Strategic holiday shopping in downtown Kingston

By Andrea Gunn

You’ve got some hard-to-buy-for friends and relatives on your holiday shopping list and you want to shop locally. Take a tour of downtown Kingston and do some strategic shopping in some of the city’s many unique stores.

Pack your mask, bring your hand sanitizer, and approach your shopping with kindness and patience. The staff at downtown stores will be very happy to see you, but you can expect to be asked to wait outside if the business is at capacity, to wear your mask and physically distance when inside, and to use hand sanitizer on your way in and out.

Berry & Peterson Booksellers

348 King Street East

If you’ve got 20 minutes to spare in Berry & Peterson (348 King Street E.), here’s what you do. Check out the window displays first: they always feature interesting new additions, often film or art books and hard-to-find biographies. Once inside, the display on your left features local and regional history books; on your right are the newest additions to the store. Lining the right-hand wall is the literature section, where you can pick up a few classics, from Folio Society illustrated hardcover books to Penguin paperbacks. Don’t forget to pick up something for yourself in preparation for some winter cocooning. Move to your left and you’ll find both vintage and recent children’s and YA books (from Nancy Drew to Twilight) and a mouth-watering selection of cookbooks.

If you’ve got an hour (or two) to spend in Berry & Peterson, and don’t mind a few stairs, move farther into the store to discover history, mystery, philosophy, and more. The stock is always changing, so snap up those books that catch your eye while you can.

Dive into a few good books at Berry & Peterson | Credit: Tim Forbes

Kingston Olive Oil Company

62 Brock Street

Around the corner on Brock Street, you have a number of great shopping options, on both sides of the block. The Kingston OIive Oil Company (62 Brock St.) offers its own spin on an Advent Calendar, the “Olivent,” containing 24 miniature hand-filled bottles: 12 olive oils and 12 balsamic vinegars. The limited-edition Olivent sells out quickly every year, so if you miss out, there are still plenty of options for the gourmand on your shopping list. Sample-sized oil and vinegar pairings are neatly packaged in organza pouches: just the thing for stocking stuffers. Larger four-pack pairings feature oils and vinegars from Italy, Spain, Greece, or Syria. (You can also pick up the corresponding cookbooks for each country.) If all the choices of extra virgin and infused oils and specialty vinegars are a little overwhelming, don’t be afraid to ask the knowledgeable staff for advice. They can advise you on which oils are best for cooking and which will make the dullest salad come to life.

Kingston Olive Oil Co. offers free delivery in Kingston (and curbside pick-up in the County) and cross-Canada delivery.

Kingston Olive Oil six pack gift sampler
Kingston Olive Oil’s six pack gift sampler. Perfect for bread dipping, or drizzling over roast veggies or your favourite grilled meats. | Credit: Garrett Elliott

Agent 99

237 Princess Street | Temporarily moved to 259 Princess Street

If you’re looking for a combination of glam and fun, wander a little farther up Princess Street (between Sydenham and Clergy). * Look for the hot-pink Christmas tree in the window. That’s your cue to go into Agent 99 and pick up something for the fashionista in your life. As well as hip women’s clothing, from cozy loungewear to sparkling evening wear, Agent 99 has a whole array of accessories, from scarves to jewelry to masks. Did I mention the sequined masks? Yes, you can stay safe while staying fabulous.

Whit Kingston

239 Princess Street | Temporarily moved to 259 Princess Street

Sharing this space with Agent 99 is Whit Kingston, which features seriously hip casual streetwear for men and women as well as a host of cute must-have items (including toques, pillows, and Christmas decorations) celebrating Kingston, its neighbourhoods, and surrounding cottage country. Whit Kingston also features some fun dog accessories: celebrate the good doggo in your life with a dog birthday kit, featuring a treat recipe book, a bone-shaped cookie cutter, and a party hat.

Whit Kingston
Whit Kingston offers a varied selection of casual streetwear plus accessories celebrating favourite Kingston haunts | Credit: Tim Forbes

* Whit Kingston and Agent 99 are usually located one block south, at 237/239 Princess Street. But while their permanent space is being renovated, and throughout the holiday season, you can find them both at 259 Princess Street.

Kingston Glass Studio and Gallery

56 Queen Street

While Princess Street is an obvious choice for holiday shopping, don’t forget the artisanal gems just one block over, on Queen Street between King and Wellington. Kingston Glass Studio and Gallery (56 Queen Street) features the works of many local and regional artists. Glass offerings include jewel-like drinking glasses that will brighten up any breakfast table, whimsical Christmas tree decorations, delicate wire-wrapped glass earrings, and adorable heart-shaped (and acorn, and pumpkin) decorative pieces. Artworks from Kingston Glass Studio can be found in galleries, museums, and gift shops worldwide. Stop in and see where it all had its start. While the space (which features a working glassblowing studio) is obviously known for its glass art, both functional and sculptural, do spend a little time exploring the other works of art on display, from paintings to pottery, from 20 or so artisans.

Kingston Glass Studio and Gallery
Kingston Glass Studio and Gallery offers an array of functional and sculptural glass items. | Credit: Tim Forbes

Happy Thoughts

95 Clarence Street

Happy Thoughts, on the corner of Clarence at Wellington, is possibly the most aptly named store in Kingston. Just step through the doorway and you’ll feel your spirits lift. In this tiny shop (limit of three customers inside at a time, these days), you’ll find a little bit of everything you need for gift-giving, from puzzles to mugs to totes to greeting cards (both adorable and sarcastic varieties available), eco-friendly household supplies, and apparel. Scattered throughout the store are the creations from indie Canadian jewelry makers. When I was in, I saw lovely pieces from artisans from Kingston and Napanee as well as Vancouver. Which brings me to my next point…

Don’t be surprised if – when picking up a “Draw your own comic” book for your niece and a William Morris-inspired travel mug for your dad – you spot a number of items you wouldn’t mind receiving yourself. That’s why there’s a “Happy Thoughts wish list” card you can pick up just inside the entrance. Jot down the items that make you happy and give the list to that person who’s flummoxed at what to get you.

Happy Thoughts Kingston
Feel uplifted with the inspirational gift choices at Happy Thoughts. | Credit: Tim Forbes

Downtown Kingston businesses are committed to making your shopping experience a safe and satisfactory one. If you’re shopping in person, please observe store notices about number of customers allowed at any one time, wear a mask inside the store, and use hand sanitizer once inside. And please, ask questions! Local store owners and staff are happy to help you find exactly what you want.

While you’re picking up some unique finds, you can also collect stamps on your Downtown Kingston holiday passport (one stamp for every purchase of $10 or more). From now until December 24, collect five stamps and you’ll be entered into a weekly draw for one of two $500 vouchers, plus a grand prize of $2,000 to spend in Downtown Kingston businesses. Look for the Destination Downtown holiday passport signs in participating stores and restaurants.

Looking for the perfect gift? Downtown Kingston is excited to announce the launch of Downtown Dollars. Downtown Dollars work exactly like a gift card and can be used in many downtown shops, restaurants, and services. Until December 24th, Downtown Dollars are available with a huge bonus! Purchase $100 worth of Downtown Dollars for only $80, purchase $50 worth of Downtown Dollars for $40 and so on. Learn more here.

Discover more only-in-Kingston maker finds and shop online with our Maker Holiday Gift Guide.