Tanda Evans and Cindy Tahl, now in their 17th Christmas at Smith's Mercantile in downtown Chehalis, said stumped shoppers are common but they have solutions.

In the waning days before Christmas, many shoppers are likely finishing up the last of their shopping list.

And a few may be trying to trying to check off some names who are giving them difficulty. It might be a boss or a co-worker, a new boyfriend or girlfriend, a neighbor who has invited you to a holiday party or the person who just has it all. With some people on your list, it’s common to draw a blank on what to get.


Rebecca Staebler of Hubbub in downtown Centralia said even if you don't know the person well, finding a gift can be as easy as choosing something you personally love.

At Smith’s Mercantile in Chehalis, co-owners Tanda Evans and Cindy Tahl said gift givers with no idea what to give is a very common problem.

“We see them every day,” Tahl said. “You can tell by the look in their eyes. Then I’ll say, ‘can I help you?’ And they’ll say ‘I need help.’”

Coming up with a gift idea for some of the trickier names on your list can be as simple as thinking about what you do know about that person, said Lauren Shelton, Retail Rockstar for Gifted in downtown Chehalis, who said she would estimate they see at least 10 shoppers a day with no idea what to buy. She said her first questions to a stumped gift giver is general questions about the person.

“It helps to know who they’re shopping for. Male? Female? Unisex? Or what is the occasion?” Shelton said.

If the intended gift recipient is someone you don’t know well, even a small detail such as they enjoy cooking or camping or have a pet, can be a clue that can help store owners steer you in the right direction, said Rebecca Staebler, owner of Hubbub in downtown Centralia. Knowing a little about their personal sense of style can also be helpful. 

But when it comes to gift giving, Staebler added, putting your heart into picking something is the best piece of advice. If you love it, chances are they will, too.

“Sometimes a gift pushes you outside your usual,” Staebler said. “Just because it’s not something they would pick out for themselves doesn’t mean they won’t like it.”

If you’re looking for some inspiration for those difficult names on your list this Christmas, these local gift experts shared some of their favorite finds this season:



425 N. Market Blvd, Chehalis

(360) 740-5400,

Open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Christmas Eve and closed Christmas Day. Otherwise, normal hours.

• Corkcicle canteens and tumblers (under $30) are triple insulated, which means they can keep a beverage hot for 12 hours or cold for 25 hours. “And they come in a variety of patterns and colors so they’re good for anybody,” said Ashley Hamilton, Retail Rockstar.

• The Poo-Pourri product line (under $20 for a holiday gift set) is a lighthearted gift that is sure to tickle most gift recipients, plus it actually is a useful gift. “It really works,” said Shelton. “Once you buy it, you’ll never be without it again.” 

• Luminara candles (under $50) are battery operated candles with a faux flame that sways back and forth when lit, giving it an extremely realistic look and feature an auto shut-off function. “Candles are the first thing you think of when you don’t know a lot about someone but what if they have allergies? Or pets that would knock over a candle? Or kids? These are perfect for that,” Shelton said.

• Gourmet du Village (starting under $10) makes a wide variety of hot and cold dip mixes as well as dip warmers and chillers to go with them. With flavors ranging from Sriracha to lemonade and easy recipes, they’re sure to satisfy giftees who like to cook, or just eat. “They even make a cast iron skillet that fits an entire wheel of brie,” said Bree Gelvin, Hallmark Department Manager. 

• Backhanded Compliment Cards (under $30) this deck of cards will always give you the right thing to say, from “You Trip So Gracefully” to “You Have the Wrists of a Sailor.” “This is a really fun, silly thing,” Shelton said. “This is a really good gift when you don’t know what to get.”

• Other picks from the Gifted staff: the Kitchen Boa (under $20) is worn around the neck like a scarf and can be used as a towel or apron with less fuss; the Recipe Rock (under $20) easy holds several pieces of paper with a strong manet; Electric Donut Maker and mixes (starting under $10); wooden games and puzzles (around $20); hometown local mugs (under $20) feature a rose for Chehalis or pine cone for Lewis County; handwarmer mugs (under $30) have a handle that keeps the hand close to the mug sides; and wishes for a first Christmas or Baby’s first Christmas (under $30) feature six sweet, porcelain ornaments perfect for newlyweds or new baby on your list.


Smith’s Mercantile

465 N. Market Blvd., Chehalis

(360) 748-7901

Open 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 24 and closed on Christmas day. Otherwise open normal hours.

• Thymes (starting under $20) is best known for their soaps, lotions and other body care items, which may appeal more to women but Tahl pointed out Thymes also makes items like room sprays, including a Frasier pine scent, that would appeal to any gender. “People feel like when they get them, they’ve gotten a treat,” Tahl said.

• Jim Shore ornaments and statues (starting under $20) come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and themes so they are likely to appeal to any giftee. The Americana style Santas, snowmen and angels are decorated with different themes such as different countries, states and hobbies as well as a variety of traditional looks. “And the art is made in America so it’s a great ongoing line for us,” Tahl said. 

• Thompson Candle Company makes super-scented candles and wax melts (starting under $20) that are extremely long burning. Fragrances range from cinnamon bun and blueberry muffin to fresh air and fresh lemon. “These will burn all the way down to the bottom of the jar and they won’t turn anything black. They are extremely clean burning,” Tahl said.

• Snoozies slippers (around $20) come in a variety of colors and patterns but one suggestion from Smith’s co-owner Tanda Evans is a pair covered in pink sequins. “You can make someone feel like a princess,” she said.

• Other picks from Smith’s Mercantile: The Night Scout beanie (under $15) has a built-in LED light that offers three levels of illumination and is USB rechargeable; Smart Knife pocket knife (under $20) includes a variety of multitool functions; or coffee mugs (starting under $20) featuring different art, sentiments, pets or hobbies; the Busy Bee keychain light (under $15) has a built-in LED light that is USB rechargeable.



328 N. Tower Ave., Centralia

(360) 736-1517,

Closed Christmas Day and the day after Christmas. Otherwise open normal hours. Online shopping with free pickup in store available.

• Socks from Goodhew and Solmate (around $20-$25) are a practical gift that most people can use but feature fun designs and colors that are interesting. The Goodhews line even features selections with compression for diabetics or travelers. While Solmates feature funky patterns on individual socks that almost but not quite match each other. “Socks are always a great one,” Staebler said. 

• Puzzles (about $20-$120) in a variety of materials and designs, from classic works of art to picturesque scenes, seem to be a hot gift item this year, Staebler said. She said she recommends them because they have such a wide appeal and price points. “If you’re puzzles on a gift, get a puzzle,” she joked.

• EQPD out of Twisp, Wa. Makes a line of tote bags and carries (Under $40 to under $140) made from recycled materials and touted as the last bag you will ever need because of their lifetime warranty. Staebler said long carry could be especially useful for carrying tools or firewood, making this line an excellent choice for that hard to shop for man on your list. “Guy gifts are hard,” Staebler said.

• Other picks from Hubbub: Spooner Creek photo frames (under $25) feature a variety of styles and sentiments; Modgy luminary sets (under $15) come with water-activated LED floating candles that provide up to 100 hours of light; like the luminary, Modgy expandable vases ($10) lay flat for storage and come in a variety of colors and patterns; and Staebler said she always recommends Swedish Dish cloths, journals and candles that retail for less than $10, making them great items to have on hand just in case of an unexpected visitor or gift-giving occasion.

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