With only two weeks left to find the perfect present for everyone on your list, the stress of holiday traffic and early morning door-busters is starting to take its toll. Park your sleigh, Santa, and back away slowly from the big-box stores. Our annual Last-Minute Gift Guide takes the hassle out of the mad dash for holiday gifts by focusing on great mom-and-pop shops within walking distance of each other. Neighborhood by neighborhood, these local merchants are working hard to make the holidays enjoyable again.
Rio Grande between Lomas and Mountain
This is where you go for the serious blang-blang. (Ahem, fine jewelry.) Mati's inviting corner shop on the plaza is not only the most pleasant of the local jewelry giant's three Albuquerque locations, but this store also has the best deals. In a twinkling sea of top-notch personal adornments lie several cases of 40-percent-off merchandise and one that's—gasp—75 percent off. That means the $2,000 cocktail ring I tried on is only $500! Bargains aside, in addition to Mati's beautiful, unique pieces, they also do custom work, engraving and repairs.
Off Central between First and Sixth Streets
Microwave owner Ray Chavez has skateboarding in his blood.
His grandparents opened the South Valley's Concrete Wave in 1988 (it's still there). Ray, whose feet were already glued to a deck, started working the counter when he was 9 or 10 year old. "Back then, there wasn't a lot of shops. There was the mall, and that stuff was overpriced," he says. "That's why this is the Microwave. It's the little one."
Chavez' three-year-old satellite store is, in fact, very small. But it's filled with all the right gear. "Even if we had the room, I wouldn't carry anyone besides the brands we do. They're good people with quality products. And quality products is probably the main thing in skateboarding—that's what we look for." Chavez’ is one of only a few stores in town to carry SBs—Nike's chunky, colorful, tricked-out skateboard shoe line that's sought after by "sneaker head" collectors and straight-up skaters alike ("pro" boat-style shoes run around $70, high tops jog up to $200). And since he was the first SB account in Albuquerque, he gets hooked up with a constantly changing selection of special and limited edition shoes.
Off Central between Carlisle and Wellesley
Though celebrity kids may have upped the fashion ante, this children's boutique is anything but hoity-toity. Fun and affordable, Zap ... oh! has what salesperson John Besante calls "a different perspective in children's clothing." All of the staff are bonafide kid experts eager to help you find the perfect piece for your favorite tiny humans. Our favorites include alien overalls, tutus and the Pee-pee Teepee—if you've met an infant boy, you get it.
Paseo del Norte near Wyoming
The low-lit atmosphere and friendly staff make admiring this shop’s numerous boards for snow and skate a reverent experience. Browse the extensive T-shirt collection, or check out the watches, stickers, wallets and DVDs that would make great gifts for the skater (or anyone else) you know.
Camino del Pueblo and U.S. 550
Step through the door of this teeming antique shop and the squeak of the wood floors alone is enough to send you back in time. Wander the free-flowing aisles and you're guaranteed to trip over (maybe literally) some bygone goodies—most dating from the middle of the 20th century or so. You won't find a lot of Victorian clothing or Federalist furniture here, but there are plenty of pop cultural gems, from the big (a full-size Pepsi-Cola cooler) to the small (a tidy selection of classic 45 records). You can spend a little ($2 for rustic, decorative kitchen utensils) or a lot ($3,000 for an actual juke box). Alongside your standard Americana (old advertising signs, rusted license plates, collectable salt-and-pepper shakers) are some sharp Western items. Ornate, hand-tooled saddles will run you upwards of $400. Professional branding irons go for $145. Indian blankets range between $85 and $125.