Instead of fighting crowds and traffic on Reserve Street for last-minute holiday shopping on Saturday, several dozen Missoulians instead sipped a pint of craft beer and perused a selection of homemade bath salts, juniper berry-infused beard oils, jewelry, salves and other gifts in a quiet, hassle-free setting at a local brewery.
The Late-Bird Holiday Bazaar at Imagine Nation Brewing featured handmade and eco-friendly gifts that shoppers can’t find at the big box stores, such as Clay Cooper’s Lazarus Beard Oil Co. products. Each one is named after an exotic place he’s been.
“I’m retired military, so they’re named after places in Iraq, Egypt and Bosnia,” he said. “I made each one for different places.”
Cooper is nearly bald, but he’s got an immediately recognizable bushy beard.
“A lot of other beard oils out there smelled musky or perfumey,” he explained. “So I wanted to make something that I would enjoy using that’s also good for hair. It was a lot of trial and error. I started selling in May and it’s been going like a mad demon ever since.”
The brewery has a special event space set off from the tasting room, and a half dozen different vendors set up shop on Saturday. Sarah Giuliani brought her Funky Bluebird handmade jewelry line, as well as her herb-infused salves, made from plants she harvested while working on farms in Colorado. She uses olive oil, coconut oil and beeswax in her salves, and she infuses them with her herbs using a double boiler before straining them out.
Susan Teitelman brought her Wandering Jew line of fermented foods, medicinal tea blends and herbal extracts. Brooke Jones was showing off her Salt & Fox line of eco-friendly bath teas, chic jewelry and gift baskets.
“Today we’re supporting the Fired Up For Kids campaign, which was started by the local fire department to help children who’ve been traumatized by fires,” Jones explained. “The kids go with the firefighters on a shopping trip to replace toys and clothes they lost in the fire.”
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Jones said she also hopes to donate a portion of her proceeds in the future to an organization that works to battle climate change, such as Climate Smart Missoula or 350.org.
Sarah Lester and Meaghan Mazzola were shopping on Saturday for Christmas gifts.
“I’m from Missoula and I’m here visiting my parents,” Lester said. “I love Imagine Nation and all their events. I wanted to find gifts that were handmade by local artisans and support local artists.”
“I’ve been working full-time for the last six days,” Mazzola explained. “I missed all the craft fairs, but I wanted to make it to this one. I got a nice spa basket.”
Aimee Miklovic of Full Bushel Farm, an urban farm in Missoula, was peddling bath salts made with herbs like oregano flowers, mint flowers, roses and lavender. She also makes salves made with chamomile and calendula that are marketed as much for men as women.
“I try to make body care products that are gender neutral,” she said. “Body care products typically sway toward women.”
She was happy to have a festive atmosphere and a nice place to get in front of customers.
“This is perfect,” she said. “People are shopping, there’s local artists and there’s beer. What more could you ask?”