This holiday season, there’s really nothing more awesome than local! The revival of retro fashion trends, vegan donuts, a beer advent calendar, smashed teacups, and items only a true Thunder Bayer can appreciate, are just some of the unique finds on this year’s Bay Awesome 2019 TBay Gift List.
With so many artisans, gift shops, and Thunder Bay products, there are SO many options that will bring a twinkle to your eye, while you show your city and neighbourhood some ‘shop local’ love. For your holiday shopping pleasure…the fruits of an entire year’s worth of my gift researching labour, enjoy! xo (Most photography by David Zahodnik of DZ Photography)
1. Kraft Artisan Holiday Box
Recently moving from a mountain town and the land down under, Hilary Hoogsteen and Kate Strange have both made Thunder Bay home, creating their mark in a crafty way. What started as a friendship over beers, scrunchies and candles, has now evolved into one of Thunder Bay’s newest and very popular seasonal artisan markets, known as Kraft, and most recently the creation of the Kraft Artisan Holiday Box.
Move over Fabfitfun! If you’re looking for cool, new, local (and exclusive) artisan products and goods, the Kraft Holiday Artisan Box is an awesome gift, because let’s be honest, there’s nothing better than receiving local handmade products that tell a fun story, especially when it’s a surprise!
The gift box is a carefully curated collection of local products featuring artisans from the Kraft Pop Up Markets, with seven exclusive gifts in each box. There’s also the option to get the gift that keeps on giving and pre-purchase a subscription for all FOUR Kraft Artisan Boxes, that has local goodies delivered at the start of each season. (www.krafttbay.com)
Each box includes bath & body, home décor, food products, and clothing accessories. I don’t want to reveal too much as I won’t spoil any surprises. But here’s a little sneak peak:
Scrunchies by Juniper Brand Goods (Hilary’s baby)
Everyone’s favourite accessory is making a comeback! (even though they are little rainbow reminders of how old I am), scrunchies are awesome and they are everywhere!
The scrunchie—a ring of elastic, that is wrapped in loose fabric that forms a pretty little ruffle when twisted around a ponytail, creates a colourful, casual look of the late ’80s and ’90s. With a mix of nostalgia for us 80’s babies and novelty for the teens, this accessory is a must-have because you can style it with literally anything and everything, coming in many different designs and fabrics (not to mention they are WAY easier to find than a hair tie).
Juniper Brand Goods uses up-cycled vintage fabrics.
Coconut Wax Candle- Waxxed Candle Co. (Kate’s baby)
Known for its fun patterned, fabric tops, Waxed Candle Co. creates awesome jarred candles of all different sizes and scents. Made with coconut wax, they carry an amazing scent, last longer due to a slower burn, and is a very eco-friendly product.
This holiday you will find scents that scream Christmas like Balsam Fir, Cranberry + Absinthe, Eggnog + Rum, White Birch and Gingerbread.
(And just when you thought things couldn’t be more fun, the lids of the candles match the scrunchies!)
KRAFT POP UP MARKETS:
If you are interested in buying some of the items from the box on their own, the KRAFT Holiday Pop Up Markets are being held on December 3rd and 10th at Sleeping Giant Brewing Company from 6:30 pm to 9:30 pm. They feature two unique sets of 23 artisans that will appeal to all of your family and friends. It’s also a great way to escape all of the hustle and bustle and enjoy a brew or two with your friends, while getting your shopping done after work.
2. YQT Crewneck Sweater: Northies
If you travel by plane, you’ve obviously come to realize that every airport has a unique three-letter code. Some make sense if you know the city or the name of the airport and others, well, what the heck?
YQT = Thunder Bay
I’ve been told that generally airport codes starting with ‘Y’ designate Canadian airports, the ‘Q’ is apparently a filler letter (but I like to think it stands for… hmmm, I always hate when I get the Q in scrabble) and the ‘T’ comes from Thunder Bay.
Cue the trendy YQT crewneck sweater from one of our favourite local brands, Northies. The sweater comes in red or green (perfect for the holidays) and is a a cozy cotton/poly blend made ethically in Canada and printed right here in Thunder Bay. Incorporating the Northies epic version of the Sleeping Giant, the sweater debuted this fall. It makes for a great gift for family or friends who have moved out of town, and is also a great way to display your love for TBay and represent the city.
You can visit Northies at the Thunder Bay Market, their new Kiosk in Intercity Shopping Centre, or at Craft Revival.
3. Beer Advent Calendar
Remember those chocolate holiday calendars you had as a kid to count down until Christmas? Well now adults can have just as much fun (if not more) and cross off the days, making the holidays brewy and bright with the Sleeping Giant Brewing Co. Advent Calendar. Instead of chocolate behind every door, you’ll find a new can of beer! (which in my opinion is so much better.) It’s the perfect pre-Christmas gift for that craft beer lover in your life OR a fun way to celebrate on Christmas day by creating a tasting party of your very own.
The festive packaging makes for a fun experience, as the recipient gets to individually uncover 16 different beer styles (plus a couple surprises or two) by opening a numbered door to reveal a new brew each day. Word has it, you’ll find a special Christmas beer created exclusively for the calendar by head brewer Kyle Mulligan. Tis the season to spread holiday beer!
Beer Advent Calendars can be ordered online: sleepinggiantbrewing.ca/product/advent-calendar
*** THIS ITEM IS NOW SOLD OUT.
4. Gelato Academy Ticket- Prime Gelato
Forget business school! When I grow up I want to go to Gelato University— Sounds like a dream, doesn’t it? Crazy enough, Thunder Bay’s Anne-Marie Calonego mastered the art of the frozen dessert at the Carpigiani Gelato University in Bologna, Italy.
Now there’s an opportunity to give the gift of attending Gelato Academy right here in Thunder Bay. This is an awesome gift for the perfect date night! The culinary adventure highlights the process of gelato as you prepare your very own flavour using an array of ingredients. The three-hour chef lead experience gives you a behind the scenes look at Thunder Bay’s popular shop, where you will make fluffy mounds of your own gelato.
Each ticket also includes two glasses of wine, local beer or craft sodas, one charcuterie tasting and four pints of your creation. Now that’s what I call a sweet gift!
5. Ungalli + Local Collective & #AbsolutChangemaker Tee
When Ungalli Clothing Co. moved into their new location back in March of last year, they had a lot of extra space so thought it would be a good idea to invite some local friends to join them on the new adventure. The Hollinsworth sisters asked five other vendors to be in the store and with its success has now expanded to almost thirty.
The Ungalli Clothing Co + Local Collective is a great one stop shop for all of your christmas gifts, featuring a ton of local products all under on roof. From photographs, to jewelry, candles, baby boots, cards and of course a ton of clothing options including Wild Badger and Thrifty Kid Vintage.
While in the store, make sure to say hi to Joey, the in-house pooch. He’s inspired some new items to the Ungalli line this holiday season that you have to check out.
Bree and Hailey are also front and center in a new national campaign by Absolut Vodka this holiday season. The #AbsolutChangemaker initiative highlights the sisters as “agents of change on a mission”. The campaign is running coast to coast and was created to inspire Canadians to be the change they want to see in the world, promoting Ungalli’s sustainable clothing message.
As a part of the initiative, the clothing company worked with the vodka brand to create the Absolut Comeback t-shirt line that features vintage print ads with the iconic Absolut bottle image. The sustainable tees that celebrate diversity and inclusivity were originally paired with a limited edition bottle made from recycled glass, and were sold at LCBO locations all across Ontario (but sold out in a week). The tee’s are now available on the Ungalli website.
6.Vintage Bottle Candle- Heron House Handmade
After a mission to find REALLY old bottles at various local antique stores across the city, Monique Gouthro of Heron House Handmade used the vintage treasures in a whole new way. Creating molds of each bottle, she has created beeswax vintage bottle candles that each have a historic story to share from Thunder Bay’s past. Those that get to see the final product up close, will just be in awe of the detail that was transferred from the glassware to the candle.
Heron House Handmade products all really elevate the standard pillar into a whole new level of happy to begin with, and these three candles take it to a whole new level.
Algoma Bottling Company- 1920’s: The Algoma Bottling Company set up in the Algoma Steam Bath in 1928.
Crescent Bottling Works- as early as 1906: The business was established in response to a Typhoid epidemic in Fort William. At the time bottled beverages were considered the only safe drinking water.
Thunder Bay Co-Op Dairy- late 1920’s-1960’s: After provincial regulations made it tough for local farmers to sell their own milk, a group got together and founded the Co-op, which evolved into a regional venture. It was also known for it’s famous MILK RINK created from excess skim milk.
Heron House Handmade sources all wax from responsible Canadian beekeepers and try to work with local wax, when possible.The wax itself is not only non-toxic, but it actually purifies the air as it burns.
***Vintage candles have sold out but more will be available at the Moss Cottage Holiday Pop-Up on December 14 (6-8 PM) and December 15 (11 AM- 5PM). For more details check out @urbanfarmchickflowers for details about this event.
7. Canada Games Complex Choklit T-shirt
Celebrating 38 years in Thunder Bay and with the anniversary of the 1981 Summer Games on the horizon, the Complex wanted to make a big splash with something we can wear to commemorate the occasion. This vintage style t-shirt features a mascot that definitely still has a place in the hearts of many city residents— the one and only Choklit the Moose, the icon of the games!
Choklit is seen slipping and sliding down the Thunder Slide (oooh I loved that thing as a kid). The classic tee printed by Superior Screen Printing, is sure to bring back a lot of memories, and if not, is still a cool retro shirt. The shirt was designed by Heather Cranston of Pulp + Paper Creative.
Fun facts: The Summer Games required the construction of the Canada Games Complex. At the time, the 77-metre pool was the largest in North America, taking five days to fill with 755,000 gallons of water.
The shirts are available at the front desk at the Canada Games Complex.
8. Rude Hoops: Stitches by SC
Move over Martha Stewart, Stitches By SC’s funny and sometimes rude cross stitch patterns are here to drop jaws and delight. No longer relegated to the realm of grandmas, cross stitch is making the transition from stuffy to cool… all with the help of some swear words and laughter. Subversive stitching is a thing. Seriously. The concept came about primarily as a form of stress relief, but for Roslynn Manduca, it was making her best friend a wedding gift that lead to her selling these creations in Thunder Bay and beyond.
The array of hoops, (with Roslynn referring to he vulgar ones as the “rude hoops”, that are actually hidden away at some craft sales in the rude box— oh my!), have various sayings stitched on to vintage fabrics, with a hodgepodge of her favourite curses, memes and iconic lyrics. Occasionally stitching something cutesy and sweet for balance of course and to please her mom, who she says hates her rude hoops! I did see one with the C word. Gasp!
With the intention to make people laugh, either by shocking them with unexpected crudeness or by saying something her audience can relate to (“shitty adult”, for example), each message is stitched on bright colours and pretty florals to really catch you off guard. “Lots of people recognize embroidery or cross stitch as a craft their grandmothers would do but seeing it transformed into a modern and vulgar piece of art is definitely a huge change!”
The hoops are high quality finished art pieces that can be put right up on your wall.
9. Wallet- Lakehead Leather
Corey D’Angelo found himself looking for a new wallet three years ago, and after a lengthy search got one he liked, but it completely fell apart within months of using it. He then took the matter into his own hands (literally), getting his first set of tools and some leather to practice on, with a goal in mind to create a long lasting wallet. Corey was hooked instantly, as he used his creativity to bring his own designs and ideas to life.
Today, Lakehead Leather creates simple, functional, and timeless pieces, which are made to last a lifetime. Selecting only full grain leathers which come from the USA and Italy, you will see both luxury and more rugged options available. Corey’s personal favourite, a vegetable tanned leather from Italy, called Buttero. The hottest item are the lined wallets that come in a few different styles lined with very unique fabrics and patterns, with a one of a kind flare.
Lakehead Leather also creates neat key trays and belts. You can check them out at Craft Revival and the December 3rd Kraft Pop Up Market.
Tucked away down St. Paul street, with a rather curious exterior, there’s a new joint in town. Barkeep, a cocktail lounge will open it’s doors just in time for the holiday season. The intimate space, that is being created by two familiar faces from the Tomlin, will feature a cocktail menu of newly dreamt-up and long-perfected classics, paired with charcuterie, cheese boards and other light fare. You can expect a resurgence of the cocktails your grandfather used to drink and a brand new drinks that mix spirits, liqueurs, fresh juices and house-made syrups in an innovative way. Sip and explore your way through exquisitely crafted cocktails.
(Logo and photo by Scott MacKay)
Of course, it’s not just balanced-yet-boozy sips that make a great cocktail lounge. I’m all about ambiance, and the owner’s have been particularly coy and mysterious about the interior, but say we can expect a a laid back, relaxing spot to enjoy a thoughtful beverage without the pressure to order a full dinner— a perfect spot for a before dinner drink or a night cap, or a place to bring a date or unwind after work. “Even though it’s a brand new build, it kind of feels like it’s always been there; an inexplicable old world charm.”
The new spot is expected to open in December. Gift cards are currently available for purchase at Tomlin Restaurant.
*** UPDATE: Now open daily 4pm -1:00 am.
11. Holiday Bling
Vintage Teacup Earrings- Teatime Mosaics
They say good things fall apart so better things fall together, and for Anna Gliddon of Teatime Mosaics, breaking her favourite teacup couldn’t make this more true. Not wanting to throw away the smashed cup, she picked up the broken pieces and started experimenting… and voila! Teacup earrings.
All products are made from preloved vintage china with stainless steel posts so they’re great for sensitive ears too! The teacups are all lovingly thrifted from community thrift stores or generously gifted from people in the community. “I love the idea of being able to wear your favourite teacup. Whenever friends would come over they would comment about how they had some of their grandma’s teacups in a box somewhere, but didn’t display them because they didn’t have the space for them. This got me thinking how great would it be to up-cycle a loved ones teacups into something you could use everyday!”
Beaded Earrings- Sister Bear Designs
Beadwork is a pillar of Indigenous design and a craft has been practiced for centuries, passed down through generations. Sister Bear Designs creates authentic beaded accessories and earrings, that not only keep the culture’s traditions alive but also modernize it, making pieces that are traditional, and some that are trendy and new.
The 100% Anishinaabe owned venture has a family of talent, lead by Kathleen Sawdo who is a member of Lac Des Mille Lacs First Nation. Each piece is inspired by Kathleen’s traditional teachings passed on to her. I asked Kathleen what she really wants people to know about her work- “I really want people to understand that you don’t have to be Indigenous to buy and wear Indigenous jewellery and art. It’s appreciation… I’m honoured and my family is honoured when our pieces are worn and shown. It means they are loved. You are helping us keep our ways alive. ”
Sister Bear Designs can be found upstairs at the Thunder Bay Country Market.
12. Leaf Print Pottery: Black Dog Ceramics
Inspired by the Boreal forest and nature, Black Dog Ceramics (est.2014) creates stunning pottery work that features leaf printing. This is the process of pressing living leaves, stems and fruit into wet clay slabs which are then formed into a variety of dishware.
Co-founder Kathleen Twomey, has come to understand how important plants are to all human life, and thinks that by imprinting nature into her ceramics, she’s bringing a sense of beauty into the daily lives of the people who use her pots, shining a light on things that might go unnoticed like a tiny wild strawberry leaf growing beside your driveway, and preserving the plants for generations to come. “Ceramics takes tens of thousands of years to degrade. It’s possible that what I sometimes call ‘leaf fossils’ will one day be discovered by future generations and hold valuable information about the plant life thriving today.”
All the plants used in Black Dog Ceramics pieces are from Kathleen’s mom’s garden, or the forests surrounding Thunder Bay (with the exception of one or two cool tropical plants from Vanderwees). “Having a special cup or dish for your daily coffee or meal brings a bit of specialness and even mindfulness to our daily human rituals.”
Kathleen’s favourite work are the large casserole dishes she creates that are all brightly coloured.
13. Christmas Donuts: Donut Run
Cue the sprinkles!!! Few things are more perfect than a doughnut. Iced with crackly glaze that melts upon contact, this simple pastry has the ability to lift the gloomiest of mornings into lovely bliss.
These doughnuts are as delicious as they are insta-worthy. The made-from-scratch treats are unique because they are created without any dairy, eggs or other animal products, but you would never know it! They are all awesomely flavourful—trust me, I tried them all.
The artisan doughnuts have hit Thunder Bay’s food scene in full force, with Donut Run whipping together the tasty treats, that really go beyond the usual box.
As for the name (I know you would ask) while out on a run, Ashley Lange joked about starting her own secret vegan donut shop… a couple months laters, Donut Run is selling donuts almost as fast as she can make them, from her newly created bakery in her home kitchen.
The Donut Run menu has a variety of flavours including the classic OG sugar donut that paved the way for other drool worthy yummy-ness, to more fun flavours like the vanilla sprinkle (a donut that may seem very familiar you, making hundreds of appearances on the Simpsons).
Special Christmas flavours being offered over the holiday season: Cranberry Bliss, Eggnog Salted Caramel Mocha and Chocolate Peppermint.
14. Neon Print 2: Pulp + Paper Creative
No, you’re not seeing double!! The gift with the glow returns. It’s the sequel to last year’s sellout! Graphic designer and illustrator, Heather Cranston-Lesniewski of Pulp + Paper Creative shares that the response from her first print was so overwhelming she just had to do another. “I started to get requests for signs that weren’t included in the first edition, but they were signs that I wanted too! A sequel just had to happen.”
The newest print features another set of nine iconic neon signs of Thunder Bay, including two of our favourite hot dog joints, and a pretty recognizable Finnish bakery.
The18 x 24 screen print is on French Paper Co paper (same as last time), and has a layer of glow in the dark ink, so when the lights are out, the neon is on! This fun retro style art piece is a great present for those that love vintage. It can be purchased ($45.00) by visiting Roots to Harvest or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
15. Wood Coasters: Spruce Pond
Spruce Pond’s very first product was the coaster, so it’s no surprise the design has been absolutely perfected. These beautiful cuts of tree come with the natural bark left on and intact, and are handmade and embellished with woodburned designs of northern Ontario animals and fish. Since every tree is unique, the coasters grain and bark may vary.
Spruce Pond is an Ontario Wood certified company, meaning the wood comes from sustainably managed forests in Ontario. All products are made with Ontario wood, but the majority of those are grown right here in Thunder Bay.
Starting at a VERY young age with popsicle sticks, paint and glue, evolving to wood and nails and then finally graduating to power tools, Jessica Tratnik, the maker behind Spruce pond, has always had a love for creating. The coasters are an awesome addition to any living room at home or camp.
Spruce Pond is at Craft Revival and the Kraft Pop Up Market.
16. Poplar + Birch
Poplar and Birch is bringing a little bit of Kenora to Thunder Bay this holiday season (and local items from places in between as well). It’s pop up shop located in Intercity Shopping Centre, and is a store for everyone that has a mantra of supporting small and supporting local.
The lifestyle and fashion shop carries a curated collection of owner Ashley McKay’s passions together in one place, with hand-selected clothing, jewelry, home decor and gifts. With a background in fashion working for Holt Renfrew and online magazines, Ashley brings her craft to the shop, thriving on bringing in unique products with a story and things that she really loves, while prioritizing local and Canadian brands.
Ashley says she had to pinch herself the day she woke up and realized Jillian Harris, Canadian television personality (known for appearing on the Bachelor), posted a photo of the sweater she had sent her, on her Instagram feed. From there, her dreamed up business really took off, leading to a feature in one of her favourite magazines, Condé Nast Traveller, highlighting things in the store “that you can’t leave home without”.
Guys, if you really don’t know what to buy her this Christmas, it’s safe to say if you go this shop she will love anything you box up. I recommend the Gold Sparrow earrings and Camp Brand Goods sweater.
Although the pop up is scheduled to only be open until December 31st, I have a feeling Poplar and Birch might stick around in Thunder Bay.
17. Maple Syrup- Nor’Wester Maple Company
Maple syrup is synonymous with Canada and is the perfect gift for a foodie. This pure, entirely natural product has stood the test of time without losing an ounce of its natural charm. Nor’Wester Maple Company has been making 100% pure, single-sourced maple syrup since the spring of 2017. You might not know but, maple trees like warmer climates with deep soil, so the sugarbushes located in Thunder Bay, especially on the Norwester Mountains, grow on the Canadian shield in what very little soil they can hold on to. “Much like fine wines, the soil, environment and temperature all play a role in the flavour of our syrup. Since we tap some of the most northernly sugar maple trees in the province our syrup has a wonderful and unique flavour,”— a very northern taste.
Maple syrup is a gift for everyone! Good for Saturday morning pancake breakfasts, glazed on ham, or mixed with Canadian Rye to make a maple ‘Old Fashioned’. Nor’Wester Maple Company creates other maple products including maple sugar and maple candies. They are available at the Thunder Bay Country Market and other retailers around town including George’s Market and the Cheese Encounter.
18. Swag in Support of Wake the Giant
Did you attend the epic Wake the Giant Music Festival this past September? Have you seen the decals around town? Thunder Bay continues to support this awesome movement that’s all about creating a more welcoming and inclusive community for Indigenous people. Started by three teachers and their students at Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School, several local businesses have stepped up and shown ways that they Wake the Giant every day, by creating products that support the initiative. I wonder if the music festival will make a return in 2020?
Lovely Body: Wake the Giant Cold Process Soap (@lovelybodyproducts)
Wolfed Coffee: Wake the Giant Roast: Clean, smooth and earthy. (@wolfhead_coffee)
Ungalli Clothing Co:Wake the Giant Official t-shirt (@ungalliclothingco)
International House of Tea: Blueberry Bergamot Tea: A unique blend of organic black tea blended with South African Rooibos, Canadian blueberries, apple cubes, hibiscus, orange peel, rose hip, elderberries, lavender flowers, rosemary leaves, pink pepper, cornflowers, safflowers and bergamot. (@internationalhouseoftea)
Throughout the month of December, you can also visit the Bean Fiend Cafe where you will find artwork and photography prints on display, created by the talented students from Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School. Showcasing nature images, abstract designs, landscapes and dramatic pictures, they are all available for purchase.
***Update: Tickets for Wake the Giant 2020 are now available. There are limited Early Bird tickets available at a reduced cost. You can also purchase a special holiday ticket that provides a second ticket for a youth or student to attend the event.
19. Art You Can Wear
Who says art masterpieces are only for walls? The cure for drab winter days, is fun artsy clothing. Two local artists are turning prints into fashion and providing a way to jazz up any wardrobe.
Printed Yoga Pants- Danielle Kantola
Check out these puppies!! Yoga pants aren’t just for the gym or working out anymore. They have really managed to sneak their way into our everyday lives (happy dance).
Not only is it acceptable to wear activewear out to brunch or shopping, it’s actually become a trend. So it makes sense that artists might see the yoga pant as an interesting canvas for their designs. Artist, Danielle Kantola’s work generally depicts nature and wildlife while often exploring the use of colour.
Her series of yoga pants are all very vivid and bold. To have her prints featured on clothing, is a new medium for her, and is a way to bring art to life through movement.
Browse Danielle’s designed yoga pants. My favourite pair is clearly the wolf!
Buff Collection – Vik Wilen Art
Known for her whimsical and earthy paintings and her tree yoga matts, Vik Wilen has collaborated with national company Buff, to bring her artwork to the popular interchangeable headband.
The line showcases five of the self-trained artist’s designs that are geared toward Canadians, travellers and adventurers. They really bring all the feels of Lake Superior and the great outdoors. It can be worn more than 12 different ways from a hat, neck warmer, face mask, and for the more risqué, Vik even suggests a tube top. Available at Gear Up for Outdoors and vikwilenart.com
20. Tarantella to Thunder Bay by Leah Nadin
Tarantella to Thunder Bay is a really vibrant and cute children’s book about Italian immigration to Thunder Bay. Written by local author Leah Nadin and illustrated by Thunder Bay’s Caterina Talone, the book shares a story from a child’s perspective that all begins with Nonna and her blue suitcase. For Leah, who is an elementary school teacher, it’s important to teach children about their culture and to help carry traditions over time. She created the book with a hope families will be sitting down together and sharing the story. The book even includes a glossary of Italian words and phrases.
“It’s the story of my grandparents immigrating to Canada from Italy, so is a part of my cultural heritage. But at the same time, it’s also a story that many immigrants can relate to in hopes of continuing their cultural traditions in a new place away from home.”
Mangia bene, ridi spesso, ama molto. Tarantella to Thunder Bay is available at the Loop on Court Street and Toy Sense.