Shopping Small Businesses Around the World

by Shannon

This year has been a rollercoaster for all of us, especially small businesses and local artisans. With many towns and cities closed to tourism and returning to lockdown this holiday season, some shops have turned to online sales. I wanted to focus on shopping small businesses around the world in this holiday gift guide.

As travelers, we know the value of the mom and pop shops that make each destination unique. So, whether you’re buying for yourself or another, these artisans offer local specialties and unique items. Consider supporting them this Christmas before heading to a big box retailer. Here are a handful to get you started!

Jerpoint Glasswork- Kilkenny, Ireland

I had the chance to visit Jerpoint Glasswork’s studio in Kilkenny back in 2017. Currently, the studio and storefront are closed as part of the second lockdown in Ireland. However, they’re still processing online orders and offer international shipping.

Jerpoint Glasswork has been around since 1979, creating beautiful hand made blown glass items. They have everything from small glass worry stones to massive studio pieces. Speaking of, the worry stones are one of my favorite items- they are inspired by the carvings at the 12th century Jerpoint Abbey.

Jerpoint Glasswork

Chugwater Chili- Chugwater, WY

The most delicious chili I’ve ever eaten- that’s Chugwater! It’s not just me- everyone I’ve served it to goes crazy. Trust me, it’s not my cooking, it’s the Signature Chugwater Chili! Based in a town, population 212, in Wyoming Chugwater Chili produces a variety of seasonings, and has dozens of recipes on their site. They also sell books, Chugwater branded items, and products from other small businesses in Wyoming, such as local honey and handmade pottery. Chugwater Chili is a local business supporting other local businesses!

Chugwater Chili

Crimson Chain Leatherworks- Toledo, OH

If you’ve visited a Renaissance Faire or sci-fi/fantasy convention in the eastern US, you’ve probably seen Crimson Chain! But, even non-costumers won’t be able to pass up their leather goods. From leatherwear to leather-bound books, belts and bags, gaming goods and even a few fetish items, there’s something for every type. It’s all high quality, beautifully designed pieces, handmade by some hardworking, creative folks.

With so many in-person events cancelled this year, check out Crimson Chain’s Etsy store.

Crimson Chain

Michaela Vargiu Designer- Selargius, Sardinia

Suggested by My Adventures Across the World

Sardinia is absolutely magical- so full of history, amazing food and wine, world class beaches, and its own unique culture. While part of Italy, the island of Sardinia very much has its own heritage and traditions. Its customary clothing and designs are distinct, and Michaela Vargiu captures them in her work. Using all local fabrics and goods, she designs bags, purses, belts and other embroidered items.

For a high end Italian designer feel, yet locally made and wholly unique, Michaela Vargiu is a great gift option. Include a book or photo of Sardinia to complete the Mediterranean vibe!

Michaela Vargiu

Puna Chocolates- Wauconda, IL/Kona, HA

Yep, you read that right- Illinois and Hawaii! I discovered Puna Chocolates in Wauconda, IL- a cute, Main Street sort of town- on a cold, snowy day. Nothing like a cup of Hawaiian hot chocolate to cheer you up! The family owned chocolate company grows cacao on the Big Island, and produces the chocolate there. You can actually tour the facility (during non-COVID times). The final product is sold in Kona and Hilo, HA and Wauconda, IL.

Puna ships their chocolates in iced, insulated bags. You can order ala carte, or get a monthly subscription. Be sure to check out the Hawaii Single Estate chocolates, and if you’re ever in Wauconda, stop in for some hot chocolate! Somehow, I doubt hot chocolate is too popular in Hawaii!

Puna Chocolates

Lorge Chocolates- Kenmare, Ireland

For a more international flair, try Lorge Chocolatier. Handmade chocolates by a Frenchman living in Ireland! They have a storefront in Kenmare, while the chocolate making happens at their small factory a few miles away in Bonane. Lorge creates beautiful chocolates, that taste great too!

I stumbled upon the storefront in Kenmare a couple years ago, where I was warmly welcomed by the chocolate maker himself, Benoit Lorge. He gave us a dramatic presentation on hot chocolate preparation, and we left with a bag full of delicious truffles! Like Jerpoint Glasswork in Kilkenny, Lorge Chocolatier is also forced back into lockdown, but continue to offer online sales.

Lorge Chocolates

Klan Rúnda- North Carolina

How about some Celtic and Norse woodworking, to go along with your Irish chocolate? Klan Rúnda is a family owned business based out of North Carolina. The specialize in Celtic, Norse and Viking themed wood carved projects. From stunning thrones that would be the envy of Ragnar Lodbrok, to wall art, pipes and even stone etched coasters, they are so creative! The products are gorgeous- the level of detail, the designs and colors are unbelievable. If you’re looking for a truly unique gift, look no further than Klan Rúnda!

Klan shield and hammer

LeatherWood Jewelry- Indiana

I love the Great Lakes, and there’s nothing quite like scouring their shores for treasures. Well, LeatherWood Jewelry creates wonderful, nature-inspired pieces from seaglass, fossils, geodes, bones and more- all collected on and around the shores of Lake Michigan. My particular favorites are the resin incased fauna- mushrooms, flowers, moss. It’s a little piece of nature to remind you of summer, even when everything is dormant and cold outside.

Mushroom jewelry

Local Wineries and Distilleries

Drink local! We’re fortunate in the Chicagoland area to have a plethora of distilleries, breweries and cideries, and dozens of wineries a short drive away. Most places have at least one of these locally, so why not try something different? Rather than buying a national brand at the store, stop by a local winery or distillery.

One of my favorite Michigan wineries, Gravity, only ships to Michigan, Illinois and Indiana. Lucky for me, I can order some! Another great example, Copper Fiddle Distillery in Lake Zurich, IL. They distill whiskey, gin, rum and one type of vodka. It’s small batch alcohol, distilled in the room right behind the bar.

wine grapes

Hometown Bakeries & Cafes

Even here in the states, many dining spots are returning to lockdown, with takeout only. Some are getting resourceful and offering gift baskets and other specials. Take Bagels and Bakes in Thirsk, UK- they’re offering these cute Christmas gift hampers with local specialties. They can’t open as a restaurant, due to renewed lockdown, but they’re putting these together in the meantime. Check with your local shop, restaurant or bakery that you might not first think of for gifts.

Gift basket

I hope this list inspires you to shop local, but not just from your town- local around the globe! These small businesses and artisans produce top notch items that will bring back memories of trips past, or inspire new ones when travel resumes.

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Elena Pappalardo November 6, 2020 - 6:22 pm

Love this unique post and it comes at such a great time! Will definitely need to keep some of these gift ideas in mind!

Shannon November 7, 2020 - 3:33 pm

Thank you! Hope they’ll cheer someone up this Christmas! 🙂

Taylor November 6, 2020 - 6:31 pm

What a great blog post idea! That is so awesome of you to feature these small businesses. It’s so true how a lot of small businesses were affected over the past year. Let’s hope 2021 is a better year. Thank you for sharing! 🙂

Shannon November 7, 2020 - 3:33 pm

Thanks! Whether its these or other small businesses, I hope it provides some gift inspiration.

Emma November 7, 2020 - 12:02 am

Great guide. I loved visiting a chocolate farm in Hawaii so really love the idea of ordering from Puna chocolates who even deliver here to Canada

Shannon November 7, 2020 - 3:34 pm

Nice! I’ve never visited a chocolate farm, but it would be fun I’m sure.

Sarah November 7, 2020 - 6:16 am

Love the unique offerings! You definitely don’t see these items every day. I always try to find something different to bring back from my travels. It’s great to see so many businesses adapt and come ahead of the difficulties of this year!

Shannon November 7, 2020 - 3:35 pm

Agreed, I usually try to bring back holiday gifts from my yearly travels, but they’ll be shipped this year.

Ashley November 7, 2020 - 7:43 am

These are such good suggestions! I love finding small local gift shops when I travel.

Shannon November 7, 2020 - 3:38 pm

Thanks! I love finding out of the way craft shops on my travels. One of my favorites was a market in a questionable area of Antigua, where I found a lady selling beautifully carved and painted bowls. Hidden treasures!

Shalzmojo November 7, 2020 - 9:35 am

What lovely gift ideas; in fact I would end up buying them as gifts at first and then when I would get home, would end up keeping most of these for myself 🙂 I am wondering how much of this you bought for yourself and how much you actually gave away as gifts. My fav has to be that leatherwood jewellery.

Shannon November 7, 2020 - 3:39 pm

Thanks! Well, I hope my family isn’t reading this post, because most of their Christmas gifts are coming from this list! 😉

Ada November 7, 2020 - 9:39 am

I really try hard to shop small so I appreciated this list! Thanks for all the fun ideas!

Shannon November 7, 2020 - 3:40 pm

Thanks for reading! 🙂

Katja November 7, 2020 - 10:07 am

Love this post! The more I travel the more I focus on and support small local businesses, craftsmen. It´s a great way to make memories, learn something new and give something back directly to the community.

Shannon November 7, 2020 - 3:41 pm

I agree, I wish I could’ve included even more in this post, but alot of those I’ve encountered don’t have websites or sell online!

Linnea November 7, 2020 - 10:09 am

Love this idea! It’s so good to try and support local bakeries too! Great suggestion!

Shannon November 7, 2020 - 3:42 pm

Thanks! I thought bakeries should be included, as I saw how many of them are getting creative with their wares.

Rachael November 7, 2020 - 3:59 pm

I love finding small businesses to purchase from when traveling, it’s much better to support local and more authentic!

Shannon November 7, 2020 - 4:16 pm

Right on, it’s part of the experience!

Carley November 7, 2020 - 4:28 pm

Some awesome ideas! I love a good local winery or brewery 🙂 thanks for sharing!

Shannon November 7, 2020 - 5:10 pm

Thank you! I think it’s a nice touch as a gift- giving someone a local taste of your area.

Nichole the Nomad November 7, 2020 - 6:34 pm

I love these small businesses and ideas! It’s so good to support small businesses, and I do every time I travel and during holiday seasons as much as I can. Thank you for these great ideas!

Shannon November 8, 2020 - 8:12 pm

That’s great, thank you!

Pamela November 7, 2020 - 7:03 pm

What a great guide to shopping local abroad. It’s so important to support local when traveling!

Shannon November 8, 2020 - 8:13 pm

Thanks! There’s plenty of small businesses in everyone’s town or city I’m sure, but hopefully these add a special flair. 🙂

Elizabeth November 7, 2020 - 8:32 pm

This is a great idea for a post! I feel so bad for all the small businesses this year. Chugwater Chili sounds really interesting. I will have to check them out. I love flavorful food trying different seasonings.

Shannon November 8, 2020 - 8:14 pm

I mean it- the best chili! And they just released a new one, green chili, which I haven’t tried yet.

Andrea Cannon November 7, 2020 - 10:10 pm

My parents are from Toledo, OH – I will have to check that out!

Shannon November 8, 2020 - 8:15 pm

Nice! You won’t be disappointed!

Mikaela Musa November 8, 2020 - 4:33 am

This is a great and unique post! I find it amazing that you’ve thought of featuring local businesses. I do agree that it is best to shop local when traveling to help with the economy and immerse myself with the culture through the local’s recommendation.

Shannon November 8, 2020 - 8:18 pm

Thank you! And yes, now more than ever it’s great to shop local.

Karen November 8, 2020 - 11:51 am

Yay for supporting small businesses! You have a talented eye for finding truly unique items from around the world. Very impressive!

Shannon November 8, 2020 - 8:19 pm

Thank you Karen! I wouldn’t even call myself a shopper, but I do love off the wall, unique items!

Lisa November 9, 2020 - 8:33 am

I visit Kona every year and truly love their chocolates and coffee! Great recommendations!

Shannon November 13, 2020 - 5:04 pm

Lucky you! Hawaii is amazing.

sam November 11, 2020 - 1:52 am

Lovely post….giving back to small buisness is a great idea!

Shannon November 13, 2020 - 5:05 pm

Thanks! If we’re shopping anyway, why not support the small guys. 🙂


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