Cillie’s (Athens GA) This store has a little bit of everything, from thrift to jewelry to novelty items like cat clocks.  Located in the heart of the beautiful downtown Athens, GA this store has been an institution in the college town that surrounds UGA.  The store is locally owned by the amazing community-oriented entrepreneur, Cat Bobon.  She has a heart for reselling vintage and consigned items.  Not only are consigned items a great way for a garment to fond a new home, but the seller can make a little cash as well.  Cat also hosts several vendors at Cillies including the famous Junkman’s Daughter (originally based in Atlanta) and Cindy Wilson from the B-52’s. Another notable vendor is actress Lisa Mende (from Seinfeld’s Ugly Baby Episode and Sex and the City).  Finally, a favorite vendor of Cat’s at Cillie’s is Betina Wasserman.  Her dog shirts support her dog rescue that takes in a lot of breeds including unwanted pitbulls.  Cat herself is an animal lover and cares for 81 feral and rescued cats.  From bags to costumes, boots to hats, you are sure to find something at Cillie’s.  

Let us know who your favorite small businesses, service providers, and local artists are in the Southeast.  If you are a small business owner and would like to be featured in an upcoming blog entry, let us know!  We are always looking for ways to support dedicated community members and their businesses!  Please reach out via social media!  ​

#WeAreAllInThisTogether #DoUntoOthers #ItAllBeginsWithUs

​​Lexington Farmer’s Market (Lexington VA) Visiting your local farmer’s market is a sure way to find a special gift purchased straight from the artisan, crafter, or farmer.  The Lexington Farmer’s Market is held every Wednesday from 9 am-1 pm (November through April) at the Lexington Presbyterian Church in Historic Downtown Lexington, Virginia.  One of our favorite vendors from this market is Kelly’s Persian Foods and her many varieties of hummus are perfect for a holiday party. We also love AbellaPaca Boutique’s items such as gloves, hats, and vests from the Ridge Valley Alpaca farm. If you have pets, check out Whistle Creek Pet Nutrition. From food to treats, your pet will love them. This Market is a lot of fun and a great way to support vendors that have a passion for eco-friendly and sustainable products.  

Pressed - A Creative Space (Faytteville NC and online): Pressed is located in the Cool Spring Downtown District. They in 2015 with the purpose of providing “a unique shopping experience” welcoming and accepting “weirdness, edginess, and uniqueness.”  They are community-focused both with their patrons as well as with their vendors and strive to carry products that tell a story.  They believe in embracing individuality, creating lasting experiences, making an impact on the community, communicating openly and honestly and constantly improving as stated on their “About” page.  They have a large range of eclectic gifts that can be purchased in the store or online.  We love their “Great Minds Drink Alike” Tailgate Hoodie and this Stemless Corkcicle (wine goblet) in floral blush. ​​

​​Because small business owners are passionate about their community, many carry environmentally sustainable products such as those that use reclaimed or recycled materials.  They also practice sustainable employment, often treating their staff like family and giving them decent wages and opportunities.  Many local businesses volunteer and dedicate part of their time and talents toward reputable local charities so when you support them, you are supporting a web of community members that surround them.  When The Front Desk Belle Concierge Services opened, it was to fill a need for small business owners and community members alike.  We truly believe in helping employees help themselves by providing better than average wages for those that take pride in their work.  Our superior quality and efficient services enrich our clients’ personal and professional lives.  Using our services such as personal shopping, dog walking, and cleaning services can give you the time you need for more important things in life like family, friends and grow your business. We’d love to help you with your holiday gift or event shopping as the season approaches.  Our services themselves make a great gift, but we wanted to put together some great ideas for gifting in the Southeast.  Here are our favorite “locally owned” gift ideas.  We have an array of brick and mortar places in the Southeast and yes, even some online options for your shopping convenience!  

​​Service: Style & Design (Miami FL and Online): If you would like a custom made personalized gift, you can work with a professional artist to design something special for your loved one. Michelle Sharkey of Service: Style& Design does commissioned artwork for homes and offices.  You can choose from a number of sketches and ideas and develop a piece that is one of a kind and created just for you!  If a formal canvassed art piece isn’t up your alley, you can order a personalized journal or other items.  Michelle can create personalized art pieces for your favorite loved one.  If you are in the area, she also offers live artist booths for events in which she will create personalized art pieces live for your guests as per their request. She regularly is hosted by the luxury goods boutique, Mont Blanc as a live artist. You can find her at the Aventura and Boca Raton malls this holiday season (11/16 and 11/23 3 PM- 7 PM Aventura Mall & 12/7 and 12/14 1 PM-5 PM at the Boca Raton Towncenter Mall).  If you want to support her but REALLY want the easy of using your Amazon Prime, check out her coloring book collaborations with graphic designer Brian Vaught. Tropical Destinations: from Boats to Beaches A Calming Coloring Journey give coloring enthusiasts a taste of beach and boat life.  It is self-published on Amazon.  American Road Trip: Color Your Way to Calm from Coast to Coast published by Little Brown can be found at large and small bookstores.

​​GifTicket, Inc (Nationwide Online): For those of you who just HAVE to shop online, many of the local shops offer gift cards or have products listed online.  If you are having trouble finding small businesses to support online, GifTicket is a small business-friendly gift card service.  They partner with small business owners, service providers and artisans providing gift cards for customers.  There is a small fee passed onto the gift giver for the use of this service.  The best part is that the fee is usually LESS than one pays for the big corporately backed gift cards.  The advantage for small businesses is that they can offer online gift cards to their customers without having to take on another monthly fee or cut into already slim margins.  Of course, the advantage to shoppers is that they can give the gift of chose to their friends and loved ones while still supporting a small business.  Gift givers ALL love the simplicity and “satisfaction guarantee” of gift cards but when they come from a place with specialized products or services, they are more personalized.  You can find a wide range of small businesses to support with GifTicket. They were recently featured in an article, along with The Front Desk Belle Concierge Services, not just for their excellent service to small business owners but for their philanthropic work with charities like Matthew’s Hope, a homeless life rehabilitation center.  If you are a small business that would like to offer virtual gift cards that are 100% FREE to your business giving you nationwide exposure contact GifTicket for more information before the holiday gifting season begins!  Your clients and customers will love that they are personalized, good for five years, can never get lost, there are no hidden fees, and receive reminder notices for balances over $5.  Whether you are a small business looking to make gifting easier and more accessible for your customers or you are an individual looking to support small businesses, GifTicket is at your service.  

Cornerstone Design Co (Fayetteville NC and Online) – Mike and Tianna Dean are committed to sustainably designed and manufactured products. They make stately Farm Tables out of reclaimed oak, pine, mahogany, walnut, maple, and poplar.  They sell home décor and gift items like this elegantly rustic Acacia wood cheese board.  Our favorites are the 100% handwoven cotton Peshtemal which can be used as a throw, sarong, beach towel, or picnic blanket and the Lifetime Tote made of genuine Arizona handcrafted leather and guaranteed for life.  In addition to selling their own line of candles, Hummingbird Candles, they offer candle making BYOB workshops for only $30 in historic downtown Fayetteville NC. They sometimes offer free candle making classes as one of the many ways they give back to the community.  

Cycle Party (Tri-County South FL): If you are looking for a new experience with your friends or family and you are in the tri-county South Florida area, check out Cycle Party!  They are cycle powered bar guided crawl.  You can rent a private bike for your group or you can choose a “social” tour and make some new friends!  For only $69, you get three drinks and a two hour tour!  Enjoy music and three bar stops in the BEST areas of South Florida.  For West Palm Beach, the tour takes you to the HOT Clematis Street area.  IN Ft Lauderdale, you get a locals vibe in downtown and Las Olas.  Finally, in Miami, enjoy riding through the art district of Wynwood and see the Walls of Wynwood.  Cycle Party is undoubtedly the best way to see the murals and try some of the BEST spots in town.  If you have a group with teens and younger folks, enjoy a personalized classic bike historical tour in Ft Lauderdale with their sister company Riverwalk Activities. It is housed in the same location. Riverwalk Activities also offers kayak, paddleboard, and bike rentals. If you want to cruise down the river in style the new Paddle Pub, a cycle powered BYOB pontoon boat is also a great way to spend time with friends.  

Love Muffin’s Cupcakes (Port St Lucie FL) What would the holidays be without the gift of food?  If you are attending a family or work-related event, sometimes you need a gift that you can share with everyone.  Cupcakes and other individually sized bakery products are at the top of the list of yummy gifts that are excellent choices for an event.  Love Muffin’s which is nestled in the serene Port St Lucie area offers a range of specialty cupcake and mini cupcake flavors. Flavors such as peanut butter, chocolate, cherry vanilla almond, banana crème, lemon blueberry and pistachio, and standard flavors are available. The Seasonal Flavors offered are pumpkin spice, carrot cake, red velvet, and maple bacon. For only $24/dozen, you can’t go wrong with this special gift.  

​​OUR FAVORITE SMALL BUSINESSES FOR GIFTS IN THE SOUTHEAST

Etsy (Online Everywhere): Etsy is another great place to discover hand made and personalized products.  Ask around on your social media accounts for friends of friends with cool Etsy shops and you WILL NOT be disappointed!  You can literally find anything on Etsy.  Once you dive into the cool stuff people are creating, you’ll be obsessed!  We have personally given and received many great gifts from Etsy artisans such as a beautiful cookbook holder by Uncorkdart.  You are certain to finding something you love as we love the personalized watercolor paintings of our puppies by Merryn Williams Designs. Another of our Etsy favorites is By The Brookside Hairsticks and Gifts (ONLINE): We love her beautiful products!  Brooke makes resin hairsticks and hair forks with real flowers, seashells, and driftwood. They are absolutely stunning and most are priced under $50 with many options $35 and under.  She also accepts custom orders.  Personally, I plan on sending her some flowers from my wedding bouquet for a gift for my mother in law.  Also, she donates a portion of her sales to support Sea Shepherd’s ocean and marine life conservation program.  You also can find Cillie’s Betina Wasserman’s amazing gifts and art on Etsy!

Small Businesses and Artists for YOUR BEST Holiday Gifting

In the world of the corporate take over of the holiday season, many consumers are making powerful strides to place their money where their heart is.  A growing retail trend is to purchase from local and small businesses.  It is safe to say that the average American falls prey to corporately distributed purchases for our basic needs.  The convenience and sometimes lower prices make going to Costco or ordering something with Free Shipping from Amazon Prime very enticing.  Cheap online shopping is often not the best option, because quality products and impeccable service enhance our overall experience.  Especially for holiday gifts, most of us strive for something more personal, gifts and services with a more personal touch or an experience that will carry a memory to last a lifetime.  Of course, the first benefit of buying something directly from an artesian or from a locally (or family) owned business is that you are directly supporting the folks you buy from and the community they live in and they genuinely appreciate your business.  You are assured to get amazing customer service, because small business owners are passionate about creating a community-oriented business and personalized touch.  They recognize that you can often find a corporate counterpart for their product or services, but chose to have a community-directed and passionate approach to their mission as business owners.  

Artisan Soapery (Online based in Hickory NC): This soap company is dedicated to making soaps in small batches and out of all-natural and organic ingredients.  They specialize in all forms of skin and hair care including lip balm, deodorants, and even men’s beard products.  The company began as a silver lining to a tragedy.  The owner Katye Fredieu was in a tragic motorcycle accident that left her with sensitive skin.  In an attempt to create something that worked for her, she developed the formulas that became her skincare line.  She is committed to making a positive outcome from a tough situation and committed to the community.  She offers reasonable wholesale pricing for small shops, florists and clothing boutiques.  We love her grapefruit and tangerine bar for ladies and the lumbersexual soap for men. Their Men’s Complete Beard Gift Set, presented in an up-cycled used cigar box, is perfect for your Santa baby. There is basically no way to go wrong with a gift from Artisan Soaps.  

​Breakaway Running (Memphis TN): Who doesn’t need a good pair of athletic shoes?  From the serious runner to getting back in shape walkers, this family-owned store offers the best customer service in Tennessee.  Their two locations in the heart of Memphis and Germantown serve not only customers in Tennessee, but in Arkansas and Mississippi.  The well-trained staff takes time out to custom fit your shoe for the best results.  They are so passionate about it that your satisfaction is guaranteed!   They are so good at what they do that orthopedists and chiropractors send their patients who are having foot and back problems to them for shoe fittings.  Not only do they have a full stock of all the top brands of sprinting, road running and trail running shoes, they also carry several lines of fitness apparel.  The shop itself uses beautifully crafted repurposed wood displays created by a local craftsman.  They are extremely community-oriented originally founded by a group of running buddies over 30 years ago!  They host several FREE group runs each week and they are the official host of the St Jude Marathontraining program, which is also FREE. Their passion for the community and genuine relationships they build with their customers has created a warm environment that honestly is just fun to be around.  A gift or gift certificate from Breakaway is a great way to give your loved ones Happy Feet.