When did we stop shopping for surprise holiday gifts for our loved ones?

That’s the question that New York Times opinion writer Margaret Renkl posed to her readers this week, lamenting the shift, long before the pandemic, to gift-giving via quite literally buying items that the recipient told you they wanted. You could cover the whole clan with just a few clicks, and the presents would arrive mere seconds after you clicked “buy.”

But while there’s still reason for safety-first caution with in-person shopping, there’s retail gold to be found in Mill Valley’s commercial districts, from the apparel and jewelry shops downtown and the the ever-vibrant Mill Valley Lumber Yard to funky Miller Avenue, eclectic Tam Junction and the vast Strawberry Village outdoor shopping center. WE HAVE DIGITAL MAPS GALORE IF YOU NEED ‘EM.

“This is not the year for wish lists,” Renkl writes. “With the supply chain disrupted by pretty much everything — factory slowdowns, shipping-container shortages, ships stuck outside ports, not enough truckers — holiday shopping is shaping up to be a huge mess. If the people you love have their sights set on something specific, God go with you as you make your way into the heart of supply-chain darkness. I’m remembering those long-ago shopping dates of ours and thinking it’s time to revive the tradition. The supply-chain snarls may be giving us the nudge we need to putter about in our favorite shops again, looking for something that would make a loved one’s eyes light up.”

“I mention “shops” deliberately,” she continues. “Big-box stores offer the advantage of one-stop shopping, especially if you aren’t picky. But if you’re hoping to find something unexpected and delightful, you’ll need to go to the little local shops that have survived in the age of online shopping by being quirky and brave, and by knowing their customers well enough to say, ‘I think you would love this.’”

Need more incentive and/or guidance? Call or email the Mill Valley Chamber – we can point you in the right direction for that perfect gift, lickety split.

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