Staff Picks: Last-minute holiday shopping

A seasonal display at the Iowa Artisans Gallery. — photo by Natalia Araujo

You’ve probably missed it: that ominous deadline that all but a few online retailers have for the last date you can order and still receive your purchases before Christmas. And the only apt word for the mall this time of year is quagmire. If you still have gifts to buy, though, fret not! You can fulfill all of your buying needs at the local level. Here, our staff sets out some great finds that you can buy right downtown — no need to cross all of your fingers, bribe your postal carrier or keep refreshing the tracking info on

Iowa Artisans Gallery

Every year I fully intend to get all Christmas shopping done well ahead of time. I create lists. Actively update them as I think of ideas. And then somehow, time skips forward and it’s a week until Christmas. After a couple of texts to family that likely already expects that I’m going to be late sending out gifts, I get started with a walk downtown.

The Iowa Artisans Gallery has saved my ass multiple times. I’m sure to find something that will appeal to my tendency to buy more functional gifts — a well crafted mug, a beautiful bowl or even a set of nice coasters. I enjoy surrounding myself with beautiful everyday objects, but if you’re aiming for less practical they also carry a wide range of jewelry that I’ve taken advantage of for friends, cousins and myself. There’s always something new, and the gift feels special even though it’s purchased in a time crunch as you realize that, once again, you have no idea what to get your mother.

— Natalia Araujo


I love shopping at Revival for any gift-giving occasion. Revival carries apothecary items, essential oils, fragrances, gems, home goods, crafts and high-quality apparel — both new and vintage — from local artists and designers. Since the recent opening of their men’s apparel section, they now have options for anybody on your holiday shopping radar. I’ve always been a fan of their men’s pop-ups, and now there’s a men’s section there to stay.

Revival sells high quality products at a fair price, and also takes clothing and worn items that could be used to fund holiday shopping. It’s definitely been my go-to place for easy, affordable presents this holiday season. I’m all about their skin care lines and scents. They’re one of the only places that carries Scout’s lemongrass & vetiver essential oil roll-on for men, The Fox — which I, personally, wear on the daily. Everybody loves P.F. Candle Co.’s Teakwood and Tobacco candle and Ebb & Flow’s Run for The Roses Face Mist. Most importantly, their jewelry counter has, basically, everything you could look for. A definite recommend.

— Josh Preston

Iowa City Merch

Hawkeye merch is a go-to in my family, but it turns out you can stoke Iowa pride without plastering everything in a tiger hawk. Enter Revival’s Iowa Collection.

Revival is best known for their selection of vintage clothing and locally-made garments and accessories, but they also offer lovely art pieces from Iowa City artist Katie Vernon, capturing the essence of Iowa City. It begins with her Iowa City Map print, containing whimsical depictions of local landmarks including Hancher Auditorium, Kinnick Stadium, Prairie Lights, the Weatherdance Fountain and Pagliai’s Pizza.

Prints sized 8-by-10 and 11-by-14 inches are available, as well as greeting cards and tote bags featuring the full map illustration. Vernon’s work, exclusive to Revival, is a cute and affordable alternative to hunting down yet another print of Buckley Moss’s Old Capitol Revisited for my Iowa City-obsessed relatives.​

You can also stock up on stocking stuffers by sifting through more than a dozen buttons with individual landmarks pulled from the piece. My personal favorite items are the decal stickers and pins of the area’s quirkier icons, The Black Angel and Rusty the Giant Sloth.

— Emma McClatchey


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Revival scored big for staff mentions! — photo by Zak Neumann

Ebb + Flow Free Spirit fragrance

I sent my sisters each an Ebb + Flow Free Spirit rollerball fragrance from Revival this year. I’ve had one of my own for about a year, and since one sister remarked on its lovely aroma I figured the other would enjoy it, too. There are three in this particular Ebb + Flow line, but Free Spirit — made with rosewood, patchouli, geranium (I love geranium because it makes everything brighter) and apricot kernel oil and infused with citrine crystal (to promote abundance and security, duh) — is my favorite. And it’s only fitting that since I grew up stealing my sisters’ fragrances, I send them one of my own.

Revival doesn’t list Free Spirit online, but they do carry it in store. You should probably go smell it, anyway.

— Jordan Sellergren

Local Art

I love to give the gift of art. With a huge community of artists in the area, there’s plenty of opportunities to connect with a local maker, and pick up something unique for everyone on your holiday list. While most of our holiday craft fairs have passed, there are still ways to reach local artists. Try Iowa City Press Coop for beautiful silkscreen, linocut, woodblock and letterpress prints made by members. Their collaborative cookbook, a portfolio of prints with practical, whimsical, psychological and conceptual “recipes,” is a great option that provides 15 prints that can be doled out to everyone on your list.

If you’re in search of more options, you might try Red Door Press, a Des Moines-based husband and wife duo. Their typographical prints come in a range of sizes and their limited edition oversized “Pale Blue Dot” print (beautiful wise words from astronomer Carl Sagan, printed with their extensive collection of wood type on an antique printing presses) is one piece I just might need to gift myself. Hot tip: Blick is currently running a frame sale through Dec. 24 so take the extra step and frame the art you’re giving. Your gift can make its way easily onto the recipient’s wall, skipping that in-between purgatory space where unframed artwork so often ends up.

— Frankie Schneckloth

Leaf Kitchen’s granola pancakes put all other breakfasts to shame. — photo by Jason Smith

A meal at Leaf Kitchen

If you are looking to give the perfect meal to someone you care about this holiday season, I’d recommend treating your loved one to breakfast or lunch at Leaf Kitchen in Iowa City. With a focus on local food with flavors from around the world, Leaf Kitchen is a guarantee to please any palette. Sitting on the corner of Gilbert Street and Kirkwood Avenue, Leaf Kitchen is just far enough away from downtown to feel like a hidden gem, but still close enough that everyone should know about it. Breakfast and lunch are all incredible at Leaf Kitchen, but after trying their granola pancakes for the first time, I don’t know if other meals even exist anymore. It’s a must have for me, with an extra syrup added for double sweetness.

Eating at Leaf Kitchen is a nice opportunity to sit back, take a deep breath and realize that things are still pretty ok in this crazy world if you’re lucky enough to surround yourself in the atmosphere that Leaf Kitchen has to offer. Impress others with your great life decisions — treat them to an incredible breakfast or lunch at Leaf Kitchen in Iowa City this holiday season.

— Jason Smith

The Gift of Experience

Give the gift of experience! When I’m in my last-minute crunch, it’s usually because the person I’m shopping for already has everything I might consider buying for them. What better way to circumvent returns than to give something to do rather than something to own?

If you’re shopping for someone who’s schedule you know well, consider the experience of a class. Theatre Cedar Rapids has adult classes in improv and cabaret starting in January and classes for kids of all ages starting in February. The Iowa Writers’ House has announced a fantastic array of weekend, weekday and one-day classes on everything from the art of the pitch to learning to take (and give) critique.

If you want to offer options, many area arts organizations offer gift cards: FilmScene points out that $45 is just the right amount for two adult evening movie tickets, two drinks and a popcorn. Stop in to the Englert and check out their gift cards, as well, to give the lucky recipient a wide array of options, from music and magic to comedy and film.

— Genevieve Trainor

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