It’s the holiday season, and you’re going to have to buy a present. If you live in Jersey City, I’m afraid there’s no excuse for coming to the party empty-handed. You don’t have to go to a suburban strip mall or cross the river to find interesting gift shops. Chances are, there’s a strong option near you. It’ll be local, independent, offbeat, and loaded with personality, because that’s how we do things. Here are a few of our favorites. Tell us yours.  We’ve got to shop, too.

Sure Things

Sure Things (561 Palisade Ave.)

This is a two-year-old store at the northern limit of the city, right across the street from Fox and Crow.  Sure Things sells old paperbacks, odd artifacts, posters, candles, vintage chairs, and various curiosities.  It’s a relaxed place to hang, the buyer has quirky taste in pottery and furniture, and the palette is a friendly golden brown. They’ve shown their good taste by hanging a reprise of Katelyn Halpern’s cheeky “Art on Toast” (exactly what it sounds like) on the southern wall. No store feels more like the Heights. (11 a.m. – 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. on Sunday; visit or @surethings_ on IG.)

The Lucky Honeybee

The Lucky Honeybee (476 Palisade Ave.)

Well, this one feels like the Heights, too. It’s about two blocks south of Sure Things, so you’ll want to time your walk so you can visit both. The Lucky Honeybee is an ecologically friendly gift shop that sells a variety of lotions, candles, and balms — including some made with the store’s own blend of soy and beeswax. They’ve got chocolate bars, hair accessories, a few decks of tarot cards, and some of the nicest jewelry available in the neighborhood. Everything is reasonably priced, including planet-friendly refill options for empty detergent and shampoo bottles. That’s a great idea. More stores ought to do it. (11 a.m. – 6 p.m. from Tuesday to Friday, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday; visit or @theluckyhoneybee on IG.)

Rene Angelo Toys

Rene Angelo Toys & Collectibles (276 Central Ave.)

Here’s a comic book reader’s delight: a narrow store stocked to overflow with action figures. Rene Angelo sells fantasy-branded t-shirts, the obligatory Pokemon merchandise, too, and toy cars associated with the Avengers. But mostly, it’s one heroic figurine after another, albeit with some monsters and evil robots interspersed among the rippling anime muscle. You can count on Dragonball Z, X-Men, wrestler men, Batmen, Spidermen, all the men you need.  There are even a few girls.  Believe it or not.  (11 a.m –7:30 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday, 10 a.m – 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday, 10 a.m. – 8:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. on Sunday; visit @reneangelostore on IG.)   


Clutter (23 McWilliams Pl.)

This shop’s motto is “love the clutter,” but it isn’t too cluttered. Instead, it’s the most elegant independent housewares store in town. Clutter sells handsome wooden kitchen items and brass chimes and bells for seasonal jingling, but their specialty is pillows and blankets: big, soft, melting cushions that might make you a little drowsy just to look at them, and beautiful cotton and mohair throws that beg to be rolled around in. Hey, ‘tis the season. They also sell Rooted Herbal candles, which are almost too pretty to burn. (11 a.m – 7 p.m. on Tuesday to Saturday, 11 a.m – 6 p.m. on Sunday; visit or @lovetheclutter on IG.)

The WORD Bookstore

WORD Bookstore (29 McWilliams Pl.)

Jersey City can’t claim credit for this one: WORD was on Franklin Street in Greenpoint well before they got wise to the literary merits of the left side of the Hudson. But they’ve become an integral part of the community, hosting author talks, open mic events, and story-reading hours for kids on the weekends.  They’re not just about books (though if it’s books you’re looking for, you’ve come to the best place in town for them). WORD sells writing pads, gold paper clips, calendars, games, the latest editions of the Dungeons and Dragons rulesets, and — what else? — tarot cards. Lots of those around town lately, I notice. It’s a scary future. Can’t blame us for trying to unfog it. (10 a.m. – 7 p.m. daily; visit or @wordbookstores on IG.)

Into The Void

Into the Void (117 Brunswick St.)

What can you say about a furniture store named after one of Black Sabbath’s doomiest recordings? The proprietors at Into the Void regularly turn up antiques from the heyday of classic rock: sofas, tables, chairs and lamps that scream Carter Administration, if not earlier. Their back room is a timewarp — right down to the art that hangs on the wall. The front room is for smaller pieces that are no less intriguing, and you can order a cappuccino from a café counter while you’re looking around. Coffee and lounge chairs: it’s just like Sunday morning. (7:30 a.m. – 3 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday, 7:30 a.m. – 6 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday; visit or @intothevoidantiques on IG.)

Iris Records (109 Brunswick St.)

Years before Brunswick between Newark and Christopher Columbus became an indie retail strip, Iris Records was there, in an old pharmacy with tin ceilings, dishing out the vinyl platters to collectors and newbies alike. Recently, the legendary record store closed operations at its old home and crossed the street to a new building. The new digs aren’t as interesting, but the records sure are. Though it’s got more competition than it used to have, this remains the best place in Jersey City to find a crate and dive in. (Noon – 7 p.m. on Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. on Saturday, noon – 6 p.m. on Sunday; visit or @irisrecords on IG.)

Living Room

Living Room (277 Newark Ave.)

Everything about this black-owned, female-owned home goods store is positively adorable: the toys for kids, the tree ornaments, the decals and stickers, the nesting baskets, and the stationary. Most of the designs are approachable, the colors are bright, the aesthetic is consistently pleasant, and the prices are affordable by urban Jersey standards. It’s also one of the few independent places in town that offer balloons by the bouquet, thus obviating the need to go to a big box retailer.  Keep it personal and local.  That’s what Santa Claus would want you to do. (11 a.m. – 7 p.m. on Tuesday to Sunday; visit or @livingroomjc on IG.)

Serendipity Crystals (271 Newark Ave.)

You don’t have to believe that the rocks have healing powers. All you have to do is surrender to their beauty. That’s easy at Serendipity, where big, tumbler-polished stones beam up at the buyer from terra cotta bowls and geodes on shelves stare down like busts of ancestors. There are other sanctuaries in town that sell crystals, and other businesses that share Serendipity’s new age vibes. But you’ll never find so much of geological interest under the same roof, or presented in such peaceful and harmonious surroundings. (12:30 p.m. – 8 p.m on Monday to Thursday, 12:30 p.m. – 10 p.m on Friday and Saturday, 12:30 p.m. – 6 p.m on Sunday; visit @jerseycitycrystals on IG.)

Love Locked (353 Grove St.)

You’ll encounter nice pieces at many shops in town. But Love Locked in Jersey City’s finest jewelry store, and there’s really no debate about that. Nowhere else will you find the depth of selection, or the consistency of manufacture, or the ethereal quality of the rings, bracelets, and necklaces. This is the place for one-of-a-kind pieces, many of which are handmade by jewelers who the store has been working with for years. You’re going to pay more than you would elsewhere. But it’ll be worth it. (Noon – 6 p.m on Thursday to Sunday; visit or @shoplovelocked on IG.)


SECÜR (291 Grove St.)

Keely Bembry was one of the designers singled out by the organizers of the Jersey City Day of Fashion for excellence. Take one look at SECÜR, her second-floor Grove Street boutique, and you’ll understand how she’s grabbed attention for her work. Her bold, glittery designs suit the gold-painted mannequins they adorn. Bembry loves floral prints, stretchy fabrics, wild patterns and day-glo colors. Some of her designs borrow, enthusiastically, from the casual aesthetic of athleticwear. Others are as frilly as an ‘80s prom. There’s only one thing her clothes aren’t: understated. (11 a.m. – 8 p.m. on Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m – 6 p.m on Sunday; visit or @securbykbs on IG.)

Hazel Baby & Kids (199 Montgomery St.)

The north face of the ground floor of the Charles & Co. building at Montgomery and Grove is home to a trio of well-loved indie retailers who have been in the community for a while — though not always at this location. Hazel, a children’s store, is run by the same people who brought us Hound About Town (a good place to stop if there’s a pet on your Christmas list). They’ve got racks full of rompers, as you’d expect. But they also stock some of my favorite gifts for the very young, like a wooden rainbow almost-puzzle that comes apart in a baby’s hand, color by color and arc by arc. (10 a.m. – 7 p.m. on Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. on Sunday; visit or @hazelbabystore on IG.)

Kanibal & Co

Kanibal & Co. (197 Montgomery St.)

Kanibal’s wares are varied, but the quality isn’t. If it’s stocked there, you know it’s well made. The store leads with the Jerseyana, including Garden State t-shirts and accessories sporting the names of area towns. But there’s also a bath section, baskets of tricky-to-find candy, and some of the prettiest pieces of handmade jewelry around. A subtle outdoor theme runs through the merchandise and decor: the flannel shirts in the back look ready for the mountain, some of the mugs and cups seem suited for a campfire, and the furniture wouldn’t be out of place in a ski shop. (11 a.m. – 8 p.m. on Monday to Friday, 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. on Saturday, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. on Sunday; visit or @shopkanibal on IG.)

Another Man's Treasure

Another Man’s Treasure (195 Montgomery St.)

Some people call it a thrift shop. It’s not that. Colorful it is, but there’s nothing haphazard about Another Man’s Treasure, a vintage clothing store as scrupulously curated as the Dior store in the Short Hills Mall. Arguably, it’s more organized, since the people who’ve run the place must harmonize dresses, hats, and shoes from across the decades. This place is loaded with famous brands — they’re just affixed to articles of clothing that are, in many cases, older than the average Jersey City resident. It’s funny how timeless fashion can be. Paradoxical, I know. (11 a.m. – 8 p.m. on Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. on Sunday; visit or @amtvintage on IG.)

Downtowner (9 Erie St.)

Even a herbivore like me had to give it up to the Downtowner. The outpost of the Dark Pines butcher shop once slung superior sandwiches, including several tailored to vegetarians. Alas, sammies are no longer available at this location, but the tiny storefront on Erie is still selling non-edibles, including soaps, tableware, and Christmas cards painted by Jersey City artist Victoria Vassalotti. For presents that can be eaten, Darke Pines is just a few blocks to the west. CoolVines is directly south on Grove Street. But if I start listing specialty food shops, we’ll be here all night. Let’s stick to the dry goods for now. (noon – 6 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday; visit @darkpines_downtowner on IG.)  

Common Earth Company

The Common Earth Company (99 Monticello Ave.)

Here’s a winsome gift shop at the southern end of one of the city’s most interesting streets. The Common Earth Company makes their local pride palpable with Chilltown t-shirts, pillows, and aprons that pinpoint the location of Jersey City down to its exact latitude and longitude.  They’ve also got soaps on the shelves, vinyl records in the back, tableware, wine glasses, hardcover books, an array of hand-woven West African-style baskets, a sunny communitarian vibe, and a very pleasant aroma. They do yoga classes, too. (10 a.m. – 6 p.m. on Wednesday to Friday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. on Saturday, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. on Sunday; visit or @thecommonearthcompany on IG.

NG Cake & Craft

NG Cake & Craft (126 Monticello Ave.)

Cross the street from Common Earth and walk a block north, and you’ll find NG Cake & Craft, a small store with the capacity to accommodate the demands serious bakers. That’s not to say that you need to be one in order to appreciate this shop. If you are simply in the market for cookie sheets, or a stand to rest a cooling confection, they’ve got you covered. But if you’re the sort of kitchen wizard who knows how to use fondant, piping bags, colored icing and modeling tools?, well, this might be your new playground. (10 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. on Monday to Saturday; visit or @ngcakeandcraft on IG.)

Bon Vivant

Bon Vivant (295 Johnston Ave.)

While we’re discussing cakes, I’m pleased to report that a master baker crept into town while we weren’t looking. Bon Vivant specializes in petit fours: bite-sized chunks of pastry and frosting in flavors like lavender, rose petal, and bourbon vanilla. Their shop will sell them to you in convenient, grid-like gift boxes with slots for the meticulously crafted cubes of cake. Resting there artfully, they resemble mah-jongg tiles, or squares in a beautifully balanced mosaic.  This’ll be one of the prettiest gifts you’ll give this season. Their deliciousness is almost gratuitous. Almost. (11 a.m. – 6 p.m. on Tuesday to Saturday; visit www.bonvivantnewyork or @bonvivant.newyork on IG.)

The Hive Goods/Deep Space (77 Cornelison Ave.)

A few of Jersey City’s best galleries are celebrating the season with affordable art markets — SMUSH in McGinley Square, Art House on Marin Boulevard. Deep Space is a little different, though. The celebrated exhibition space shares a building with a thrift shop and pop-up venue called The Hive Goods. Even when there isn’t a show going on (there almost always is), the Hive is worth checking out for its old books, curious artifacts, excellent selection of vinyl records, and art from Deep Space regulars. This weekend, Deep Space will be roaring with its Gigantic Miniatures affordable art show, and on Sunday, the Hive will be part of the party. (3 p.m. – 11 p.m. on Sunday, December 10, 5 p.m. – 11 p.m. on Thursday, December 14, 2 p.m. – 8 p.m. on Sunday, December 17, 5 p.m. – 11 p.m. on Thursday, December 21, 5p.m. – 11 p.m. on Friday, December 22, 3 p.m. – 11 p.m. on Saturday, December 23; visit or @deepspacejc on IG.)

Tris McCall has written about art, architecture, performance, politics, and public culture for many publications, including the Newark Star-Ledger, the Bergen Record, Jersey Beat, the Jersey City Reporter,...