by Warren Barrett, Barbara Kroon, Nancy D. Lackey Shaffer and Kimberly Rivers

Wild guess: What we all want this year (whether you celebrate the holidays or not) is to see the loved ones we’ve been missing lo these many months.

Something wrapped in pretty paper and tied with a bow won’t make up for that. But while we’re waiting for better days, a thoughtful gift can help spread some holiday cheer until we can all gather again. 

Supporting locally owned businesses with our last-minute gift buying is one way to share the love during these pandemic-tough times and it can be a way to prompt us to look beyond the normal gift options and find something unique. Looking for low or no-contact ways to shop? Many local gift options can be bought with a phone call, a click, curbside pickup or even a quick dash into the store. 

If your shopping isn’t done yet, our sales and editorial teams have come up with some ideas you might like — every single one from Ventura County. Keep your dollars in your community when you can!

Warren’s Picks

Warren Barrett, Sales Director

Jetboil Flash Cooking System

This thing boils water in two minutes! It’s perfect for the boat, or on any camping adventure. $109.95. Real Cheap Sports, 36 W. Santa Clara St., Ventura, 805-648-3803,


Island Packers Cruises

Painted Cave, Santa Cruz Island.

We are so lucky to have the Channel Islands National Park in our backyard. Island Packers makes it easy to access the park and they offer a bunch of different adventures like hiking, whale watching, kayaking and snorkeling. Trips start at $59. 1591 Spinnaker Drive #105B, Ventura; 3550 Harbor Blvd., Oxnard. 805-642-1393;

Somis Nut House Gourmet Gift Box

Somis Nut House Gourmet Gift Box.

They make it easy to send tasty gifts to my family members who live out of state. The gourmet gift box has a bit of everything. $11.89-$88.95. Somis Nut House, 4475 E. Los Angeles Ave., Somis, 805-386-1211,

Rosie Lee Imports

Rosie Lee Imports, Ventura.

The best selection of tea in town, and I love all the unique chocolates and candies. 673 E. Main St., Ventura, 805-643-5832,

Barbara’s Picks

Barbara Kroon, Sales Associate

Remnants on Main

Prohibition Era glass pitcher from Remnants on Main, Santa Paula.

I’ve gotten cool, vintage jewelry at this antique shop in Downtown Santa Paula. I just really like the one-of-a-kind treasure hunt that can’t be experienced anywhere else. Last year, I got my sister a Prohibition Era glass pitcher that is really great. 944 E. Main St., Santa Paula, 805-204-6292,

Sea Things

Emerald sea glass beaded necklace from Sea Things.

I’ve been shopping at Sea Things for as long as it’s been there, which is at least 20 years. I remember going in there with my daughter Ruby when she was little. It’s a great little shop for lovers of the sea! 508 E. Santa Clara St., Ventura, 805-648-1954,

Jockamo Records

Jockamo Records in Ventura

For music lovers like me, Jockamo Records is the best. Tons of vinyl, and really music in all media and unique memorabilia too. Shopkeeper David is very kind and full of fun stories about shows and musicians. 522 E. Santa Clara St., Ventura, 805-667-8178,

Rocket Fizz

Vinyl cling set from Rocket Fizz.

For stocking stuffers, I love the vintage candy and little toys at Rocket Fizz. One year, I bought a hilarious “Dress-Up Bigfoot” vinyl cling set for a gift exchange. It was a hit! 2619 Ventura Blvd., Camarillo, 805-987-7632; 315 E. Main St., Ventura, 805-641-1222;

Nancy’s Picks

Nancy Lackey Shaffer, Arts Editor

Whyte Rabitt Fragrance Oil

Whyte Rabitt roll-on fragrance from Trance in Ojai.

Trance makes truly exceptional fragrances using minimally invasive techniques, often employing ingredients grown on its organic farm in Ojai. Whyte Rabitt is my absolute favorite — both earthy and fresh, with notes of musk, jasmine and grapefruit. My sister and mom love this scent as much as I do, and it’s effortless to order online and ship. $36. Trance,

Goat Milk Beer Soap

Chivas Skin Care Beer Soap Set.

Goat milk is packed with vitamins and triglycerides and has a pH level closer to human skin, making it wonderfully moisturizing and gentle when used in skin care products, and particularly good for sensitive skin. I like all of Fillmore-based Chivas’ products, but the Beer Soap line is very versatile. The scents are pleasant without being cloying, pungent or flowery — perfect for everyone! The addition of beer makes this soap good at exfoliating, fighting acne, tightening and firming. $40 for a pack of four 4 oz. bars. 805-727-3121,

Toys, crafts and novelties from Santa Paula Art Museum

Art museums are great places to find cool, unusual gifts — toys in particular! Puzzles, playing cards, funky paper dolls, portable crafting kits . . . If you’re shopping for a kid and thinking beyond Barbies and LEGOs, there are some fun options here. Good ideas for playful grown-ups, too. You can order online for pickup, or shop in the store by appointment. $4-$37. Santa Paula Art Museum, 117 N. Tenth St., Santa Paula, 805-525-5554,

Handmade Chocolates

Chocolate candy canes from Top This Chocolates in Ventura.

I am recommending my two favorite local chocolatiers, because I hate the idea of having to choose. Gorgeous, gourmet Ex Voto has the prettiest bonbons and some of the most sophisticated flavor combinations. Top This Chocolate specializes in molded chocolate (the candy canes are adorable), chocolate-covered Oreos and customizable chocolate bars — you’ll have a blast picking out your toppings and watching staff put it together. Both make it easy to shop online and ship, but you might grab a mask and pop in . . . just to consider all your options.

Ex Voto Chocolates and Confections, 2646 E. Main St., Ventura, 805-667-9228,

Top This Chocolate, 1559 Spinnaker Drive, Suite 109, Ventura Harbor, 805-535-4167,

Wilder Gin

Wilder Gin from Ventura Spirits Company.

Ventura Spirits Company distills, ages and bottles brandy, vodka and other craft spirits using mostly locally sourced ingredients. I’m partial to the Wilder Gin, flavored with wild-harvested native botanicals, including purple sage, bay leaf and Pixie mandarin peel. Its flavor has been likened to a hike in the Ojai Valley after a rain. Herbaceous, fresh and available for pickup from the facility on Ventura Avenue or shipped anywhere in California. $35. Ventura Spirits Company, 3891 N. Ventura Ave., Ventura, 805-232-4313,

Kimberly’s Picks

Kimberly Rivers, Staff Reporter


Music and pop-culture lovers of all ages will find all manner of treasures at Salzer’s — CDs, movies, records, lunch boxes and fun figurines to adorn the work or classroom at-home office setting. To ensure a safe shopping experience for all, Salzer’s has a staff member at the door making sure everyone is masked and offering a dollop of hand sanitizer. If you’d rather not browse the aisles, just opt for a gift card. Salzer’s Records, 5777 Valentine Road, Ventura, 805-639-2160,

Artsy Glasses

Artist-designed glasses from The Porch Gallery in Ojai offer a fun, festive and thoughtful gift for beverage drinkers of any slant. Porch will pack and ship your gift, along with a fabulous mint julep recipe and a handwritten card. Designs include an Ojai-centric option by Sam Hamann and a Collins glass with a horse drawing by Katie Van Horne. $15 and up. The Porch Gallery, 310 E. Matilija Ave., Ojai, 805-620-7589,

CSA Produce Box

An example of a Summer CSA Box from The Abundant Table.

Ventura County is blessed to have several thriving Community Supported Agriculture options for fresh, locally grown produce delivered to our doors. For $120, you can send someone four weekly deliveries courtesy of the Abundant Table. (Note: they take a break in December, so deliveries will start up in January.) Farmivore can ship certain items out of the area via UPS. This is a totally contactless shopping option you can set up online or via phone. 

The Abundant Table, 1012 W. Ventura Blvd., Camarillo, 888-707-6513,

Farmivore, Camarillo, 805-585-8968,

Zero-Waste Products

Zero-waste products and more are available from The Refill Shoppe in Ventura.

Reduce the waste stream in home cleaning and body care products and keep your dollars in your community! You can shop in the store or on the web and select products in reusable or zero-waste containers that can be shipped to friends and family. Options include everything from shampoo and conditioner to glass cleaner and laundry soap to essential oils and even refillable dental floss. The Refill Shoppe, 363 E. Main St., Ventura, 805-765-9135

Restaurant Gift Certificates

Every restaurant from fast food to four star is being plagued by the repeated pandemic shutdowns. Gift cards from your favorite spots are a perfect way to help the business owner <em>and</em> give a thoughtful and tasty gift — to be enjoyed now with takeout or later when dining onsite is available again. Don’t forget your beloved breweries, wineries and distilleries!