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First Coast Connect

Melissa's Picks: 'First Coast Connect' 2020 Local Holiday Gift Guide

First Coast Connect's Melissa Ross

What can we say about a year unlike any other? 2020 will forever be known for a divisive election, the toll of coronavirus, and economic hard times. Many are glad this challenging year is nearly over. But while a global pandemic and deep recession have changed all of our lives, one thing that hasn’t changed is the joy of the holiday season and the enduring spirit of giving.

It’s in that vein that we composed the second annual “Melissa’s Picks,” a curated list of delectable and locally produced gift ideas for you to purchase and share. These selections support local businesses (more important now than ever) and cover everything from food to fashion to great causes, plus some cool experiences you can look forward to in the new year.

We hope you’ll check out these ideas, and share them with your circle, too. Enjoy - and Happy Holidays!
XOXO Melissa


Provisions Cookbook

Edible Northeast Florida has heard your pleas and expanded their popular digital Provisions cookbook to print, just in time for the holidays. Provisions features more than 90 recipes and kitchen tips from local chefs, artisans, home cooks, and makers. Each page is adorned with beautiful photography by Northeast Florida’s best photographers. The cookbook is available for pre-order with guaranteed shipping and pick-up on December 4.

$35 |

Oprah-Approved Spices

Jacksonville Chef Kenny Gilbert, of “Top Chef” fame, is out with a new concept: Silkie’s Chicken and Champagne Bar, located in Historic Springfield, will likely open its doors before the holidays. If you love Chef Gilbert’s blend of high-quality ingredients with masterful spices, you’re not alone. None other than Oprah added Chef Gilbert’s Ultimate Gift Set of spices to her coveted Oprah’s Favorite Things list this holiday season…and who are we to disagree? Spice up your holiday meals with his diverse blends of rubs, seasonings, and spices.

$40 |

Bakehouse Bodega

Many locals are familiar with—and fans of—1748 Bakehouse's scrumptious baked goods, which incorporate the finest local and seasonal ingredients around! But did you know that in the last few months, they've also added a bodega to their Springfield shop? There, you can find all sorts of goodies to enjoy at home (or gift to friends) from 1748's owners, Allison and Kurt D’Aurizio—as well as other local food artisans—including farm-fresh eggs and produce, dips, and meal kits. One of our favorite items is their house-made syrups, which can be used in everything from cocktails to coffee. Current flavors include hibiscus, gingerbread, peppermint and hazelnut.

$9 |

CBD-Infused Wine

Infused with CBD and alcohol-free, this wine is making a splash across the First Coast. Alexandria Klempf (whose parents you might know from the ever-popular Cowford Chophouse) founded SipCozy, which specializes in Grenache blend rosés infused with 40mg of broad-spectrum hemp. The un-booze offers a cozy state of mind, sans hangover. A perfect gift for wellness devotees, each bottle contains delicate floral, herbal, and citrus notes. SipCozy is available locally at Royal Palm Village Wine & Tapas, Momni, Gypset Pearl, and Spruce.

$18 |

Pasta Lover’s Gift Box

St. Johns Town Center’s ever-evolving shop-scape boasts Prati Italia led by Chef Tom Gray. Foodies will love the restaurant’s three different gourmet boxes, featuring an impressive selection of handmade pasta, sauces, wines, and sweet treats. Add in a Prati Italia gift card, and you have a gift that can’t disappoint. Volume orders for corporate gifting are eligible for special discounts.

$50 and up |

Gluttonous Globetrotters

Earlier this year, Jacksonvillian and international food consultant Jeff Spear penned his long-anticipated book My Life in Gluttony: A Culinary Adventure. Chapters transport readers to far-flung places such as Guyana, Malawi, Lebanon, and Serbia, but locals will find a special kinship with Jacksonville’s chapter. A delightful read for globetrotters and adventurous home cooks alike, My Life in Gluttony is sure to satiate.

$19 |

Cheers to Farm Cider

Congaree and Penn is a Florida farm dedicated to agriculture and culinary endeavors and gathering the community to enjoy both. Their latest initiative is a cute little can of Farm Cider sold in four-packs. The cider accentuates the flavor of farm-grown fruits like noble Muscadines, figs, persimmons, watermelons, Mayhaws, and blackberries paired with hard apple cider. The farm relies on the vigor of native fruit to produce a uniquely Southern beverage. You can find Farm Cider in four-packs and cider on tap if you just can’t wait, at the farm and at bars and grocers around town.

$10 |

Spice Up Your Holiday

In 2012, Flagler College Alums Caleb Cooper and Scott Herlihy co-founded A Frame Sauce Company. The St. Augustine-based duo grew their company and datil peppers from seeds to a successful brand. The small hot pepper is found in abundance in St. Augustine but rarely in other parts of the Southeast. Their three flavors are available locally at Publix supermarkets and Whole Foods grocers across the Sunshine State.

$14 and up |

Civilized Company

Civilized Coffee, founded in 2017, calls the Rail Yard District home. Founders Mark Patterson and Jeff Norton built their brand on sustainable practices, including a promise that all products are non-GMO and packaged in reusable and recyclable packaging. This year, Patterson and Norton expanded their vision to produce coffee that breaks down barriers and facilitates closer communication by teaming up with several local vendors to offer new products - all made with the company’s coffee - in the Civilized Community Partnership line. Featured makers include Amelia Toffee, Little Black Box Baked Goods, and Good Earth Granola. Products are available for order separated or in gift boxes.

$8 and up |

The Bee’s Knees

In addition to some sweet seasonal honey and gift set offerings this year, the folks at Bee Friends Farm (BFF) have also introduced an Adapt-A-Hive program, allowing gift-givers and recipients the opportunity to further support local bees and beekeepers. There are three levels to choose from - Honey Bee Guardian, and BFF Hive Supporter, Adopt-A-Honeybee Hive, each with its own set of benefits for both recipients and local bees alike. Sweet!

$12 and up for gift sets, $39 and up for Adopt-A-Hive |


Can't figure out WHAT to buy for that friend/coworker/relative in your world? Here are some snappy, easy gift card ideas we love that support local creators.

Give the gift of delicious, locally brewed java at Bold Bean Coffee Roasters.

Price: various |

Support beloved local restaurateur Dennis Chan at his new Mandarin location with a gift card for dinner out at Blue Bamboo.

$50 and up |

They work tirelessly to maintain the city's lush tree canopy. Support Greenscape of Jacksonville with The Greenscape Holiday Card. It's the perfect, tax-deductible, one-size-fits all and Earth-friendly gift for everyone on your list.

$35 |


Digital Photography Lessons

Award-winning local photographer Savannah Dobbs, is sought after for wedding, family, and equine photography. Now, she offers digital photography lessons to bring out your inner paparazzi. Whether you want to photograph your growing family or need fresh pics for your dog’s Instagram, Savannah is ready to teach you all about your camera and composition. She’s meeting for lessons in open-air spaces across the city.

Credit Savannah Dobbs / SDPhotography

$50/hour | (socially distanced)

The Celebrity Experience

Enjoy a one-hour photoshoot with Renee Parenteau, celebrity photographer and makeup artist (beloved by A-listers ranging from Selena Gomez to Denzel Washington). With the “Celebrity Experience” package, clients get three wardrobe changes and various looks and locations around Renee’s fabulous studio located in Historic Springfield. Popular with both women and men, the Celebrity Experience includes six high resolution retouched digital images and an online proofing gallery. Get glam!

Credit Renee Parenteau

$350 |

From the Chef’s Garden to Your Table

Socially-distanced deliciousness abounds from The Chef’s Garden virtual cooking classes. Each class features recipe cards for a delicious meal and all the ingredients you’ll need delivered fresh to your door. Each week, new seasonal courses are added for the aspiring—or established—home cook. Gather your family (only the ones you live with, please!) for a gourmet meal courtesy of their favorite cook.

$85 |

Virtually Zen

Yoga4Change is a nationwide organization that has a special place in Jacksonville with veterans, folks with mental illness, and lifestyle yogis alike. Residents across the city rely on Yoga4Change’s classes for peace of mind (and body!), and thankfully, the well-loved organization quickly pivoted to virtual classes to keep their clientele feeling Zen. A mix of live and pre-recorded classes are available online in a variety of flow styles. They also offer classes customized to your needs. We’re excited too—come back to your breath and hit subscribe on their YouTube channel for free classes.

Heather Schatz at a Yoga4Change class prior to the pandemic.

$20 |


If the holidays - or 2020 in general - stress those near and dear to you out, consider treating them to a blissful sound bath experience! Sound bath therapy is an effective and proven modality that uses vibrational sound to reduce stress and alter consciousness. Benefits include deep relaxation, improved immune function and sleep, increased flexibility and pain relief, and a quieter mind. SoundBath Jax offers several experiences, including private and group indoor and outdoor (our fave is the one on the beach!) sessions, and gift cards are also available.

$35 and up |

MOSH Membership

The Museum of Science and History is making big moves in 2021—across the St. Johns to their brand new location on the Northbank. Little kids, big kids, and kids at heart will all love MOSH’s variety of traveling exhibits, interactive booths, and live rescue animals. What better way to spoil the science lover in your life than with a membership to the museum’s inaugural year in their new location?

$45 and up |

Contemporary Christmas

Culture abounds at Downtown Jacksonville’s beloved Museum of Contemporary Art. A membership, available at three tiers, is the perfect gift for the art lover in your circle. Programming for children through adults makes MOCA the ideal holiday gift for growing families, retirees, and singles alike.

$50 and up |

The Museum Membership that Keeps on Giving

Whether it’s art, gardens, or historical architecture that strikes your fancy, the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens has something for you. The museum blends the history and the legacy of the Cummer family into an enriching experience sure to delight. Bonus: a membership to the Cummer is a membership to 300 American Horticultural Society Reciprocal Program gardens and 150 Southeast Reciprocal Museums, making a membership a versatile gift for anyone who calls the Southeast home.

$50 and up |


City Year Jacksonville

Educators, corps members, and philanthropists unite with a common belief that all students can succeed. City Year Jacksonville is dedicated to promoting this mission by helping students develop the skills and mindsets to graduate high school. The hardworking nonprofit has boots on the ground in dozens of local schools across the Westside and Downtown. Consider a donation in the name of your favorite civically-engaged friend.

$10 and up |


This holiday season, give the gift of freedom. Urban core charity-shop hybrid Rethreaded is partnering with the Freedom in Business Alliance’s Holiday Collection, a group of businesses that employ survivors of human trafficking. A purchase from Rethreaded ensures they can continue their mission to employ women who have found freedom from the sex trade. We enthusiastically suggest snapping up their gorgeous holiday ornaments.

$45 |

RBG, Wine, and Dumpster Fires, Oh My!

This year, the Cultural Council partnered with the University of North Florida’s LBGTQ Resource Center as part of HINES, the parent company of The Markets at Town Center’s Diversity and Inclusion Initiative. The collaboration created this year’s fun pop-up shop featuring Ruth Bader Ginsburg woodcutting, painted wine glasses, and the oh-so appropriate 2020 Dumpster Fire ornament, among others, all contributed by local makers. Supporting UNF’s LGBTQ community while adding some fine art to your home has never been easier.

Mixed Price Range |


Jacksonville Scented Candles

5 Points Candle, located in—you guessed it—Historic Five Points, offers handmade, 100% soy wax candles. This year, the brand released a line of Jacksonville scented candles perfect for the Jax ex-pat in your life. The scents are inspired by historical neighborhoods, local haunts, and the beaches. If seasonal scents are more your jam, be sure to take a look—uh, whiff—at the Christmas and Holiday line. It features a variety of familiar scents to light up your holiday.

$20 |

Preserved Floral Arrangements

The only thing better than a stunning Daughters Flower Shop bouquet is a Daughters Flower Shop bouquet that will last forever. The Five Points-based shop now offers preserved arrangements destined to last a lifetime. Both seasonally-inspired and year-round arrangements are available with the option of holiday design services specified to your home and tastes.

$85-150 |


Cultivate, Jacksonville’s neighborhood urban supply store is an eco-haven for the socially conscious and well-styled. This holiday season, spruce up your home (or your bestie’s) with Green Ware Pottery. The multi-purpose vessels can be styled alone or with plants, trinkets, or anything else your green heart desires.

$25 and up |


Floral Subscription Service

Emily Gilmore is new on the Riverside floral scene, and she’s steadily making a name for herself. Floral Anthology was born of Gilmore’s desire to arrange editorial style bouquets made from sustainable blooms. Amidst wedding and occasion designs, Floral Anthology offers a monthly subscription service with three tiers available. Delivery is available in select Jacksonville zip codes.

Credit Emily Gilmore

$35 and up |

Wine and Cheese Club

What better way to herald in a new month than a delivery of wine and cheese courtesy of San Marco gem Taverna? A subscription to their Wine and Cheese Club ensures you’ll never be without an artisanal cheese platter and an array of bottles of delicious vino. The service is available in one to three-month increments at two tiers.

$150 and up |

Support a Journalist, Buy a Newspaper!

The Florida Times-Union is one of our most-loved partner publications here at WJCT. This city’s newspaper of record is an essential, trustworthy, reliable source of breaking news, investigative journalism, and thought-provoking columns. This holiday season, support a journalist and satiate your craving for unbiased information with a subscription, print or digital, to the T-U.

$10 and up |

WJCT Sustainer Gift

We would be remiss not to mention our favorite gift that gives back—can you guess what it is? That’s right, the WJCT Sustainer gift! Give the gift of knowledge, culture, music, and quality journalism (shall we go on?) to the public radio lover in your life by making a one-time or monthly donation in their name.

$10 and up |


Mask Envy

The fashion trend of 2020? Masks. BobbyK Boutique, located in Springfield, is here to make sure you are the mask envy of all your friends. Their cotton fringe masks contain a filter pocket, perfect for bridging the gap between medical-grade N-95 masks and going commando. While you’re on their site, be sure to check out the celebrity prayer candles (Hellooo, Gardner Minshew!) and the mid-century inspired art prints.

$15 and up |

Earrings for the Perfect Southern Fashionista

Kelsey Vassallo is a Jacksonville Beach transplant from Charleston who mixes SC’s bright, preppy style with #Duuuuval flair (we’re looking at you Jaguars earrings!) These handcrafted polymer clay earrings, available in studs and statement dangling, are perfect for your bold and brilliant friends.

$13 and up |

Sicilian Beard Oil

St. Augustine’s Sicilian roots inspired Oak and Adze’s popular beard oil. Sicily’s flag, which features a head and three legs—a nod to the island’s multicultural population— is the namesake of the Three Legs Beard Oil. Available at the Vintage Gentleman, the beard oil has notes of rosemary, spearmint, and cardamom, artfully blending the East and West in a cooling, herbal aroma. The hydrating oil is a sophisticated gift for the vintage—or modern— hirsute gentleman in your life.

$23 |

The Rad New City of the South

If you’ve ever visited the First Coast, you know Jacksonville is rad. If you’ve lived here more than a week, you probably know JAXISRAD, a platform designed to shine a light on local creatives and businesses. The brand was created in 2017 by designer Ansley Randall who showcases her own murals and pattern work in Southside, Arlington, and Atlantic Beach neighborhoods. This season, JAXISRAD released a limited edition TV T-shirt available on their website. Additional goodies are available online and every week at the Riverside Arts Market.

$20 and up |

Hip Toddlers to Tweens

Starting a locally conceived fashion line for youngsters in the middle of a pandemic is no easy feat. For businesswoman Teri-Ann Wigfield, the kudos are all the more deserved. That's because her new line Jet & Ivy is supercute. We like this jogger for the athletic teen or tween in your household. Snap it up online or at the new brick-and-mortar store in St. Johns County. First-time customers also receive 20% off their entire purchase through December.

$59 |



Activist brand Anact is on a mission to create a better world for all people and the planet. The brand supports the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals while partnering with leaders who are focused on equality. Each tote bag saved 236 days of drinking water and is made out of 55% hemp and 45% organic cotton. Prints are done locally at Stitches and Screens with eco-friendly ink. Anact’s totes represent Florida’s future hemp industry by creating a market for Florida farmers. If that’s not enough to pique your interest, Anact partners with local artists, including Ken McCarty and Ansley Randall of Jax is Rad. Economic development with a local flair? Yes, please!

Credit Anact

$20 |

Eco-Dreams are Made of This

Eco Collections is a comprehensive online marketplace for businesses to purchase bulk products ranging from bathroom essentials to dining services, gift shop items, and property operations. Most recently, the brand added a thoughtfully curated collection of TSA compliant, locally-sourced travel essentials. Each purchase supports the work of One Tree Planted and the Rainforest Alliance and Eco Collection’s membership in the North Florida Green Chamber and the Sustainable Events Network. The kits are sold in parcels of 10, perfect for the whole Mother Earth-loving family.

$190 and up |


Bark Box

We’re willing to bet you can’t stand in Riverside more than five minutes without seeing a resident wagging their tail down the sidewalk—and for a good reason. Residents consistently rate Bark on Park Jacksonville’s best full-service canine hangout. Owner Jamee Yocum, who firmly believes that all doggos should be treated like kids, is rolling out the Barkit Holiday Box to spoil your furbaby with this holiday. Each curated box is filled with a canvas tote bag, a designer snowman dog cookie, a bag of soft holiday treats, a pet charm, and a seasonal no-hide bone with turkey, pumpkin cranberry. Can we get one too?

$40 |

Silent Night, Howling Night

We know that 2020 has been challenging, so why not add joy, love, and wet noses to your family’s holiday celebrations? If you have already been considering giving a pet a forever home, this is the perfect year to adopt a pet from a local animal shelter. That Jacksonville Humane Society is one half of a “Silent Night” program that gives shelter pets a temporary home for the holidays. If you end up falling madly in love, each pet is available for adoption and does not have to be returned to the shelter. If you aren’t ready for adoption, consider a donation to JHS to support their mission.

$25 and up |

Adopt, Don’t Shop

The City of Jacksonville’s Animal Care & Protective Services is the other half of the “Silent Night” program seeking foster homes for fur babes this holiday season. The Jacksonville tradition has helped provide thousands to temporary families and facilitated hundreds of adoptions over the past seven years. If you can give an adoptable pet a loving home this holiday season, why not give pup-parenting a trial run this holiday season before taking the plunge and becoming a forever family for a pet in need. Alternatively, consider donating a much-needed item from ACPS’s wish list.

$25 and up |


Destination Matchmaker

Whether you’re a Jax native or dream of retiring to the First Coast, you know that the city is jam-packed with ecological and cultural diversity. Add these two magical ingredients together, and you have a city that just won’t quit. In her book 100 Things to Do in Jacksonville Before You Die, Jacksonville resident and travel expert Amy West compiles the city’s most iconic experiences into one exhilarating guide. This book is perfect for your friend who is always struggling to decide whether to spend their weekend exploring the craft brew scene or strolling Skeleton Beach—consider West their destination matchmaker.

$17 |

Print’s Not Dead

Out of Jacksonville Beach, Void Magazine brings us the Void Photo Book, which proves pictures look better in print. The book is packed with 124 pages featuring images from Northeast Florida’s finest sharpshooters. A perfect gift for any local keeping their fingers on the pulse of the region’s unique character and lifestyle, both black and white photos adorn the book’s pages.

$10 |

History Comes to “Life”

With hundreds of illustrations and a treasure trove of local lore, author Wayne Wood gives Jax history lovers the coffee table book of their dreams. In the newly-released LIFE: The Untold Story of Charles Adrian Pillars, Wood tells the fascinating story of the artist who created one of the city’s most beautiful pieces of public art - the gorgeous sculpture in Memorial Park. Wood’s meticulous research also paints a vivid picture of life in The 904 a century ago--a must-read for art lovers, historians, and anyone who’s ever picnicked in the gorgeous Riverside setting under the “LIFE” sculpture’s gaze. All profits from the book benefit the Jacksonville Historical Society.

$49.95 |

Additional photographs by Heather Schatz | WJCT

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Katherine Hobbs was Associate Producer of talk shows at WJCT until 2022.