Holiday shopping in Champaign offers unique and surprising gifts for students

By Kathleen Foody

If fighting your way through mobs of panicked shoppers to grab a traditional sweater or toaster at your local mall doesn’t appeal to your inner shopper, there are plenty of alternatives in Campustown and downtown Champaign.

Pitaya, Campustown’s newest offering at 625 E. Green Street, is preparing for its first holiday season in Champaign.

Store manager Danielle Bissell said that she is excited for the store’s first holiday season and believes many students will choose to buy gifts at Pitaya before going home for the holidays.

“We offer very trendy clothing and get new stock all the time,” she said. “We’re also affordable so you can buy an entire outfit for someone, or yourself, without feeling guilty.”

Bissell said she believes Pitaya offers gifts that are unique and cannot be found in other stores except Pitaya’s 10 locations across the country.

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    Pitaya is also offering a holiday return and exchange policy beginning in December, so that gifts received before going home for the holidays can still be exchanged after break.

    The store also validates gift tags rather than forcing shoppers to keep track of receipts, making gift giving easier.

    Illini merchandise is also a popular gift for the holidays, said Cory Shumard, manager of Gameday Sports, 519 E. Green St.

    “We’re really starting to feel the holiday pickup in sales now,” he said. “We’ve been pleasantly surprised by the number of students shopping earlier, but the traffic will gradually get heavier right after Thanksgiving.”

    Shumard said most students choose to shop for gifts for family members during finals week so that they don’t go home for the holidays empty handed.

    While students could buy Illinois merchandise at larger sporting goods stores in their hometowns, Shumard said stores in the Champaign-Urbana area offer the most selection.

    “We devote more square footage to fulfilling the shopping needs of Illini nation,” he said.

    For something completely different, students can stop into Ten Thousand Villages, 105 N. Walnut St. in Champaign.

    Everything offered in the store is made by artisans in about 32 countries in Asia, Africa, South and Central America and bought at the prices they set, manager Naomi Rempe said.

    “The quality is quite good because they don’t have to worry and know they’ll be paid in timely manner,” she said. “They can spend more time on quality.”

    Rempe said the store offers unique jewelry, scarves, musical instruments, table linens and bowls in addition to holiday ornaments and nativity sets made from all sorts of materials.

    “I always tell people when you buy a gift in our store, you’re getting a gift that gives twice,” she said. “By shopping here you’re giving a gift to your loved one and to the artisan.”