posted by staff or go straight to the desk for personalized gift suggestions. Green Apple stocks CDs, ebooks, gift cards, Mad Libs for $1.49 and coffee table treasures for $200. Open until 8 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, parking is not a nightmare.
432 Octavia St.
San Francisco, CA 94102
There are bound to be people on your last-minute gift list who love ice cream. Get on over to Smitten, where San Francisco’s own old fashioned-style ice cream is made one scoop at a time by a newfangled patented liquid nitrogen machine. Just pick up Smitten wooden gift coins, $4.75 each for a four-ounce scoop, from the Hayes Valley store housed in a recycled shipping container. Add a tote or a T-shirt and your friend will be smitten.
638 4th St.
San Francisco, CA 94107
A bottle or two of California wine makes a perfect gift. And the education process provided at this wine merchant makes your shopping experience as gratifying as the giving, if not more so. Currently in stock are 4,390 bottles under $50. New arrivals pop up on the website, but lots of fans swear by the staff picks. Nominated by Wine Enthusiast Magazine for 2013 retailer of the year, the 12 buyers clearly have encyclopedic knowledge, but don’t make you feel bad if you don’t. Impress your host with your impeccable taste.
Related: Best Wine Stores in San Francisco
Pier 15 on the Embarcadero
San Francisco, CA 94111
If you’re short for time, you can shop the wonders of the new Exploratorium at the museum shop, accessible even without museum admission. Here’s a win-win: find a creative and fun educational game for a kid or for a kid at heart, while at the same time helping to support the educational outreach mission of the Exploratorium. Surely someone you know needs an infrared remote control flying saucer or a crystal growing kit.
2962 24th St.
San Francisco, CA 94110
Say it with a home-baked pie. One of the Bay Area’s best-kept secrets has just become a little less so since San Francisco native Esa has now made her pies available at the counter at Pig and Pie in the Mission. Esa is passionate about sharing the taste of the buttery pie crusts created from a recipe passed down from her mother. Noticed by the New York Times, Yahoo! and SF Weekly, there’s plenty to shout about. Order a sweet, savory pudding or speciality pie for in-store collection at $26-$28, or go all the way with the gift of a seasonal pie delivered monthly.
Related: Best Vintage Stores in San Francisco
Laurie JM Farr is a freelance writer covering all things in her adopted San Francisco. A dedicated urbanite, she’s a transplanted New Yorker by way of a couple of decades in London as a hotel sales and marketing manager. Follow her work on @ReferencePlease, USA Today, Yahoo! and on Examiner.com.