Holiday Gift Guide: A Letter from Santa

In this latest holiday gift guide, the jolly old elf shares a few of his favorite locally owned businesses where you’re sure to find gifts that surprise, delight and amaze even the grinchiest among us.

Dear Northwest Quarterly Reader,

Season’s Greetings!

The Christmas season is upon us, which means my elves and I have been hard at work checking lists and building all the toys and gifts you request year after year. This holiday season, however, I had an epiphany.

“Ho! Ho! Hold on,” I thought. “When are people going to give gifts to ME???”

It seems to me that, not only does the world owe me a few gifts, but there is the rather awkward issue of backpay. I’ve been distributing gifts for hundreds of years. How on Earth could everyone possibly pay me back?

Well, you’ll be jolly to know that I’m not a petty person. I have made a list of some excellent local businesses where you can find unique treasures while also helping your fellow neighbor. If you would be so kind as to buy a gift from one of these shops – or someplace like them – I’d be pleased to call it even.

Thank you and Merry Christmas!

Yours Truly,

Yours Truly, Santa Claus

Northwest Suburbs

There is a lot of fun to be had in McHenry County and the Barrington Area. I’ve even vacationed there, from time to time, with Mrs. Claus. The last time I stayed in Woodstock, though, I kept waking up to the same day over and over. Very strange!

Heisler’s Bootery
50 N. Williams St., Crystal Lake, (815) 459-0171,
One of the oldest continuously family-owned businesses in the county, Heisler’s has been providing quality name-brand footwear to discerning customers and world-travelling elves since 1908.

M.J. Miller & Co.
123 W. Main St., Barrington, (847) 381-7900,
For over half a century, M.J. Miller & Co. has offered one of the finest collections of fine jewelry and gems in the region. I’ve always wanted a diamond-and-ruby-studded hat. I bet this store could handle it.

GriffoNest Games
124 Cass St., Woodstock, (815) 880-5934,
I have a confession to make. I’m a huge Dungeons & Dragons enthusiast. My character is a level 20 elf. What else would I be? If you have a role-playing game fan in your life, you should buy their gifts here.

Steel Heart Ltd.
10308 U.S Route 14, Harvard, (815) 943-3465,
Located in a beautiful historic barn at the House of Seven Gables, Steel Heart offers a stunning array of handcrafted metal home and garden pieces. I don’t know if they make sleighs, but you could always ask.

Marvin’s Toy Store
64 N. Williams St., Crystal Lake; 100 E. Station St., Barrington;
(779) 220-4179,

I have Marvin’s on speed dial just in case the elves fall behind schedule. This toy store has quality toys that engage children and spark their imaginations.

Read Between the Lynes
111 E. Van Buren St., Woodstock, (815) 206-5967,
A bookworm’s dream. Located in the Woodstock Square, this shop is filled with new releases and great classic reads – which is great because I read a lot of books when Christmas is over.

Riverside Chocolate Factory
2102 W. Ill. Rt. 120, McHenry, (815) 344-6040,
Home of delicious homemade chocolate delights. A lot of you like to leave milk and cookies for me on Christmas night, but a little Riverside chocolate might get you a few extra gifts. Just saying.

M.D. Trains
130 Cass St., Woodstock, (815) 276-9982,
If there is a train enthusiast in your family, this is the little store that could make their Christmas dreams come true. An impressive selection of model trains, track, accessories and maintenance products awaits.

The Clothes Gallery
51 N. Williams St., Crystal Lake,
(815) 455-3307,

Every once in a while, Mrs. Claus and I get a chance to go on a fancy date. When we do, she always pops by the Clothes Gallery. This women’s clothing boutique helps Mrs. Claus look her best!

Viking Ski Shop
131 W. Northwest Hwy., Barrington,
(847) 381-1188,

Two stores in one. In the winter, it’s a full-service ski and snowboard shop that offers equipment, apparel and service. In the summer it sells patio furniture. I’ll accept it all as a gift.

Material Things Artisan Market
103 E. Van Buren St., Woodstock, (815) 354-3483
Carrying items from more than 100 artisans, this craft market rivals a certain workshop in the North Pole when it comes to the variety and quality of gifts in stock.

La Bellissima
10 N. Williams St., Crystal Lake,
(815) 477-3404,

This elegant downtown shop caters to a full range of sizes and body types. These luxurious women’s garments belong on both the naughty and nice lists.

Rush Creek Distilling
1501 W. Diggins St., Harvard,
(815) 943-7874,

This place puts the spirit in Christmas with impeccably slow-crafted vodkas, gins and whiskies. I can’t drink and fly, so you might want to just leave out a bottle.

Kitchen Outfitters
64 N. Williams St., Crystal Lake,
(779) 220-4653,

This shop is full of kitchen gear, so of course it’s a great place to stock up on everything you need to bake delicious cookies for that special someone who visits once a year.

DeKalb County, Illinois

Given its natural beauty and small-town charm, it’s hard to believe that DeKalb County is just a short drive from Chicago. With so many charming towns to choose from, the area is chock-full of fantastic finds, food and fun. Plus, Mrs. Claus is a die-hard NIU sports fan. Go Huskies!

Robin’s Nest Bookshoppe
218 E. Lincoln Hwy., DeKalb, (779) 225-1191,
This independent bookstore offers a curated collection of new and classic books as well as board games, puzzles, book bags and candles. Buy me a book! It’s boring in the North Pole when Christmas is over!

Blue Moon Bikes
211 W. State St., Sycamore, (815) 899-3100,
This bike shop sells new and classic bicycles and has a selection of antique biking equipment and parts. It also offers bike restoration and repair. I’m pretty sure they can handle flying sleighs, too.

Chilton’s Sporting Goods
248 E. Lincoln Hwy., DeKalb, (815) 758-3152
This sporting goods store carries a range of equipment and uniforms, with plenty of licensed NIU gear and clothing to boot. Wouldn’t I look great in a Huskies parka?

The Happy Hen House
8329 E. Sandwich Road, Hinckley,
(815) 286-9055,

This gift and home decor shop offers everything from seasonal gifts and beauty accessories to vintage furniture, clothing and gardening items. Stop in and pick up a gift for your favorite jolly elf today!

Walworth County, Wisconsin

My trips to Walworth County used to mean leaving peanuts and giant gift-wrapped shoes under the tree, back when it was a winter home for the circus. These days, it’s still a wonderful place to visit. Elkhorn is Wisconsin’s Christmas Card town, after all. What could be more Christmasy than that?

My Sister & Me
911 W. Main St., (262) 729-4129, Lake Geneva,
A lovingly restored Italianate-style home hosts this vintage goods store. Carefully curated antiques, clocks, figurines, jewelry and home decor items are lovingly displayed in six separate rooms.

Pet Pals
210 E. Walworth Ave., Delavan,
This family-owned pet shop sells pet food, supplies and animals such as birds, reptiles and fish while also offering wing and nail trimming and boarding for small animals.

Breber Music
801 E. Geneva St., Elkhorn, (262) 723-2233,
With an outstanding selection of new and used musical instruments, equipment and accessories, the store also offers instrument rentals, repairs and music lessons.

Clear Water Outdoor
744 W. Main St., Lake Geneva, (262) 348-2422,
Top-quality brands in outdoor lifestyle clothing, yoga gear, outerwear, footwear, backpacks and paddling gear. Also rents kayaks, snowshoes and cross-country skis.

Haywain Pottery
292 Wildwood Dr., Darien, (262) 724-8099,
Paul Boland is a full-time potter who creates custom pieces and offers pottery workshops for anyone, at any skill level.

Angelus Home & Garden
325 Kenosha St., Walworth, (414) 815-6638,
A colorful shop with an ever-changing inventory of modern country and cottage home decor, new and vintage furniture, and handcrafted soap, candles and essential oils.

Zinn’s on the Square
2087 Division St., East Troy, (262) 441-0280,
More than 20 local vendors have come together to offer handmade home decor items, jewelry, baked goods, artwork, clothing and other intriguing sundries.

Western Suburbs

There’s always something going on in this part of the Chicago area, whether it’s the many festivals and events, the lush forest preserves, or the hustle and bustle of busy downtowns.

The Little Traveler
404 S. Third St., Geneva, (630) 232-4200,
For over a century, this landmark has been the cornerstone of downtown Geneva’s shopping experience. Once an Italianate Victorian residence, this shop has grown to 36 rooms filled with unique gifts to buy for me.

Kiss the Sky
180 First St., Batavia, (630) 406-0086,
An independent CD and vinyl music store with a vast inventory, this place even had copies of my spoken word albums, “Ponder the Mistletoe” and “The Transformed Elf.” Impressive!

York Furrier
107 N. York St., Elmhurst, (630) 832-2200,
York Furrier has scoured the globe to create stylish outerwear and fabulous accessories as well as on-site services. The company is well-travelled and over 90 years old. Just like me!

Ghoulish Mortals
228 W. Main St., St. Charles,
(630) 441-2920,

As the subject of a few horror films myself, I can tell you that there are a lot of scary movie fans out there. This place has apparel, figures and collectibles that will make horror fans frightfully happy.

Steep n’ Clay
8 Douglas Ave., Elgin, (312) 613-7859,
I love this artisan tea shop that sells various teas and accessories from all around the world. The tea here is the perfect pick-me-up as I’m flying over Elgin.

Around the Corner Candy
101 S. First St., West Dundee,
(847) 426-9440,

It’s the sweetest shop in all West Dundee with hundreds of candies as well as small toys and collectibles. If you shopped here for my Christmas evening treat, I wouldn’t complain.