It happens to me every Christmas shopping season. There are at least three people who are impossible to buy for! PERSON ONE is my mother, who has particular preferences about style and fit. (My husband tells me I fall into this category, too). PERSON TWO is my father, who buys what he needs or wants for himself, because it never occurs to him that in two weeks he will have three grown children and a wife racking their brains about what to get him! And then there is PERSON THREE. PERSON THREE is usually a person I don’t know very well, perhaps my child’s teacher, the person whose name I drew at work or neighbor that has watered your plants or fed your dog.

Honestly, I can’t help you much with gifts for person’s one and two. We can go have coffee and commiserate about trying to shop for them, but that’s all I have to offer there.

But for PERSON THREE, I have a list of “Go To” gifts that are usually very well received!

  1. 1. A Hydro flask or a Tervis- Because most everyone can use a good, leak proof to go mug

  2. An umbrella- This is something most everyone needs at one time or another, but never bothers to buy for themselves

  3. A triple header USB Cable- At some point, this is something everyone will find very useful!

  4. A candle- You really can’t go wrong when buying a woman a candle

  5. A pair of Smartwool socks- Once you’ve worn Smartwool socks, all other socks pale in comparison

  6. A unique piece of artwork- A piece of original artwork ensures it’s something they don’t already have.

  7. An ENO Hammock and straps- Give the gift of relaxation with a hammock and the straps are easy to use so there’s no frustration setting it up

  8. Whiskey River Soap- These soaps are hilarious. They’re sure to make the person you’re buying it for chuckle.

  9. Bluetooth wallet- For the guy who is always losing his wallet.

  10. An Otter and Oak Gift Card- This is a last ditch effort for when you really have no idea what to get that hard to shop for person.

I hope you find one of these suggestions helpful if you have to buy a birthday gift for your brother’s new girlfriend, or a Christmas present for your cousin Fred. As to trying to find the perfect gift for your mom or dad… well, my offer for coffee and empathy still stands. ~Jackie Farley

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Otter and Oak's Christmas in July sale is happening at the McCreery Conference and Event Center! Join us July 23 through July 26 for great deals on clothing, shoes, and accessories. See you at the McCreery.

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I never understood how hard it is for a small business to flourish in today’s world, until I started working for one. Locally owned shops are forced into competition with local chain and big box stores and the entire internet. By virtue of their size, the big guys get all of the perks. There are the tax breaks, the ability to buy merchandise in such volume that they get a lower price on items, and the ability to tap into their corporation’s large advertising budget. This means the bigger stores may sometimes be able to offer lower prices. However, small businesses have much more to offer overall.

Small Businesses have the luxury of human contact. They know what their customers want, because they actually KNOW their customers. When you walk in their door, they may know you by name, by your order, or maybe just by your smile. But because of that recognition, small business owners will go that extra mile to make sure you leave their business a satisfied customer. Want something they don’t have? They will often find it for you. Want a color that isn’t in stock? They can get that, too.

Local businesses are also invested in the community. These are the places that will buy an ad in the school yearbook, or support a little league team. They want the community to grow and thrive, because that means their customer base will thrive, too. It’s a symbiotic relationship that benefits everyone.

Finally, small businesses keep prices reasonable. A big store with no competition can charge the customer as much as they want, and depending on that person’s needs, they may be forced to pay it. When you have several small businesses providing the same products or services, everyone has to keep their customer service high quality and their prices affordable, or people can (and will!) go somewhere else.

So the truth is, supporting small businesses does a lot more for your community than you ever realized. It keeps local people employed. It keeps services conveniently nearby. And it acts as a system of checks and balances to keep inflated prices at bay. In short, if you want to improve the big picture, sometimes you just need to think small! ~Jackie Farley

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