by Sarah Anderson
Local boutique and gift shop curators sort through an abundance of options to hand-select splendid treasures for your delight. It’s no wonder that these experts enjoy your presence in their shops. When you hear that familiar “Is there anything I can help you with” question, know that someone genuinely and joyfully wants to assist you.
Delight your senses with the texture of artisan painted scarves and the lush aroma of hand-crafted candles against the backdrop of Christmas music and twinkling lights. See what five local cultural institutions have searched out for your happiness and amusement.
Grand Rapids Public Museum
The Grand Rapids Public Museum (GRPM) houses items that encourage the perpetuation of the awe and imagination that the exhibits evoke. Find apparel, books or toys that complement the current attractions. Bring home tools to help you catch butterflies or dreams. Adopt a new umbrella that doubles as a work of art or a Kikkerland wind up toy that moves to its own beat. Collect a bag full of beautifully colored rocks to put in the garden or save for a rainy day.
Sophia Stoffregan, GRPM gift shop employee, is particularly fond of the whale hand puppets, an item chosen in correspondence with the whale exhibit. The puppets allow the puppeteers to bring the whale exhibit to life in their own worlds. They also serve a dual purpose and turn into a cuddly friend when not in action.
Grand Rapids Art Museum
A shop so expansive it could stand on its own, the GRAM gift shop is full of iconic treasures from local to international artists, including Herman Miller lamps and Michigan mugs crafted by Megan Akiyama. The ever changing array of books, toys, fashion, and home accessories coincides with timely trends, seasonal delights, local interests, and what’s on display at GRAM.
Ann Trube has worked at the GRAM gift shop since it opened. What makes the items so delightful is the happiness their items invoke. “You want things that make you happy and make you smile,” Trube explained. “Everyone has enough stuff. Now you just need stuff that makes you happy.”
For Trube, her “happiness item” is her Eames elephant, an iconic piece used for decoration or play. “It’s amazing–the spectrum of people who know what these things are. Even the cable guy came by her house and said, ‘That’s an Eames elephant!’ ”
Trube uses it now as decoration and adds seasonal décor to her elephant, but one day she hopes her grandchildren will love it as much as she does and use it to play. It can hold up to 120 lbs. and promises to “enchant children and collectors alike.”
Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts
The shop at the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts (UICA) has a knack for turning ordinary items into extraordinary gifts. With their collections from local artists, shot glasses become candles, wine glasses become lights and candles shaped as animals melt down to skeletons. Shirts and totes are adorned with decorative designs and several ArtPrize archives are available for purchase.
Miranda Karjniak, executive director of the UICA, has a passion for many of the items sold in the shop and has gifted them plenty of times. One of her favorites is the Pyro Pet, a cute animal-shaped candle that reveals a menacing metal skeleton as it melts down. Karjniak says that their top sellers are the eye-catching, yet simple pieces of jewelry and their candle shot glasses.
Grand Rapids Children’s Museum
In a peaceful corner of a building filled with squills of joy sits a world of toys waiting to be invited home to awaken the imagination, inspire artistic ability and facilitate play. The Grand Rapids Children’s Museum’s gift shop goods have been carefully selected to inspire children to continue learning with self-directed exploration. From monster feet to smart-doh to beanie babies, the shop carries a delightful selection of electronics-free fun.
Gerald R. Ford Museum
Look no further for a patriotic shopping experience than the Gerald R. Ford Museum. Filled with gifts inspired by the Ford presidency, other presidents and first ladies, and the United States of America souvenirs, the shop is filled with red, white and blue. The cool and funky socks on the back wall are one of the only exceptions.
Janice Berling, buyer for the store for the past 14 years, says that her presidential and patriotic bobble heads and the White House Christmas ornaments are the biggest hits.