The 2021 PDD Holiday Gift Guide carries on the tradition of highlighting items with a local connection. What’s new is this year’s curator, as Duluth writer Beverly Godfrey takes a stab at finding those Duluthy treasures we love so much. She had a delightful time getting out to stores in person and encourages you to do the same.
Our list features 15 items, as usual, but the comment area is open for limitless other suggestions. Or email us at info @ perfectduluthday.com.
Popcorn from Duluth Candy Co.
The sweet smell of fresh caramel corn stopped wafting over Superior Street for a year, but the scent returned this spring. New owner Dave Siebert of Duluth Candy Co. said sales have “been all right.” The pandemic continues to be an issue, and supply-chain problems have hit, but tourists have found the store, and mail orders are coming in.
During a recent visit, Siebert continuously had to leave the conversation to tend to his cooking popcorn. He said he is working with the engineering department at the University of Minnesota Duluth to automate parts of the process.
The downtown store sells a variety of popcorn flavors, plus other candies and chocolates, including colorful lollipops made on-site. Both 2-gallon and 3.5-gallon boxes of popcorn can be shipped anywhere in the United States for $10. Prices range from $21.50 to $49.50. A collaborative gift box featuring a bag of “Duluth mix” popcorn (cheese and caramel), a 2-ounce bag from Duluth Coffee Co., a mug from DLH Clothing, and a hot chocolate bomb is $29 in the store, and also can be shipped.
The popcorn can be found in select Super Ones, Mt. Royal Market, and several Northland breweries, museums and gift shops, and ordered online at duluthcandyco.com. But you should visit the downtown Duluth store at 103 E. Superior St., Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and smell the stuff being made.
Charlie Parr’s Last of the Better Days Ahead
“Can you remember what it’s like when all the world’s filled with light?” Whether the answer is yes or no, Duluth’s folk-blues favorite Charlie Parr gives us plenty to chew on with his latest album, Last of the Better Days Ahead. Featuring Parr singing and performing on acoustic guitar, the album debuted on July 30. He performed his new work at a release event at Duluth’s NorShor Theater on Nov. 5 and will tour Europe this spring.
Aging, regret, frustration and loneliness are themes to this work, and who can’t relate to all that? “Every track on the album is a gem,” said a reviewer for Americana Highways.
The 11-track album is available as a digital download for $10, a CD for $15, or vinyl album (out Nov. 19) for $27 at charlieparrmusic.bandcamp.com. For more local music gift ideas visit the PDD post “Duluth Album Releases in 2021.”
Yard art made from bowling pins
Duluth folk artist Mike Olson doesn’t just get quirky ideas, he sees them through. Visions come to life at his website, flockduluth.com, where his charming “about” section explains his wife’s “love of eclectic yard art,” a stolen radiator-rooster, recycled bowling pins, the correct way to refer to a group of seagulls and more. (Birders will argue they’re “gulls” and not “seagulls,” but we’re in Olson’s domain at the moment.) Not one to ignore social media, he’s also on Etsy, Instagram and Facebook — where you’ll discover that he won second place in the Minnesota State Fair this year with his parody piece of a MAGA-loving, anti-vax scarecrow. (Sorry, folks; that piece is already sold!)
A bowling-pin “Seagull” sculpture is $50, and I know you want more than one.
Naturalight Candles’ “Lost & Poured” series
Owner Kyia Plummer makes her candles in the basement of this West Duluth business, tucked into a row of shops along a busy intersection at 517 N. Central Ave.
There are plenty of candles in neat, new jars, but the “Lost & Poured” series caught my eye. It’s the same high-quality soy wax and essential oils as Plummer’s other products, but these one-of-a-kind candles are poured into repurposed mugs, soup bowls, jelly pots and such. Prices are based on the amount of wax used, and volume varies by vessel. Some examples during a recent visit included Bamboo Coconut in a mug for $16, Autumn Lodge in a sugar bowl for $28, and a three-wick Coffee House scent in a coffee mug for $26.
It’s another shopping experience best done in person because of the marvelous smell. Parking is no problem at the lot for Memorial Park across the street. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Friday; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekends. Closed Monday and Tuesday.
If you’re shopping online at naturalightmn.com, only candles in new jars are available, including a cute sampler box with three small candles for $30. A special winter solstice series was due to be on shelves by mid-November.
Linoleum-block print by artist Monica Ihrke
Linoleum prints by Duluth-based artist Monica Ihrke include limited-edition series and greeting cards. “Aerial Lift Bridge and Her Inner Lighthouse” is 5×4 inches, matted to 8×10. Printed with eco-friendly ink at her home-basement studio. Price is $25.
“I’m fascinated by this bridge and the lighthouses that surround it. This little print is a continuation of my capturing Duluth’s beauty in a linocut,” Ihrke wrote of her work.
If images of the lift bridge aren’t your thing, she also has winter scenes, flowers, forests, animals and Bigfoot.
Gichigami Hearts: Stories and Histories from Misaabekong by Linda LeGarde Grover
“Misaabekong” is the “place of giants,” where the Ojibwe people settled long ago. Linda LeGarde Grover shares stories of this special place through family history and Ojibwe stories. Star Tribune reviewer Ellen Akins called it an “artful weaving” how Legarde Grover paired a story of her ancestors migrating to Fond du Lac alongside another about how Nokomis, daughter of the moon, gave birth to a rabbit and wolf. Boarding schools and lake spirits, poverty and gratitude all live in these stories.
LeGarde Grover retired this year as a professor of American Indian studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth. She is a member of the Bois Forte Band of Ojibwe. The book was released Oct. 12, celebrated by an event at the West Theatre in Duluth. Look for it for $15 at local bookstores, or online from University of Minnesota Press.
For a list of more local books visit the PDD post “Duluth Book Releases in 2021.”
T-shirt from Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center
For dads who binge-watch war documentaries, this smartly designed T-shirt from the Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center is the perfect $20 wardrobe enhancement. Gift shop manager Jann Brill said the museum’s F.U.B.A.R. and S.N.A.F.U. shirts sell more, but those might get you a little side-eye at family gift-openings.
Bong is known as the “Ace of Aces” from World War II, but the museum curates displays for multiple U.S. conflicts. There are hundreds of artifacts, videos, interactive displays and fun stuff for kids to do. And, of course, the replica P-38 that Bong flew to down 40 enemy aircraft. He was killed in 1945 at age 24 while working as a test pilot, and the event shared the front page of newspapers nationwide despite it happening the same day as the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima. So a T-shirt with his name on it has street cred with war history nerds. Throw in an individual annual membership for $40 more, or a fitted hat for $24.
Visit the gift shop at 350 Harbor View Parkway, Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m., or shop online at bongcenter.org.
Hold-On organic skin salve
You may have seen the Holden family in the news because of mom Stacy’s involvement in the area’s birth community. She teaches yoga to expectant moms and organizes the semiannual Birth and Baby Fair. Or maybe it was the kids, all four of whom have turned rock climbing and competitive climbing into a family affair.
Which leads us to the product they make, a skin-healing salve using medicinal plants grown on the family’s homestead in South Range. The climber’s skin repair has a higher beeswax content; then there’s a blend for us regular folk. Both are infused with organic ingredients such as chamomile, calendula, yarrow and more, which act as anti-inflammatory, moisturizing and healing agents.
“There’s nothing chemical, nothing toxic,” Stacy Holden said. “It could be edible; that’s how pure it is.”
The salve has a subtle, natural scent. It comes in a nice tin with a well-designed label, very nice as a teacher gift or to slip into a stocking. It’s available online at holdonskincare.com or in Duluth at Dovetail Cafe & Marketplace, Vertical Endeavors and the mobile Makers Mercantile.
Tins range from $7.50-$15. Free shipping on orders more than $30.
Duluth alphabet puzzle
Hucklebeary gift shop in downtown Duluth is a space where baby toys sit across the room from F-bomb-spouting greeting cards. Pride merch shares space with Paul Bunyon salt shakers. There’s black-and-plaid flannel, glitter, candy and balloons. Vinyl stickers feature Dolly Parton to Bob Ross to Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The website invites customers to “Shop by Vibe.”
The Duluth Alphabet puzzle, designed by Minnesota artist Sam Nielsen, is drawn in a sketchbook style she developed in college, filling a book with a drawing every day for a year. The puzzle is 500 pieces, measures 18×24 inches, and has a bit of a “twist” in that the finished piece has some design differences from the picture on the box.
The $22 puzzle includes images of Enger Tower, the lift bridge, a kayak paddle and other Duluthy stuff. It’s ready for some multigenerational fun around the cabin breakfast table. Hucklebeary is at 106 E. Superior St. and the puzzle is also available online at hucklebearyduluth.com. Many of the artist’s works are also sold as stickers for $4 each. And the puzzle design is available as a print.
Visit the store Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. for a chance to meet Bear the dog, the store’s namesake. Owner Emily Ekstrom expects new merchandise to arrive in time for the Christmas City of the North parade on Nov. 19, when she also will reveal her entry into the window decorating contest. I just hope Dolly Parton makes an appearance.
Anahata Herbals’ Back Country herbal tea blend
Don’t just experience the Northland, ingest it. Anahata Herbals grows, sources and forages local plants to create herbal mixes to promote health. The Back Country tea blend includes Labrador tea, sweet gale, cedar bow, sumac berries and rose hips. Otherwise known as “swamp tea,” according to the company’s website, this blend lets partakers “enjoy the wilderness from the comforts of your chair and fill up on vitamin C.”
“It’s an authentic Northwoods tea,” said owner Eric Ament. “Everything is of this area. It’s a great representation of the bounty of the Northland.”
Other blends are available at Whole Foods Co-op, Duluth Grill, Amity Coffee and OMC Smokehouse. A 1-pound bag is $67.50; 3.2-ounce bag is $18. Shop online at anahataherbals.com. That 1-pound bag could be divided into small jars, and all your gift-giving is got right there. Just a thought.
(The company advises you consult a doctor before drinking if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.)
Dungeon’s End gaming-dice accessories
Nerd up and geek out with hand-crafted dice bling from Dungeon’s End gaming store in West Duluth. Owner Alta Wickham and her son Zander get creative with pocketed drawstring bags, dice towers and jails. They even sell a life counter so you can keep track of how many more times you can die. Alta sews bags in the store. Zander makes designs with a laser cutter and engraver.
The largest bag is $40 and would be even better filled with some D&D dice. Dice come in a standard set of 7, from D4 to D20. A bag would be a gift by itself, but it is begging to be filled with some shiny new dice. A smaller pocketed bag is $28, and budget bags run from $2-$10.
The dice tower makes it easy to keep the dice on the table with nobody calling foul over how you rolled. The large one is $35, smaller one $20. Dice dungeons are a fun way to punish dice that aren’t performing well for you, at $15. And the life counter won’t cost you your soul, just $20.
Alta was happy to report the store survived the pandemic by taking sales online. “That was the straw that saved us,” she said. Still, the in-person gaming space was hit hard. “We used to host 90 events a month,” she said, “now we have 4 to 5 a week.”
Visit the shop at 325 N. Central Ave., Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., or online at dungeonsend.com.
Cedar and Stone Sauna
It’s hot, it’s sweaty, it’s Finnish; this is an “experience” gift that could be enjoyed by the whole family. Cedar and Stone Sauna offers 75-minute saunas as private, guided experiences for $69 per person, and community saunas for $39 per person. The sleek, modern building is set along Duluth’s Lakewalk beside the Inn on Lake Superior, 350 Canal Park Drive.
The company promises a high-quality experience that is unlike the typical gym sauna. Plan to be welcomed and relaxed. Cycle through hot, cold, rest, rehydration and repeat. Swimsuits are required; towels are provided.
Check the website, cedarandstonesauna.com, for more details and the longest FAQs list I’ve ever seen in my life.
Lake Superior Zoo membership and plush
Here’s the thought with this one. You buy a zoo membership and plush toy from the gift shop, pair them together and give it as a gift to a grandparent and child, explaining it’s a gift for both of them. The kid gets a cute deer, owl, moose, sloth, lion, etc. — which are made 100 percent from recycled water bottles, by the way — and the grandparent gets to spend fun time with a grandkid. And mom and dad get some time alone. It’s an investment in the future and a win-win-win.
Bee Fanaselle was working the gift shop recently and noted special events coming up, including a craft show Nov. 27, and “Larger than Life Lights,” featuring a 16-foot-tall inflatable bear, a 10-foot-tall tiger and more on display until Dec. 24. It’ll be crazy! There’s animals, too, of course, from the lions to tiger to endangered snow leopard, but for me, at least, the zoo is just a nice place to take little kids for a walk.
The Lake Superior Zoo is open year-round at 7210 Fremont St. A membership includes discounts at other zoos and museums around the country, too.
A grandparent membership is $80 for the year and admits the one or two adults named on the card plus all their grandchildren younger than 18. Hours vary by season. Visit lszooduluth.org.
Kirsten Aune Geometric Pillow
Reporter Ann Klefstad visited with Duluth artist Kirsten Aune in July, discussing her fabric design, fashions, artistic inspirations, work space and COVID-19 challenges. “There is an appreciation and revival of Scandinavian-inspired contemporary design here in Duluth along with mid-century modern,” she observed.
But today we’re just talking about these pillows. They’re bold, colorful and beautiful, featuring designs screen-printed by hand in Aune’s Duluth studio on organic cotton. Do you dare rest your head on them? Of course! That’s what she’d want you to do.
Choose 12 or 14 inches square for $50. Custom orders are accepted. Shop in person in Lincoln Park at 12 N. 21st Ave. W. Thursday and Sunday from noon to 3 p.m., Friday and Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. Shop online at kirstenaune.com.
A Crud Cloth is an “instant shower in a bag,” according to the Duluth-based company website. Inventor Tim White was inspired by the grime of mountain biking, but it’s easy to imagine dozens of uses. Each 100 percent cotton, 12×12-inch washcloth is packed in a resealable zip bag. Squishing it in the bag releases a cleaning agent, which coats the cloth so you can scrub yourself clean. Once used, the product is a regular washcloth that can be laundered. The business has been around a few years and continues to grow. The company’s Instagram refers to a recent expansion in Grand Rapids, and a partnership with Business Connect, a supplier of sanitation products worldwide.
Available at crudcloth.com. Also at Continental Ski & Bike in Duluth, Yellow Bike Coffee in Hermantown, and SpokeNGear in Two Harbors.
Lavender, citrus and unscented are safe for pets. They also come in tea tree and peppermint scents. $4 each, or a variety pack of all five scents for $18.
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