I started my Christmas shopping trip with a warm pumpkin chai latte at Dimi Espresso Café, a pad of paper and a pencil ... because I need all the help I can get — shopping is not my favorite activity.
I prefer giving unique gifts for Christmas, so Amazon and the big box stores are out for me. I also look for things people can’t find easily at home — and since I’m the only member of my family living in Arizona — voila! A gift made in Arizona fits the bill.
I have found the easiest places for me to find uniquely Arizona gifts are next to the Payson Roundup office — the Payson Candle Factory, the Artists of the Rim Gallery and the newly named Country Charm Fudge and Gifts (formerly Crafter’s Cubbies).
Payson Candle Factory
The Payson Candle Factory always hits my nose with the strong scent of candle wax when I walk in the door, but that should not be a surprise — owner Carol Reed has made candles there for 34 years.
“I get my daughter to come and help me now,” she said.
Her adorable tiny Yorkie, Precious, also helps her every day, standing guard and greeting every shopper with a chipper bark.
Reed has been in Payson long enough to have seen McDonald’s come to town back in 1980.
“When Wendy’s saw the McDonald’s books they had to open a shop,” she said of the fast food extravaganza she has watched burgeon in Payson.
But in her store, shoppers will also find unique food items, such as ghost pepper chili mix, deer and coyote “poop” (chocolate covered peanuts), cactus salsa and jellies made of prickly pear.
Reed also stocks pretty much every type of scented candle Yankee Candle makes — in all sizes, too. Gift seekers can find Reed’s beautifully carved multi colored candles, along with soy and palm oil candles, wind chimes, glass bowls, vases, ornaments, and Southwest décor.
“I have one family from Phoenix that comes up every year,” she said.
Reed said they start at the Swiss Village with hot drinks and pastries, then drive up to the Rim to cut their tree, have lunch and head down to shop at the Payson Candle Factory for gifts.
After the holidays, Reed plans on the fun continuing. She will let people carve their own candles.
“The candle will be $12.99 and I will dip them in color, give them my tools and let them carve,” she said.
Artists of the Rim
Next door to Reed’s shop, the Artists of the Rim Gallery offers paintings, glass, jewelry and gourd work all made by local artists.
Artists work two or three days out of the month to cover the hours the store is open — Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. and Sundays, 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.
On the day I stopped in, C.J. Lukacsik sat with collector Jim Danley as he paged through a catalog.
“I have custom paintings, pottery and wood bowls at my home all purchased from here,” he said. “I’m a longtime customer.”
Because the artists work at the shop, customers may ask questions about their work. Lukacsik showed me the oils she does that utilize plein air and impressionistic techniques.
“I’ve started painting the rodeo, that needs more of an impressionistic touch,” she said.
She also produces jewelry made with semi-precious stones and intricate beadwork.
To help out shoppers, Lukacsik said the Artists of the Rim lower their prices during the holiday season.
After wandering around and checking out the selection of Christmas tree ornaments, paintings and tabletop decorations, I headed over to Country Charm.
Immediately, my nose pulled me to the back of the store where owner Rebecca Acord has torn down a wall and put in a glass case filled with fudge!
Pumpkin pie fudge, candy cane, Heath English Toffee, rocky road, chocolate walnut, and classic chocolate.
She even has samples.
“Ever since I opened this shop people have come in asking where the Sugar Shack with the great fudge went,” said Acord. “So I decided to bring it to them.”
She is collaborating with the former owner of the candy shop to make perfect fudge.
Acord also sells prickly pear products made in Tonto Basin, everything from syrup to jam.
While I munched on a fudge sample, I wandered around looking at the solar lights made out of refurbished barn wood, the handmade in Payson soaps and lotions made from locally provided bees wax and all the different jewelers works.
“One jeweler does this to help with his arthritis,” she said.
After taking in all the different options, I decided to go back to Dimi’s, have another chai or maybe a latte, pull out that pencil and paper and really figure out what to do.
Whew! Glad I had some treats to fortify me.