Independents day

RN&R’s guide to holiday shopping—more than 200 gift ideas from nearly 75 local, indie businesses

David Currier, owner of The Spy Shop

David Currier, owner of The Spy Shop


We’re not about to pull a George W. on you and tell you to be a good “patriot” and go shop for the economy. Especially if you don’t have any money. Or, say, a job.

But here’s the thing. It’s nearing Christmastime, and chances are you’re going to buy something for somebody. Instead of going to big box stores this season, make Nov. 28, or Black Friday, Independents’ Day by supporting local, independent businesses.

When you shop at an indie store, you’re not only supporting the local economy and the creative, entrepreneurial spirit of small-business owners, you also usually come out with a kick-ass gift you wouldn’t necessarily find in Des Moines or Houston or Seattle.

We checked out nearly 75 independent stores in Reno-Sparks for this holiday gift guide, and a few things stood out. 1) This area has some truly great little shops. Sometimes they’re hiding in a lackluster stripmall, but walk inside, and be prepared for some pleasant surprises. 2) Some stores that have been around for years are now closed. A moment of silence, please, for Blue Bounty gourmet deli, which closed after 30 years, and for All the Trimmings—they carried some of the most gorgeous fabric for home decorating in town—to name two. 3) In keeping with national trends, many owners mentioned that October was their worst sales month ever, or that their normally packed stores have had fewer customers lately, or that they’re ordering more inventory in the under $25 range for low-budget customers. And nearly all we spoke with said, “Thank god you’re focusing on the independents! We need help!” Or some variation thereof.

So, by all means, make your own gifts this year, go to, regift, or skip the whole gift-giving thing and just try to spend quality time with family and friends. But if you do buy presents for the holidays, be independent-minded.

We know we’ve missed some great places due to space constraints, but here are some gift ideas to make your shopping a little easier.

The Nevada Store (3362 Lakeside Court, 825-3318) For everyone wanting to eat pistachio brittle from Virginia City while wearing a Wolf Pack sweatshirt and burning a beeswax candle from local bees, this is the place. Everything in here—books, clothes, organic tea, hot sauce, toffee, jams, honey, natural bath products, casino curios—is made in Nevada or related to the state.

Doggles at Bark Avenue


RN&R FIND: Nevada-shaped copper cookie cutter, ($12.95)—for all those raging Nevada Day parties, we suppose. Gift baskets ($17-$100 depending on size) in the shape of Nevada also make a handy present.

Didn’t find what you were looking for? Try: Lavender Ridge (7450 W. Fourth St., 747-3222) for an amazing selection of lavender bath, body and culinary products made in Reno from locally grown lavender; Reno eNVy will soon be opening a new storefront at West Street Market, (until then, visit, but many local stores carry their products. The Great Basin Community Food Co-op (271 Wonder St., 324-6133) has local eggs, honey and whatever’s locally in season and sustainable. Visit for a list of Battleborn gifts.

Rockabye (538 W. Plumb Lane, 825-0700) Toys “R” Us doesn’t have everything. Rockabye has a stylish, eco-friendly and fun collection of clothes and toys for kids, as well as baby products (nontoxic pacifiers, phthalate and BPA-free sippy cups, and—dare we say—hip nursing covers.) We loved the rather freaky Antworks ($32) ant farm, where real ants feast on a nutrient-rich, glowing blue gel that, unlike ant farms of old with—guffah—dirt, won’t shake despite your little hellion’s best efforts at ant farm destruction. And those strangely cute Ugly Dolls (various prices) are perennial favorites.

RN&R Find: Beautiful, old-fashioned wooden alphabet blocks with animal names in English, Spanish or French. ($40)

Didn’t find what you were looking for? Try: the Nevada Museum of Art gift shop (160 W. Liberty St., 329-3333 ) for a variety of cool, artsy, usually educational toys; Lil Diggs (538 W. Plumb Lane, 826-4455) for super soft American Teddy Bears, more toys, baby utensils and blankets and lots of great-looking clothes for infants through middle-schoolers.; Babboo (131 California Ave., 323-0123) for some of the cutest, most beautifully crafted clothes we’ve ever seen for newborns through a kid’s size 7. How come we didn’t get to be such stylin’ kids?

Bark Avenue (538 W. Plumb Lane, 824-3647): Man, those dogs we grew up with had it so bad. Rawhide bones and old blankets as dog beds look mighty primitive when you step inside a joint like Bark Avenue. The shop is a dog boutique with fashionable collars and toys sure to impress all the bitches at the dog park. Ski-bumming dogs may like some Doggles ($26) to keep the snow out of their eyes. There’re also plenty of dog Christmas stockings and treats. Their food bowls could rival Pottery Barn. Dogs and their owners with a sick sense of humor might love the squeaky toy called Mr. Poop ($12). Guess what it looks like.

RN&R Find: Snowball squeaky, ($12). Just make sure you don’t lose it in the snow.

Video Eyewear Recorder at the Spy Shop


Didn’t find what you were looking for? Try: Happy Tails (3892 Mayberry Drive, 787-3647) for a big selection of toys—from the stuffed to the super indestructible—to healthy dog treats and baked items; Scraps Bakery (325 Harbor Cove Drive, No. 107, 358-9663) for toys, treats and disturbingly tasty-looking baked goods for dogs that could compete with Josef’s bakery—we should all eat so well.

Scotland Yard’s Spy Shop (1085 S. Virginia St., 323-3232). In these insecure times, this is one shop still doing pretty well. Primarily a video surveillance store, there’s a lot of crazy stuff here. That coffee pot, lamp, teddy bear? All hidden cameras. There are Super Ear systems that let you listen in where you probably shouldn’t, HomeGuard systems, magic kits, and self-defense tools like mace, tasers (everyone’s asking for tasers this year, right?) and lipstick cases that open to reveal a sharp knife.

RN&R Pick: Video Eyewear Recorder ($425). These nifty sunglasses are really a video camera that can record up to five hours of everything you look at. You can download the footage later to your computer.

Didn’t find what you were looking for? Try: Sandy’s Electronic Parts (961 Matley Lane No. 150, 348-8353) or Wild West Electronics (8175 S. Virginia St., 853-4600) for whatever you need for entertainment, audiovisual or telecommunication stuff; Audio Express (7685 S. Virginia St., 853-1717) for car radios, Sirius/XM radio, speakers and more driving and jamming whatnots.

Kalifornia Jean Bar/The Park/Liv (290 California Ave., 329-5326): KJB isn’t cheap, but their clothes can satisfy local fashionistas—the folks who don’t mind spending $200 or more on a pair of jeans. They have lots of trendy shirts, jeans, sunglasses, etc. for men and women. KJB’s owners also own The Park and Liv, which recently came to share space at the jean bar’s spot. The Park is less expensive, with clothes directed to local hipsters, and Liv has beautiful, eco-friendly home decorations and a few tote bags and T-shirts.

RN&R pick: When in jeanland, buy jeans. ($$$, prices vary)

Didn’t find what you were looking for? Try: Reno eNVy ( As mentioned above, our favorite local T-shirt (and hats, etc) designers are opening a storefront in the West Street Market any day now. Until then, visit their website or one of a handful of their local distributors. Young professionals can find high-end, fashionable women’s clothes at Lodo Loft (550 W. Plumb Lane, 284-5636). Shoe (104 California Ave., 324-4616) has a colorful, almost gallery-like setting to display fancy shoes. Or make your money (or gift certificate) stretch a long way at places featuring stylish and affordable apparel, like Rad Betty’s Fresh Thrift (141 Vesta St., 322-3889), Junkee Clothing Exchange (960 S. Virginia St., 322-5865) and Plato’s Closet (1509 S. Virginia St., 322-0110).

Album from Recycled Records

photo by KAT KERLIN

Reno Mountain Sports (155 E. Moana Lane, 825-2855). This place is packed with a great variety of skiing, snowboarding and winter sports gear, including sunglasses, outerwear, underwear, sweaters, gloves, hats and other gear. They also have kayaks and rent snowshoes, skis and snowboards at reasonable prices if you’d like to give someone a fun day in the mountains.

RN&R pick: Lobz Stereo Ear Protection ($30). These are like ear muffs and headphones in one.

Didn’t find what you were looking for? Try: Out of Bounds (235 E. Plumb Lane, 323-7669) for winter sports and skateboarding gear; and Bobo’s Mogul Mouse (475 E. Moana Lane, 826-9096) for more snow-bound equipment. For a different type of outdoor adventure gear, visit D Bar M Western (1020 E. Fourth St., 329-9107) for boots, saddles and horse riding equipment and clothes, or the Reno Fly Shop (294 E. Moana Lane, 825-3477) for flies, ties, fishing equipment, classes and rentals.

La Bussola (254 W. First St., 348-8858). This place is lots of fun. (That’s owner Meredith Tanzer on this week’s cover.)Around every corner, someone has taken something like a chair, a vase or a shirt and artsied it up for a truly one-of-a-kind gift. It made one visiting 60-year-old woman look around and ask with sincerity, “How do you define funky?” La Bussola comes close to the answer. There’s the coffee table with an old photo of the Reno arch collaged over it, the black leather apron that reads “World’s Greatest Cook,” toilet seat art, paintings and other works by local artists, handmade jewelry and just quirky stuff like devil rubber duckies and body art band aids.

RN&R Pick: The high-heeled cake server. ($20) This metal—we’re guessing stainless steel—shoe with a detachable magnetic heel makes for fun and functional slicing.

Didn’t find what you were looking for? Try: Nevada Museum of Art gift shop (160 W. Liberty St., 329-3333). They carry cards and books about art with a capital A, as well as glass-blown jewelry and paperweights, educational toys, pretty ornaments and lots of other artsy eye candy; or Nevada Fine Arts (1301 S. Virginia, 786-1128). Many artists of the starving variety would appreciate some supplies so they can keep doing their work. For canvas, paint, brushes, calligraphy pens and all art-creating goods, here’s where to get it.

Sundance Bookstore (1155 W. Fourth St., No. 106, 786-1188). From cowboy poetry to the top authors of the world, Sundance carries a discerning selection of new books, including a healthy assortment from local and regional authors, as well as cards, calendars and CDs. Their magazine offerings are small but excellent, from High Desert Journal to Dwell and Juxtapoz. RN&R Pick: Literary Nevada from the University of Nevada Press ($29.95 paperback, $60 hardcover). This huge anthology of Nevada writings is a great addition to the book collection of anyone interested in the state’s cultural and literary history.

Lorna’s Laces hand-dyed wool at Jimmy Beans


Didn’t find what you were looking for? Try: Dharma Books (11 N. Sierra St., 786-8667), which sells quality used books in a cozy nook of downtown; The Book Gallery (1203 Rock Blvd., Sparks, 356-8900) for shelves bursting with used books; or Zephyr Books (1501 S. Virginia St., 322-6657), a big warehouse-like store of used books. It’s one of those places where it may be hard to find what you’re looking for, but you’ll likely come out having bought something you weren’t expecting.

Recycled Records (3344 Kietzke Lane, 826-4119). The alternate universe of the independent music store is in full swing here, with customers casually arguing with sales associates about the relative merits of old Metallica versus new Metallica. Music buffs can spend hours perusing the used records, CDs, DVDs and even eight tracks on sale here. From soul to jazz, rock, classical, reggae, bluegrass and punk, they’ve got the genres covered.

RN&R Pick: Finding Tom Waits’ Nighthawks at the Diner record for $12 was a kick, but the old-timey record When Good Fellows Get Together ($4) takes it, if only for the cheesy cover of what must be the good fellows themselves and the back cover notes: “When good fellows get together, they quite naturally get together and sing.” Sure they do.

Didn’t find what you were looking for? Try: Discology (190 California Ave., 323-2121) for a tasteful mix of CDs and some vinyl; Sundance Bookstore (1155 W. Fourth St., No. 106, 786-1188) has a section of carefully chosen CDs—they don’t have a lot, but what’s there is good. For music lovers who actually play the stuff, Maytan Music (777 S. Cheney St., 323-5443) has lots of instruments and sheet music. Ditto Carpenter’s Music World (6015 S. Virginia St., 852-7618). If we have to tell you what Bizarre Guitar (2677 Oddie Blvd., 331-1001) sells, we might have to smack you around a bit (though it’s not to be confused with Bizarre Guns next door, another aptly titled placed.)

Jimmy Beans Wool (5000 Smithridge Drive, No. A11, 827-9276). Good wool can be a hard thing to find at big box stores in Reno, but it’s everywhere inside Jimmy Beans. So is alpaca, mohair, even soy, silk and bamboo yarn—in a variety of thicknesses and incredible colors—from the vibrant to the rustic. Knitting needles, books and inspiring projects—like really cool purses, sweaters and scarves—are scattered throughout to show you what you could do, someday.

RN&R pick: A skein of one of Lorna’s Laces hand-dyed wool ($17.95). Lorna’s also dyes a color of the month exclusively for Jimmy Beans.

Didn’t find what you were looking for? Try: next door at A Stitch in Time (5000 Smithridge Drive, No. A15, 829-9222) for everything embroidery and cross stitch, or Sew ‘n’ Such (2291 Kietzke Lane, 825-6677) for a wide variety of pretty fabrics and sewing and quilting supplies. For those who like to make jewelry, Beads Etc. (5025 S. McCarran Blvd., 826-0777) has a nice supply of beads, as does The Bead Shop (542 Plumas St., 322-2225), which also carries gift items like candles, pottery, hand woven baskets and window ornaments. Scrapbookers can go to Best Wishes Stamping and Scrapbooking in the Franklin Corners shopping center (2315 Kietzke Lane, 825-1500) for a selection of supplies just as impressive as some of the best chain craft stores. The other side of the store is full of greeting cards and specialty gifts.

Pep Art salt and pepper shakers at Kitchen Treasures


High Sierra Hobbies: (4020 Kietzke Lane, 825-5557) The well-stocked shelves of this shop include everything you could need for building model airplanes, rockets, cars, tanks, trains and submarines, from paint and glue to wires and books.

RN&R pick: We’re not model train experts, so there are likely way more impressive offerings, but the Harry Potter Hogwarts Express train model (about $300) caught our attention.

Didn’t find what you were looking for? Try: Reno Rails (1229 E. Fourth St., 337-6669) for more specialized model trains; Hobbies of Reno (535 E. Moana Lane, 826-6006) and CKRC Hobbies, (1110 S. Wells, 786-7733) both offer radio controlled planes and trains.

Paper Moon (550 W. Plumb Lane, 827-9933). You know that store in the mall whose stationery is so pretty you get embarrassed because you leave a little drool on it? Paper Moon is almost just like it, but independent. In addition to gorgeous cards, invitations and paper, they also have fun stocking stuffers, candles and notepads.

RN&R pick: Yeah, they’re a paper store, but we really liked the cool purses and tote bags from designer Vera Bradley (around $40-$60 depending on size)

Didn’t find what you were looking for? Try: Name Droppers (6890 S. McCarran Blvd., No. 200, 826-7101) also has lots of pretty paper and is a bit more invitation-focused.

Artisans Fairtrade (3368 Lakeside Court, 827-4542). Fair trade means that the people—usually living in developing countries—who made whatever you’re buying, were paid a fair wage for it, didn’t harm the environment through its production and worked in decent conditions. This store has an excellent, colorful selection of fair trade products, from hand-knit alpaca scarves from Bolivia to a teddy bear from Guatemala to all-natural soap from Zambia, salt scrubs from the Himalayas, and nativity scenes and ornaments from around the world. We especially liked the hand and finger puppets.

RN&R Find: Vietnamese coffee mug with lid ($15). This technically may have been in the adjoining Fairly Grounded coffee shop next door (same owner, same fair trade principles but with a sea horse aquarium and coffee brewing), but it looked awfully pretty.

Guatemalan teddy bear from Artisans Fairtrade


Didn’t find what you were looking for? Try: Liv (290 California Ave., 329-5326) for stylish, environmentally friendly gifts; EcoReno (18 Stewart St., Suite B, 324-6326) for fun—yes, we think they’re fun—eco cleaning products, recycled paper, books, baby products and more; TerraVerte (100 N. Arlington Ave., Suite 105, 284-5006) for a small selection of cards, ceramics, bath and body products and art with an environmental theme (pretty tree paintings, for instance); Des Idees Nouvelles (148 Vassar St., 348-9550) sells eco-friendly home and garden products with proceeds supporting the nonprofit Women & Children’s Center of the Sierras.

Rail City Garden Center (1720 Brierly Way, Sparks, 355-1551). This is a whimsical place of quality plants, pots and—this time of year—Christmas decorations, mostly ornaments, as well as live Christmas trees. There’re also wind chimes, birdhouses, weather vanes and candles.

RN&R pick: Gift certificate. Gardeners wish Christmas was in May. That’s when they really want gifts of seeds, plants, pots, compost and gardening gloves. Let them hold on to their gift certificate until they can really use it.

Didn’t find what you were looking for? Try: Moana Nursery (1100 W. Moana Lane, 825-0600) has a knockout gift shop, even in the off season, where you’ll find seasonal and home decorations, books, candles, bath stuff and a great selection of houseplants; G&G Nursery (3397 Pyramid Way, 690-0222), with its huge selection of Christmas decorations; the xeriscaping masters at Dry Creek Garden Company (7250 S. Virginia St., 851-0353) also have a lot to offer.

Kitchen Treasures (5029 S. McCarran Blvd., 829-1199). It is a bit like a treasure hunt to walk into this store. It’s packed with everything from aprons and espresso machines to cutting boards, Le Creuset cookware, sushi plates, cookie cutters and garlic roasters. There’re also gourmet goodies, multicolored candles from South Africa, wine stoppers, mortar and pestles and crazy cake molding pans.

RN&R pick: They’re a little pricey, but the variety of PepArt salt and pepper shakers, with their contemporary art designs, were pretty impressive, ($44-$88 per set).

Didn’t find what you were looking for? Try: skipping cooking equipment, and go for the food itself. Butcher Boy Prime (7300 S. Virginia St., 359-7445 x 5) is a unique deli and butchery, featuring scrumptious marinated and unseasoned meats—from bone-in pork chops and carne asada to bison and rattlesnake—seafood and some produce and gourmet items. Or give a gift certificate to a favorite local restaurant, a Community Supported Agriculture subscription, or to a cooking class offered by places like Nothing to It! (225 Crummer Lane, 826-2628) or Back of the House Culinary Adventures (800 W. Second St., 284-1080).

Wine from Whispering Vine Wine Company


Whispering Vine Wine Company (3886 Mayberry Drive, Unit D, 787-9463). With more than 2,500 labels in the store, the walls tower with wine here, from $10 reds to bottles of $200 wine from international vineyards. The store also has some harder-to-find beer varieties, like Arrogant Bastard Ale and Lake Tahoe Brewing Company offerings, as well as ports, sherries, brandies and aged Irish Whiskey.

RN&R pick: We admit it, anything in the $10 and under section looks good to us. Throw in a pretty wine stopper for a nice gift.

Didn’t find what you were looking for? Try: Fine Vines (6300 Mae Anne Ave., Suite 3, 787-6300) with nice wines, as well as artisan cheeses and decadent chocolate truffles; Vintage, a Wine Shop (6135 Lakeside Drive, No. 117, 824-9463) also offers many wines you can try before buying, as well as corkscrews, decanters and other accessories.

The Chocolate Walrus (1278 S. Virginia St., 825-2267) does carry chocolate—it’s just on a stick in the shape of a penis or vagina. It also carries cute lingerie, from skimpy Santa costumes to lacey panties and brown-and-pink, polka-dotted bras, as well as high heels, lubes, fantasy wear and a bunch of other things you hope your kids or parents never find. Naughty stuff in a boutique atmosphere.

RN&R pick: blue ruffly underwear with black polka dots, $16.

Didn’t find what you were looking for? Try: just down the street at Romantic Sensations (1065 S. Virginia St., 322-1884).

The Melting Pot World Emporium (1049 S. Virginia St., 322-9445). Whether your friends are hippies, burners, bohemians or just regular folks who like quirky things, there’s probably something for them at The Melting Pot. RN&R pick: Amid the wall hangings, candles, flowy clothes, magnets, and furry hula hoops, we especially loved the various action figures ($9.25-$14.75), like Jesus, the Crazy Cat Lady, and Einstein. Didn’t find what you were looking for? Try: Prism Magic Clothing (2161 Pyramid Way, 356-5577), specializing in tie-dyed clothes and Burning Man costumes. Your free-spirited gift recipient may also love a gift certificate to one of the yoga, pilates or dance studios in town, such as Yoga Loka (6135 Lakeside Drive, No. 121, 337-2990), the Yogic Lounge (100 N. Arlington Ave., 303-7366), or the Concrete Lotus (239 S. Sierra St., 786-7272), among many others.

BLVD (550 W. Plumb Lane, Suite E, 826-8288). We weren’t sure where to mention this store because it truly has a little of everything. There’s a section of wine, along with whiskey flasks and decanters on one end. At the back of the store is a little kitchen area of chic placemats, dinner plates and gourmet yummies like Egyptian Dukkah dipping mix ($10), a favorite of the owner’s. Then in the middle are polka-dotted mixing bowls, bath gels and body butters, jewelry, fun pajamas, pillows and even some furniture and visual art, all with a stylish, citified look.

RN&R pick: the classy black-and white “hostess apron” ($50) is way too nice to splatter marinara sauce on, but we like it.

Didn’t find what you were looking for? Try: the above 70-plus stores.

Happy holidays!