The holidays present a time to spread goodwill with our loved ones. It is a time to shower family with love, friends with camaraderie, and neighbors with kindness.
Gift giving is one way to convey those feelings. However, finding the perfect present can prove elusive. Buying at big-box stores might be easy, but often lacks the warmth and insight a handmade gift can deliver. And accessible, mass-produced products make us overlook our local businesses and the crafts they produce.
In the spirit of the holidays, now is the time to celebrate and embrace our community's contributions. The following products are the fruit of families, chock-full of ambition and dreams. From generations-old businesses to newly formed entrepreneurial endeavors, the flavorful and fashionable items on this list are homegrown goodies, created by the hands of fellow San Antonians.
The Guenther House
Since 1851, The Guenther House has produced flour, biscuit, and gravy mixes; dough; and tortilla products. It began and continues to be a family-owned-and-operated endeavor, and many of the products are sold across the world. Currently, there is a museum, gift shop, and restaurant on the grounds where locals and tourists can enjoy biscuits, waffles, pancakes, and other delicacies made in-house.
Those that love to cook may find some fun in the special-made River Mill gift boxes. There are plenty of Texan treats inside including (but not limited to) jalapeño cornbread mix, pecan brittle, wildflower honey, and country gravy mix. A sweet little touch in some sets include an Alamo- or Texas-shaped pancake mold. Gift sets range in price from $7.95 to $95.95.
Dorćol Distilling Company
Because of the vision of two young men, an abandoned lot on South Flores Street transformed into the first distillery in Texas to produce brandy. Founders Boyan Kalusevic and Chris Mobley wanted to continue a family tradition of European farmhouse distilling and brought the methods to the Alamo City.
Fueled by that vision, they created Dorćol Distilling Company in 2011 (pronounced door-chol), named after a neighborhood in Serbia Kalusevic grew up in. The two work with a third-generation Serbian coppersmith on the equipment and collaborate with a grower to produce the fruit for their brandy, Kinsman Apricot Rakia. Since its inception, the spirit has won numerous taste-testing awards including 2014's highest-rated American brandy at the Beverage Testing Institute's World Spirit Championships in Chicago. It earned a 90-point gold medal, the highest rating ever for a Texas spirit.
Created in small batches and enjoyed in a mixed beverage or on the rocks, a bottle of Kinsman Apricot Rakia is a spirited gift for the cocktail aficionados in your life and can be purchased at the distillery, Twin Liquors, or Spec's.
Dos Carolinas San Antonio Studio
There is nothing like a shirt tailored to your measurements. At Dos Carolinas, practicality meets luxury as designer Caroline Matthews fuses elegance with the laid-back feel of a guayabera. Since 1987, Matthews has designed custom guayaberas for Texans. With natural, breathable fibers, a guayabera is a fashion staple for the hotter San Antonio seasons. What's more, it can be dressed up or down for all occasions.
Matthews' boutique features seersucker, nylon, and linen in a rainbow of playful colors and fanciful patterns pleasing to the eye. With a variety of embellishments and fundamental options — such as pockets, sleeves, and pleats — the possibilities of a guayabera can range from traditional styles to contemporary prints like camouflage, depending on what the customer wants. For the fashion-savvy man, a customized shirt can be a wise investment that lasts many years.
A special-order shirt will run you anywhere from $120 to $350 and takes four to six weeks to create. However, there is enough selection of ready-made shirts on the rack that won't leave customers disappointed. For the discerning child or female in the family, Matthews has ready-made child-sized shirts and guayabera dresses.
Esperanza Peace & Justice Center
In a house located on the west side of San Antonio, women have found a safe haven to tell their stories with a creative output. For two decades, women congregate here to sculpt, paint, sketch, and share stories through artistic means.
Founded in 1995, the MujerArtes cooperative is one of the Esperanza Peace & Justice Center’s largest programs. At the studio, women receive guidance from experienced ceramicists and shape personal art with clay. The program provides a support system where everyone is considered both a teacher and a student, bound by creativity and cultural experiences.
Thousands of visitors are drawn to various MujerArtes exhibits throughout the year, namely Dia De Los Muertos and Mother's Day, but pieces can be purchased year-round at the Esperanza Center. Sugar skulls, embellished plates, masks, figures, paintings, and jewelry are a few options available. From sculptures of La Santa Muerte (saint of death) to San Antonio landmarks and hand-painted pins of Selena, there is plenty of puro San Antonio to go around. Pieces range from $3 to $100 so there's something for every budget and taste. Proceeds from the art go back to funding more programs at the Esperanza Center.
Little's Boot Company
Located in a small building on the south side of town, few would expect some of America's finest handcrafted boots from such an unassuming place. Little's is a great example of big things that come from little packages. For over 100 years, and three generations, the Little family has created custom boots in San Antonio.
Ben Little began a legacy when he started manufacturing in 1915, the boots gaining notoriety for their craftsmanship. After Ben's death in 1966, his son Dave Little has run the show with his children Sharon and Duane, where they continue to create the high-quality product their grandfather strived for.
The detail of the boots is apparent in every single stitch and bead. With embellishments like yellow roses, mockingbirds, the Alamo, stars, and longhorns, this family is no stranger to Texas traditions. Each pair is a masterpiece created by master artisans, built to last. When asking for your dream pair of boots, the Littles take all factors into consideration from instep, color, and toe options to leather preference. The process is so tedious, even the ear pulls, soles, and heels are taken into account. Custom made-to-measure boots begin at $1,250.
If you're expecting a custom pair of boots by Christmas, you're out of luck, partner. A specialty pair of boots takes anywhere from six to eight months to complete, so we suggest gifting an IOU. There is, however, a wide variety of ready-made boots and belts for sale that do not shirk on quality.
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