Autoharps and hammer dulcimers are hard to come by in New Mexico. But Apple Mountain Music has them, along with a host of folk instruments you’d be hard pressed to find elsewhere. Bodhráns, bouzoukis, Irish and Native American flutes, djembes, and didgeridoos are neatly displayed alongside more recognizable harps, ukuleles and fiddles. Ever hear of a bowed psaltery? Owner Debra Fortress is happy to pull one off the shelf of her cozy store and show it to you. They’re as beautiful to look at as they are easy to play. There’s not a lot of plastic at Apple Mountain—these instruments were clearly made with care. They glow with rippling wood grains, Celtic fretwork inlays, ceramic glazes and animal skins. Of course, Fortress sells the sundries—instruction books and strings, for example—that keep players in tune. Be sure to ask about regular playing circles, classes and performances at the store.
One of our favorite nerdy items in this store is Pictorial Webster’s: A Visual Dictionary of Curiosities. Non-nerd types are likely to love the assortment of Ten Thousand Waves body products, or a fair-trade wooden xylophone, or a set of 20 iron-on decals in the shapes of birds and foxes and porcupines. Then there are the shelves of children’s books, the stamp sets, the boxes of beads and the stacks of cookbooks. And don’t miss the natural-material clothing, jewelry and hand-stitched wallets.
When it comes to inexpensive local crafts, The Octopus and the Fox is about as nifty and comprehensive as it gets. Featuring more than 60 New Mexico arts-and-crafters, the boutique has everything from felt-lined zia bracelets made from beer cans ($20) to popular recycled sweater cat dolls with button-eyes ($18) made by co-owner Belita Orner. And with a stock of screen-printed tees, girls’ dresses and knitted sweatbands with animal ears, there are as many treats for the kids on your gift list as the adults. (And animals, too; sewn catnip toys feature cute kitty faces.) In fact, just about everything at the store is cute and cozy, even felt Frankenstein and vampire dolls. There's also a full supply of organic body goods, and don't miss the awesome volcano and dinosaur wall art. Plus, the recycled-parts earrings made with bug wings and Plexiglas are bound to turn someone into a happy pixie.
Sukhmani is a family endeavor. Behind the counter, Sat Bachan Anthony smiles and says the store is named for his niece. His wife painted the images adorning the walls. With his mother, he makes the uncommon and beautiful jewelry they sell—chunks of stone in beautiful settings. His sister Sat Gurumukh Khalsa co-owns the small but uncluttered shop. The environment is calm and relaxing. Inexpensive candles and body products line the shelves, and glass cases house jewelry at a variety of prices.
Tucked into the back corner of The Village Shops at Los Ranchos is this pleasingly retro mercantile store. If you're looking to cowboy up, Wagon Mound is the place to go. The shop specializes in ranch-style cookware—from Dutch ovens to cast-iron skillets. The skillets range in size from tiny four-inchers ($5.50) to pizza-sized stove-crushers ($59.95). Pair them up with a cookbook (Field Guild to Dutch Oven Cooking or The Cast Iron Skillet Cookbook, perhaps) and you've got yourself a Christmas gift. Beyond the plentiful cookware is a colorful array of enameled tin dinnerware, from teapots to plates to those ubiquitous tin cups you see in every cowboy movie. Need more cowbell? Wagon Mound has got you covered from small ($5) to large ($66.95). Deerskin gloves, silk handkerchiefs, CDs and jewelry add to the stocking stuffer list for the old-fashioned cowboy or cowgirl in your life.
Nob Hill's Shop and Stroll was besieged by "an apocalyptic windstorm from hell" this year, says Self Serve owner Matie Fricker. It's supposed to be the biggest sales day on the calendar. But the weather depressed turnout, which was "really damaging for our bottom line," she says. It added momentum to a downward trend that started before the winter. "Many local businesses we love have closed in the last year."