Shopping local is more important than ever

November 20, 2021
By T Michele Walker

Support your local businesses at the Christmas Walk next Saturday

This feature is part one in a series that recognizes how different this year’s holiday shopping might be for many. With shortages of all kinds in the stores and much longer than average wait times on gifts that ship from far away, keep these tips in mind prior to ordering from a large corporate store or random online entity. In the weeks to come we will cover island and off-island shops, homemade gift ideas and thoughtful, clutter-free gift options that come in an envelope … not a box. 

Enjoy part one, our ode to the Boca Grande Christmas Walk and the businesses that make this island so special.

Since Christmas of last year, the shoppers of this country have taken on a whole new appreciation for the small businesses that are the backbone of our communities. While sales at box stores and online corporations are tempting – and are used frequently – the supply and demand issues that have plagued us for a year have taught us many things … including the fact that buying items from our friends and neighbors could mean the difference between their continued operation and their demise.

Small Business Saturday is a wonderful way to support the local businesses that have given you such joy throughout the years: Your support ensures that they will be here for years to come. When you shop locally at small businesses, you’re not just purchasing unique items that are hard to find anywhere else, you’re paying for a child’s college tuition, or a mortgage or someone’s groceries.

We are very lucky to have some of the finest and most interesting small businesses in this area right here on Gasparilla Island. There’s not many little towns where you can buy an iconic Lilly Pulitzer dress, go right next door and get one of the best lobster rolls on earth, then stroll down the street to browse in one of the most high-class pet stores you’ve ever seen.

Yes, that is Boca Grande … and we love this little town for those opportunities, and many more.

The Boca Grande Christmas Walk

Once the Halloween pumpkins have been tucked away in the holiday storage, you’ve got holiday gifting on your mind. You’re in luck, because the Saturday after Thanksgiving has traditionally been the date for the Boca Grande Area Chamber of Commerce Christmas Walk. With the downtown area all decked out in their holiday best, shops stay open until about 8 p.m. and serve up sales and goodies to their customers. 

While you may walk in the door of a shop because you heard about the amazing venison chile or the chocolate fondue fountain, chances are you will also find a gift idea for that person on your list that is so hard to buy for … or something you had never thought of giving because you didn’t know it even existed.  

The Christmas Walk is your chance to relax and explore some of the shops you rarely get to venture into if you’re a working person, and at the same time you’re supporting the people who are the backbone of our island – the merchants, the restaurateurs and the service workers.

Here are a few ideas from some of your favorite stores …

Boca Grande Shoppes and Boutiques

A Christmas gift bucket for the discriminating dog, sold at the Island Dog Boutique & Supply Co.

If you’re looking for something that is unique and island-special, Boca Grande has a store for you and all within walkable Park Avenue. 

Looking for gifts for an entire family? Check out the puzzles and games at The Tide. Looking for something personal and one-of-a-kind? Made to Inspire, a shop in the old Theatre Building, makes art to your specifications and color palette. 

For the purists, stop by Fugate’s and the Patio Shop for toys, shoes, candles, apparel … just about anything. If you have a friend who hasn’t had a chance to come down for a year or so and misses getting her annual “Lilly fix,” stop by The Palm on Park and ask Kris Boyden or one of her associates what’s new in the world of Lilly. Don’t forget to stop by Ariel, Ltd. to see what’s new there, too. 

Right across the street from those two businesses is Boca Blooms, which is not only a florist but an amazing gift idea venue as well.

Don’t forget the shops in Railroad Plaza, which include Boo Gemes and her unique apparel creations; long-time island favorite The Sun Porch with the clothing, handbags and much more for the discriminating fashionista; the Boca Grande Trading Company with all things pertaining to – you guessed it – Boca Grande; and another fabulous Boca Grande gem, The Island Dog Boutique. It’s one stop shopping for many items at Railroad Plaza, and you can sit and each at Sister’s Restaurant or grab a coffee or healthy sandwich at Bella Vida while you’re there.

Don’t forget the other shops in the downtown area on Park Avenue, such as the iconic J. McLaughlin shop which features some amazing sales quite frequently, and two art galleries – Smart Studio and Hughes Gallery – can be found there as well. In the Loose Caboose building you will fashionable clothing and accessories at Sunsets of Boca Grande. Need a beautiful piece of nautical jewelry for the fisherman in your life? Try Barbara Anne’s Jewelry and Repair, as they’re in the same building. Across Park Avenue you’ll find Aqua Boutique and Special Effects for Women, both stores that warrant a second or third look for perfect gift ideas for the discriminating female.

Lastly, try Gasparilla Outfitters or Boca Grande Outfitters on Park Avenue for gifts that will appeal to the men in your life, and more than a few women.

Food, Glorious Food

Boca Grande offers a culinary quality that is unsurpassed. Where else can you throw down some power shopping and then grab lunch at the at one of the most legendary restaurants on the west coast of the state? 

Boca Grande has no shortage of delectable eateries, so why not purchase a gift certificate to a local restaurant or coffee shop for a delicious gift that keeps on giving long after the holidays has ended? These are great gifts for the people in your life who rarely splurge on dining out. In addition to that coffee mug or thoughtful ornament for your child’s teacher, why not throw in a certificate for dinner? 


We all have that special someone who is impossible to shop for. Either they already have everything they need or they’re as particular as Felix Unger, you cringe at the thought of buying them one more tie or one more coffee mug.

Have you considered giving the gift of time, as in experiences?

From massage and mani/pedi’s to fishing excursions, family portrait sessions and deep-sea adventure, Boca Grande has a business for you. Or perhaps a yoga class or a dog training session is in order. You’ve come to the right place.

There are so many more opportunities for finding the perfect gift on Gasparilla Island. Step out of the box and make it a point to check them all out and spend local! 

We will continue this series next week… keep reading, it will be worth it! In the meantime, don’t forget to check Ballyhoo weekly for even more shopping ideas, specials and sales.