As Christmas bears down on us, we at LTOttawa bring you one last holiday shopping guide: The ByWard Market! Essentially the heart of the city, the Market is a great place to check out because of its variety, focus on local vendors and the ability to avoid mall crowds as you duck in and out each storefront, grabbing some fresh air at the same time. While you be be sidewalk-jostling with the more organized denizens of Ottawa planning their food choices for family meals and holiday entertaining, there is bound to be something for everyone, allowing you to cross off those on your “nice” list by Dec. 25.
We’ll start on the Market’s west side, with Sussex, and work our way through.
Trustfund (493 Sussex Drive)
In tune with the store name, holiday shopping at Trustfund is a bit of a splurge; I wouldn’t suggest it as your average gift-giving destination. However, there are a few items that make this little boutique worth the visit. First off, their extensive jewellery collection is very trendy and equally affordable; you’ll be able to find something different for both the classic and scene-setting females in your life. Also, the men’s tees, while pricier than average, are often soft, bright and visually interesting. My faves are the vintage hockey tees and the Out-of-Print line featuring classic novel covers. They also have a great collection of moccasins and Hunter boots (plus socks!) for keeping toes cozy this winter. Finally, pick up some brightly coloured Happy Socks and heavenly Capri Blue hand-poured candles for stocking stuffers.
The other place you can check out is Trustfund’s sister store, RoadTrip, located beside Planet Coffee in the courtyard between York and George. It has lower price points but a very similar vibe.
The Zone (471 Sussex Drive)
Stuffed floor to ceiling with funky housewares and furniture, this is nearly a one-stop shop for gift buying. The bright lights and white walls really make the goods shine — and you can buy anything from a modern wall shelf or leather chair, right down to a funky ring or new wallet. I frequent the Zone often for its large collection of jewellery, decorative accessories and interesting kitchen gear. They’ve got some pretty great wine racks too. My faves this year? Matryoshka-doll measuring cups, Umbra wall art and a pretty cool “floating” clock right by the cash.
Nicholas Hoare Books (419 Sussex Drive)
Located at the end of Sussex, this is a place I wouldn’t have found had I not been a frequent National Gallery of Canada visitor. (Which also, coincidently, has a pretty great gift shop if you want to pick up a beautiful poster or silk scarf.) It has quickly become my favourite book store for browsing in the city. Its large, spacious design means you don’t feel trapped by free-standing shelves that could topple over on you at any minute, similar to my nightmares that involve the Ottawa Public Library’s main branch. Floor-to-ceiling shelves are lined with great authors, with a pretty strong focus on fiction. They also have the movable ladders that bring me back to my childhood and one of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast musical numbers The tables are laden with themes often relating to current events. The store also offers a decent selection of kids books, cookbooks and music.
Nicastro’s La Bottega (64 George Street)
Back on George Street is the Market’s favourite Italian grocer, with shoppers cramming the narrow aisles every weekend and during their lunch break. If you have a food on your list, a quick stop here can create a wonderful gift basket full of chocolates, coffee, flavoured oils and vinegars and colourful pasta. Since you’re shopping last-minute, why not pick up a few cheeses, a lovely wooden serving plate and some antipasto to take as a housewarming gift? Also, as most in Ottawa know by now, a trip to the sandwich counter at the back will keep you stuffed for the rest of your shopping expedition without blowing the bank.
DNA 11 (70 George Street)
Hidden just one door over and above La Bottega is DNA 11, a stop you MUST make for the friend or family member who has everything. This custom art store takes a person’s DNA and transforms it into one-of-a-kind art tailored specifically to an individual, essentially capturing the essence of a human being! Check out the classic DNA portraits, the KISS prints and the FINGERPRINT works. Each piece starts at $200, but will be unlike any other out there. It may be a little too close to Christmas to grab one of these gifts, but keep it in mind for the future. The awkward part will be trying to secure some DNA without your intended recipient knowing ….
Allegro (53 William Street)
This female-focused clothing store is one of my favourite shopping destinations to outfit myself. Although pretty crammed with good, the store colour-blocks its clothing, meaning you can quickly locate that perfect red dress or bright blue sweater. Like a few others on my list now, it has a great jewellery collection. It also has some excellent choices for shoes, bags and hats. Plus, check out its vintage collection for some one-of-a-kind finds.
Bang-On T-Shirt Design (51 William Street)
Located right next door to Allegro, Bang-On is a fun place to really personalize a gift. Although the shop has some pre-made designs and funky examples in the windows, the point of the store is really to let your creative flow. Choose the style and colour of blank T-shirt from the far wall and browse the books for a design you love. I’ve bought many a gift here that can be sweet, funny, embarassing or clever; either way, the intended recipient is going to know it was made exactly for them. Some creative ideas I’ve capitalized on in the past? Favourite song lyrics (The piano has been drinking … not me), nicknames (Team Rox, which is the name my family gives itself when we are doing chores for my mother) or somewhat-witty job titles (I’m a freelance adventurer). The sunglasses and hat collections are also unreal.
Tickled Pink (55 Byward Market)
Heading across the street and into the Byward Market proper, you’ll find lots of great gifts here in a very efficient space. And if you have a special child on your list, you’ll have to make a stop at Tickled Pink. Catering to the stuff only children’s dreams are made of, this store offers up some beautiful costume-themed clothing and accessories. Think tiaras, capes, kid-sized feather boas and tutus. A little on the expensive size for such tiny (and cute!) items, even a window shop is worth it.
The Sassy Bead Co. (11 William Street)
This is another great option if you want to personalize your gift, always a good idea to show someone you care during the holidays. Jar upon jar upon jar …. upon jar of beads stuff this space, creating a seemingly endless place for jewellery possibilities. The helpful staff will teach you how the shop works, guide you through the purchasing process and help you assemble your creation, whether it be earrings, a necklace or a bracelet. Be forewarned not to go overboard though; they charge by the bead and the prices can quickly add up if you’re picking up the more ornate pieces. They also offer pre-made options. Check out next door, at FrouFrou for some other great gifts. Our friend Melodie Cardin has already written her take on FrouFrou. (And we hope for more shopping insight from her in the future!)
The Expedition Shoppe (43 York Street)
This adventure outfitting store is a traveller’s paradise. The relatively small lower floor can be deceiving; immediately head upstairs to check out a wall of travel guides, adaptable hiking clothing and outerwear, rugged boots and other accessories that can be used for a weekend in the wild. I personally think a stainless steel canteen or winter hand warmers for the upcoming ski season make great gifts.
Paper Papier (18 Clarence Street)
Although another of our shopping guides by the lovely Annie McEwan included a trip to the Glebe’s Papery, a trip inside this cozy store is also worth the effort. Pick up festive holiday cards, some beautiful wrapping paper and ribbons, and the gifts under your tree will be the best-looking in the city. The store also offers some high-end pens for that particular person and a great flower store (Tivoli Flowers) in the back to decorate your home.
Domus Housewares (85 Murray Street)
Attached to John Taylor’s Domus restaurant, this home store offers some amazing kitchen gadgets that are guaranteed to last and impress any cook in your social group. Domus stocks the best of the best and offers a range of equipment, from utensils and stemware, to mixers and cutting boards. I like the Henkel knives, Riedel wine glasses and silicone egg poachers. If you’re ever shopping on a weekend, tuck in next door for an out-of-this world brunch.
Workshop Studio and Boutique (242 1/2 Dalhousie Street)
You’re probably a little tired now with all the shopping you’ve done, and the sad part is that we haven’t even scratched the surface. But tucked in the far corner of the Market is one shop I walk the distance to visit when looking for gifts. I like Workshop because it offers clothes, jewellery, T-shirts and kids gifts all in one spot. The focus on reconstructed goods also means the gifts will be a little different. Check out the Wine on Sundays printed earrings (by the store’s co-owner!), the knitted patchwork stuffed animals and the reconstructed sweatshirts. One new item this year is the Fish on Fridays Stephen Harper puppet for the politicos in your life.
AND, one last suggestion for an easy-but-great present is gift certificates to any of the Market’s great restaurants. I’d suggest Play Wine and Food, Murray Street, Navarra and Domus. A night of not cooking following the busy holiday season is all anyone could ask for.
No doubt we’ve missed something here, but please, tell us about it!