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Giving great: Take gifts beyond average by supporting local, handmade this year

While holiday shopping season approaches, don’t get caught in the dust with stress about where to buy unique gifts that will WOW your friends and loved ones. The Avenue for the Arts provides you with a numerous amount of options on where to shop this holiday season.
Heartside Gallery

Heartside Gallery /Provided by Avenue for the Arts

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First Friday: December 4, 6-9 p.m.
Avenue for the Arts on South Division between Fulton and Wealthy Street
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Craft House Gallery

Craft House Gallery /Provided by Avenue for the Arts

Sanctuary Folk Art

Sanctuary Folk Art /Provided by Avenue for the Arts

Want to feel extra good about your holiday shopping this year? What if a perfect, one-of-a-kind gift was easy to find, would support the local community, and created a charitable ripple effect that will reach throughout the year? Here are a few things to consider in finding gifts that are a step beyond average. First, buy local, for every $100 spent locally, around 70% of that revenue stays within the community; when the same amount is spent at a larger chain, less than half of those dollars remain in Grand Rapids. Next, buy goods that are also locally produced, which means that almost all of the dollars spent remain local. While you’re at it, why not go all out and give a gift that gives back? There are a collection of locally owned shops in downtown Grand Rapids that support unique, creative collaborations this holiday season and make it effortless to find the perfect, extra special gift this season.

Looking for a shop that features locally produced goods and is locally owned? Businesses like Woosah, Parliament the Boutique and Have Company are locally owned and feature locally produced gifts. Similarly, Heartside Gallery and Studio has been helping local community members expand their creativity by providing a space to create, show and sell artwork for over two decades. Upon walking into the gallery, visitors report feeling a sense of belonging, with the walls filled with art from local artists of all kinds. Serving over 100 people daily, Heartside Ministries, the umbrella nonprofit supporting the Gallery, provides helpful programs and services including job searching, education planning, creative healing, connections to stable housing and more. While this nonprofit supports individuals through service, artists also make a commission off of works sold in the gallery. Support the artists directly during the Holiday Sale or during regular gallery hours, make an honorary contribution or consider volunteering to support the program.

Unique gifts that make a difference can be hard to find. BoldSOCKS is a specialty sock store at 17 S. Division that not only provides the boldest of socks for sale, but has provided 3,136,300 days of clean water through their Statement sock collection sales. For every pair of socks sold, 100 days of clean water is provided for someone in Africa. This is accomplished through the boldSOCKS’ partnership with 20 Liters. The funds earned from sales of their Statement sock line are used to purchase the supplies needed to create the water filters, distribute them and educate people as to how to install and maintain the filters. Besides providing amazing socks for purchase, BoldSOCKS also provides sustainable funding for multiple organizations.

VILLA is a new store at 4 E. Fulton that offers vibrant wears from head to toe. While this store is posh and polished, it also ascribes to revitalizing the nearby communities by providing educational, environmental and economic planning programs for teens. Check out the programs here. One of VILLA’s programs, Homesewn, is a program that supports local fashion designers by providing production, marketing, design and packaging solutions. Homesewn promotes fashion creativity, diversity and local job growth. Subscribe, keep updated online and check out ways to get involved in Homesewn and the possibility of getting your brand in VILLA.

With less than a month in the commercial store front  at 115 South Division, Has [Heart] has a clean, contemporary interior. Started over five years ago, this fashion/art collaboration pairs military veterans and designers to create products that share, heal and are beautiful.  Each shirt, poster bag and boot tells a story about a veteran’s experience, helping to promote awareness and healing.

"Every product has a story and a purpose -- the t-shirts share a veteran's inspiring story, the boots are 100% made in the USA and utilize black Special Ops camo. The sweatshirts, hats, hand-crafted leather goods, coffee mugs and candles are all inspired by classic military style and functionality. Above all, everything in the store is for a good cause and made for the civilian public," says Tyler Way, one of the Has [Heart] founders. See the designs in person during their open hours, or visit the online shop.

This collection of locally owned shops and nonprofits is located on the Avenue for the Arts, the South Division corridor between Fulton and Wealthy. Be sure to stop by during their holiday hours or during the First Friday on December 4th from 6:00-9:00 PM.  First Friday is a monthly series hosting special events, shows, and deals. Some events going on for December’s First Friday:

MATURATION Art Education Exhibition at 106 Gallery and Studio

Human, Human at Spiral

Artist Attic Sale at 122 S. Division

Found Color at 337 project space

People's Picture Company 

Woosah and Uncle Cheetah's present Woo Stew @ Woosah

Heartside Gallery Holiday Sale at Heartside Gallery and Studio

Holiday Arts Party OPEN Event at Avenue for the Arts [work]Space

Bombadil Books

Dodds Record Shop

from the earth : a celebration of ceramic wares at Have Company

Daily Robot Shop at Craft House

Lines of Communication at Neighbor Gallery

Can’t make it to the December event? The Avenue for the Arts Holiday Gallery and Shop Hop on December 12 during 12:00-8:00 p.m., features over 15 businesses and pop-up shops with open hours, specials and great gifts for the whole family. Be sure to follow the event to keep updated on posts from the local businesses on deals they will be having the day of the event. The choice is clear on where to shop this year. Save yourself the stress of shopping at big box retail and check out the local options on Avenue for the Arts located on South Division between Fulton and Wealthy.


The Avenue for the Arts is a neighborhood title for the South Division commercial corridor. We are residential, commercial and nonprofit groups working together in a creative community. We are residents in Heartside, and active participants in shaping change in our neighborhood. In 2005, we chose the Avenue for the Arts as a title to represent our commercial corridor and the projects and events that we create. Because the Avenue is powered by volunteers, guest writers create our Rapidian content. Special thanks to Samantha Andrade for writing this month’s article. “The dreams of many become reality when hand in hand we try,” a personal quote that Samantha Andrade, Music Networker and musician, live by. Samantha organizes and promotes music events with local, regional and the occasional national touring acts at various places in the Grand Rapids area under Atmospheric Productions.

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