5 of the Best Local Shops for Hip Gifts You Can’t Get at Big Box Stores

Trying to shop for a hipper-than-thou friend who hates big box stores? Impress him or her by picking up something from one of these artfully curated local shops.




Fischberger’s Variety

2445 N. Holton St.

It’s 50% general store, 50% gift shop and 100% great. On any given visit, you might find off-color greeting cards, pillow-sized Japanese plush dolls, skeins of yarn, books by Milwaukee authors and infomercial-worthy kitchen gadgets lining its shelves. During the warmer months, seed packets and live plants also put in frequent appearances.

Photo courtesy of Fischberger’s Variety




Little Monsters

2445 N. Farwell Ave.

Babies don’t care whether they’re wearing an organic cotton onesie, but their parents might. At Little Monsters – an East Side boutique whose owner sources her wares from as far away as Africa, Asia and South America – you can find fashion-forward clothing for infants, toddlers and children up to 10. It also sells handmade toys and educational games.

Photo courtesy of Little Monsters





5422 W. Vliet St.

According to the sign hanging over its entrance, Swoon sells “trinkets and doodads.” Many of those doodads come from Milwaukee-area makers, like Milky Way Clay and Cream City Rocks. But its owner also stocks work by artisans farther afield. One of our personal favorites right now is a La Croix cross-stitch kit by the Los Angeles-based artist Stranded Stitch.

Photo courtesy of Swoon




Cival Collective

911 W. National Ave.

This Walker’s Point jewelry store is as effortlessly cool as the witchy, tattooed women who run it. They make the jewelry themselves and clearly favor clean-lined minimalist pieces (crystal cage necklaces, teardrop-shaped brass bangles, shoulder-skimming smoky quartz earrings). But you can also find some quirkier stuff, like a sculptural knuckle ring that doubles as a bottle opener.

Bartender’s Ring designed by Nina Palacio for Cival




5 Points Art Gallery and Studios

3514 N. Port Washington Ave.

Did you know that one of the city’s best gift shops is inside a shuttered funeral parlor? Late last year,
artist and developer Fatima Laster converted the Johnson-Goolsby Funeral Home into a sprawling art gallery and studio space. She sells affordable art objects – think cards, prints, jewelry, scarves and hand-painted ornaments – out of a first-floor gift shop adjacent to the gallery. Laster says she priced some items as low as $1 or $2 to get locals used to the idea of buying original art.

Photo by Aliza BBaran

This story is part of Milwaukee Magazine‘s December issue. 

Click here to read more from the issue. 

Find it on newsstands or buy a copy at milwaukeemag.com/shop

Be the first to get every new issue. Subscribe.



Lindsey Anderson covers culture for Milwaukee Magazine. Before joining the MilMag team she worked as an editor at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and wrote freelance articles for ArtSlant and Eater.