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Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2008 04:47 am

Shopping local is more fun

A guide to gifts with a Springfield flavor

Toni Duhon makes dog and cat dolls, available at Café Moxo.
A Del’s assortment includes white chocolate popcorn.

It may seem easier to shop online for Christmas gifts, but a growing number prefer shopping in person and buying local. Maybe the rise in shopping at farmer’s markets has folks looking for things homemade and authentic.

We suggest heading to downtown Springfield for shopping. It will make the holiday a more meaningful occasion rather than having a “Made in China” holiday.

Del’s Popcorn Shop, a staple of downtown businesses since 1980, has set up a holiday shop on the northwest corner of Sixth and E. Monroe streets, and it is loaded with all manner of popcorn, nuts, candy and good cheer. “People are just raving about our white chocolate popcorn,” worker Sue Caponigro said. There are also cinnamon roasted nuts, peanut brittle and other kinds too.

The folks at Del’s have a solution for hard-to-buy-for relatives: hand-painted bowls full of a trio of popcorn, caramel corn and cheese corn. Bowls can be customized with names of family members so that the bowls become keepsakes. Del’s also sells unpopped popcorn raised locally. Owner Shellie Jacobs’ brother grew the popcorn himself until retiring two years ago. Now that’s authentic.

Jacobs created a charming window scene of a popcorn snowman family, which is worth a look. Del’s other location down the block is going strong with popcorn, nuts, fudge and plenty of tins and baskets for giving.

Shoppers from the Springfield’s Farmer’s Market may recognize the darling little dog and cat dolls made by Toni Duhon of Litchfield at Cafe Moxo, 411 E. Adams St. In addition to serving up great coffee, breakfasts and lunches, Cafe Moxo has dog-related merchandise, Toni’s precious little trinkets among them. Toni uses vintage findings like buttons and cardboard tops from old milk bottles to decorate her animals. Each item is unique.

Toni has been sewing since she was eight years old, and has always loved antiques, fabrics, and quilts. Her philosophy is recycle and reuse. Her charming doggies and kitties are sold across the country and just this year the American Folk Art Museum in New York City has accepted her work. “All my dolls sold the first day,” Duhon said recently.

Cafe Moxo also sells bags of Duhon’s dog cookies made of natural ingredients (no chemicals), four for $1.25. What a nice, healthy treat for Bowzer.

Springfield is awash in shops offering art and crafts made locally. Step into The Studio on 6th to shop for jewelry, coasters, and keyrings made from old silverware by artists from Rochester to Carlinville. The gallery is full of eye-catching crafts, and fiber artist Mandy Curl’s handbags made from men’s suits are a featured item here.

The Blue Door shop at 627 E. Adams has wares made by 65 area artists. Suzanne Schmid’s necklaces made from old maps and lenses of cast-off eyeglasses are some of the most interesting items. From felted wool purses to picture frames, you’re bound to find something special at TBD.

The Prairie Art Alliance Gallery at the Hoogland Center for the Arts always has a wide selection of gifts in a broad price range, including silk scarves, wooden bowls, raku pottery and glass boxes. The gallery is beautiful and brimming with possibilities.

Shoppers who want to invest in fine art will want to see Springfield artist Kevin Veara’s recent paintings at the Robert Morris Gallery at 607 East Adams St. Veara’s day job is tattoo artist at Black Moon Designs, but he is a highly accomplished painter of stylized nature scenes.

Members of the Illinois Artisans Program have art and craft items on sale at the Illinois State Museum gift shop. Claudia Pitchford’s grape cluster earrings may be just the ticket for a wine-loving friend.

Sue Caponigro paints popcorn bowls at Del's Popcorn Holiday Shop.

Here’s an original gift idea for your sweetie or spouse: Owner Doug Mayol of The Cardologist has teamed up with Travels by Swan for Barging Through America, a series of barge cruises along the Mississippi and Ohio rivers.

Mayol is known for his love of New Orleans, and the first cruise is “Cajuns and Creoles” in April, 2009, an eight-day cruise on the Lower Mississippi River, Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, and the Atchafalaya River Basin. Cruisers will visit a swamp, the famous Evangeline Oak, Acadian Cultural Center, and the National WWII Museum in New Orleans. Call 525-3915 or 522-1999 for details.

Just south of downtown you can find shabby chic items and “repurposed” furniture at From Flea Market to Fabulous on the corner of Cook and Spring streets. These folks are an inventive bunch and are constantly revamping old mirrors, chairs, shutters, etc. to make them live again. Owner Jodi Cole makes lamps out of almost anything.

The Downtown Christmas Walks continue from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wed., Dec. 17, and Thurs., Dec. 18. Enjoy the season.

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