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Stuck for a last-minute gift? Pick up a yodeling pickle and more



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Updated: January 23, 2014 6:27AM

Christmas is Wednesday. The savvy person has already purchased presents online, weeks if not months ago, and has them wrapped in a closet, ready.

That person is not you, obviously. You let the week of Christmas arrive without getting that gift you really need, maybe without even figuring out what that gift might be. Don’t beat yourself up. There are people who leap out of airplanes without checking to be sure they are wearing a parachute.

So what do you do now? The good news is that you live in, or near, the great city of Chicago, and there are all sorts of odd and wonderful shops you can pop in for that last-minute something. You don’t need me to tell you to go to Target, so here are three quirky places where you might more easily find a unique something for your special someone.

For kids and hipsters

Place: Uncle Fun, 1338 W. Belmont.

Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday; 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday.

What you’ll find: A cluttered emporium of kitsch and ephemera, the stock of 1960s gumball machines cleaned out of the back of warehouses and offered for sale in dentist drawers. More plastic ants, party favors, swizzle sticks than you can imagine, plus higher-end old tin robot toys.

What’s popular? “We have whoopee cushions, stretching dinosaurs, yodeling pickles, sock monkeys — sock monkeys are really big this year,” said Holly Quirk, a clerk. “Temporary tattoos. Fantastic balloons. We have your classic pranks: hand buzzer, disappearing ink, fly-in-ice cubes.

Do they wrap? “Technically no,” she said. “We have bags that are pretty nice.”

For cooks and the stylish

Place: Chicago Architectural Foundation Shop, 224 S. Michigan, Chicago. Hours:

9 a.m. until 7 p.m. Monday; 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Tuesday. What you’ll find:

A wide selection of toys, books, puzzles, games, umbrellas, cups, kitchenware, cookware, all tied together with the common theme of architecture, Chicago or clever design. What’s popular?

“Oh my, anything involving Frank Lloyd Wright,” said Steve Doornbos, an employee. “We have some wooden trivets based on his designs.”

His personal favorite gift from the shop is a picture book of fruits and vegetables rendered into comic faces, “Food Play,” by Saxton Freymann and Joost Elffers. Do they wrap?

“We have gift boxes available,” Doornbos said, “and we sell gift wrap but don’t offer wrapping.”

For those who love flying

Place: The Boeing Store, 410 W. Washington (in the Boeing building, natch, just west of the Chicago River).

Hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday. Closed Tuesday.

What you’ll find: Model airplanes, wood or die-cast, all 25 percent off now. Plush airplanes, airplanes on shirts, mugs, pens. Branded “Boeing” items, plus clothing — a neon-green safety full-zip hoodie, just like the runway workers wear.

What’s popular? “Outerwear, lot of new safety gear,” associate Heather Price said. She said customers enjoy “Jet Flakes,” little tubs of snowflake-like sweets.

Do they wrap? Yes, and it’s free.

That’s all I have room for, alas. And next year, plan ahead. It isn’t the present so much as the thought behind it, and it’s hard to be thoughtful at 4 p.m. Christmas Eve. Do your best now, but try to do better in 2014.


Twitter: @NeilSteinberg

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