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Oct 30, 2012, 3:53 pm
Holiday Gift Guide: Gifts that give back
By Heather Thorstensen

Valerie Gilfillan and Denise Flynn model some coats made by Flynn, of Rochester, from recycled sweaters. Gilfillan sells the coats in her shop, Bittersweet Boutique & Antiques, in Lanesboro. (Photos submitted)

BeeLighted, Fiber & Gifts in Zumbrota sells scented, food-shaped jewelry made by the Minnesota-based company, Tiny Hands.

A purchase of a Soap to Give You Hope item from Bubbles by Brooks supports cancer research at Mayo Clinic.

Baby slings have become the big item for KaMela Creations, a business run by two stay-at-home moms in Rochester. 

Beeswax candles made in a solar-powered candle shop are sold at People's Food Co-op in Rochester. The co-op also sells locally produced candles.

The non-profit organization Winona ORC, or Occupational Therapy Rehabilitation Center, operates Winona Knits & Mitts, which provides jobs to people with disabilities.

This holiday season, you have a chance to make a difference with your dollars. Several businesses in southeast Minnesota offer gifts that do more than just provide something you can give to others — they also gives back. It could be a fair trade product that ensures people who produce it have fair wages, or a locally made item, which supports the local economy.

Here are several options to get you started.

BeeLighted, Fiber & Gifts and Sarandipity
386 South Main St., Zumbrota
(507) 732-4191

Over 75 local and regional artisans are represented in this shop with products that include soap and hand-dyed yarn. Hats from KBB Creative in Chatfield are knitted, felted and embellished with vintage trim. Books by local authors are sold.

Don’t miss the scented, food-shaped polymer clay jewelry from Tiny Hands, a company based in Savage, Minn. Scents should last for a year.

Check out the Glee Gum, an all-natural chewing gum made with sustainably harvested rainforest chicle. It’s made without artificial colors, flavors, preservatives and sweeteners.

They also have eco-friendly art kits from the Madison, Wis.-based company, Artterro. These kits can be used by children to adults and come in 100% post-consumer waste recycled boxes that can be used as frames for the finished art projects.

Prices: From 99 cents for Glee gum to $150 for locally produced and framed fiber art.


Bittersweet Boutique & Antiques
107 Parkway Ave. N, Lanesboro
(507) 467-2292

Look for fingerless mittens and coats made from recycled sweaters. These items are made by Denise Flynn of Rochester.

Also available are La Tagua, a brand of tagua nut jewelry. 

“They call it vegetable ivory,” explains store owner Valerie Gilfillan.

The dye used on the South American nuts is all natural and made in America.

“Each piece is assembled and arranged and designed by hand,” Gilfillan says.

Price: Fingerless mittens and coats made from recycled sweaters range from $32 to $200. La Tagua jewelry ranges from $30 to $150.


Bubbles by Brooks


Bubbles by Brooks founder Amy Brooks, of Rochester, received a gift of handcrafted soap while she was recovering from treatment for leukemia. The mild soap helped her skin.

Now, she makes and sells natural soap, including a line specifically for cancer patients. With the purchase of a Soap to Give You Hope or Cream to Give You Hope item, 50 cents of each purchase goes to support cancer research at Mayo Clinic without the use of animal testing.

The Hope line has mild and gentle soaps made from olive oil and formulated with essential oils for aromatherapy. Blended scents include Uplifting, Relaxation and Harmony. Unscented products are also available, as are lavender body and hand creams. The line can be found on the Bubbles by Brooks website as well as Rochester Methodist Hospital’s gift shop, the Mayo Clinic Erickson Hair & Skin Care Center in the subway level of the hospital and Hy-Vee South in Rochester.

Certified in the use of essential oils for health and healing, Brooks’ other locally-made, popular gifts includes the Head to Toe shampoo bar and her lip balm made from beeswax and oils. These products can be found in all Hy-Vee stores in Rochester, as well as the Hy-Vee locations in Austin and Owatonna.

Price: Ranges from $7 to $17 for the Hope line, $6.29 for the shampoo bar and $3 for lip balm.

Dunn Bros Coffee 

Two locations in Rochester
120 Elton Hills Dr. NW #300
1340 Salem Rd. SW, Ste. 3
(507) 285-4991 for Dunn Bros North
(507) 424-3086 for Dunn Bros South

Dunn Bros Coffee sells fair trade, organic and UTZ-certified products.

“The UTZ certification is a sustainability program,” says Dennis Wong, who owns the two Dunn Bros locations in Rochester with his wife, Lynn. “It works with farmers to assure sustainable agriculture practices.”

Coffees with UTZ certification include both French roast and Full City roast. Eighty percent of coffees sold at Dunn Bros is UTZ-certified.

Dunn Bros also joined World Coffee Research, a non-profit organization looking into improving the global coffee industry and bettering the lives of people who produce coffee.

Price: Coffee roasted fresh in the store is $15.99 to $17.99. Mugs and coffee accessories are priced from $5.99.

Hight & Randall, Personal Jeweler

2048 Superior Dr. NW, Suite 200, Rochester
(507) 289-0500

“Do good, feel gorgeous.” That’s the slogan for Sarah’s Hope Jewelry, a collection offered at Hight & Randall, Personal Jeweler. At least 10 percent, but generally 30 to 40 percent, of sales from this collection benefit impoverished women by helping them learn to support themselves and their families. Some money helps American women go through a program that provides self-employment training and support. Other funds help women internationally by providing small business micro-loans.

During the holiday season, a portion of the proceeds go to a charity of the seller’s choice through Sarah’s Hope’s Give Back Locally program. Last year, Hight & Randall gave more than $1,000 to the Salvation Army in Rochester.

The jewelry is made with rhodium-plated sterling silver and Sarah’s Hope’s proprietary stones called E’sperene. The stones are a mix of finely ground quartz crystals and metal oxides. The line has necklaces to earrings. Some designs are reversible. Other pieces have interchangeable stones.

“Each piece is very individual in that you’ll never find two where the patterns are the same,” says Marta Toth, a Hight & Randall sales associate.

Sarah’s Hope’s goal is to make sure people who make the jewelry around the world are given fair wages. Their main manufacturing location in China employs handicapped workers.

Price: $100 to $400.

KaMela Creations

(507) 261-7781

Two stay-at-home moms from Rochester, Melanie Crum and Kate Thompson-Jewell, have come together to produce their home-sewn products. Kate does the sewing while Melanie supports the production process and handles the business side of things. Their main product is a sling that people can use to carry children, up to 35 pounds, or small dogs. They also make car seat covers in fleece and infant neck rests to match the car seat cover. Their hooded, fleece capes can be used by children 18 months old up to five years old.

“Our newest thing is the eco bags — reusable snack and sandwich bags, made out of different material,” says Crum. The sandwich bags are dishwasher safe and the snack bags can be washed in home laundry machines.

Custom fabric orders are available so people can support their local sports teams or pick favorite colors.

Snack bags are available at these Rochester locations: Rochester Produce, The Yippie Hippie Shop and Hy-Vee Barlow. Slings are sold at The Yippie Hippie Shop. Orders are also taken online.

Price: Snack bags, $5-$8; infant neck rest, $12; car seat cover $20 to $25.


Lanesboro Local

207 Parkway Ave. North, Lanesboro

(507) 467-2944

Approximately 90 percent of this store’s inventory comes from within a two-hour driving radius from Lanesboro. Gift ideas include cheeses, honey, preserves, pickled items, granola, salsa and chips, goat milk soaps, wooden spoons, pottery, fishing lures, aprons, Bloody Mary mix, market baskets, quilts, herbal remedies and jewelry.

Price: Ranges from $1.99 for preserves to $75 for a quilt.

People’s Food Co-op

1001 6th St. NW, Rochester

(507) 289-9061

Does someone on your gift list make a point to buy natural food? For a $100, one-time investment, you can give them a membership to People’s Food Co-op in Rochester. Members own the natural food grocery store, and enjoy discounts, dividends and being a part of the co-op as it prepares to move to a new downtown location, says store manager Lizzy Haywood.

Other gift ideas include fair trade miniature chocolates and truffles as well as fair trade knitted scarves, hats and gloves made from 100 percent alpaca fiber. They also carry t-shirts from Locally Grown Clothing Co. in men’s, women’s and kids’ styles, which are “perfect for anyone who supports farmers, who loves fresh food, who’s committed to sustainable communities,” says Haywood.

The co-op sells Sunbeam Candles, made in a solar-powered shop, and locally produced candles. 

Price: Ranges from $1 to $100.

Simple Soaps for Simple Folks

218 North Main St., Dover

(507) 923-8843

These handcrafted, goat milk soaps are created in Dover using the key ingredient from the owner’s own goats. They are also made with certified organic base oils. The business offers a variety of unique and seasonal shapes that include essential oil bars, fragrance oil bars, scent and fragrance free soaps, a Gentlemen’s Collection, solid hand lotion bars and lip butters.

In addition to the business’ store front and website, soaps are available at the People’s Food Co-op in Rochester, Oak Center General Store in Lake City, Lanesboro Local in Lanesboro, Scrub Your Butt Soap Co. located in the subway level in downtown Rochester, Country Roads Crafts in Chatfield and both the Rochester and Winona farmers markets.

Price: From $1.50 to $4.00


Treats and Treasures

112 S. Washington St., Lake City
(651) 345-2882

This shop supports local residents by selling their soy candles, books, art, handmade soaps, greeting cards, earrings, a jewelry line made from silverware and a collection of hair clips and pins from recycled pop cans and beer cans.

It has Pappa Pat’s Farmhouse Recipe, a line of soup mixes and jams made at Hodan Center Inc., in Mineral Point, Wis. Hodan Center is a community rehabilitation program for adults with disabilities.

Make sure to look for jewelry made with plastic that is recycled from bowling balls, made by ProAct Inc. in Red Wing, another group that supports people with disabilities.

Price: Ranges from $6 for jam to $40 for artwork.


Whimsy’s Closet

207 Bush St., Red Wing

(651) 385-8275

Whimsy’s Closet occasionally stocks fair trade clothing and jewelry, as well as handmade jewelry made by Minnesotans.

Price: Minnesota-made jewelry starts at $14. Fair trade jewelry starts at $12.


Winona Knits & Mitts
Click on “Shop our mittens.”

A purchase of their mittens supports the mission of Winona ORC Industries, Inc., a non-profit organization that provides jobs and job training to southeastern Minnesotans with disabilities. The work provides income as well as a sense of identity, purpose, structure and social interaction to the team who makes them.

Mittens come in adult and toddler sizes. They also have a line of mittens made from recycled yarn, thanks to a collaboration between St. Croix Knits and Miller Waste Mills. The scraps from St. Croix Knits are chopped into fine pieces and made into the recycled yarn.

All mittens are knitted, made on site and have a fleece liner. Check their website to find retailers who sell their mittens, or order online.

Price: Colored mittens for adults $24.95, toddler colored mittens: $15.95. Adult recycled yarn mittens: $29.95, toddler recycled yarn mittens: $19.95. 

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