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Variety, Bargains, New Merchandise Await Holiday Shoppers in Kent

Kent's shopping scene has changed considerably in the past 12 months, and now almost anything you want to wrap and give can be found downtown, or at least within the city limits

Shopping in Kent means you'll spend less time driving around, and therefore will have more time to consider your gift recipients this holiday season.

And this year, there are more reasons to shop in town — new stores, expanded merchandise selections, and sales — as well as the merchants themselves. In general, Kent-area retailers are thoughtful and helpful, willing and eager to help customers select the right gifts on any budget. And in many stores, shoppers can take advantage of free, beautiful gift-wrapping services.

Don't forget, if you want to get to downtown Kent today to shop on Black Friday you can .

Here are a few ideas to get started on holiday shopping in Kent:

Babies or kids on your list? While many Kent shoppers think of as the place to find unusual items and gag gifts, the store has added an impressive inventory of playthings for babies and young children. Store manager Kyle Buckley said the addition of toys for very young children (three months and up) has been the biggest change in merchandise selection this year. Many of the items are from the award-winning Melissa & Doug line, but Buckley says newly added toys are proving very popular, including the Manhattan Toy Skwish ball.

Wooden farm animal trains and Color & Cuddle bunnies, ponies, and kitties are also good choices for the pre-preschool set. Older kids might enjoy unwrapping an authentic erector set or Lego set. And don't worry, the store's unique inventory still contains things guaranteed to provide amusement for all ages and interests. Now in stock: bacon candy canes and roast beef flavored bubble gum.

Brand-conscious teens and young adults will appreciate Ugg boots from and North Face and Columbia outerwear from , which recently opened at Acorn Alley II.

Wild Earth owner Tim Nightengale and staff stock Keen and Teva boots as well as technical gear for hiking, camping, climbing, snow sports and other outdoor pursuits. The store's a good stop for anyone shopping for outdoors enthusiasts and athletes. Gifts for runners and others who could use sturdy shoes and weather-proof gear can be had at Second Sole at 104 S. Lincoln St. Employee Patrick Gorby said Under Armor running apparel and GPS watches are popular gift items, and the store is featuring 50 percent off select running shoes now through December.

Hostess gifts and decorative items

Good guests (especially those who hope to be invited back!) bring gifts to their host or hostess. In downtown Kent, unique, high-quality, reasonably priced options abound.

Venture into and you'll be overwhelmed with choices holiday-themed and otherwise. Supping at a neighbor's? Perhaps an autographed copy of would impress. Want something a little sweeter than a black squirrel T-shirt?

"Jennifer Eddy, our frame shop manager, hand made some black squirrel ornaments this year and they are just flying out of here," said owner Cass Mayfield. The petite ornaments, made of Sculpe clay, depict the town's trademark animals in a variety of poses with most of the squirrels playfully clutching an even smaller ornament.

"Each one is adorable and has its own personality," Mayfield said. Also new to the store's selection this year are upscale recycled jewelry, purses, and totebags by Alchemy Goods that make great gifts for those on your list who are both environmentally- and fashion-conscious.

also is brimming with beautiful ornaments, including the annual glass design of — what else — a black squirrel.

"They're pretty hot," owner Sue Nelson said of the squirrel figurines. "There's a new edition each year, and people wait for the new ornament each year."

Also popular are the store's chocolate advent calendars and liqueur-filled ornaments from Germany, which come in alcoholic and non-alcoholic versions. The traditional friendship ornaments come with a legend. "You give one to a friend, who isn't supposed to open it until either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, depending on which part of Germany you're from," Nelson explained. Folks who follow the directions not only get to enjoy the chocolate, they're also due for a year of good luck — according to legend, anyway.

The store also features ornaments and hand-crafted cards from artists far and near, including some by the Roosevelt High School student whose designs sell under the Art by Charlie name. The mind-boggling array of ornaments — most under $10 — must be seen to be believed. A buy-one, get-one at half price promotion runs through Dec. 2.

High school kids just want cash, right? Maybe — but some will admit they'd really like to wear their school colors, in the form of a class or varsity jacket. Owner Ed Waller knows it, and that's why he's running a special on class jackets, on sale for $151, through December. The store also carries sport-specific shoes and apparel.

Just jewelry will do? Stop in to see Omar or Shelly Awad at . The family has specialized in jewelry, particularly custom jewelry, for "generations," said Omar Awad. He has been in Ohio 12 years and is happy to have the newest jewelry store in Kent. Custom jewelry designs generally take three weeks to complete, he said, so if that's on your gift list this year, time is of the essence. On the other hand, the store also stocks a wide variety of precious and semi-precious stones and metal jewelry, including titanium, white and yellow gold, and can get any certified diamond or engagement ring, Awad said.

"And we beat all the corporate stores, apples to apples," he added. The store also sells the coveted Troll beads and Pandora lines of jewelry.  

Electronics or gadget aficianados can find many of the latest gadgets available in Kent, including at the full-service , which carries video equipment in addition to consumer and professional-grade cameras and accessories, and at , which carries an extensive selection of new and used video games, game consoles and accessories.

"We've got all the more popular games," said Randy Law, manager. "I expect the new Call of Duty (for Xbox 360) and Legend of Zelda for Wii to be really popular this year," he said. The store will have extended hours after Thanksgiving, he added. 

More ideas for holiday shopping can be found all over town.

  • : Ignore the textbooks (it's the holidays, after all) to find Kent State fleece and tees here.
  • : Specializing in antique pocket watches and clocks; also carries glassware, vintage jewelry, pottery, more
  • : Eco-friendly, useful items for the home, and home improvement. to a larger store in the second phase of Acorn Alley.
  • : Custom embroidery, personalized gifts.
  • : Henna and chocolate emporium.
  • Fig Leaf: Trendy, affordable clothing and accessories for women.
  • : Diamonds and gold jewelry, watches, clocks, and repairs.
  • : Greek and licensed Kent State University apparel.
  • : The new and used bookstore also expanded this year, with great new (and used) children's titles.
  • : Christian books, music, toys, gifts, and more.
  • : All things for music-making, from instruments to installed sound systems.

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