San Diego Holiday Shopping Guide 2020

The Aurora Christmas tree at Little Italy’s Piazza Basilone

Shop small by visiting these locally owned San Diego businesses for one-of-a-kind holiday gifts.

Holiday gift shopping will look a bit different for most of us this year … and that’s OK. While we adore the larger shopping centers and major online retailers, we also feel compelled to give a little extra love and support to smaller San Diego businesses. While their brick-and-mortar square footage may be comparatively small, these shops are huge in heart and in distinctive offerings that make for fabulous gifts. In no particular order, the following are a few of my favorite locally owned retailers. Most offer limited-capacity onsite patronage, curbside pickup, delivery and/or online shopping. Please call businesses directly or check websites for hours of operation and pandemic-related updates before visiting. Happy shopping!

An abundance of holiday cheer and gifts at Gold Leaf
Gold Leaf

Every corner of this rustic-chic boutique—which looks like a cozy lodge plunked in a winter wonderland this time of year—is filled with a little treasure you never knew you needed until you walked by it. Gift ideas abound—from home decor, kitchen wares and furniture; to jewelry, candles, bath products and books. There’s even a Little Ones section offering baby clothes and arts & crafts for kids. To really get into the holiday spirit, snag a Roland pine candle ($12.50) as a stocking stuffer and for your own home, and be transported to a Christmas tree forest with every sniff. 2225 30th St., South Park, 619.738.8120.

Moniker General

Craft coffee, craft beer and craft furniture? Find all three and much more at this urban-industrial cafe/lounge and retail haven with a hipster vibe. With a focus on Southern California labels, the store stocks hand-poured candles from Craft + Foster, apothecary from YIELD Design Co., and conscientious fashion pieces by Outerknown and RicherPoorer; plus custom furniture, home goods, locally handmade bags, leather accessories and more. You’re bound to find something fun for the cool cats (both male and female) on your list. 2860 Sims Road, Liberty Station, 619.255.8772.

Plants and gifts at Pigment in Liberty Station
Pigment

With locations in North Park (the flagship), Liberty Station and One Paseo (the newest), Pigment is more of a magical experience than a store. No matter the locale, I always walk in feeling instantly inspired … and mildly delusional. Suddenly, I have a green thumb (which isn’t really true), and I’m design-savvy (which isn’t really true). Thankfully, their seasoned staff members are quick to help and make guests like me feel literally at home. Owned by Chad Anglin and Amy Paul, each light, bright space is a cornucopia of home furnishings, plants, flowers, design-minded gifts, artwork and more. Find lush potted plants and succulents at every turn—showcasing locally made artisanal wares, books, pantry items, jewelry, beauty products, and women’s and children’s clothing. But the selection of flora is my favorite—a sea of cheery greenery. 3801 30th St., North Park, 619.501.6318; 2885 Perry Road, Liberty Station, 619.795.6300; 3715 Caminito Court, Del Mar, 858.876.6360.

Mimi & Red

Ladies, this shop is just the coolest, and the clothes are just the prettiest. (A cautionary tale: I’ve stopped in before to pick up a cute top, and walked out an hour later with two bags loaded with fashion finds.) Offering trendy women’s clothing (mostly tops and dresses), accessories, books and more, Mimi & Red maintains reasonable price points (dresses average in the $40-60 range). The shop also offers regular sales, an online shop and new arrivals each week. It’s the perfect place to nab a casual-chic cocktail dress for the fashion lover in your life … and for yourself. 5005 Cass St., North Pacific Beach, 858.456.7933.

Home + Hound

Have a dog owner on your shopping list? How about a homebody who prefers his or her pad to be as stylish as it is comfy? This is the place. Home + Hound lives up to its name, offering impeccably curated artisanal goods for dwellings and dogs. On the home front, find pillows, throws, rugs, accent furniture, candles, plants, wall art, glassware, bar amenities and more. On the hound front, shop for dog collars, leashes, beds, toys, treats and specialty items. 3768 30th St., North Park, 619.485.0330.

Geppetto’s Toys at Seaport Village
Geppetto’s Toys

With locations across town, shopping at this locally owned toy store has been a uniquely San Diegan tradition for more than 40 years. I suggest visiting the newest location at Seaport Village, which transports shoppers to Santa’s North Pole workshop (even though it’s merely steps away from San Diego Bay). Explore a gold mine of children’s toys, stuffed animals, games, gadgets, electronics, books, puzzles and more—including all manner of Legos, Play-Doh and Disney-themed fun. Geppetto’s is one of those nostalgic places where I feel like a kid again. (Who remembers Lite-Brite? It’s in stock, Santa!) 835 W. Harbor Drive, Suite C4, downtown, 619.615.0005.

Little Italy Wednesday Holiday Market

Shop local and feel extra festive at the same time in the heart of Little Italy, whose Piazza della Famiglia comes alive with holiday lights, decorations and an illuminated 30-foot-tall permanent tree. (Nearby at Piazza Basilone, you’ll spot Aurora—a 25-foot-tall, Venetian-faux-stained-glass Christmas tree, lit by more than 1,000 LED bulbs—by California artist Joshua Hubert.) The ‘hood’s holiday market—open every Wednesday in December from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (except for Dec. 30)—spotlights a variety of local farmers, artisanal food vendors and artists offering handmade holiday gifts. (The market is operating with stringent safety guidelines, allowing a limited number of shoppers at any one time.) Afterward, refuel at one of the dozen Italian restaurants within easy walking distance. 523 W. Date St., Little Italy.

SoLo Cedros

I love losing track of time here. This quirky-cool, restored warehouse in the Cedros Design District houses eight upscale boutiques under one roof—stocking coffee-table-worthy tomes (including stunning books on architecture and design), both new and vintage home accessories, artwork, stationery and more. The Ruby Lang collection in particular is filled with pleasant surprises. From textiles, beaded statement necklaces and scarves, to antiques and 21st-century art, Lang’s nook is a mini oasis of collectible oddities. I often find myself exclaiming, “Oh, I LOVE this!” SoLo is a special place. 309 S. Cedros Ave., Solana Beach, 858.794.9016.

The Wise Ox

Treat your favorite carnivore to something with a little extra meat to it. This new neighborhood butcher shop and deli by Trust Restaurant Group is garnering accolades for it superior-quality cuts of meat. Wrap up cuts to-go straight from the butcher’s block, such as dry-aged wagyu, poultry, marinated meats and seafood. Guests can also choose from made-to-order sandwiches and salads from the deli counter; plus cheese and charcuterie plates paired with wine and craft beer. For a holiday gift, I suggest The Ox Box. Available for pickup or delivery, each box contains 10 pounds of restaurant-quality, vacuum-packaged proteins—beef, Heritage pork, free-range local chicken and sausages—selected by in-house butchers. Choose a one-time box purchase or a discounted month-to-month subscription that delivers different items each time … in which case, every month could feel like Christmas morning! 2855 El Cajon Blvd., North Park, 619.564.8976

A Bernardo Winery gift basket
Bernardo Winery

Of course it’s an ideal place to shop for the wine lover in your life, but Southern California’s oldest operating winery (founded in 1889 and family-owned) isn’t just a winery. I recommend spending the day here to enjoy all that the charming property has to offer. Relax and take in its gardens, holiday lights and decor; all while wine-tasting, dining alfresco and shopping at its Village Shops. You’ll find gourmet pantry items, home and garden accessories, artwork, botanical bath products, jewelry, clothing, sweets such as butter caramels and more—all locally made. There’s even a selection of custom gift baskets filled with candy, savory treats and, of course, wine. Red, white or sparkling? All three for me, please. 13330 Paseo Del Verano Norte, Rancho Bernardo, 858.487.1866.

Photo credits: Pigment by Meg Evans Photography. Geppetto’s Toys by Kimberly Motos. All other images are courtesy of the venues and businesses featured.

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