Shop Local, Shop Small: Shop Gift Cards

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CHARLOTTE – When it comes to holiday gift-giving, gift cards can seem like the easy way out, but a gift card to a local small business can be the perfect way to support your community and show you care.

Gift cards don't have to be the easy way out. They can be a great way to show you care.
Gift cards don’t have to be the easy way out. They can be a great way to show you care.

Minimalism is all the rage these days.  If you know someone who’s trying to decrease the amount of “stuff” in their home, a gift card is a great way to allow the recipient to choose exactly what they want or need.  Moreover, a gift card is a great way to avoid adding to the clutter by gifting an experience .  A gift card to Mint Hill Arts or ArtBox Ceramics & Canvas in Waxhaw allows the receiver the chance to choose an art class that best fits their interests and schedule.  A gift card to Urban Air in Mint Hill is the gift of adventure and fun family memories.  “You can never go wrong with that!” assures Special Event Coordinator Sara Fabian.

A delicious meal or a fantastic drink is tough to wrap up and put under the tree, so a gift card to a local restaurant can be a great option for the foodie in your life.  A gift card to Mario’s Italian Restaurant and John’s Place isn’t just cash for food; it’s an invitation to a date night where you can enjoy their Thursday night steak chef special or Saturday night prime rib special.  A gift card to the Cork & Ale is an opportunity to try an eggs benedict with their famous house-made hollandaise or enjoy live music on Taco Tuesday. 

Gift cards are also a great option when you want to give a specialized item that’s tailored specifically for the user.  Let’s say you know someone who has expressed an interest in CBD oil, for example.  There are a wealth of different products out there, and it’s hard to know what will be right for the person you are buying for.  “Gift cards are a great idea because you don’t just want to get them any random bottle of CBD oil,” says Carolina Hemp Company Owner Monica Hailey-Sharpe.  “That way they can come in and walk around the store and get their questions answered.”  Gift cards are also a great choice for people – or pets! – with dietary restrictions.  “They’re the perfect option to give to a pet lover that might have an animal with dietary restriction,” says Woof ‘n Hoof Owner Patrick Holton.  “It gives the recipient the opportunity to pick the perfect treat.”

gift card
A gift card doesn’t have to be generic

Even if you’re not dealing with something restrictive like allergies, a gift card can be a great way to show that you know your recipient’s interest while leaving the final selection up to them.  “There’s a gentleman in particular I’m thinking about,” says Debbie Carver, owner of Mama K’s Kettle Corn.  “His wife loves our product, so he knows he’s getting something she likes.  It’s not necessarily taking the easy way out,” continues Carver.  “I think it’s actually a very thoughtful way to shop so she can come in and select her own flavors.”

“One of the great stereotypes of gift cards is that it required no real thought or that it is impersonal,” says Timothy Burgess, owner of Your Local Game Store.  “As a person who has received gift cards in the past, I recognize that often it shows that someone who loves me wants me to have just what I want. They either weren’t sure what I had on hand already, or just couldn’t find that perfect thing. The great thing about a local retailer gift card is that it shows the thought involved and is personal. They didn’t just grab a generic Visa card or big box retailer so that I could buy anything out there; they bought me a card from a specific, community-driven store. They knew my interests and wanted to support a store near me that cares about my community and is tailored towards those interests.”

assorted gift cards from big box stores
Big box stores offer selection, but small businesses offer unique gifts you won’t fine elsewhere

A Visa gift card or a gift card to a “big box” store may offer a larger selection, but there are other advantages to purchasing a gift card to a small, locally owned specialty store.  Small businesses offer a unique selection that you just won’t find anywhere else.  “When you shop small, each shop owner has taken the time to carefully fill their shop with special items so you know your gift card will be used to buy something unique, says Shannon Habenicht, owner of Waxhaw-based Refresh Gift Shop.  “Customers can use their gift cards to buy a bunch of different items, such as at Refresh where the ‘giftee’ can buy anything from bath bombs to jewelry to kids gifts. So all ages can enjoy a gift card and have a fun time shopping!”

Moreover, gift cards promote local businesses and encourage people who may not have visited before to try them out.  “Small locally owned businesses rely on the patronage of the community to stay in business as well as help spread word about their shop,” says Habenicht. “A gift card is a fun way to spread the word about a local spot that otherwise someone might not have visited before.”  

Buying gift cards from local businesses is a ‘double win-win.’” adds Holly Seagle, owner of Rustic Root.  “The local business gets the initial income from the gift card, but the real gift is when the customer enters your business with a gift card. Now they can see ALL you have to offer, and you’ve gained a new customer who will spread the word to other local neighbors.”

A gift card also gives the recipient the chance to treat themselves to a luxury they might normally do without.  “Buying a Mint Hill Flower Market card says, ‘I know you love flowers, and next time you need a reminder of how loved you are, go see Kat and have her whip you up something fabulous,’” says Owner Kat dePrater.  “It says, ‘I don’t want you to pay a water bill with cash, but instead go spoil yourself!’” 

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Mary Beth Foster
Mary Beth Foster works part time as an essay specialist at Charlotte Latin School and full time as a mom to her five-year-old daughter Hannah and her two-year-old son Henry. Prior to having children, she worked as a high school English teacher for nine years. Most recently, she chaired the English department at Queen's Grant High School. She and her husband have lived in Mint Hill with their children and their cats since 2011. Email: