Shoppers looking for gifts beyond the usual online and big-box options have only to visit some of the many shops scattered across Whidbey Island.
Known for its booming small business scene, the island is perfect for those looking for unconventional, unusual or odd items that would make perfect gifts for under the Christmas tree or Hanukkah bush.
Here is just a sampling of what’s on the island:
Stone steps under an archway lead the way for stone seekers to Llynya’s, a warm, light-filled store filled with healing artifacts in Freeland. Owner Llynya Carey knows the name and birth place of every stone in her collection. By attending gem shows, she hand-picks the stones and crystals that speak to her.
“I used to be a kid who picked stones out of the streams constantly, so I guess it’s been with me my whole life,” she said with a laugh.
Partial to purple, Carey has several amethyst geodes, some cut into the shape of a heart. But her current favorite piece in the store, which she refers to as “the goddess of the store,” is a gigantic pink Lemurian crystal from Brazil.
Other special stones include smoky quartz and rose quartz, which Carey said are both soothing and healing.
“I like to have a collection that has a lot of fun, has a lot of price range, but people can also find something that’s really unique for them,” she said.
Carey recommends that customers pick up the stones to see how they feel in the palm of their hands, even taking them outside to see how they shine in the sunlight.
Her newest shipment of gems, red amethyst from Turkey, is on display now.
Upon entering Oak Harbor’s Purple Moon, it can feel similar to stepping into a massive rummage sale. The more you look, the more you discover.
Employee Laura Grandy believes the store is one of the only places on the island to carry Polish pottery, sturdy stoneware painted in deep blues that is both microwave- and dishwasher-safe.
“It’s definitely an eye catcher,” she said. “We have a few people that come in and buy it religiously, it’s a collector’s item.”
Other unique items in the store include a collection of vintage dolls, which are based on known historical figures and fossils of sea creatures. For $250, a megalodon tooth can be purchased. For those on a thriftier budget, large shards of the prehistoric sharks’ teeth are a mere $7.
Gems and stones are also plentiful. Large geodes the size of boulders stand poised beside the collection of much smaller polished rocks.
“Every time you come into the store, there’s something new to see,” Grandy said.
For those shopping for people who partake, there are several marijuana shops along the highway. Whidbey Island Cannabis Company in Freeland is the first one encountered coming from the Clinton ferry.
General manager Kathy McCoy said many of the glass-blown pipes in the store are made by an Oak Harbor vendor. They combine artistry and practicality, featuring swirls, spikes like a dragon’s and tiny mushrooms.
Other marijuana products, such as bath bombs and bath salts, might make neat stocking stuffers for adult tokers without breaking the bank. Of course, there’s a large assortment of marijuana buds with many interesting names.
Being inside Music For the Eyes immediately transports a customer from Langley to a different place. Owners Fred and Sharon Lundahl take two big trips abroad every year, picking up bits of culture for their store in the Village by the Sea.
Rugs from the Middle East are what they are known for, but the store also features tribal jewelry, felt puppets, funky hats and an extensive bead collection.
Items from Tibet, Nepal, India, Turkey, Afghanistan and most recently, Japan, proliferate in the store. Everywhere a shopper looks are unique items from faraway places.
Many already know Bayview Garden Center for its Christmas trees and accompanying ornaments, but this year a shelf full of snowy owl decorations stands sentry towards the back of the greenhouse.
This boom in owl population is due to high demand from years past. Owner Maureen Murphy explained the need to bring in more owls than ever before.
“This year we created a backdrop display for the owls and brought in a ton,” she said. “Our owls continue to be very popular for decorating Christmas trees, mantles and window sills.”
An “Owl Snowy Night” display was created using a black painted canvas sheet and spattered white paint for stars and branches for perches.
For those tired of traditional peppermint, it may be time to seek out another kind of candy cane. Langley’s The Star Store offers a very nontraditional range of flavors, from mac ‘n cheese to bacon to pickles to coal. Kale was also offered, but sold out the fastest, owner Tamar Felton said.
Felton has tried both bacon and pickles and recommends the flavors.
Felton has yet to try the newest flavor added this year, mac ‘n cheese, but hopes to get an opportunity soon.
Shoppers can also check out a selection of buffalo plaid and faux fur clothing; small gnomes throughout the store can even be seen wearing it.
And of course, a holiday gift guide would not be complete without a nod to the wide variety of artists on Whidbey Island. For $75, Clinton pet artist Susan Jensen can immortalize a pet with her caricatures. Working from a photograph and details from the owner, Jensen uses pastels to create drawings of furry friends.
“I try to capture their personality. Most pets have a story,” she said.
The portraits are not intended to be serious, but they do have a lot of character and color. Pets are drawn on an 8-by-10 inch suede mat board. Each caricature takes about four hours for Jensen to complete.
Besides the multitude of cats and dogs, she’s drawn chickens, turtles, horses and parrots.
“The love that people have for their pets just motivates me,” Jensen said.