The thrill of the hunt

CN&R’s Culture Vulture gives a guided tour of downtown dispensaries of last-minute gifts

GO BATTY<br> Bat Comics at 127 Main Street will be open for business on Christmas Eve day, 10 a.m-4 p.m., and offers graphic gifts in a wide range of prices, including a genuine utility belt as worn by Batman himself.

Bat Comics at 127 Main Street will be open for business on Christmas Eve day, 10 a.m-4 p.m., and offers graphic gifts in a wide range of prices, including a genuine utility belt as worn by Batman himself.

Photo By C. Owsley Rain

There are those who would argue that waiting till the day before Christmas to do one’s Christmas shopping is the mark of a thoughtless and perhaps careless individual. We agree, there is a segment of the late-shopping public that, in the parlance of crime-scene TV dramas, fits that profile.

Also, it should be acknowledged up front that for many people, waiting till the last minute to do anything—especially something as essential and fraught with meaning as buying holiday gifts for loved ones—is likely to cause stress and frustration.

But it must also be acknowledged that there is a vital and discerning subculture of last-minute shoppers for whom the exultation of Christmas Eve gift buying is the pinnacle of shopping thrills.

If you have always dreaded the tedium of trudging through malls or wandering aimlessly around big-box stores in search of inspiration for what to buy dear old Dad, sweet old Mumsy, innocently avaricious little son/daughter/niece/nephew or already-got-it-all bro or sis, you may be a potential member of the league of last-minute shoppers.

MIX AND MATCH<br /> Among the gazillion practical gifts available at Collier Hardware, 105 Broadway, open 10 a.m-4 p.m. on Christmas Eve, is this fine selection of quality blenders, ranging from $49.99-$149.99. Also on the Collier shelves is every hand and power tool imaginable, cutlery, work gloves ($1.99-$19.99), power juicers, an electronic weather station for $59.99, and if you’re really in the Christmas spirit, the Weber Genisis Platinum Grill for $699.95.

Photo By C. Owsley Rain

Your faithful correspondent inadvertently discovered the arcane but undeniable satisfactions of Christmas Eve gift shopping a few decades back when a surprisingly generous but dismayingly late-coming Christmas bonus coincided with the holiday, and I have been refining my technique and defining the optimum boundaries of my shopping experience ever since.

So I can tell you on good, time-tested authority that of all the insights gained over my years of satisfying Christmas Eve shopping, the most essential is that you find a shopping area that offers a maximum of gift-buying opportunities and a minimal necessity to change locations by having to drive your vehicle of choice from place to place.

Some readers will logically leap to the conclusion that I would suggest the nearest mall as the ideal for convenience and variety. While I sympathize with that choice, and have indeed purchased more than one last-minute present at either the North Valley Plaza or the Chico Mall over the years, those are not the destinations that spring to mind when I think of Christmas Eve gift shopping.

No—for a complete and full-spirited experience of Christmas Eve gift shopping, one must interact with the elements. Opening umbrellas and donning rain slickers enhance the experience. Striding down glistening sidewalks eying storefronts and cheerfully nodding to fellow shoppers is essential.

In short, spending Christmas Eve shopping in downtown Chico is one of the best and most productive holiday activities imaginable.

And so, without further ado, here is a pictorial list of places to check out if you find yourself needing—or, even better, choosing—to find gifts on the day before Christmas.

Happy hunting!


IN THE BAG<br/> GiGi Shoe Parlor, 112 West Second Street (open 11 a.m.-4 p.m. “or so” Christmas Eve), has—of course—all kinds of cute shoes for gals. But if you don’t know her shoe size stop by anyway, the store also offers lots of fun accessories such as an oversize beaded elephant purse for $42.

Photo By C. Owsley Rain

GET THE LEAD OUT<br/> The stained glass and beaded jewelry designs by Nick and Becky Needham, respectively, offered at Needham Studios at 237 Broadway (open 10 a.m.-3 p.m. on Christmas Eve), are sure to brighten the day of any lucky recipient.

Photo By C. Owsley Rain

THE OLD MADE NEW <br/>Attic Treasures on the corner of Third and Main streets (open 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Christmas Eve) has 50 vendors offering everything from a 1960s Sucrets tin for $3.50 to the large blue “art glass” vase at left for $35, and literally thousands of other items ranging from practical to bizarre, including a $9 “Robot Calculator.”

Photo By C. Owsley Rain

NO MORE TEARS<br/> Nancy Lindahl, left, owner of Zucchini & Vine at the corner of Second and Main streets (open 11 a.m till “3:30 or 4 p.m.” on Christmas Eve), models “Fear no Onion” goggles, $19.95, designed to protect chefs from the dangers of slicing onions. Her store offers a plethora of decorative, food-oriented gifts as well as a great cheese counter filled with such delicacies as Humboldt Fog goat cheese, 3-year-old Parmigiano Reggiono from Italy and Northern Gold, a handcrafted gouda-style cheese made by Pedrozo Dairy and Cheese Co. in Orland. For those with a sweet tooth, don’t miss the chocolate counter brimming with artisan truffles.

Photo By C. Owsley Rain

THE GIFT OF SONG<br/> Melody Records, 341 Main Street (open 10 a.m.-4 pm. Christmas Eve), is an essential resource for music lovers, with quality vinyl albums priced in the single-digit range, and CDs available for a few bucks more.

Photo By C. Owsley Rain

DO YOU FEEL LUCKY?<br/> You will after you step into House of Rice at 338 Broadway (open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Christmas Eve) and pick up a traditional and reasonably-priced lucky cat figurine, or some lucky bamboo, or a cast-resin Buddha or dragon figure. Also offered are hundreds of elegant and novelty items ranging from cast-iron teapots ($49-$85) to Slinkys ($6.95) as well as Oriental herbal remedies and foodstuffs.

Photo By C. Owsley Rain

DRINK TO ME ONLY WITH THINE EYES<br/> All that shopping can build a powerful thirst. Stop into Duffy’s, 337 Main Street, and pick up a barroom T-shirt ($11-$13) or sweatshirt ($30.00) for that hip teenager who has outgrown his or her favorite Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. shirt.

Photo By C. Owsley Rain