Five ways to shop Key West this holiday season

Christmas decor by Katlin Spain. COURTESY PHOTOS

Christmas decor by Katlin Spain. COURTESY PHOTOS

Online ordering is inevitable. It’s really hard for some to pass on deals for essential oil diffusers and live laugh love art that no one appreciates. Not to mention clothing. Shopping for short kings and queens can be a challenge outside corporate juniors departments in New Town plazas. However, if you do decide keep the parameters of shopping more local and independently owned, these are some suggestions that support residents and small businesses.

One of these ideas encourages you to ask establishments about gift certificates. Most will be game even if they have never done it before. When it comes to art there are too many talented names to comprehensively list. But, as someone — who’s probably been misattributed — once said, support the living artists, not just the dead ones. You can snag affordable original pieces from designers and painters who are increasingly showing both on the island and online. Most of the ideas in this article will contribute toward a new experience for you and the people you sort of care about the most. And unlike air fryers, experiences have a far better shot of not requiring immediate customer service. Happy Holidays.



Twenty minutes of the future

The weathered rainbow umbrella still shines brightly for Mallory Square’s resident tarot card reader, Ronald Augustine. The former jeweler and Queen Mother winner has featured in National Geographic Traveler and even inspired a character here and a spread there for Lucy Burdette’s mystery novels. While in-home appointments are available, take the walk out to the gulf end of Duval. It’s hard to top the panoramic views and now mercifully crisp cool airs of the season. Plus, there’s a degree of spontaneity and adventure. Will you find his quaint set up in the thick of shouting performers? Will you be brave enough to get a reading in view of onlookers? Will you be foolish enough to try and negotiate his price? Go see. The entire process delves into your next six months of relationships, health, dramas, and destinations. Ron, as he prefers, offers a gentle introduction for first timers and extensive discussions for those with their own Tik Tok philosophers and astrologers elsewhere. You pick the cards. He reveals. And, hopefully, something clarifying.

Art by Marlene Koenig.

Art by Marlene Koenig.

Ask about certificates

It’s hard to think of a restaurant, food truck, or coffee joint that will turn down this inquiry, especially if it means a guaranteed sale. Even if you don’t see gift certificates, ask. Restaurateurs have printers and working pens, too. I have seen some pretty rough certificates comparable to the early days of Microsoft Paint. All valid though. It can be arranged in a few minutes or scheduled for an imminent pickup. This opens up a lot of possibilities. Now, you can share the gift of $50 worth of sushi at Misohappy, three orders of pork tacos at Frita’s Cuban Burger Cafe, or five con leches from a coffee joint that’s capable of not scorching milk. Say nothing for all the places that DO actively promote gift certificates and tasteful vouchers. There’s a blank cheque for La Trattoria stashed in my dresser for instance. That’s a very useful gift.



Buy the (visual) art

Obviously not every individual can be mentioned here. But if you are comfortable rolling the dice and buying art for friends and family (which is very subjective) then there are many emerging local artists and galleries you can support. Going for something intricate yet trippy? I recommend the reasonably priced prints and originals of graphic designer Kristyn LaMoia (www.Kristyn- Want something just as colorful but more global in design? Marlene Koenig’s (www.Marlene- multicultural airy works will add depth to any living space. Into grunge graffiti vibes? Kristen Norman has rough and tumble Dorothy of “Oz” and Muhammed Ali canvases for you. Digging monochromatic abstracts? SALT Gallery ( is showcasing Kim DiDonato’s mixed media paintings and sculptures throughout December. And for the Lily Pulitzer lovers out there? You need to go see the works of Katlin Spain ( It’s uncanny. Plus, gorgeous. I hear she’s doing Christmas décor this year too. In addition, there are entire shows including The Studios of Key West’s Winter Members Exhibition, which would provide authentic additions to any island collection at a range of prices.

Twisted tinsel

The Shops at Mallory is certainly becoming a destination for artists and creative business ventures. Twisted Tinsel is one of the latest. Grant Portier and Jenn Stefanacci-Portier are building off their downtown successes — restaurant Poké in the Rear and tutu-themed bar 22&Co. — to give us a year-round Christmas shopping experience. Alongside business partners Sam Heur and Russel Stumpf, the couples have outfitted a charming boutique with crafts that cater to Key West specific themes. Local designer Jeff Marsh is collaborating with the store to produce a series of 3D printed ornaments. Think Fred the lonely Seven Mile Bridge Tree, southernmost buoys, and signature red conch hats. These in addition to handmade candles, nutcrackers that aren’t terrifying, and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation on loop. There is even a child-sized Santa’s Letter desk area. Stop by and write a letter to Kris Kringle for all your adult-sized needs. The ones you can’t find in the store at least.

Support the arts

If experiences are the way to go this gifting cycle, the upcoming season provides an assortment. Fancy classical concerts? The stunning St. Paul’s Episcopal Church is bringing back another season of world class chamber music. Its Impromptu series ( www.KeyWest- features six concerts beginning in January, including violinists, pianists and cellists like Junction Trio, Yekwon Sunwoo and Zlatomir Fung. Have a movie buff in your midst? Consider renewing memberships to venues like The Tropic Cinema. After almost two years of direct-to-home premieres, the cozy Eaton Street destination welcomes patrons back for a strong slate of movies ahead of the awards season. Member perks range from discounted tickets and dinners across town all the way to merchandise and private screenings. Alternatively, consider funding the modestly budgeted (read: a small contribution goes a long way) productions of The Key West High School Drama Club. it has partnered with the recently opened Williams Hall to expand resources and stage a number of performances into the next year. Can you imagine the gloriousness of a “Cats” production or an edition of “Twilight” where Bella bases all her decision on the outcome of a Magic 8-Ball? No? Well, it’s a good thing I don’t set the lineup. ¦

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