The economy is collapsing, and no one's coming to save us. So while the supposed experts haggle over the causes and effects and solutions, let's do what we can to help each other out, now, and spend our holiday shopping money locally this year.
A NEW RECORD
Despite its impeccably hip pedigree, Tremont, home to fantastic art galleries, restaurants, coffee shops and the wonderful Visible Voice Books, has long been deficient in one crucial area - a record store. There have been half-assed attempts at such, all of which have sucked, none of which have lasted. That changed this year when Texas native Clifton Shumaker, late of Parma's Out of Step Records, came back to Cleveland just in time to avoid Hurricane Ike and open Phonographic Arts in the old Raw & Co. Gallery space. What the room lacks in size it makes up for in awesome. Shumaker's selection of indie, hardcore and post-punk is incredible - in just one week, I resolved two long-standing grail quests. But if you've gotten rid of your turntable (JUDAS!), prepare for disappointment. Phonographic Arts is highly vinyl-centric, though CDs and even cassettes are in the offing, if only in token amounts. Crate-diggers will find their newest Mecca at 1009 Kenilworth, Monday-Saturday noon-9 p.m., Sunday 1 p.m.-8 p.m. Call 216.298.4695 for info. - Ron Kretsch
A MIX TAPE, ONLY BETTER
Chris Allen, one of Cleveland's best singer-songwriters, recently added another project to his long résumé. In addition to his solo career, rowdy shows with the Boys From the County Hell and backing-musician-for-hire gigs, the former leader of local alt-country faves Rosavelt fronts the Ohio City Singers. The ad-hoc group - made up of old bandmates and friends like Don Dixon, Marti Jones and Doug McKean - just released Love and Hope: A Cleveland Christmas Celebration, a 15-song CD of holiday-themed originals like "Real Good Christmas Time" and "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town Just for Me." The Ohio City Singers first got together five years ago at a holiday party hosted by Allen. Every year since, Allen and his musician pals have recorded a batch of seasonal songs for family and friends. Love and Hope is the first work by the band to get an official release. And like Allen's latest album, Things Unbroken, Love and Hope is a hook-filled slab of jangly roots-rock soaked in tears and beers. But with a Christmas twist. Get it at theohiocitysingers.com. - Michael Gallucci SUPPORT LOCAL ARTISTS The holidays are a bad time of year for tattoo and other body-modification artists, most of whom make their money on commission. In the middle of shopping season, who really has two hours to sit for a photorealistic skull or rainbow koi fish? You can help your local ink-slingers and needle professionals stay afloat by buying gift certificates that your friends and family can redeem once the Festivus rush is over (or sooner - the body-mod shops' lines are always shortest in December). We're big fans of Chardon's Square City Tattoo, where main man Mike Martini proficiently handles many styles, including portraits, black & gray, and surreal cartoons with big lines and bright colors. We also like Tattoo Faction in North Olmsted, and 252 Tattoo (two locations) is a perennial favorite of Scene readers. Some other quality shops are listed below. - D.X. Ferris
Square City: 129 Main St., Chardon, 440.286.4657, MySpace.com/SquareCityTattoo.
252 Tattoo: 11721 Bellaire Rd. (at 117th Street), Lakewood, 216.252.8088; and 24525 Sprague Rd., Columbia Station: 440.235.6699, 252Tattoo.com. Tattoo Faction: 30584 Lorain Rd., North Olmsted, 440-686-1311, tattoofaction.com.
Voodoo Monkey: 2074 W. 25th St., Cleveland, 216.664.5658, voodoomonkey.org. Body Revolution: four locations, bodyrevolution.net Define Tattoos: 10333 Northfield Rd., Northfield, 330.467.2055
Cleveland Institute of Art graduate Alison Saville doesn't design your everyday, ordinary jewelry. The motto of her Virescent Designs (860 Jefferson Ave., becominggreen.org) is "one man's trash is another woman's jewelry." She's taken a green approach to her newly opened Tremont boutique. Saville's aim is to recycle everything from old cutlery to magnets and turn the stuff into necklaces, bracelets and earrings. In her hands, old clock faces become colorful coasters, brass hinges are refashioned as beautiful bracelets and old sailor gears turn into elegant earrings. Even the displays and artwork in her store are made out of recycled material. - Jeff Niesel
THE HOLIDAY SPIRITS
In addition to staples like the legendary Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald Porter - a stormy dark beer that'll make you a believer in ebony brews - and the monstrously hoppy Lake Erie Monster IPA, Ohio City's Great Lakes Brewing Company offers seasonal delights like the thick, sweet Christmas Ale, the tasty Nosferatu Red and the Rackhouse, a sweet ale. All the brews are available at the restaurant's take-out/gift shop, which also has keepsakes like glassware, tap handles and a variety of shirts. You don't need to make the trip to the near-West side; the beers are available at local grocery stores and brew-thrus. And when you buy the locally made spirits, you support not only the brewers, bartenders and servers of the company; you're also supporting a model eco-friendly business whose "refresh-recycle" ethic inspires the brewery to carefully dispose of waste, reinvest in the community and sponsor events like the environmental-awareness fundraiser jam party the Burning River Fest. The cozy little square the restaurant calls home (2516 Market Ave., 216.771.4404, greatlakesbrewing.com) is lit up like Christmas all year 'round, so imagine how nice it'll feel when you stop in to drink one (or three) after a long day of shopping or before a night at The Nutcracker (which is way more enjoyable after a couple Pumpkin Ales). A gift card can buy a couple six-packs or pay for a how-to-brew session for the beer lover in your life. - DXF
YOU'LL LAUGH YOUR EYE OUT
A Christmas Story turns 25 this year, and to mark the occasion, there's a special two-disc DVD set - packaged in a cookie tin - that includes five collectible cookie cutters in iconic Christmas Story shapes, a custom chef's apron and a 48-page cookbook with recipes inspired by the movie. The disc features commentary by the stars and a feature about the making of the film, which was shot in Cleveland. You can pick it up at the Christmas Story House (3159 W. 11th St., 216.298.4919, achristmasstoryhouse.com). Not sure it'll take the place of the replica leg lamp as the most popular item in the Christmas Story House gift shop, but it's a good stocking stuffer for anyone who can't get enough of little Ralphie and his quest for a Red Ryder BB gun. - JN
All pretzels are edible. But not all pretzels are Pretzables, the chocolate-covered creations made by Lisa Paige Blair. Operating out of a storefront in Solon (30700 Bainbridge Rd., Suite B, 440.349.3311, pretzables.com), Blair has been dipping pretzels in chocolate since the '70s and has made customized treats for the likes of opera singer Luciano Pavarotti, shoe designer Brian Atwood and Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel. Available in a variety of flavors, the Pretzables come in holiday gift baskets so beautiful that you won't even want to tear them open to eat the things. You can order them online too. - JN
THE GRAPES OF WINTER
Interesting fact: There are enough wineries in Northeast Ohio to take one's very own Sideways road trip - when those roads aren't covered in a foot of snow, that is. Luckily, you can find bottles of Ohio wine at your local liquor store and upscale groceries throughout our six-month-long winter. Pair your grilled walleye with a bottle of Aurora Cream from ThornCreek Winery (thorncreekwinery.com). Check out the ridiculously delicious Sweet Concord bottled by Heineman's Winery on South Bass Island (heinemanswinery.com). Or ring in the New Year with a Lake Erie champagne (yes, there is such a thing) from Klingshirn Winery in Avon Lake (klingshirnwine.com). Just don't be as pretentious as Thomas Haden Church when you do it. - James Renner
What are you getting Mom this year? Another box of chocolates made in Mexico by children making $2 an hour? Shame on you! We've got Malley's Chocolates stores all over the city (malleys.com). They've got your milk-chocolate Billy Bobs, your hazelnut creams, your dark mint marshmallows, your 12-pound chocolate turkey. And it's all made right here in Greater Cleveland, on Brookpark Road, by Oompa Loompas raised on Whiskey Island. True story. - JR
NO FRUITCAKE - CHEESECAKE!
Cali Miles sings hip-hop-flavored pop that sounds a lot like Fergie's. She's hooked up with local rapper Ray Cash on a few cuts. And she has an album co-produced by the Kickdrums in the works. She also likes to take off most of her clothes and pose for pictures. So it makes perfect sense that Miles - who also answers to Snowbunni - would put together a calendar featuring herself and some of her friends wearing items that probably won't keep them very warm during a harsh Cleveland winter. But who knows? You might end up hoping that February never ends. Visit snowbunnient.com. - MG
Since 1995, Strongsville watering hole Brew Kettle (8377 Pearl Rd., Strongsville, 440.239.8788, thebrewkettle.com) has blossomed into an innovative institution where cervezaristas can whip up their own personalized brews that are then bottled with labels as innocuous as Dan's Happy Juice or as preposterous as Daddy Dan's Sloppy Seconds. Does your daddy salivate when he hears the words "Christmas ale"? Why not leave him 72 22-ounce bottles of Pop's Dingleberry Tea under the tree, made from Brew Kettle's Christmas ale recipe? Your wallet dictates the flavor you can deliver from this place, the first brew-your-own microbrewery in the state. Choose from 21 house blends of hops, yeast, barley and special ingredients for the $110 category (hazelnut porter is sweet and sexy); another 21 "signature selections" go for $125 (like cocoa porter or the smoked German rauchbier). Then there's 16 "reserve selections" for $135 (mmm, milk stout) and 15 "imperial selections" for $145 will hit the finer palettes where it counts (the Imperial is the stiffest of the stouts). No experience is required - the helpful brewmasters can guide you through your utter idiocy about All Things Beer. - Dan Harkins
Why go to Starbucks and further homogenize the coffee culture? Go to one of six Phoenix Coffee shops around town (phoenixcoffee.com) and cater to a locally grown movement of baristas and the dozens of varieties of coffee they prepare right here at a roastery on St. Clair Avenue. While you're there killing your caffeine jones, knock back some Christmas shopping with a crate of specialty coffees or teas. A Winter Blends Crate combines three 8-ounce bags of Organic Timor, Carl's Blend (the founder's special recipe) and a smooth Holiday Blend. Two packs of Chai tea round off the rewards. The Precious Metals and Mug Crate ($45) has 8 ounces each of Yemen Mocha Mattari and Puerto Rican Yauco Selecto - some boldly unique blends - along with a sexy travel mug and little box of Revolution tea bags. The Premium Teas Crate ($29) mixes a variety of exotics like Ti Kuan Yin Oolong, Yin Hao Jasmine, Lu-An Melon Seed and more. Throw in 40 filtropa tea filters and you're just some boiling water shy of some serious chill time. - DH
COME FOR THE DISCOUNT, STAY FOR THE FART SOUNDS
Leave it to the appropriately named Big Fun toy store to have an 18-percent-off sale all year, just because this is its 18th birthday. Go to the store's redundant-sounding website (bigfunbigfun.com) and click on the coupon link to print out your discount ad, then visit the store (1814 Coventry Rd., Cleveland Heights, 216.371.4386) for the most mashed-up toy- and gag-gift-buying destination around. If you buy more than $18 worth of merch, you get a little whoopee cushion for free. A handful of the highlights that owner Steve Presser culls with his ever-prescient eye: retro TV toys like Transformers and He-Men, Pee-wee Herman dolls, Kiss and New Kids on the Block lunchboxes, ancient board games, cool rock and politico T-shirts, tie-dye baby onesies and one of the best throwback collections of candy and Nintendo games around. (How long you think it'll take your mom to get to the center of a Dinosaur Egg?) - DH
The Mental Floss empire has grown from a Novelty, Ohio-based magazine for wise-ass know-it-alls to a whole line of products - books, games, shirts, "Freudian slippers" - for wise-ass know-it-alls. If anyone has been wondering what to get me, I'll take a T-shirt - "There's no right way to eat a Rhesus," or maybe "I'm an English major - you do the math." Or a subscription to the mag, whose latest issue reports on "The New Einsteins" (including video-game visionary Shigeru Miyamoto and Oakland A's GM Billy Beane) and "How Superman Defeated the KKK." Just perusing the website, mentalfloss.com, will make you feel smarter. - Frank Lewis
You know it's good dessert when your stomach is crammed-to-overflowing with dinner and your mouth still waters when you see it: the Mapleside Farms caramel apple pie. The farms (294 Pearl Rd., Brunswick, 330.225.5577, mapleside.com) operate a thriving orchard and an Apple House & Bakery that stocks more than 20 varieties of apples, organic fruits and veggies, just-pressed cider, Apple Butter Barbeque Sauce (holy crap!) and caramel apples for the kiddie in everyone. The restaurant here is full-on home-style cooking rivaled only by those Amish-run joints down in Holmes County. And the pie, stuffed high with everything you'd expect, is the bonus that'll keep you coming back for seconds. - DH
IT'S A COOL THING
Get down with some of the funkiest crafters around these parts at the Bizarre Bazaar. You won't find any wooden watermelon wedges or floral toaster covers here. What you will find is more than 70 vendors participating in an underground DIY movement founded in Boston in 2001 that spread to L.A. and Cleveland in 2004. We're talking handmade ceramics, clothes, jewelry and much more with a retro-chic approach that'll leave your crafty mom so out of touch that she'll never leave the house again. Live music keeps the vibe upbeat and decidedly un-old. "It's just a lot of individual designers with really different stuff that you won't find at grandma's craft show," says Heidi Massingill, a dressmaker at Stitch Cleveland. From noon to 9 p.m. Saturday, December 13, and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday, December 14, in the space that used to house 1300 Gallery (1300 W. 78th St.). Go to bazaarbizarre.org/cleveland for more info. - DH