Devoting dollars to things you will give away — a December necessity. Might as well invest in the neighborhood economy and garner genuine gratitude from recipients with these unique made-in-the-neighborhood treasures.
Erin Van Kirk
Prickly Poppy Bakery
Gift idea: Edibles
Price range: $12-$60
Where to find it: pricklypoppybakery.com
The Prickly Poppy Bakery took root in July, and business already is blooming.
Lake Highlands resident Erin Van Kirk launched the home-based business with the commitment to making each dessert a custom creation. Customers can start with set flavors (such as Hazelnut Crunch or Lavender Honey) or team with her to craft the entire concept — either way, every cake or dessert is made to order.
“It’s not like I have a chocolate cake here that I’m just icing; I love that I’m making your cake with you in mind,” she says. “It’s a lot more fun for me as a baker.”
Van Kirk trained at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts and held positions at Georgetown Cupcake, Bolsa, Bolsa Mercado and Bread Winners Cafe before launching the bakery with the help of husband Grant, an accountant. Her L street neighborhood has been “really great” in supporting the new addition, and she’s opened her doors for events such as a cupcake decorating night for the Lake Highlands Area Early Childhood PTA cooking club.
With business picking up more quickly than anticipated, an expansion to an outside venue is already under consideration — not a storefront, but perhaps a kitchen with a tasting room, where visitors could nibble and discuss their dream desserts.
For now, Van Kirk is thinking about holiday cookies. Iced sugar cookies are one of her favorite offerings, and she’ll make them in seasonal shapes such as snowflakes and Santa. Other specialties include chocolate-caramel thumbprint cookies and snowball cookies (pecan shortbread covered in powdered sugar). The bakery also will offer a sugar cookie decorating kit in December, for those who want an easy way to bake and decorate their own version of iced sugar cookies.
“Something about cookies just seems right for Christmas,” she says. —Pam Harris
Tres Bien Boutique
Gift idea: Boy clothes
Price range: $12-$20
Where to find it: etsy.com/shop/tresbienboutique
To new mom Crispin Deneault, it seemed as if baby girls and toddlers had millions of options for clothes and accessories. The boys, though? Not so much.
The Lake Highlands resident found what she was looking for on Etsy, a digital marketplace for artists and designers, where she spotted “adorable” outfits and accessories appliqued with names and designs. Soon, she learned from her mother how to make her own outfits for son Ford, now 2.
“My mom gave me a sewing machine for my birthday, and I just started making shirts and burp cloths because I wanted something for my son,” she says. In time, she started making outfits for baby gifts, and friends suggested she try selling what she made.
Encouraged by the positive response to a Facebook posting, she opened an Etsy shop of her own, Tres Bien Boutique. There (or through her Facebook page of the same name), you’ll find ready-to-wear children’s clothes and accessories with a variety of designs and themes. She also accepts custom orders, which typically take about a week to turn around.During holidays, turnaround time is two weeks. Last year, she says, she received more than 50 orders in a single day.
The Deneault family has grown since the launch of Tres Bien Boutique. Crispin and her husband, Tyler, welcomed a little girl, Marcelle, earlier this year. The mom of two tells her shop’s visitors that she is “back from maternity leave and raring to go!” She sees her Tres Bien creations as a bit of breathing space set apart from her life as a mom.
“It’s something that’s just for me,” she says. “It’s a great outlet to do something for myself — something fun — and bring in a little extra money.” —Pam Harris
Gift idea: Handprint or footprint impressions
Price range: $18-$70
Where to find it: pintsizedprints.com
JulieAnn Bever wanted to preserve her three children’s handprints.
They were getting older, and she wanted to be able to remember the size of their sweet little hands, so she picked up an impression kit from the nearest crafting store and gave it a valiant try.
“It was such a mess,” she says. “It was hard, and it was frustrating, and the result doesn’t look good, either.”
She tried again with the same result and thought, “There has to be an easier way.”
She consulted her artist sister and found out there was: Ditch the kits and go for the real stuff — white modeling clay.
While experimenting with that, she wondered if other parents had run into similar issues, a thought that led Bever to create her business, Pint-Sized Prints.
The response from friends interested in preserving their kids’ prints was so enthusiastic that Bever determined that her business idea probably had a market in Dallas.
“So I did it with my friends first, practiced a lot and then decided to start doing it as a business.”
Through trial and error, she discovered the clay cracks if it dries too quickly, so her dad built her several airtight bins in which to keep the pieces while they dry, so they will harden without cracking.
“It really turned into a family affair,” she says, adding that her mom helped her decorate the studio and sometimes assists with the glaze or other tasks. Plus, Bever’s grandfather originally built the studio. He used it for woodworking before he died.
“It’s kind of neat that I get to work in the same space that he worked in,” she says.
The Pint-Sized Prints process: parents bring their kids by her studio, press a handprint and/or footprint (Bever says she has just about perfected the art of wheedling wiggly babies into handing over their prints), and — voila! — the parents’ job is done; Bever does the dirty work.
“And then they just get a nice, pretty impression in a box. So they get the end result, and they don’t have to deal with all the mess and the frustration.”
Her two biggest seasons are Christmas and Mother’s Day, but if people don’t want to deal with the Christmas rush, they can buy a gift certificate and book the studio visit for later. And it doesn’t have to stop at handprints. Bever also makes impressions for dog paws, thumbprints for the whole family and keys for people’s first homes.
“Now, I’m always on the lookout for what I can make an impression of,” she says. “And it’s all because I wanted to preserve my kids’ prints, because I just love the way little hands and feet look.” —Brittany Nunn
Dutch Art Gallery
Gift idea: Local art
Price range: $150-$3,000
Where to find it: dutchartgallery.net
Simple, direct, a little mysterious and unexpected and evocative of pleasant memories, Kyle Wood’s paintings are of recognizable places, and in some cases, spaces that only seem familiar. Central to his depiction of the Dallas Arboretum is an aesthetic wooden door embedded in the bleached-brick wall of DeGolyer Estate, with a few potted plants lining the walkway, rather than the acres of vibrant blossoming flora, which should tell you something about his approach. He gets into the nooks and quiet spots, and it makes the observer feel like an explorer inside the scene. His specialty is historical architecture and landscapes, he notes. “From an early age I have had a keen, unique perspective.” His great aunt Mildred is to thank for fostering his juvenile artistic inclinations, he adds. Wood is a featured artist at Dutch Art Gallery in Northlake Shopping Center at Ferndale and Northwest Highway. His paintings run from $150 to $3,000, and the gallery offers a variety of framing options. Wood is one of several local artists — including Laurie Justice Pace and Kay Wyne, featured in past Advocate editions — featured at Dutch Art Gallery, whose special Texas artists’ exhibition lasts through January 11. —Christina Hughes Babb
Nikki Duong Koenig
Gift idea: Handbags
Price range: $110 and up
Where to find it: cykochik.com
Hitting the big 1-0 has proven to be quite a milestone year for Cykochik and its founder, Nikki Duong Koenig. In its 10th year, the label known for its custom-made, eco-friendly vegan handbags raised more than $10,000 from a spring Kickstarter campaign. The results? A 10th anniversary collection designed by six artists from around the country, a new website, and additional venues carrying the Cykochik line.
And one more thing: Keonig, a Lake Highlands resident, was able to leave her full-time job as the creative director for a marketing agency to devote herself exclusively to the business of Cykochik.
“It actually means more work,” she says, laughing. “When you do what you love and pursue your passion, it doesn’t feel like work. I’m humbled by the amount of support we got from fans, friends and family.
“I wouldn’t have been able to make this leap on my own.”
Keonig was an SMU student when she launched Cykochik in 2003. The commitment to sustainable manufacturing was established from the beginning. Sourcing materials was (and is) a challenge, given that they must be both eco-friendly and animal-friendly, living up to Keonig’s belief that she and her collaborators can “express our individuality without harming others, animals or our planet in the process.”
The six artists contributing to the Artist Series 3 were given Cykochik’s anniversary as their inspiration for the collection, with each designing a tote bag, laptop sleeve and clutch. The pieces (starting at $110) are available at cykochik.com. Other ready-made pieces can be purchased at the McKinney Avenue Contemporary in Uptown and the Gallery at Midtown, a gallery/studio space housed within Valley View Center.
Select Cykochik accessories also are available at various events hosted by the company throughout the year, or artsy gatherings such as the annual Etsy Dallas Jingle Bash. For custom creations, get started at the website or Cykochik Facebook page. (Expect a turnaround time of about two to three weeks.) Keonig also encourages Cykochik fans to sign up for the newsletter list to receive updates and exclusive offers.
Even as Cykochik expands, its founder and her husband, Marek, remain rooted in Dallas, where both have strong family ties. Keonig wasn’t born here, but considers herself at heart to be a Dallasite and native Texan.
“I grew up here, went to SMU, went to New York and then came back,” she says, adding that the arts culture in Dallas is “improving and growing. It’s really exciting to be part of this transition.”
Ten years in, what does Koenig envision for the future of Cykochik? Ideas are plentiful: more bags, shapes, accessories, international collaborations. Expanding beyond handbags, into apparel, say, or home decor, is among the possibilities.
“There are so many things I want to do,” she says, with Cykochik having the potential to grow into a “compassionate lifestyle brand, involving artists and artisans from all around the world.”—Pam Harris