The holiday season is set up for a judgmental fat man—or threatening parents—to pose the question of whether your actions throughout the year register as naughty or nice. We don't like the options. Perhaps it's because we're not sure which side of the list we'd fall under, or because we were never very happy about being pigeonholed. But either way, we've found a stress-free way to avoid the issue entirely.
We have it on good authority from the jolly dude in the red suit that the best way to guarantee "nice" this holiday season is to support local businesses. The economy may be showing signs of life, but that doesn't mean it's time to steer our gift-tugging sleighs toward Reserve Street. It's just as important this year to buy homegrown, handmade or otherwise locally created gifts, preferably from locally owned stores.
That's why we've compiled a wide-ranging list of our favorite local suggestions for this holiday season. We surely couldn't list every worthy artisan or proprietor, but we compiled an enticing list that should cover every budget and an array of tastes. We even included a few options for those of you who may, for better or worse, fall into the naughty category this year.
Artistic Montana map
Things get a little crazy during the holiday season, and sometimes it's best to take a deep breath, take a load off and appreciate where you are. That would be Montana. Big Sky Country. The Last Best Place. Our old Montucky home.
Pretty cool place, right? And with a pretty cool history. That history is captured in the hand-drawn, old world-style maps made by brothers Chris and Greg Robitaille. Intended as a frame-able piece of art, these antique-y posters look like something Lewis and Clark would have commissioned upon their return—and they'd look perfectly distinctive on your father's office wall.
Find it at: Miss Zula's, 111 N. Higgins Avenue; Rockin Rudy's, 237 Blaine Street; or the UM Bookstore, 5 Campus Drive.
The Western Classic rifle
Starting at $3,295
Nothing spells locavore like bagging a bull elk just a few miles from home. Why not help the hunter in the family take hunting in Missoula's backyard to the next level?
Cooper Firearms of Stevensville specializes in a wide array of rifles, from single-shot squirrel shooters to big-boy game guns. Each rifle is custom crafted by local experts. We suggest the Western Classic. A tasteful walnut stock and hand-struck barrel—plus options for gold inlay and engraving—make it as much a work of art as a means for putting meat on the table. With roughly 50 calibers to choose from, there's a version of the Western Classic for every gaming opportunity in Montana.
Order it from: Ronan Sports and Western, 63298 Highway 93 South.
Missoula is home to a smattering of adult shops, but as far as we know there's only one locally owned shop where you can find body-friendly hand-blown glass dildos made by a local artisan.
Birds and Bees LLC, the sexual health collaborative that opened in September, orders these artistic accoutrements from a local glass blower, and offers a variety of shapes and sizes. While we can't independently guarantee the purchasers, um, satisfaction, we can say they are at least aesthetically pleasing. That helps on Christmas morning in case you need to explain to confused in-laws that it's simply a glass sculpture for your sweetheart's bedside table.
Find them at: Birds & Bees LLC, 1515 E. Broadway.
RoughStock Montana Whiskey
Westerners have a warm spot in their hearts for whiskey. (Or maybe it's from whiskey.) So why is it that Montana boasts a couple dozen microbreweries but nary a distillery? Well, for a long time state laws discouraged small distillers, but that changed in 2005, and now Montana has what's dubbed the "First Best Whiskey in the Last Best Place."
RoughStock is handcrafted in Bozeman from Montana-grown and malted barley and mountain snowmelt. Husband and wife distillers Bryan and Kari Schultz, fourth generation Montanans, began bottling RoughStock earlier this year, and the libations of their labor are now in liquor stores around the state.
Find it at: Grizzly Liquor, 110 W. Spruce Street; or Krisco Liquor, 1300 S. Reserve Street.
Sure, you could drop a couple hundred bucks on some designer handbag made of supple European cowhide. But why do that when you could support a Missoula family making the funkiest and most practical bag around in their extra bedroom in student housing—and save enough money to fill it?
Magbags are named after primary crafter and designer Magda Martin, and have become one of the hippest made-in-Missoula accessories. Magda makes the Mini Bag, Mega Bag, Mommy Bag, Laptop Bag, Baby Wrap and Diaper Clutch all in the jazziest designs certain to please even your most fashion forward (or backward) lady friends, especially the expectant ones.
The Missoula Saturday Market, where Magda sets up shop, is closed for the season, but you can still get your hands on her creations before the holidays.
Find it at: Sotto Voce, 111 W. Main Street; online at www.magbag.net; or at the Missoula MADE Fair, Sunday, Dec. 13, 11 a.m.—6 p.m., Zootown Arts Community Center & Stensrud buildings, 235 & 314 N. First St. W.