Hanukkah Gift Guide – St. Louis edition

Two ink portraits by Hannah Maurer, including late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at left,

By Ellen Futterman, Editor-in-Chief

This year’s ninth annual News & Schmooze Hanukkah Gift Guide will be different than previous installments, which seems apropos given that 2020 was an altogether different year. The focus this time is on supporting local, since we all know COVID-19 hasn’t been a friend to many small St. Louis businesses. 

Throughout the pandemic, the Light has featured stories of Jewish St. Louisans who either started a new business or worked tirelessly to keep the one(s) they have afloat. So I’ve included a few of these to refresh your memory, as well as others run by members of the local Jewish community.

So without further ado, Hanukkah shoppers on your mark, get set, let’s go. And in case you forgot, the holiday runs from sundown Dec. 10 until sundown Dec. 18. 

1. Notorious RBG 

Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away in September, but the memory of the U.S. Supreme Court’s first Jewish woman justice lives on this Hanukkah in a myriad of household goods, accessories and clothing items that bear her image and those of her trademark lace collars.

In St. Louis, 20-year-old college junior Hannah Maurer offers customized canvas or paper portraits that she sketches of Ginsburg with Sharpie markers. The United Hebrew congregant and 2018 Jewish Light Unsung Hero sells the 8 X 10 canvas for $45 (paper, $35), plus $9.99 for shipping and handling ($15.99 for expedited shipping). Her drawings are spot-on, and she’s willing to arrange for pick-up to save locals the extra cost of shipping.

Maurer’s oeuvre isn’t just limited to RBG either. Send her a photograph of pretty much anything – your kids, your house, your animals – and she will create a customized portrait with her Sharpies ready to hang on the wall. Check out her ingenious designs on her Facebook page, Hannah Grace, or email her at Hannah.g.maurer[at]gmail.com.

2. Experience club

MERS Goodwill ad

This gift checks a lot of boxes — it’s local, it’s practical, it’s affordable and several Jewish-owned small businesses are represented. I’m talking about the Experience Booklet, in partnership with #314Together, which offers discounts and special offers to dozens of St. Louis area shops, restaurants, bars and hotels. It’s a great way not only to support your favorite local establishments but also try some new ones while reaping all kinds of deals in the process.

For $25, you can choose among three different booklets, each of which offers hundreds of dollars in savings. For example, the “coffee shops, pastries, brunch and more” booklet gets you a free small order of pot stickers at Crispy Edge, a free pack of six cookies at Hot Box cookies and 2-for-1 sandwiches at Pickles Deli. Other booklets focus on “cocktails, pastries and brunch” and “rooftops, hotels and city swag.” Bundle and buy all three for $65. Even if you use only a few of the 30-plus discounts in each booklet, you’re likely to still make back your investment. And the best part: 100% of the proceeds from the sale of the booklets benefit Operation Food Search, located right here in STL. For more information, go to experiencebooklet.com.

3. Record time

Some people play records. Cadence “Cady” Hodes paints them. Hodes uses vinyl records as a canvas to paint intricate, one-of-a-kind patterned designs using colorful acrylics. 

When she first started, the 29-year-old Shaare Emeth congregant and UMSL master’s student decided which records to paint after scouring thrift stores for ones with vibrant labels. Now, she mostly does custom orders. 

“Clients often choose records that are meaningful to them, such as a couple’s first dance or someone’s favorite artist,” she said. “I’m working on an order now where I’m using lots of purples because it’s the (customer’s) wife’s favorite color.”

Hodes not only spends upwards of 20 hours painting these custom pieces but also works to locate a specific record for a client by combing eBay and other resale outlets. The cost of her finished work ranges from $150 to $275, depending on size (7 or 12-inch vinyl), and there is an added charge if she has to procure the vinyl record. Currently, she is running a sale on the painted records she has in stock, for $85 to $110. Her website is under construction, but you can email her at [email protected] or call 314-398-2733.


4. Happy Challah Days

Take a pair of enterprising Jewish sisters grounded at home, add a helpful mother and a Cricut cutting system, and voilà–you’ve got The Lame Flamingo, an online Etsy store that sells custom printed wearables, including Hanukkah-themed apparel and masks for adults and children. 

Melissa Socha, whose daughters Lilly, 22, and Emma, 17, started the business in April out of their O’Fallon, Mo. home, explains that “on a whim we put eight different Hanukkah masks on Etsy (at $5 each), and everyone went crazy for them.” 

The Lame Flamingo also offers interfaith ornaments and clothing, including my favorite, a $22 sweatshirt inspired by David (Daniel Levy) of “Schitt’s Creek” fame that reads: “I’m a delightful half-half situation.” The slogan is flanked by a tiny menorah and Santa hat. 

You can check out their Hanukkah merchandise and much more at etsy.com/shop/TheLameFlamingo. Avoid shipping costs by arranging for pick up through their Facebook page, The Lame Flamingo.

In addition, Debbie Solom, an oncology nurse practitioner and B’nai Amoona congregant, is also making Hanukkah masks (see above), the proceeds of which will go to buy gifts for cancer patients at SSM Cancer Care at DePaul Hospital. Solom’s masks sell for $5 each, or three for $12. You can contact her by emailing solom[at]sbcglobal.net. 

5. DIY fun

As the least crafty person I know, I was amazed by my accomplishment at AR Workshop in Olivette. Owned by Julie Yawitz and her daughter Kaitlyn, the studio offers dozens  of do-it-yourself decorative home projects, including ones for Hanukkah, ranging from wooden trays and signs to canvas pillows and bags to chunky knit blankets. Participants are provided with the raw materials and instructors are available to help. Within a few hours — and with a lot of guidance — I stenciled and stained a wooden garden box for herbs that I must say looks mighty professional. 

Class size is limited to allow for social distancing, though the workshop also offers virtual classes. Most projects cost between $40 and $70. You can peruse class offerings or book a family holiday party at arworkshop.com/olivette.

6. Cheeky laughs

As a reminder of another small business that I wrote about earlier this year, Pandemic Panties Co. promises to take the guess work out of what day of the week it is. 

Started by St. Louisan Lynne Kipnis and former St. Louisan Nancy Jones, each pair of underpants is emblazoned with a made-up pandemic day of the week, since many of us no longer can remember the actual day. So instead of Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and so on, there’s Today, This Day, That Day, What Day, Another Day, Who Cares Day and WTF Day. As Hanukkah gifts with humor go, this one is a winner.

The panties, made from Hanes Microfiber underwear, come in two styles – hipster or thong – and run in four sizes from small to XL. A set of seven hipsters, with each pandemic day, costs $60, including shipping, while a “weekender” set of two pairs goes for $22. 

Kipnis and Jones are donating half of the profits from sales among three organizations: the Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry, the Second Harvest Food Pantry in Santa Cruz, Calif., where Jones moved a few years ago after leaving St. Louis, and the Equal Justice Initiative. You can find out more at etsy.com/listing/830573924/pandemic-panties.

7. Name game

When it comes to personalization, few entrepreneurs have Julie Lander and her Studio Four Designs beat. Her motto: If it’s not moving, monogram it.

Lander, a mother of four who belongs to United Hebrew, seems to be able to monogram or personalize just about anything, be it cosmetic bags, baby bibs, shower caddies, dish towels, laundry bags, totes, nameplates, bathroom décor, beverage tubs, totes or wine tumblers — and that’s just for starters. 

What caught my eye are the drawstring gelt bags she designs out of cotton muslin and then personalizes. At $6, they’re not only the right price but also the right size to fill with gelt, gift cards or dreidels. You can check them out, along with the rest of her merchandise, at etsy.com/shop/StudioFourDesigns.

8. Pedal to the metal

Last year’s Hanukkah gift guide introduced you to Scott and Stephanie Rhea, who create beautifully crafted, unique menorahs, candleholders and other Judaica items, made from plasma-cut steel as part of their business, Cakes Metal Whimsies. This year they’ve added mezuzahs to their offerings, which are made of resin and sell for $54. Menorahs start at $45 and go up to $150.

Stephanie explains that years ago, her husband Scott built a machine to make parts to help turn regular cars into custom race cars – driving them was a hobby of his. 

“As he got older, he couldn’t twist into the right positions in the cars,” she said laughing. “He kept saying that we have this cool machine, we should make some cool stuff with it. So that’s when we started making what he calls our ‘frou frou stuff’ out of metal and steel.”

The couple, who belong to Temple Israel, also offer whimsical wall art and garden décor. You can check out their website at cmwhimsies.com. For more information, email [email protected] or call 314-302-7966.