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Shopping made simple

For any of you fellows who are starting to think about the rapidly approaching gifting day, here's a plan.

Do the unusual and encourage your wife, girlfriend or teen-age daughter to participate in tonight's (Thursday, Dec. 9) Girls' Nite Out in downtown Hudson.

A number of downtown merchants are giving women the opportunity to fill out wish lists. The idea is for your sweetheart to wander through the shops, jot down items she likes, and leave the lists with the shopkeepers. You come trailing along when the time is right (hopefully, before Dec. 24) and purchase something sure to win your darling's approval.

Say good-bye to mistakes like giving your wife something practical - a kitchen appliance, for example.

Think impractical when it comes to choosing gifts for women, Jean Iverson of Lavender Thymes advised me.

"Anything that means me-time" is good, Iverson said. Women usually buy practical things for themselves, so they appreciate it when the man in their life pampers them with fragrances, really good chocolate or designer clothing."

Boy, I could have used that advice twenty-some years ago before I put that set of cooking ware under the tree.

Girl's Night Out has really caught on since the promotion was introduced last June by a group of 26 downtown shops and restaurants.

"It has been wildly successful" is the way Kim Heinemann, president of the Hudson Area Chamber of Commerce, put it. "People are coming from the Twin Cities. They're calling Hudson the other Grand Avenue."

The idea behind Girls' Night Out, held the second Thursday of each month, is to encourage women to discover the shops and restaurants of downtown Hudson. The stores stay open until 9:30 p.m., with many offering treats to the evening shoppers. The cooperating restaurants - Barker's Bar & Grill, San Pedro Cafe and Winzer Stube - feature menu specials.

Activities such as a 6:30 p.m. fashion show at Cafe la Poste provided by Elan women's clothing shop is also a part of the event. Each Girls' Nite Out has a theme. This Thursday's is: "Giving is a Verb."

You don't have to sit in shopping-mall traffic jams and trudge endless miles through crowded department stores to find the perfect gifts for your loved ones, Heinemann said. "You can stay here and do all your shopping in this lovely, quaint town."

Inspired, I headed out the door of the Star-Observer office to see for myself.

A few doors down at Elan, Sandee Madigan and her assistant Julie Neiderhauser assured me that they can help bewildered men. They're easy to spot, Madigan said. They come in and wander aimlessly with a dazed look in their eyes until someone comes to their rescue.

"We work really hard on finding nice quality, unique things," Madigan said. "We look for textures, fabrics that are different, that people really notice."

Elan offers designs that you won't find in department stores, she said. "That's something we really shoot for, so you're not going to see yourself everywhere around town."

Karen Watts, manager at J.R. Haubrich Jewelers, steered me to the diamond pendants and earrings. I could get a nice pair of diamond earrings for my sweetheart for $350 on up, she said. Or how about a string of black Tahitian pearls for around $5,000?

Watts said she'll ask a guy what jewelry his wife already has, or if she has dropped any hints about what she'd like to add to her collection.

"Usually women will drop a few hints," she said.

I pondered that.

At Little New York, the new shop at 206 Locust St., you can get a monster look-alike diamond for $20. The shop features jewelry for the budget-conscious shopper, along with an array of flashy ponchos, shawls, hats, purses and other clothing accessories directly from - you guessed it - New York.

Kathy Newman at Et Cetera home accessory and gift store said Sid Dickens decorative art plaques are such a hot item this Christmas that she can barely keep them in stock.

Gift certificates are an acceptable option for guys with no idea of what to buy, she said. Et Cetera gift wraps all purchases - even the certificates.

"We can send you out with this beautiful package that will really wow them," Newman said.

Downtown isn't the only place in Hudson to shop, of course. It's also worthwhile to check out the specialty shops of the Plaza 94 and Marketplace East and West shopping centers on Coulee Road. If you can't find what you're looking for there, go to one of Hudson's big box stores. I recommend Fleet Farm for men's gifts.

Visit for more on Girls' Nite Out and (the Chamber's Web site) for a listing of local holiday events.

Good luck out there, men. It's a tough assignment, but if you do it well, your approval rating is sure to soar.

Randy Hanson

Randy Hanson has reported for the Star-Observer since 1997. He came to Hudson after 11 years with the Inter-County Leader at Frederic, and eight years of teaching social studies. He’s a graduate of UW-Eau Claire.

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