While the personal benefits of shopping locally are numerous — that cozy feeling of walking into an independent bookstore, receiving that personal recommendation, discovering a unique item — the community benefits are innumerable and exponential.
Purchasing locally creates a domino effect, since locally owned and operated businesses often purchase from other resident suppliers, thereby keeping money circulating in our local economy. Shopping locally not only helps to ensure that people in our community have jobs, but also causes our region’s tax base to thrive, which in turn benefits publicly funded jobs, programs and community spaces.
Fortunately, Washington is awash in handcrafted toys, spicy chili sauce, native art, great books and upcycled cotton clothing. Here are a few ideas for your next local shopping spree.
Designed to be educational and beautiful, Mirus Toys’ creations are perfect for home-schooling families, parents trying to stay away from ubiquitous plastic toys and people looking for an heirloom-quality gift. These gorgeous puzzles, games and charts are handcrafted by a team of five Vancouver, Washington, women.
Wooden blocks, modular tree house sets, 6-foot growth-chart rulers and more can all be found at Manzanita Kids. Items are made by a Gig Harbor husband-and-wife team in their home shop using Forest Stewardship Council–certified wood.
The five locally owned Snapdoodle Toys & Games stores, in Kenmore, Redmond, Seattle, Issaquah and Totem Lake, are treasure troves of toys made by local creators and businesses. Be sure to check out Prism Kites. This Seattle-based company produces flip kites that spin like a kaleidoscope, hardy kites to harness the wind from atop a snowboard and everything in between. For indoor toys with a winter theme, check out Sumner’s Toysmith. The company’s latest seasonal items include a build-your-own-snowman kit, slime with metallic snowflakes to mix in, and a growing yeti that emerges from an iceberg when submerged in water.
You support two businesses with one toy purchase when you snag a Funko Pop! Webbly vinyl figure. In 2019, Everett-based Funko partnered with the Everett Aquasox, a minor league baseball team. The team’s mascot, a tree frog named Webbly, is both a collector’s item and a local favorite.
Brand-new company ViBuGo recently released its first family card game, Stack the Scoops. Created during the pandemic by a 9-year-old, the game involves taking turns matching ice cream sets to collect points. The colorful card game is easy to learn, travel-friendly and provides a bit of math practice. The company has more games in development.
Beautiful books and amazing art
Started by Asia Citro, a local mom and former teacher, Innovation Press is one of the fastest-growing small publishers in the United States. The press publishes Citro’s own chapter-book series, “Zoey and Sassafras,” as well as her nonfiction titles featuring endless ideas for kids’ activities. Other excellent books include “Your Name Is a Song” by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow, in which a young girl learns about the musicality and cultural background of her gorgeous yet often mispronounced name, and “Evelyn the Adventurous Entomologist: The True Story of a World-Traveling Bug Hunter” by Christine Evans.
Seattle-based Mountaineers Books has published and sold climbing guides and maps for more than 60 years. For those less inclined to spend the day driving up mountain passes, its “Urban Trails” series is excellent. Each region-specific book is packed full of ideas for parents looking for nearby destinations to take the kids out on a stroll, bike ride or toddle.
As the Latino arts hub of Seattle, Nepantla Cultural Arts Gallery hosts monthly exhibitions, workshops and community forums. Shop online or at its West Seattle location for artist prints, T-shirts and accessories with a Latino flair.
Lantern Press sells items featuring illustrations and photographs of national parks and cities across America. Check out the gorgeous regional puzzles, art prints, wood and metal signs, and more.
Seattle-based fashion illustrator and artist Louma El-Khoury Salloum specializes in creating custom (and utterly adorable) keepsake items from your child's baby clothes through her Pokidots! website. For the 2021 holiday season, she has also created a magical Christmas village advent calendar for counting down the days to Christmas (purchase online by Nov. 20).
Jewelry and clothing
Eighth Generation, a Seattle-based company owned by the Snoqualmie Indian Tribe, designs and manufactures textiles, jewelry, art and clothing. In response to cultural appropriation and exploitative “Native-inspired” art, 100 percent of Eighth Generation’s products are designed by Indigenous people. The beautiful and elegant First Light baby blanket by Muckleshoot and Chehalis weaver Gail White Eagle is an excellent choice for those looking for a special keepsake gift for new parents.
Bootyland Kids and Two Owls children’s stores have joined forces to bring Seattle-area parents sustainable and utterly adorable toys and organic clothing. While not every stocked item is made in Seattle, several signature pieces are, such as the faerie tutu and the T-shirt line whose design features quintessential Seattle words (which happen to be Coffee, Cobain, Orcas, Rain and Salish Sea).
Handcrafted in a Seattle studio, Baleen jewelry offers delicate chain necklaces, vibrant cuff bracelets and hoop earrings that really pull a look together.
Fabulous food finds
Beecher’s Handmade Cheese is hardly a secret. The company’s mac and cheese is pure creamy goodness, and its Flagship cheese is a must for every party platter. However, Beecher’s cheese curds are the true treat. Cheese curds, or “squeaky cheese,” are at their best right after production (by the time they get to your local grocery store, they are still delicious, but have lost their squeak), so a trip to Beecher’s Handmade Cheese in Pike Place Market is recommended. Watch cheesemakers in action at the flagship store and pick up some fresh cheese curds to eat on the ride home.
After 20 years of research, tasting, development and work by Washington State University, the perfect apple has finally been developed: the Cosmic Crisp. This bright red apple is crisp, juicy and sweet. Slices are slow to brown, making it perfect for packing in school lunches. Look for Cosmic Crisps in local grocery stores after Nov. 8.
Grown in Prosser, Washington, naturally dried Chukar cherries (no preservatives or sweeteners needed!) have been the company’s staple product since 1988. Enjoy Chukar cherries covered in chocolate, with nuts or in sauces.
Me’s Way Vietnamese chili sauce is delicious on absolutely everything: Put it on popcorn! Ice cream! Pancakes, tofu and pizza! The company was founded by Chau Tonnu, a first-generation Vietnamese American, and she makes her award-winning sauce from scratch in small batches using her mother’s recipe. Check out the blog for some unique recipe ideas.