In this day of chain stores everywhere, it is refreshing to find a place where small businesses proliferate, where there a myriad of choices for finding that special gift for a family member or friend, where the shopping excursion is a pleasant walk around the charming town that is South Haven.
There are two main kinds of holiday shoppers in this writer’s imagination: the practical shopper and the dedicated shopper. The practical shopper has a list of people they are buying for and a pretty good idea of what they want to purchase, so shopping is focused and swift. The dedicated shopper wants to go into every store, has less of an agenda on what to buy, and wants to spend as much time as possible shopping, most possibly going into every store they can.
I confess, I fall into the former category. Shopping is fun for me if I know what I want and just need to find it. But in fairness to those who fall into the latter category, I brought my friend Barb with me on a recent shopping trip to South Haven who is an avowed dedicated shopper. We spent the day focused on finding treasures in South Haven with an eye to finding stores that pleased both of us.
Here's a sampling of the shops we popped in:
SoHa Surf Shop
518 Phoenix Street
This family-owned store rents and sells paddleboards, long boards and kayaks at several locations in South Haven, but the retail store has a fun assortment of contemporary clothing and jewelry and everything surfers love to wear. I loved the Michigan-themed necklaces and earrings. This is a good place to purchase funky and fun clothing, especially for the under 30 crowd.
Props for the Home
528 Phoenix Street
A store full of fun and whimsical items like tea towels, dishes and mugs with fun sayings, luminary lanterns, unusual Christmas decorations and a large assortment of greeting cards. If you really can’t figure out what to buy someone, this is a great place to find something.
The Blueberry Store
525 Phoenix Street
For the blueberry lover in your family, here’s the place to buy everything blueberry. There are actual frozen blueberries, but also gift baskets with processed blueberry products like preserves, syrup and baked goods mixes which can also be purchased online for shipping to the continental U.S. There are is then every blueberry themed item you can think of—mugs, cookbooks, linens, totes, caps. Even that vintage book, “Blueberries for Sal”.
Renaissance & Papyrus
507 Phoenix Street
Their Facebook page says: “A Mélange of Clothing and Gifts”, which is an apt description. The first floor is dedicated to women’s clothing and accessories. My friend Barb said that the selection of earrings is so comprehensive, there is a pair to go with any outfit. Upstairs is Christmas decoration central, along with a wide variety of gift items. This was Barb’s kind of store.
Babe and Burly’s Creative Giftery
201 Center Street
Richard and Jennifer Burlingham started their business selling personalized items at the South Haven farmer’s markets. Just a year ago, they moved their business to a storefront in town. The item include ornaments, plaques, mugs, planters, magnets, nightlights—all personalized with chosen designs, sayings and names of your friends and loved ones.
Black River Books
330 Kalamazoo Street
This is the place for book lovers. Pam and Dick Haferman opened their store in 2007 with the 27,000 books they had been accumulating for years, waiting for the right time to open a brick and mortar store. I love finding the right book to buy for friends and family, and this is the perfect store for the special find. Most books are used, but there are also new books penned by local authors, a vast selection of children’s books, vintage posters
Phoenix Records & Boutique
330 Kalamazoo Street
Right next door to Black River Books is a vintage record store and hippie emporium. Owner Greg buys and sells vintage vinyl, but also has a fun assortment of hippie bumper stickers and funky clothing and jewelry. This was a store that pleased both us shoppers.
Of course there are many other stores to explore. This is just a taste of what South Haven has to offer. For a full list of shops in South Haven, click here.
Finally, each year the South Haven Center for the Arts hosts the Mistletoe Market during their regular business hours:
33rd Annual Mistletoe Market
South Haven Center for the Arts
600 Phoenix Street
November 23-December 21
Seasonal Holiday marketplace from local and regional artists, a collection of fine arts and fine crafts.
About the Author
Nancy Backas has been writing, mostly about food, for more than 30 years. South Haven is a favorite place, and she and her husband Terry visit as often as they can. The rich food and art culture, along with opportunities to explore South Haven's magical natural surroundings is what draws she and her husband to SoHa. She looks forward to sharing her South Haven discoveries. And, while they currently live in Chicago, with moving plans in the works, South Haven will soon be their new home.