Nov. 30 was Small Business Saturday, but why limit the fun to one measly day? Step aside retail giants, it’s time to let the little guys shine. For those who appreciate one-of-a-kind gifts and prefer not to be herded like billy goats at the mall, completing your holiday gift list at locally owned stores is a smart idea.
While Tampa and Orlando boast the best selection of department stores, Lakeland’s downtown district houses a multitude of homegrown businesses and unique treasures ripe for purchase. These humble stores won’t litter your mailbox with coupons or shout their sales on TV, so a certain level of shopping prowess and local insight is needed to shop small successfully.
I, a Lakeland girl and avid consumer, have assembled an itinerary that’s sure to make your Polk County shopping excursion fruitful and delicious. Leave the pepper spray and brass knuckles at home- you’ll find this experience to be a smaller threat to your life than the typical mall outing this time of year.
Downtown Lakeland Small Business Shopping Itinerary
8 a.m. – Caffeine coupled with sustenance is key to an enjoyable day of deal hunting. Before shopping small, visit Black & Brew Coffee House and Bistro on Main Street. Fuel-up with freshly brewed coffee and a pressed breakfast sandwich on focaccia bread.
9 a.m. – Just a few stores down from Black & Brew is Nathan’s Men’s Store. Sitting on the corner of Kentucky Avenue and Main Street, this men’s wear oasis boasts a selection of Southern Tide apparel that will inspire the fraternity man in anyone’s life to seek uncharted levels of frattiness. Nathan’s is one of Florida’s largest Southern Tide retailers, in fact.
10 a.m. – On Saturdays, visit the Poor Porker for a midmorning snack. This food truck, positioned near Kentucky Avenue and Pine Street in the heart of the weekly Downtown Farmers Curb Market, is famous for its delectable beignets. Deep fried carbs peppered with powdered sugar are essential to shopping triumph.
11 a.m. – Dogs may not have the mental capacity to grasp the concept of “Christmas,” but when has that ever stopped anyone from spoiling their pooch? The south end of Kentucky Avenue is home to multiple businesses, including Two Hens and A Hound. Swing by this shop that boasts “gifts and gab” and browse their selection of pet specialty items to treat the animal in your life. Be sure to check out the surrounding stores, too, which include vintage record shop Evolution and Coliseum of Comics, a den of comic books and classic action figures.
Noon – Taste a bit of Lakeland history at Palace Pizza. Their delicious Italian dishes (which must always be paired with garlic knots) have satisfied local hunger pangs for years. I can assure you, a steaming slice of Palace’s buffalo chicken pizza is better than the junk you’ll find at a blasé mall food court.
1 p.m.- The post-lunch slump should strike right about…here. Head to Mitchell’s Coffee House, located on the north end of Kentucky Avenue, for an espresso to combat the inevitable crash. Maybe order an indescribably tasty slice of Coca Cola cake to go, too. You’ve had enough carbs so far; save this treat for later.
2 p.m.- North Kentucky Avenue also houses the mother lode of cutesy gift shops. One is Traditions Unlimited, which is stocked with beautifully painted wooden signs, front yard accessories and various knick-knacks that would delight the design fantasies of any homemaker. Another is Brooke Pottery, which teems with dazzling dishes, jewelry, garden goodies and appropriately named BreadCat pillows. Yes, BreadCat pillows. Try finding those at Wal-Mart.
3 p.m.- Black Swan Bazaar and Rafa Natural share a space just next to Brooke Pottery. Again, homemakers, this place will dazzle you. An impressive collection of refurbished furniture and darling decor is offered by Black Swan Bazaar. In the back of the store is Rafa Natural, which sells handmade organic soy candles, soaps, scrubs and bath salts. You’ll need some pampering after weeks of bargain hunting, so stock up.
4 p.m.- The day’s last stop. Friends, let’s not forget what the holidays are all about. Scoring fabulous deals is cool and all, but creating treasured memories is a beloved part of Christmas. Visit the Scrapping Shack to purchase the makings of your holiday scrapbook, and show your friends and family what made the 2014 Christmas season so awesome.
Want to know the best part about shopping small in Lakeland? You can swap the corporate gimmicks, crazed shoppers and substantial risk of bodily harm for friendly people, unique treasures and the warm fuzzies that come with boosting your local economy. Happy (small) shopping!