By Candace Baskervill

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Or is it?

There is so much holiday spirit and excitement floating around, family members to see, gifts to buy, food to prepare, presents to wrap, the house has to stay clean because you never know when someone will be stopping by, school plays, church programs, children to keep on their best behavior because “Santa is watching!” …and just enough madness to make a person feel like they need to turn to a nice glass of “holiday spirit” just to make it through the night. This can be so stressful and cause so much anxiety for so many people.

Several years ago, before I was so active in my community and owned my business, back when I thought I was so busy, I was one of those stressed and anxious people. That was until I started doing something that made me appear to be the best gift-giver and give off the illusion that I have my life together. Little did I know, back then, I had it easy! Flash forward to today when I have two active kids, a husband who is also a basketball coach, a business to run, a part time job, and lots of volunteer obligations in my community… But I have all that under control because of my “best kept secret” that helps me get through the holidays and maintain some semblance of sanity.

I know that you all are dying to know what it is, so I will share my secret with you: I shop small.

That doesn’t seem like it’s that big of a deal, right??  Wrong!!

Shopping small is how I am able to buy all the best gifts, make people think that I prepared the best food, appear to be able to keep my house super clean all the time, attend all the plays, programs, and family events and still have time to binge watch all the Holiday movies, have the perfectly decorated home, and wrap all the presents so nicely.

I did not have a clue how important shopping small was until I moved to Southern Virginia and opened a store of my own. I knew it was important to me as a shopper, and selfishly, I knew how much I loved receiving gifts from small businesses, but until I opened a store of my own, I did not realize just how much the phrase, “Shop Small” meant.

As a shopper, I love patronizing small businesses because the employees, often the owners themselves are so helpful and friendly. They listen to me, making me feel like I am the only customer they have at that moment, which is usually not the case. They take the time to ask about my day, how my kids are doing, and genuinely care about me as a person. They are not simply waiting to clock out but are actually on their feet, helping me find that perfect gift or food item or whatever it is that I am trying to purchase at the time. And most importantly, I am always able to find wonderful gifts at prices I can afford.

I’ve always loved to give gifts that are practical and useful, but even better I find extra joy when that gift is unique. Purchasing a monogrammed gift, a one of a kind piece of art or a sassy new clothing piece from a local boutique warms my heart. An added convenience is being able to step into the shop right next door to grab a dozen cupcakes or a bottle of wine to take to an event or present as a hostess gift.

I’ll never forget one holiday when my oven went out, the 23rd of December. I called the local appliance shop in a sheer panic because I just knew that I was going to have to buy and have a new oven installed the day that family started showing up. Nope. They sent their repair guy out and he had me back up and running in about an hour. Talk about a Christmas miracle! The best part, was that they saved me so much money because the repair bill was a fraction of the cost of a new oven!

Another trick I keep up my sleeve is to call the local house cleaning service and schedule a full clean before (and sometimes again after) I pull out my Christmas decorations and decorate for the holidays. Nothing is better than coming home, arms laden with shopping bags to a clean home and a handwritten note from the cleaning service wishing me a fantastic day and happy holidays! I can come right in, light the Christmas scented candles that I purchased downtown, pull out the takeout that I purchased from the delicious restaurant down the street, feed my family and settle in for a night of Christmas movie watching and a marathon gift-wrapping session. That, my friends, is the perfect way to get in the holiday spirit. No mess, no fuss, no muss.

I’m finicky about people spending too much money on me. This puts a lot of pressure on my precious husband and family to find the perfect, well thought out gift that does not cost too much. Shopping for mama should be joyous! Let me give you another secret: stop by the local jewelry store or the local boutique and let the owners help you! It does so much for a person’s spirit to see a beautifully wrapped package under the tree with their name on it. It is not so much about what is inside the package, it’s the wonder and joy of knowing that someone thought enough of you to purchase a little something.

Husbands and children, take note here: Your mama or wife does not want you to spend a whole lot of money on them. What they really want is for you to take the time to go shopping with them, go to dinner together, go see the local Santa Claus, sit out in the cold, sip hot chocolate and watch the local parade with them. Moms and wives adore that kind of thing. If you want to go purchase them something small, I encourage you to because nothing is more awkward than receiving a gift and not having something so you can exchange gifts, stop into the local stores downtown and peruse. I promise it will not take a long time, and it won’t be painful and usually, if you ask nicely, they’ll even wrap the gift for you!

As a shop owner, I know that the spirit of shopping small goes full circle. When customers make a purchase in a small business, they are meeting their own needs, and they are allowing us as business owners to purchase gifts for our own families, do things for our community and even pay our bills. We live in our communities because we love them and their atmosphere. We operate small businesses in our communities because we love our people and want to give you the great service that you deserve. From the bottom of this little business owner’s heart, I hope you have a joyful and abundant holiday season, and I hope to see you pursuing your downtown shopping spots soon.

Candace is the proud owner of Sweet Cee’s Gifts and Kids Consignment, located in the heart of South Boston, Virginia, where she lives with her husband and business partner, Nelson Baskervill and two children, Casper and Duke. For information about Sweet Cee’s, please visit