It's still early enough in the holiday season to sustain high expectations of gift giving.

The idea of finding the exact, perfect gift that fits each loved one's personality seems attainable. As opposed to around Dec. 20, when a stop at a local convenience store might lead to the temptation to get one of those purple phone chargers by the checkout and call it good.

Luckily, Topeka shoppers have choices aplenty as they hit the streets for Black Friday and continue shopping throughout December. Local retailers have been stocking their inventories for weeks, bringing in everything from artsy, one-of-a-kind pieces to laugh-out-loud dish towels with sayings that can't be printed in a family newspaper. 

"Everything is packed to the gills," said Alicia VanWelleghem, owner of Leaping Llamas Artisan Shop, 725 S. Kansas. "Artists are delivering this week and some of them up to next week in preparation."

Get it here

VanWelleghem said buying local is becoming more popular.

"We get a lot of people in that say they're buying all of their Christmas presents locally," VanWelleghem said.

That buy-local trend is even translating to wanting items that celebrate Topeka and Kansas. At Leaping Llamas, one-of-a-kind paintings highlight downtown streets or prairie scenes.

At Pinkadilly's in NOTO, owner Jenny Torrence is watching "I Am Topeka" shirts make their way out of the store. Also popular are mugs and tote bags featuring Topeka murals painted by local artist Jennifer Bohlander.

It's neat, Torrence said, to see people showing off their pride in Topeka.

"I think we need that," she said. "We have to have people take that love and pride in our city."

At Capital Iron Works, 701 S.E. Adams, the rush to keep stock in place has been ongoing as the store participates in area craft and art shows with their unique metal artwork, said Armando Duran-Ortega, an artist at the store. They also sell out of a showroom at their business.

"We create everything in-house. Everything is finished by hand," he said. "Our most popular item is probably our American flag. We have more than 1,000 different products, and we do custom work all the time."

Other popular designs are the logos for vehicles and area colleges, Duran-Ortega said.

At Calhoun Jewelers, owner Doug Calhoun is willing to be artsy with customized designs, or the usual popular jewelry gift items are available as well. This year, watches have been selling well, he said.

"Diamond studs are always a popular staple," Calhoun said. "Diamond bracelets. Colored stone jewelry."

Blue topaz, which comes in three main shades of blue, remains a popular choice, as does amethyst.

Holiday needs

At The Furniture Mall of Kansas, business picks up around the holidays not just from people buying gifts but because customers want to spiff up their surroundings as holidays parties hit the calendars, said Sarah Scott, store manager.

"We see people coming in that are realizing that maybe they need to upgrade furniture for the family they have coming in," she said, adding that may mean bigger dining room tables or sofa sleepers.

For gifts, the mall sells accessories such as wall art and lamps, and bigger ticket items like recliners and Traeger grills, Scott said.

Another store that does sell gifts but sees a big shopping influx primarily around holiday needs is Topeka's Hy-Vee.

"We begin planning for the holidays in the summer, and it is a marathon all the way to December 25," said Topeka Hy-Vee store director Kory Robinson. "The Topeka Hy-Vee Hickory House department will prepare more than 400 holiday meal packs this year."

But the store has gift selections, too, Robinson noted, in an effort to be a one-stop shop for customers. Along with bath and beauty products to gift cards and dozens of gift basket options, the store has a Big Toy Sale over Black Friday weekend and a home and gift sale through Dec. 24.

Robinson also offered a few hints on preparing for holiday cooking and parties.

"We always recommend customers have a plan when it comes to shopping during the holidays," he said.

A store catering manager can help finalize those plans for small and large events, and premade holiday meals are available for customers who want to avoid kitchen duty.

Gift an experience

Stores like Leaping Llamas, Bedsprings and Burlap, 4008 S.W. Topeka Blvd., Pinned, 3615 N.W. 46th St., and others also specialize in experiences, also known as "what to give kids and adults who have everything."

Gift certificates at many local stores can be used for classes to learn everything from fused glass art (check out Prairie Glass Studio, 110 S.E. 8th) to glittering a unicorn ornament or ceramic piece.

"Magical" unicorns, said Dandelions Arts and Crafts owner Brenda Ruhnke, are popular right now among young people. Glitter also is popular at her store, 2827 S.W. 29th, and the gifts more adults consider magical, such as those that include their child's handprint or special art.

The Grinch is always big at the holidays, said Pinned owner Tiffany Langer, along with trolls and unicorns this season. Signs are fun gifts that can be personalized to recipients, and Pinned brought in new stock of metal and wood signs for the holidays.

Custom jewelry pieces and Swig cups that can be personalized also are new items that make great gifts, Langer said.

Part of the fun of making fits for the holidays at one of these local stores is getting together with friends for a night out, she said. 

Gifting experiences can be fun and many experts recommend it as an idea for kids who get way too many toys. Those ideas can include buying tickets for Topeka Performing Arts Theatre or Topeka Civic Theatre events, lessons to learn sports or gift cards for places like SkyZone and miniature golf.