Shop til You Drop, and Make It Count: A Holiday Shopping Guide

Maggie Feuchter

If turkey leftovers are in the fridge, Santa has ridden past Macy's, and your pants are fitting a bit more snugly then they were this time last week, you know for sure that the holidays - and the accompanying season of shopping - have officially arrived. Instead of battling your fellow man at the big name stores for the slashed prices Black Friday style, there are embraceable and enjoyable options in the New York metropolitan area to shop for your loved ones that go a step beyond mere commerce and remind you of the creative, independent and entrepreneurial folks trying to create a sustainable marketplace on their terms. Below is just a selection of such community-driven events and venues, where you can go not just to drop a dollar, but to meet and support the makers, converse with like-minded consumers, and, in general, be merry.

Handmade Craftiness

The BUST Holiday Craftacular is a one-day only event on Sunday, December 6th held at the Metropolitan Pavilion in Manhattan produced by the craft-supportive magazine of the same name. Featuring a wide selection of handmade goods from over 200 vendors, the fair this year will also feature the ability to give back to the community through purchases supporting the Lower East Side Girls Club and City Harvest. You can even give the gift of love by adopting one of the Animal Care and Control NYC pets available that day. A $2 entrance fee entitles you free coffee all morning, snacks, DJ sets, raffle entry, and a goodie bag for the first 500 early birds.

3rd Ward's Handmade Holiday Craft Fair draws upon Brooklyn's jubilant and creative juices once again this year on December 12th from 12pm to 6pm, featuring goods running the full gamut, from lingerie to electronics, to furniture and even something for your four-legged friends. Food, drink, live music and a photobooth will be on hand, in addition to free workshops and demos, cycling back design and craft know-how to foster the community's creative growth.

The Degenerate Craft Fair is a group of over 20 artists and designers exhibiting and selling their creations in three different locations in the area this holiday season. The show kicks off this Friday, December 4th at the Silent Barn in Brooklyn, complete with an opening reception featuring live music and locally sponsored libations, and will continue the following week for two days in a pop up shop in Williamsburg, and the week after in Chelsea, exposing a variety of audiences to this anti-art fair. The event is also recession-wallet friendly, with most items priced $50 and under.

And, specially for the holidays, Brooklyn Flea goes Manhattan with a setup on Lafayette and E. 4th Streets in their Gifted market, featuring similar vendors and goods, such as jewelery, prints, clothes, plenty of vintage offerings, and more.


Although the joy of receiving the gift of "stuff" can be great, it can also become frustrating as one has to face the problem of storage, in particular when you live in a typically cramped New York apartment. As an alternative, consider these resources for gastronomical gifts:

Finishing up a string of monthly events this fall, the New Amsterdam Market will be boasting holiday goodies at their Wintermarket on Sunday, December 20th at South Street in Manhattan. The vendor line-up is still to be solidified, but judging for the past showings, there will be plenty of gift opportunities in the form of candies, chocolates, wines and preserved goods, from jams and jellies to pickles, kimchee and more.

For the G train crowd, the Greenpoint Food Market will be hosting their next monthly market on Saturday, December 19th from 12pm to 5pm, at the Church of the Messiah off of McGolrick Park. Inspired by fresh and local food, and encouraging a DIY and community-based sensibility about food production, GFM seeks to cultivate an audience who simply enjoy delicious eats. In addition to baked goods for your holiday feasts, preserves and other edible, giftable treats, GFM also has a smattering of handmade items such as bags and stationery, and often features live music during their market as a festive accompaniment.

And even though winter is announcing itself by slimming the produce options in the city's farmers markets, there are plenty of vendors who offer summer's abundance in its jarred and preserved forms, and occasionally already have them gift wrapped, making holiday shopping and prepping that much easier. To find a local greenmarket near you, check here.

Online Options

If taking part in Cyber Monday sounds more appealing than wrestling with the holiday masses, you can achieve great success at shopping from home and still support independent artists and designers - even local ones - with some of these online avenues.

The website Supermarket makes it easy to shop for great design while putting you in direct contact with the designers. Featuring giftable goods and creators from across the world wide web, the website itself is a locally developed idea by the Brooklyn group Supercorp, and therefore starts with a homegrown, entrepreneurial base from the ground up.

Elsewares acts as an online catalog of unique items, and functions to "celebrate innovation, cottage industry and well-made goods," while supporting entreprenuerial independent artists and designers. Currently, the website features a handy gift guide, where you can start your shopping by viewing items filtered by recipient or price, and more specifically by gift type, including gift certificates, custom items and eco-friendly wares.

If the online world feels a bit overwhelming, peruse a preselected collection of goods, curated monthly by the folks of Poppytalk Handmade. This Canadian group who simply "believe the handmade community creates better products, and better lives," handpicks what appears on their online street market, while emphasizing the connection between maker and consumer and supporting emerging talent. The website is currently sporting a holiday and gift-themed market, and is set to showcase a last-minute "holiday madness" theme towards the end of the month for procrastinators and any Northern friends preparing for Boxing Week.

And of course, there is the old favorite online trading post for handmade and vintage goods of Etsy. But to combine the ease of online shopping and local designer support, you can use the website's local shop finder, pinpointing you to items being produced in and around your area. Just enter in a location by city, neighborhood, or zip and see what your creative neighbors are up to this season. And, with a healthy dose of entrepreneurial holiday spirit, it would be amiss not to mention that by doing so, you may even find a shop of a Sheepless illustrator or writer on there as well.

Happy shopping!

photo: courtesy of