Ace your office gift exchange with a unique treasure from this Berkeley shop.
—Photos courtesy of XO Gift Company
Go For: Eye-catching gift and home items made by a diverse selection of crafty American artisans (including plenty of local vendors with Centennial State pride)
5280 Pick: This 16-by-11.5-inch messenger bag is locally designed and screen-printed by the Parker husband-and-wife team behind Black Lantern. Don’t let the super-soft cotton canvas and raw edges fool you—each bag is designed to hold up in Colorado's great outdoors. (And yes, we realize it's too pricey for most office exchanges...which is why we're bringing it home as a gift to ourselves.) $45
When you’re searching for just the right grab-bag present, it can be daunting to find a balance between mass appeal and memorable quirk. But inside the cozy, painted-brick Tennyson home of eXtraOrdinary (or XO) Gift Company, you’ll find almost too many options to choose from. A colorful hodgepodge of tiny knickknacks, as well as larger home decor statement pieces, are spread cross the many mismatched shelves, tables, and wall displays of the first-floor store. Explore the homey shop room by room, or target what you need using the store’s five product categories: Colorado Living, Food & Drink, Love, Music, and Travel.
Co-owners Kathleen Furr and her husband, Nathan, use the classifications to help guide both new shoppers and their own process in selecting vendors and featured items—a system they've developed over three years in business and a recent name change (the shop was formerly called Spices of Life Gift Company). We sat down with Kathleen to find out what's flying off the shelves this year.
5280: Even for such an eclectic business, the name of your store really stands out. What inspired it?
Kathleen Furr: When we first opened in October 2013, we were named the Spices of Life Gift Company, but everyone thought we were a spice shop. We meant it to mean the shop was a representation of all the things that my husband and I love about life, so we categorized the shop’s products into different sections: Cooking, which has kind of become Food & Drink, Travel, Colorado Living, Music, and Love, which includes babies, pets, and weddings. We still try to fit our products to those categories when we can, but we ended up changing our store’s name this past October to XO Gift Company for our two-year anniversary. That was based on a card a good friend of mine gave to me before she passed away in January of last year.
5280: How did the idea for the shop first come about?
I don’t really know when or where I decided that I wanted a gift shop, but it was always in the back of my mind. I got into doing my own wire art—I actually made the place-card holders for my wedding—and I started an Etsy shop to sell my wire crafts. That really got me into appreciating handmade and homemade items. The “Made in America” label became important to me, and it just kind of evolved into wanting a gift shop.
5280: Which items or vendors are you most excited about this season?
Our number of Colorado vendors is growing all the time because there are just so many people who live around here and come in and want to show me their items. Now, somewhere close to 70 percent of our items are Colorado-made. There’s definitely lots of Colorado pride represented in our store. People really appreciate that locally made label; I get that question pretty much every day.
We have a really awesome local vendor, a husband-and-wife team called Black Lantern, that does its own design and printing. They make glassware, T-shirts, sweatshirts, and these embroidered hats that people are loving. We have some really cool stamped-copper jewelry that seems to be really trendy right now. I’m also super excited about some new leather-made items we have. They’re these journals and luggage tags with illustrations made by In Blue Handmade, a vendor based in North Carolina.
5280: What makes XO Gift Company worth a visit for gift buyers?
I feel like I’ve built a little community here; many of our vendors and customers have become good friends with each other and us. It’s a really great, fun neighborhood to be in. Back when Nathan and I were looking to open, a friend of ours, who lives in the Berkeley area, mentioned we should check out Tennyson for store locations. We saw a lot of our target market—people in our age range, early 30s, married, with or without kids—as we walked around, and then we just happened to walk across this house and it was perfect.
With my background in marketing, I’d be happy just stocking and setting up displays and products all day. But, of course, I also really enjoy getting to know my customers. Our products have been shaped by what our customers are looking for. So we have a loyal customer base, but we still get newcomers who say they’ve seen the store a million times but just now decided to walk in. It’s exciting that we’re still growing.
3867 Tennyson St., 303-257-2817, xogiftco.com