If you're in a bind this Christmas for what to get that special someone who seems to have everything, local shop owners encourage you to start looking outside the box.
Not only do many independent stores in the area carry one-of-a-kind gift items, but they are trying to offer their customers options that won't make getting yourself out of the red your New Year's resolution.
"Financially, it's a tough time," said Bruce Kramer, owner of Nature's Habitat, a novelty store in the Logan Valley Mall in Altoona. "So we try to keep things low."
Tim Gatehouse of Gatehouse Games in Duncansville demonstrates “Warhammer 4000,” a game played with painted miniatures.
Kramer said there are many gift items available in his store for under $20. The most popular this season has been a new line of winter hats and gloves with animals on them.
"These are the biggest craze this year," he said. "College kids, high school kids, even adults, they love them."
The store also carries 350 different T-shirt designs, with the whole back wall devoted to those inspired by various rock 'n' roll legends.
"Every generation can relate," Kramer said. "Their parents like rock 'n' roll, and kids today like rock 'n' roll, too."
If a vintage-inspired Jimi Hendrix T-shirt doesn't quite fit into that special someone's wardrobe, maybe they'll appreciate a vintage, shabby-chic item to incorporate into their home decor.
Stacey Parris, owner of Stuff Unique Antiques in the Gaysport area of Hollidaysburg, said her store specializes in inexpensive items for dorm rooms, first-time homeowners or anyone looking for something old to use for a new decorating idea.
"There's just those who still love the older looks," she said, "and the quality of furniture is so much better."
Parris said some of her hot-selling items are repurposed picture frames made out of salvaged materials. They come in all different shapes, sizes and colors, but are still made to fit standard-sized photos. They range in price from $18 to $25.
She has also gone through dozens of sets of retro tables and chairs that "come in as fast as they go out."
Jennifer Ford, owner of the Backstage Alpaca Shop in Bed-ford, has had the same response to her hot selling item - socks lined with alpaca fleece for $15 to $27. In one morning, she said she can sell up to two dozen pairs due to the fact that they are "so soft, so warm and so comforting."
"They're becoming legendary amongst the local hunters," Ford said. "Lots of hunters are coming and saying, 'My buddies are the only ones with warm feet because they have alpaca socks on.'"
Ford said Alpaca fleece is lighter, softer and four times warmer than wool. And a customer can buy a fleece-lined coat for around $400, Ford said.
"So if you've always had a yen for a fur hat or a fur coat, you can buy alpaca knowing that an alpaca was not killed to obtain the fur or fleece," Ford added.
If the person you're buying for already has a full house and a full closet, another option is to give a gift that belongs in the kitchen.
Kelly Baker, store manager for The Green Harvest Co. in Bedford, said the store can make gift baskets with their homemade, organic baked goods for any monetary value. They probably make 150 to 200 baskets with their shortbreads, biscotti, scones and other items each Christmas, she added.
"I think people order a lot from here because it's a known name," Baker said. "People in Bedford especially know Green Harvest, they know we have great baked goods and they know the dips are fantastic."
These dips, made in flavors like Harvest Cheese and Pinapple Onion, are selling fast at their $2.99 price, Baker added.
For the cook on your Christmas list, the LIFeSTYLE Italian food store in Bedford offers an assortment of unique items to tickle their taste buds. A variety of imported oils and vinegars, including balsamic vinegars in flavors like orange, chocolate, fig and strawberry, are priced as low as just $13.50.
Instead of buying a food item, Ferrari suggested the gift of a food experience like one of their specialty dinners. Every Saturday night, a five-course meal is served. Guests with reservations can bring their own wine bottle and sit at one long table with the other partygoers.
"It's neat because you can come just yourself or with a friend or boyfriend or whatever, and you're seated at a table with people you don't know," Ferrari said. "But once the dinner begins and the wine starts flowing, everybody seems to find a connection between them. So it's really like an event, it's not like just going out and getting a bite to eat."
If your gift recipient is more focused on working off the holiday eats than consuming more, a trip to Foxtrot Runners in Duncansville could provide you with the perfect gift for the workout enthusiast.
Store owner Adam McGinnis said the store is one of the few in the area to carry the Mizuno Breath Thermal, which changes the body's moisture to heat for overall warmth. The lightweight workout top, which comes in both men's and women's sizes, also deodorizes and makes it so a runner doesn't have to layer as much when running outside in the winter.
"I got a few runners into it, and they love it," McGinnis said.
The store also carries marathon-themed Christmas ornaments, and head lamps to light a runner's path if they're forced to run at dawn or dusk.
For the avid video gamer in the family, this holiday season could be the time to introduce them to some of the card and role-playing games from which these virtual fantasy world originated.
"This is where it all came from," said Gatehouse Games owner Tim Gatehouse, whose store stocks anything you'd need for fans of "Warhammer 4000," "Magic: The Gathering" or "Dungeons & Dragons."
"The computer is cool, don't get me wrong. Flashy lights, a cool joystick, all sorts of abilities ... but whenever you buy a game for 50 bucks, one thing is for sure, they have a beginning and an end. When you buy that one thing, you've got a finite amount of enjoyment you're going to get out of it.
"You can look at [these games] as less of a buy it, play with it, throw it away and wait for the hot new thing, and more of an investment in the [game] that you will be playing within 10 years."
Gatehouse Games also sponsors tournaments for different games every night of the week. Gatehouse said any novice interested in starting out could stop in and he'd teach him the basics to the games that he himself has played for years, and through which has made many life-long friends.
"I think it becomes a huge draw because it's not just a game, it's a social activity," he said.
Mirror Staff Writer Beth Ann Downey is at 946-7520.