|As I was doing a recent writing assignment for the Mountain Democrat, I overheard a conversation that I found quite interesting at a local merchant’s register:
“Ma’am, do you have any items that say they are ‘Made in America?’” a gentleman asked.
“Why are you looking for something like that?” the clerk asked.
“Well, I’m going to a party in El Dorado Hills tonight, and part of it is a gift exchange,” he said. “The invitation specifically said: Bring a gift to exchange, but please — only gifts made in the United States of America.”
Apparently, the poor soul was having a rather difficult time trying to find a quality gift made stateside. The clerk helped him to find an appropriate item, and he left — happy and relieved.
But what a great idea for a party — and everyone would have a story to share. Festive fun, I thought.
The man has my sympathy, as I’ve had the same challenge with sending gifts overseas this year. My daughter is a Rotary Youth Exchange student in Sweden, and I wanted to send her host family and friends some gifts from the United States. Sounds easy, right?
It was one of the most challenging things ever. I’m beginning to think that it could eventually become far more fashionable to give a gift made in this country than to gift something “Imported.”
My daughter tells me that it is the same in Sweden. We are not alone.
“So many things here say ‘Made in China,’ Mom,” my daughter said. “The Swedes complain about it in the stores. And the quality of the goods isn’t really there, either. So many businesses have left Sweden because they can’t compete with the cheaper stuff.”
It makes sense to purchase items made here in the States, if for no other reason than it helps to keep our neighbors employed and the quality of the goods up. Call me biased all you want, but things made in this country are usually of much better quality than the shoddy cheap stuff I see in too many stores. I’d rather buy a quality item once than have to replace it multiple times. (So, which choice was really more expensive?)
For those who wish to embark on this “treasure hunt” for U.S. gifts, a little thoughtful planning may be necessary. Perhaps you will not give as many gifts, but the gifts you do give will be of better quality.
A few ideas
· Handmade, artisan chocolates from Snook’s Candies in Folsom. This is always a quality gift that people enjoy receiving. Three generations of chocolatiers keep the fun, creativity and quality going in these delicious treats. Snooks also does custom gift baskets. I’ve added other locally produced items to Renee Snook’s baskets and they always look spectacular.
· Mugs, bowls, candlesticks and other unique, one of a kind gifts can be found at Cloud’s Pottery in Folsom. Porcelain pottery is actually stronger than stoneware, and each piece is signed.
· Check out regionally produced olive oils. Mia Sorella in the Town Center of El Dorado Hills offers olive oils, balsamic vinegars and more. I am partial to olive oils locally grown and produced by Gold Hill Olive Oil in Gold Hill.
· Nugget Market in El Dorado Hills produces lovely gift baskets. Contact guest services when you enter the store and ask them to help you put together an “All American” gift basket. The friendly staff will be happy to help you with your request, and work with your budget to boot.
· Going up the hill, the Placerville Hardware store is hard to beat for unique gift items. There, they have everything from cookbooks to cast iron cookware and genuine leather tool belts made in Moss Landing California (and those quality made belts will last a lifetime). The staff at this store, which is the oldest hardware store west of the Mississippi, is able to direct you to items that are made here. They carry thousands of items for him and for her.
· Merchants at Apple Hill have lots of locally produced items, and you have the added benefit of a fun day trip. Check out local antique and collectible stores for vintage ideas, too.
· You could round out your gift list with gift certificates to local area restaurants.
· I often gift friends with locally grown Satsuma Mandarin oranges, which I purchase in 20 pound boxes and then re-package in smaller, cheerfully decorated bags. Sweet eats.
The possibilities are limited only by your imagination and the friends and family members on your list. Don’t forget to give each of them this great gift as well: the tall tale of your mission to find the perfect “Made in the U.S.A.” gift just for them. You could jot it down in your gift’s card.
Their hearts should be touched by the fact that you put so much thought and effort into finding something for them. The thought really does count. And isn’t that a part of bringing a bit of peace to this part of our earth, and a little goodwill to our neighbors during this time of year?
Food for thought.
Send your event for consideration in Susan’s column to [email protected]