By Jonathan Sperling and David Brand
Queens holiday shoppers who have grown a little tired of hearing about Amazon may want to check out a few of the borough’s small businesses to pick up some last-minute gifts.
But where to begin in a county of nearly 2.4 million people where small businesses employ more than 50 percent of residents, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration?
To help Queens residents looking for unique presents for their family members, friends and colleagues — or just looking to treat themselves — the Eagle has put together a handy holiday gift guide featuring local shops from around the borough.
Ridgewood-based online shop
This Ridgewood-based artisan uses organic oils to create healthy soaps using recipes handed down from his Albanian ancestors.
“The art of soap-making began before World War I when our great grandfather made organic essential and carrier oils to sell across eastern Europe,” Tyler Mujko said. “Neve represent us as a family. Our family has preserved this tradition and recipes throughout both World Wars, for more than 50 years of a Communist regime and after immigrating to the US.”
Mujko said he grew up watching his dad make soap and decided to follow in his sudsy footsteps when he got older.
“Due to high demand from family and friends, we created the Neve brand while preserving our family tradition of making organic soap without artificial chemicals, colors or preservatives and with the highest respect for animal welfare.”
3746 74th St., Jackson Heights
Lovers of Indian culture will appreciate a gift from Butala Emporium, located in the heart of Jackson Heights. The shop features a variety of Indian goods, including books, music, crafts, beauty products and more.
Sugar & Water
29-14 23rd Ave., Astoria
Have a foodie friend with a passion for sweets? Look no further than Sugar & Water in Astoria, where presentation is everything. Besides serving up an array of colorful and quirky donuts, the quaint shop also features cakes, dossants and other baked goods.
60-02 Catalpa Ave., Ridgewood
The small chocolatier, tucked into an old hardware store on Catalpa Avenue, manufactures and serves all-natural chocolate candy with rich textures and flavors.
“We began our artisanal chocolate business after the demise of dry goods,” store owner Constantine Kalpaxis, a former City Health Department employee, wrote on the shop’s website. “One customer, Hanna Utkin, was so impressed by our chocolate, that she asked if she could do a documentary on our chocolate making process.”
Utkin’s short film does just that. Utkin said he want customers to appreciate cocoa’s natural flavor before heaps of artificial sugar are introduced.
Fang Gourmet Tea
135-25 Roosevelt Ave, Flushing
Flushing Fantastic, a resource for Flushing residents, businesses and tourists, recommends this unique tea shop located in the heart of New York City’s fourth-largest business district.
“With a resurgence of interest in this ancient, antioxidant rich beverage, it’s great to know that Flushing has several world class tea shops,” Flushing Fantastic wrote in November. “Fang Tea offers a range of carefully sourced and chosen teas ranging from Four Seasons Spring Oolong tea. Package sizes and prices vary greatly depending on the tea. They also have a range of teaware including tea pots and beautiful cups.”
3719 Main St., Flushing
Flushing Fantastic also recommends that book lovers visit this Chinese bookstore on Flushing Main Street for its elegant calligraphy prints and florist.
“[The store] is full of beautifully illustrated calligraphy books that can be appreciated whether you read Chinese or not,” the site wrote.
Bell & Roslyn Jewelers
40-21 Bell Blvd., Bayside
Not every kiss begins with Kay. Bayside’s oldest jeweler is a great place to pick up precious metals and glimmering gems for loved ones. There is also an outpost at 1388A Old Northern Blvd. in Roslyn, Long Island.