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Five suggestions for shopping locally for holiday gifts

By Caroline McMillan Portillo
cmcmillan@charlotteobserver.com

With Small Business Saturday happening this weekend, we present five gift suggestions from the Charlotte-area marketplace that will help you shop locally for your loved ones this holiday season.

Dinner is served

Jill Aker-Ray’s bread and butter:offering a helping hand and hot meal to the overwhelmed and over-worked.

Through her small business, What’s for Dinner? the personal chef offers everything from pantry makeovers to weekly delivered meals to home-cooking classes for groups. She does the shopping, the cooking and the cleaning. All you do is enjoy.

Price: Parties start at $50 a person, which includes groceries. A package deal of five meals (with four entrees each, sides included), hand-delivered, is $125 to $150, plus the cost of groceries.

Details: 704-621-1121; whatsfordinner.vpweb.com

Sew ready

This summer, Mary Jo’s Fabric Store in Gastonia began offering a bevy of affordable sewing classes for the first time in its 62-year history. Now, people of all ages and skill levels can learn to make everything from quilts to chair pads to hostess gifts.

New classes are added every month, and the beginner class ($20) comes with a voucher to help with supplies and other materials. Most classes run for five to six hours and have a maximum of six to 10 people.

Price: Classes range from $10 to $35.

Details: 704-861-9100, maryjos.com

Barber-shop buzz

If a man in your life is a lifelong barber-shop-goer, give him the the gift of masculine primping this holiday season at Charlotte-based Emerson Joseph, which opened in 2005 and has locations in Ballantyne and uptown.

Every buzzer-free cut comes with a scalp massage, straight-razor neck cleanup, shoe-shining, “hand-detailing” (manly manicure), hot facial towel and beer.

“You can pay $15 to go to pretty much anywhere and get your hair cut,” General Manager Ben Torres said. “But what Emerson Joseph offers is the full experience.”

Price: A 45-minute full-service haircut starts at $39. Gift packages for yearlong service are also available, starting at $510.

Details: 704-369-5181 (Ballantyne) or 704-343-3443 (uptown); emersonjoseph.com.

Preserving memories

Remember the days before smartphones, when you had to lug a clunky camcorder around on your shoulder to capture the joy of family outings, holiday gatherings and sports games?

Those days are gone. And, if you’re like most Americans, gone are the days of operable VHS players to watch those family videos on.

So give the gift of nostalgia (and de-cluttering) this holiday season, and take your loved ones’ stack of dusty family videos to Biggs Camera on Kings Drive. The shop, which opened in 1949, will convert any VHS or 8mm tape to a slim DVD.

Two or three videos will require a couple of working days, manager Troy Tomlinson says.

Price: Cost is $19.99 for the first tape-to-DVD conversion and $15 for each additional.

Details: 704-347-3501; biggscamera.com

Pose your pets

If you’ve got a dog- or cat-lover in the family, check this out: furry-friend portraits. Local photographer Donna Foster specializes in pet photography and in highlighting the beloved animal as well as the “closeness, the intimacy” between the dog or cat and its owner.

“Pets are family these days,” Foster says. “And those relationships are very, very special.”

Price: A two-hour photo shoot, plus initial consultation and final review starts at $200. Prints, which you order through Foster, start at $67 for a 5x7.

Details: 704-525-5188; donnafoster.com.

McMillan Portillo: 704-358-6045 On Twitter: @cbmcmillan
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