1919 Monroe St., 442-8046, 10 am-6 pm Mon.-Sat., noon-4 pm Sun.
If you've banished the phrase "pleasant shopping experience" from your vocabulary due to teen-infested malls and the Saturday morning free-for-all at Target, calm your frazzled nerves at Gingko Tree on Monroe Street.
With soothing green walls and plenty of nooks and crannies to get lost in, Gingko Tree offers shoppers what so many gift stores fail to provide: an inviting presence. "If people take the time and effort to come to a small specialty store, they want unique things," says owner Rachel Thorson-Schmied, who previously owned The Linden Inn and Simple Gifts Gallery in New Glarus.
With her discriminating taste and keen sense of humor, Thorson-Schmied has a tendency to group merchandise by theme. A recent visit highlighted categories such as backyard BBQ, watermelons, orchids and tea. The secret to a successful store? "It's all about placement," says the seasoned retailer. And I measure a store's success by this: if I go in to buy a gift and end up buying something for myself as well.
For those on your list: a lovely Shaker-style wooden carrier box with authentic dovetail joinery ($75); cheeky cards from "The Unemployed Philosopher's Guild" featuring mugs of famous folks like Frida Kahlo ($3.50 ea.); and a hand-loomed rug from Menomonee Falls artist Jane Connors in a rich, red wool stripe ($110 for a 2' x 3 ½' size). For you: a fun vintage reproduction sign that exclaims "Ski Lake Monona!" ($85); and the River Soap Company's all-vegetable soaps in delectable scents such as vetiver and rosewood/almond ($4.50 ea).