Great places to buy unique holiday gifts in Toronto

by Jeff Cottrill

You’re looking for the perfect Christmas gift for that certain loved one in your life, whether that’s a partner, a parent or a longtime friend. You want something unique and personal – not just a new tie, but a gift that seems specifically made for that person. Not a problem: Toronto has a diverse selection of small or independent retailers that can offer presents you’re not likely to find at the Eaton Centre – and as a bonus, you might avoid the rush of holiday shoppers at the bigger franchises. Take this list as a starting point to make Christmas shopping a pleasure instead of a routine. Here are the best places to buy unique gifts in Toronto. [Photo of Saudade ©Yellow Pages / Pages Jaunes]

Great places to buy unique holiday gifts in Toronto

Spacing
Why not start with Toronto’s top shop themed on Toronto itself? Affiliated with the magazine of the same name, Spacing has loads of Hogtown merchandise, including clothes, books, buttons, shot glasses, vintage TTC posters and more. It’s not a tourist souvenir store – no Mounties or beavers on display here – but a place that celebrates our city’s unique iconography with cool gift items.

Treasure Island Toys
Arrrrrrr! Every toy store should have a pirate ship as its centrepiece. The Toy Ahoy is just one of the kids’ play stations in this independently owned store that has charmed the east end since 1988, and it’s a strategic way to keep the little ones distracted while you pick out their Christmas presents. A wide selection of products available, from the big names to local brands like Anouk’s Ark and uKloo.

  • Hours: Monday to Wednesday: 9:30 am to 7 pm, Thursdays and Fridays: 9:30 am to 8 pm, Saturdays: 9:30 am to 6 pm, Sundays: 11 am to 5 pm
  • Events
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Silver Snail
This popular shop isn’t just about comic books and graphic novels – it’s also full of action figures, toys, clothes and other pop-culture-themed collectibles for the geek in your life. Superheroes, Star Wars, Star Trek, Doctor Who, The Simpsons ... whatever your fanboy or fangirl is into, the Snail should have it covered. There’s a café on the upper floor where you can chill after browsing for gifts.

Easy Tiger
Since 2013, this west-end gift shop and café has become a popular hangout, and owner Zai Rajkotwala has earned a reputation as someone who connects with people. Easy Tiger specializes in gift items of quality and unique design, from jewellery and women’s clothes to personal-care products, accessories, homewares, books and stationery. A great place for dudes who are unsure what to get their lady friends.

The Toronto Christmas Market
From now until December 23, this annual Yuletide market takes over the Distillery Historic District, allowing you to shop for unique gifts in this Dickensian neighbourhood of cobblestone streets and Victorian-era factory buildings. Dozens of vendors offer handmade crafts and ornaments, along with treats, alongside a giant Christmas tree and live entertainment. $6 admission on weekends, starting Fridays at 5 pm.

  • Hours: Tuesday to Thursday: 12 pm to 9 pm, Fridays: 12 pm to 10 pm, Saturdays: 10 am to 10 pm, Sundays: 10 am to 9 pm
  • Events
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Likely General
A perfect place to browse gifts for artsy types. Likely General sells a variety of handmade products by local artists and designers, and it boasts that all of them are crafted with “integrity.” Accessories, women’s clothing, calendars, apothecary products and jewellery share the space with works by up-and-coming visual artists and poets; the store also hosts occasional DIY workshops and artistic events.

Tuck Shop
A store that grew quickly from a local online business, this clothing shop caters to those who live in the city, but also like to spend weekends at the cottage. All the store’s garments and accessories – including jackets, sweaters, T-shirts and hoods for all genders and ages – are designed in Canada with the help of high-quality manufacturers. A good choice if your partner or friend is the outdoorsy type.

  • Hours: Mondays: 11 am to 5 pm, Tuesday to Saturday: 10 am to 6 pm, Sundays: 12 pm to 5 pm
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Kid Icarus
Another store full of handmade goods, this time in Kensington Market, Kid Icarus sells uniquely designed posters, postcards, greeting cards, stationery, calendars, colouring books for grownups and other paper products; it also has a screen print shop that lets you watch the process of making some of these things. You can even learn to do your own screen printing at one of the store’s workshops.

One of a Kind Show
North America’s biggest consumer craft show is back, from November 23 to December 3 at Exhibition Place. Like the Toronto Christmas Market, it’s a big place to find a lot of small retailers, who sell unique products such as handmade ceramics, textiles, ornaments and jewellery. DIY workshops show you how to make your own holiday gifts, with live fashion shows illustrating how to wear them.

  • Hours: Monday to Saturday, 10 am to 9 pm; Sundays, 10 am to 6 pm
  • Where: Enercare Centre
  • Admission: $15 adults, $7.50 seniors and youths aged 13-17, $12 adult group rate
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I Have a Crush on You
Not unlike Likely General, this is part gift shop and part gallery, selling greeting cards, notebooks and accessories by local artists; in this case, the Liberty Village store is owned by design studio Smitten Kitten, which operates from the back of the shop. I Have a Crush is known for cheeky, odd products, like edgy alphabet cards, Bill Murray colouring books and hand soap shaped like ... human hands.

401 Games
Everybody knows at least one board-game addict. This downtown store has hundreds of games for sale, with new releases coming in all the time. Trading cards, sleeves, dice and other game supplies are available here too, and the store’s game lounge gives you an opportunity to try them out with friends before deciding whether it would make a good gift. Second location in Vaughan.

Labour of Love
This boutique is Cabbagetown’s gift central, catering to customers of all ages, personalities and budgets. Jewellery, apothecary products, cards, stationery, home decor, sunglasses, bar supplies and more are on display here, as well as many Canadian and Toronto-themed items, including CBC toques and socks, maple-leaf-shaped pancake molds and T-shirts with pics of TTC streetcars.

Collected Joy
This small shop in Kingston Road Village has gift items both functional and decorative, such as clothing, jewellery, pottery, glassware and cards. Quirky designs include a Venus de Milo bottle cork and sculptures of hands making the peace and metal signs. Sassy holiday cards are also available, with messages like “Spike the nog,” as well as scarves, legwarmers and other winter gear.

Saudade
Have a friend or relative who recently moved into new digs? If you missed the housewarming party, here’s where you can find some good houseware items to fill their place for Christmas. Saudade sells traditional products shipped in from Europe from Portuguese designers and brands, such as blankets, kitchen items, soaps, moisturizers, ceramics, clothes, accessories and more.

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