Houston’s a shopper’s paradise. Narrowing down the best stores this holiday season is no small feat, but we’ve rounded up local shops for everyone on your list.
The holidays are coming and thankfully, Houston is chock-full of beautiful, unique and local institutions to get your gift on. From vintage-inspired toys at Big Blue Whale to luxe designer boots at Abejas, we’ve compiled a list of some of Houston’s very best holiday gifting destinations.
With a cult-like following of Houston’s chicest women, Abejas Boutique is the exquisitely stocked shop of owner Christina Mitchell. The boutique carries everything from Raquel Allegra harem pants, The Great leisurewear, Peter Cohen silky essentials to an exclusive design of the Italian Fracap boots and so much more. Mitchell knows what the it-girls in Paris are wearing and that comfort trumps all. Clients are treated like close friends and are welcomed to come in, have a glass of champagne and indulge in a few tasty snacks—while trying on haute jewelry lines like Samira, and of course collecting a few eggs from the in-house (well, they live outside in the stylish side courtyard) chickens Dolce and Gabbana.
This year, give the gift of a home for a pup in need. Houston’s stray pet population is an extreme problem, and BARC (the city’s animal shelter) estimates there are over one million stray dogs on the streets of Houston. From the puppies brought in a box to the graying and often-potty trained senior dogs, you’ll find the perfect furry companion here. BARC often runs specials around the holidays to alleviate the over-filled shelter, and expect to get a new best friend that is updated on shots and spayed or neutered. So, this holiday season skip the high-end breeders and find your true love waiting for you at the shelter. After all, isn’t the true meaning of Christmas to not just receive, but to give?
Big Blue Whale
Finding a local toy store is no easy feat in this age of Amazon, but Big Blue Whale is a magical place for children and adults. Owner Vanessa Wodehouse is a Height’s-based mom that wanted to give the children in the neighborhood a comfortable and fun place to not only play with toys, but to shop as well. Their collection of German Playmobil toys alone is worth heading to 19th street for, but you’ll find so much more there—from beautiful stuffed animals to cheeky gag gifts and whimsical Moulin Roty toys. Big Blue Whale is a toy land worthy of Santa.
Got an uncle with a mad craving for Haggis? Or a niece that would love a special edition Prince Harry and Meghan Markle wedding tea set? Then anglophiles rejoice, British Isles in Rice Village is your shop. Since 1993, Houstonians have been able to get their biscuit fix at this all-things-British shop. From a lovely toy section with Paddington Bears, to the impressive selection of jams, mugs, teas and home-décor, you’ll find a gift fit for the queen.
French Country Wines
There are few things finer than being gifted a bottle of wine for Christmas. And you know you’ve made it on somebody’s “nice list,” if the bottle is from French Country Wines. The somewhat hidden shop off of Kirby Drive sells a selection of artisanal wines, hand-made and estate bottled from family-owned and operated vineyards throughout France. Despite the smaller batch and unique wines, the prices in store are reasonable.
Hamilton is a Houston institution, crafting stylish, customizable and well-made men’s shirts for over a century. Their shirts have been donned by the likes of statesmen, entertainers and some of Texas’ most prominent businessmen. And now the line has partnered with native Houstonian Lyle Lovett for a line of Western-style shirts. The shirts run for $245. Beats those socks you were thinking of for dad this year.
Sending my nose straight back to the fromageries of Paris is Houston’s very own DairyMaids. Housed in a former Sicilian market from the 1930s, the Heights spot has been up and running by seasoned cheese monger Lindsey Schnecter for over 10 years. Inside you can try cheeses made by hand from all over the world, specialty items like the Good Food Award winner’s Olympic Provisions assortment of meats, and bottles of wine. Order online or pickup in store one of their beautifully made gift baskets filled with artisanal goodies more delicious than your average cheese ball – no offense to cheese balls everywhere.
Kuhl + Linscomb
If you could shop in only one store for this holiday season make it Kuhl + Linscomb. The multi-building Houston staple carries everything from luxury Italian bed linens to goofy reindeer hats for that “fun aunt,” you know, the one ready to hit those mimosas by 10 am. Owners Pam Kuhl-Linscomb and Dan Linscomb have created a 70,000 sq. ft. design and lifestyle sanctuary that’s a shrine to the best goods from all over the world. The toy section is particularly plush (get it?) with Hape Kitchens and a beautiful collection of children’s books. There’s a men’s section, ceramics, women’s clothing, jewelry and so much more – they even carry Mariage Freres teas and Houston-based Manready Mercantile candles.
Mary & Moss
Mary & Moss sits on the popular Height’s 19th street carrying lines like celebrity it-girl favorite ace & jig, earrings from Seaworthy, and denim by Trave. The shop was recently spotted by Houston Instagram and style-maven Natalie Ariz of the @theimpeccablefind, so you know it’s worth a visit. Vintage wallpaper and chandeliers adorn the gift, flower and womenswear boutique. Pick up some Rifle Paper Co. notepads, or indulge in some striped pajamas by Maison du Soir for a loved one.
Murder by the Book
Houstonians have their pick of independent bookstores from the fantastic Kaboom Books in the Heights to Brazos Bookstore in Rice Village, but Murder by the Book is my go-to for the holidays. Who doesn’t love a good chill in front of the fire? The shop is the nation’s oldest and largest mystery specialty bookstore and is filled with authors from Dick Francis to B.A. Shapiro and newer writers yet to be movie credit producers. They even have a selection of bibliophile-inspired candles.
Veladoras for the Houston Astros, gold necklaces emblazoned with our city’s fair name, hipster onsies for a Montrose baby – Space Montrose is everything quintessentially Houston. The store is filled with humorous gifts, unique jewelry and prints any self-respecting Guadulapana coffee-swilling hipster would happily tack on their walls. So, grab a croissant next door at Common Bond, and then fill the stockings for your Houston homies at Space.
Vinal Edge Records
This wasn’t an easy choice. Houston is lucky to have more than one top-notch record store for vinyl enthusiasts, but Vinal Edge…edged out the competition. Fans of the Height’s spot love the copious amounts of musical variety and the friendly knowledgeable staff. Buy a Post Malone album for your nephew; hard to find Japanese avant-garde Haruomi Hosono LPs to really stun your brother who still lives in LA; and stock up on some classics too for the rest of the family that just wants to listen to some Huey Lewis and The Band.
Cover photo: Kuhl + Linscomb. Photo Lee Bond
Emily Bond is a writer and editor from Houston. She is also the co-director of the nonprofit Healing Species of Texas, an organization that teaches character education in schools with rescue dogs.