Biz Beat

’Tis the season to shop local; suggestions for unique valley holiday gifts

Florence Kincaid of Modesto looks at Christmas ornaments Friday morning (12-08-17) at Morris Nursery in Riverbank, Calif. Morris Nursery has an extensive stock of Christmas items for the holiday season.
Florence Kincaid of Modesto looks at Christmas ornaments Friday morning (12-08-17) at Morris Nursery in Riverbank, Calif. Morris Nursery has an extensive stock of Christmas items for the holiday season.

Hey, have you finished your holiday shopping yet?

Of course not, you’re human. (Congratulations all you non-humans who are already done and laughing at the rest of us as we frantically forage for gifts.) The most wonderful time of the year can become one of the most stressful thanks to all of the shopping, spending and so on. The good news is the Central Valley has a bounty of locally owned shops and locally produced wares that would make the perfect present or a stellar stocking stuffer.

’Tis always a good season to shop small and shop local, after all.

So here are a few suggestions for some independently owned area businesses with plenty of holiday cheer and gifts galore.

For the Christmas lover in your life, Morris Nursery in Riverbank is the next best thing to the North Pole. Every year, the garden center lights up with the spirit of the holidays with its annual Christmas Magic display, which they have been doing for over 30 years. The store features elaborately trimmed trees, a charming miniature Christmas village complete with working model trains and tons of holiday cheer.

If you are looking for a special ornament, they’ve got more than 10,000 (yes, 10,000) to choose from. The sparkly decorations celebrate everything from elves and mermaids to law enforcement and hunting enthusiasts. I think every member of my family has received an ornament from Morris Nursery over the years. And they hang them in their tree every year, too (I check). Most ornaments run $3.99 to $14.99.

Morris Nursery, 1837 Patterson Road, is open from 8:30-5:30 p.m. Monday to Saturday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. For more information call 209-527-5553 or visit

Have a foodie in your family? The valley has a host of high-quality food and beverage manufacturers and most have gift shops attached to their operations. Hilmar Cheese Company has a particularly impressive visitors center with a large gift shop and cafe.

Their cheeses make a great gift because who doesn’t love cheese. Heck, even I love cheese and I’m lactose intolerant. The shop also sells an assortment of non-cheese delicacies, wines and specialty foods. Pick up ready-made gift boxes and baskets ranging in price from $24.95 to $136.95. Or, pick out your own favorites and put them together for a custom-made basket on site. It’s a perfect hostess gift worthy of any holiday party, large or small.

The Hilmar Cheese Company Visitors Center is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Saturday and 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at 9001 North Lander Ave. in Hilmar. Fore more information call 800-577-5772 or visit

But how about that arty niece or nephew who is always so hard to shop for? Modesto’s The Chartreuse Muse lets you encourage the budding artist in your life while supporting other area artists at the same time. The charming gallery sells work from local painters, sculptors, crafters and the like. Selections start as low as $3.50 for a handmade hair scrunchy and on up. All of the gallery’s On Location show paintings will be up, and for sale, through the holidays as well.

Or, you could get your pint-sized Picasso an art classes from the school (they even have a class named that). The Charteuse Muse offers both children’s and adult courses. They also have a clay studio with classes and memberships. Registration for the spring 2018 class schedule opened this month. Classes begin Jan. 8. Kid classes run $20 to $60 a month.

And if you’re looking for a fun family activity during the holiday break, stop by during this month’s Third Thursday Art Walk Dec. 21at the gallery and you can glaze your own tumbler for only $5.

The Chartreuse Muse is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Friday and 12 to 4 p.m. Saturday at 918 10th St., in Modesto. For more information call 209-522-0935 or visit

If you’re looking for a unusual gifts or antiques stop by downtown Modesto’s Crow Trading Co. A neon sign out front proclaims it has “Cool Stuff” and it’s not wrong. The store sells local and international home furnishings, decor, accessories and much more.

Stroll through Crow Trading and you’ll see vintage sideboard and metal lanterns and hand-crafted jewelry. For that last-minute stocking stuffer for that special someone, owner Jennifer Williams suggests the brightly colored Eco-Concrete Hearts. The hearts are made by a small group of artisans in rural Southern Vietnam who are reviving the jute industry and support safe and fair working conditions. The natural fiber is mixed with concrete to create the simple, smooth 7-by-8-inch hearts. They retail for $19.88 each.

Crow Trading is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday at 1208 J St. For more information call 209-579-2173 or visit

And those are just a few of the hundreds upon hundreds of shops and businesses with unique offerings. Feel free to share some of your own with us online. Now, the only question left is how many of them you can hit in the next two weeks. Happy valley shopping, all.