- YOU'RE A GREEN ONE Frankly, we wouldn't mind finding that goofy little green dude on the third shelf at Glassfusion stuffed in the stocking this year.
For holiday gifts that friends and family will gaze at fondly and with a mixture of excitement and dazzlement at the purchasers' hippy-chic tastes, head to Sebastopol. The well-heeled free spirit of the town is in its full glory this time of year, and nowhere is this more evident than in the charming conglomeration of retail stores at the Barlow.
For your self-proclaimed gardener friend, who mainly specializes in succulents and other low-maintenance plants (and who doesn't have one of those friends?), stop by the green oasis of California Sister Floral Design and Supply. The store brings the beauty of wilderness indoors—step into a lush space that's covered with ferns on the ground and plants on the walls, and the vision springs to life. Besides the succulents, the store carries candles and apothecary antiques, and visitors can also purchase and ship bouquets designed with flowers from Sonoma County farms.
Is your hipster nephew always critiquing the lack of depth your coffee beans exhibit at every family gathering? Of course he is. Head to Taylor Lane for espresso beans that even the most pretentious relative can brag about. Taylor Lane is famous for the dynamic flavor of its coffee, and as a fair-trade establishment that's also locally owned.
The company had humble beginnings. The beans were first roasted in an old barn in Occidental, in 1993. Now they've got locations in the Barlow and in Petaluma, and have expanded their retail reach into mugs, thermoses and French presses.
Everyone has an off-beat artsy friend who makes buying a present for as tricky as finding the light switch in a new house, but fret not, the Lori Austin Gallery is here to illuminate the perfect gift. From hand-carved stone sculptures of turtles and elephants priced around $20 to limited edition art prints ranging from $40 to $100, this gallery offers an affordable-gift niche for any shopper. Among the collection of art pieces the gallery offers are woven azure and crimson colored baskets, made by the Zulu people of South Africa from telephone wire. It's the gift that keeps on giving you street cred as the season's best gift-giver.
We must not forget the most critical enthusiasts of the holiday season: kids. Stop by the Circle of Hands for artisan toys, where the emphasis is on crafts made from natural materials such as wood and wool. This alternative toy store offers European handmade wooden toys and games as well as locally made toys (including wooden trucks that a Santa Rosa chemistry teacher makes as a hobby). The store also offers hands-on game sets, and if you want to gain family status as favorite aunt or uncle with a special niece, there's a tea cup party.
For $30, parents can drop off their child at the Circle of Hands for an afternoon of crafts and tea, led by teacher-owner Leslie Young. There are also workshops for adults to learn how to make dolls and toys, for any parent who would like to flip the script and give the youngster in his or her life a handmade gift.
Ready for a quick shopping break? Head over to the Crooked Goat for a de-stressing brew, where you can combine two of America's favorite pastimes: drinking and shopping. The Crooked Goat began with a group of Sebastopol friends home-brewing in garages, and has evolved into a local hub of beer fanaticism. While enjoying a brew, you can also buy the perfect gift for your beer enthusiast: a growler of Sebastopol's yummiest suds. The Crooked Goat offers a variety of fruity brews, from the Mango Tango ale to the local favorite Grapefruit Ibex IPA, but also kills it with traditional, no-fuss brews such as the Fuzzy Logic IPA.
Keep the buzz going and head to Spirit Works to shop for friends and family members who love all things spirited. A quick and easy present? Put together a gift pack that starts at $55. You choose an alcohol, and Spirit Works creates a build-a-bar basket based on your choice. If you want to taste what you are giving, tasting flights start at $12.
Saving the sweetest Barlow offering for last, the Village Bakery has been a treat and bread haven for the past two decades, offering all-natural pastries with an emphasis on local and in-season ingredients and menus. A holiday season without sugary treats is like a department store without holiday-season pop music—it's unheard of!—so indulge.
Outside of the Barlow, Sebastopol's got a few other stores with holiday-gift staples worth noting. Glassfusion and Pottery Too offers the perfect gift for any DIY family member, especially those with children: gift cards! Multiple holiday-themed pottery events are on deck between now and Christmas for both kids and adults. They include the Dr. Seuss "Whoville" Christmas Tree event for kids, and the fused-glass wreath class for adults. They've even got pet-centric gifts for family members whose children are furry and bark a lot; for $45, buy them a custom painting of Fido on an ornament.
Milk and Honey is a Sebastopol classic and the ideal store for an aunt who wants to get in touch with her spiritual side, for a witchy best friend intrigued by the world of tarot cards, and for all other goddesses in your life. Smelling of spicy incense, Milk and Honey offers crystals, moon cycle calendars, candles, local jewelry—and vagina sculptures.