I just spoke with Santa.
Don’t worry, I didn’t tell him about the thing that would have earned you a huge hunk of coal in your stocking.
See, the big guy wants you to know the holidays look different this year. Finding masks to fit reindeer has been hard, and his elves at UPS and FedEx are working overtime with deliveries. In-person shopping is tough for everyone with a pandemic raging, but we still want to support small local businesses that are struggling.
What’s a cheerful gift giver to do this holiday season? While I can’t speak for Santa, here are six things you should know to maximize your gift giving in Bend this year.
‘Tis the season to shop local
Statewide COVID regulations have reduced capacity for many retailers, but Bend shops are open and eager to welcome you. Most of all, they need our help to survive this challenging time.
This holiday season, seek ways to spend your holiday dollars with locally-owned shops instead of the almighty ‘Zon. Consider it a fun way to help small businesses while getting out of the house to be part of the Bend community.
Downtown Bend has made it easy to support its shops and restaurants with a handy-dandy set of links showing you a full list of Downtown Bend businesses, a collection of online shopping options at their retailers, and a roundup of curbside pick-up and delivery options from Downtown Bend restaurants. Scope out your route and make a plan before heading down, or do all your shopping with a few mouse clicks. If you do visit in person, time it out to hit the Community Tree at dusk to watch the lights go on. It’s located at the top of Drake Park next to The Commons Cafe & Taproom and the Beach Hut Deli.
Over in Northwest Crossing, they’ve got a Holiday Tour of Lights happening Dec. 1-20. Participants can scope out the holiday lights, enjoy a scavenger hunt, drop off non-perishable food donations for the Salvation Army, and oh yeah, tick dozens of items off the holiday gift list while meandering through clothing shops, bookstores, and more.
Central Oregon Locavore has taken their popular annual Holiday Gift Faire online, making it a cinch to score handmade jewelry, home goods, food items, and other locally-produced goodies.
Do Santa a solid? Take a sec right now to scan that list of friends and relatives on your gift list this year. Are there things that can be purchased from a small Bend-owned business instead of big internet retailers? Sure, it’s an extra step. You might even pay a little more. But it’s a small price to ensure your favorite Bend shop is still standing when this pandemic is behind us.
Let someone else wrap it up
We’ve all got a lot on our plates, so why not let your favorite Bend shops help take the load off?
The Ticket Mill is offering gift wrapping and shipping on anything bought in the Old Mill District. Wrapping is free if you ship through the Ticket Mill, or $5 a package with all the proceeds going to MountainStar Family Relief Nursery. It’s a great chance to support local faves like Vanilla, Ginger’s Kitchenware, Savory Spice, Hello Sunshine, Sweet Tooth, Somewhere That’s Green, and more. Get details here.
Over in The Box Factory, they’re making it extra-super-simple to support multiple small businesses in one fell swoop with their Local Box of Love. The pre-packaged gift box includes gift cards ($20 each) for Foxtail Bake Shop, Immersion Brewing, and Fix & Repeat. There’s also a certificate for a private yoga lesson with a Yoga Lab instructor plus a week-long buddy pass, one CBD Fountain organic body lotion, and a special treat from Sheila Dunn Art. You’d normally pay more than $250 for all that, but the box is just $199 through December 21.
If someone on your gift list loves locally-made skincare products, check out the ready-made gift baskets from AOS (Angelina Organic Skincare). They’re currently offering free gift wrapping and $3.99 home delivery if you’re in Bend.
Get that letter off to Santa, stat!
You know what Santa told me? A bright spot for him in this pandemic has been the outpouring of letters from kiddos spreading holiday cheer (and yeah, maybe their wish lists…don’t judge).
Bend’s shopping districts are making it nice and simple for your kiddo to get that letter off to Old Saint Nick.
Over in the Bend Factory Stores, they’ve got a drop box for letters to the big guy right next to Holiday Lane. Stop by to pick up some holiday decor and knock out a little gift shopping at retailers ranging from Columbia Sportswear to the Pendleton outlet.
The Old Mill District also has special North Pole mailboxes where kids can drop their letters through Dec. 19. Santa’s even stopping by in person to pick up letters the first three Fridays and Saturdays in December at 1 p.m.
Plan earlier this year for shipping
In a normal year, you might duck into the post office a few days before Christmas and still hope to land Aunt Tilly’s new scarf in her mailbox in time for the big day.
But 2020 is anything but normal, thanks to a global pandemic prompting more folks to shop online and bog down shipping times.
The United States Postal Service is currently recommending a ship date no later than Dec. 15 for packages going by ground. FedEx and UPS have also pegged Dec. 15 as the deadline for ground shipping, though you can pay extra for various forms of air express.
Bottom line, make sure to get your packages shipped earlier this year if you don’t want to pay an arm and a leg for postage.
Shop with a social conscience
Helping local business owners keep food on the table is a big reason to shop locally this year, but what if your social conscience needs something extra?
Take recycling to the next level by purchasing upcycled sporting goods from retailers like the Gear Fix in the Box Factory or the Gear Peddler in the Bend Maker’s District. You’ll also find a cornucopia of designer consignment clothing at Cosa Cura in Northwest Crossing, along with a great selection of one-of-a-kind locally-made jewelry and accessories.
Score a sweet coffee table book of Bend images when you make a $15 donation to Pledge for the Wild. Ineffable makes a gorgeous gift of Bend photography, while the donation supports the Deschutes Trails Coalition and their work to protect and maintain Bend’s wild places. Learn more here.
If money’s tight but you still want to do your part to help small Bend businesses, consider other ways to help. Write a positive review of your favorite shop or restaurant, or engage on their social media to help spread the word. Tell friends and family about the best place to score one-of-a-kind gifts, and when Dad asks what you’d like this year for Hanukkah, point him in the direction of a Bend-based business that could use an extra boost.
A word about gift cards
I know some folks think gift cards lack the same flair as a big package wrapped under the tree or the latest flashy gadget.
But consider how often those gadgets get shoved under a bed within a week of the big holiday. Also consider that a gift card for Wanderlust Tours or the High Desert Museum or that favorite Bend restaurant not only pours much-needed lifeblood into those businesses, but gives your loved one something to look forward to when this pandemic is through.
Many local shopping districts make it easy to let your loved one pick from a variety of shops, with Old Mill gift cards and Downtown Dollars offering dozens of stores to choose from.
Lots of restaurants are offering incentives for gift card purchases this year. Anthony’s is giving a $10 gift card with every $50 purchase, and Red Robin offers $5 cards when folks buy $25 cards. Pastini offers a $25 voucher good for 2021 when you buy a $100 gift card. Check with your favorite Bend restaurant to find out what they’re doing.
In the meantime, I’ll put in a good word for you with Santa. Stay safe out there, folks!