Holiday Season Gift Guide: Small Business Edition Amidst COVID-19 Holiday Season Gift Guide: Small Business Edition What are local businesses up to for the holiday season amidst a pandemic?

Graphics by Brittney Cheng

The 2020 holiday season is approaching soon, and COVID-19 is spreading fast. Small businesses are some of the hardest hit during the pandemic, forcing a number of local favourite stores to pivot their operations or even close their doors permanently. 

Although small businesses are resilient, they are also in dire need of active community engagement. As we embark onto the season of showering our loved ones with the love language of receiving gifts,  grabbing those gifts from a local small business can be the perfect way to do so.  

Here’s what some of the small businesses in the Waterloo Region are offering for the 2020 holiday season.  


Sweet Dreams Tea Shop 

Speciality: Bubble Tea and Gifts

Right across from UW’s Engineering 5 building, located in the iconic “University Shops Plaza” is this bustling little shop with a cozy ambiance, serving bubble tea, coffee, and desserts with complimentary board games. However, as a result of COVID-19, Sweet Dreams pivoted to a takeout bubble tea and an online gift shop store. 

The pandemic didn’t shy away from making it challenging for a shop beloved by so many Waterloo Warriors. “It’s been very difficult during COVID-19, but it’s also getting us to become more creative,” Jinny, the owner of Sweet Dreams said.  

Sweet dreams has several holiday specials. “We’re definitely trying to think outside the box to promote shopping local,” Jinny said. “We have some promos coming up, like buy 1 get 1 free bubble tea to encourage people to visit us.” 

Sweet Dreams’ Facebook page has an elaborate listing of the holiday specials being offered this season, including holiday special tea, such as Hot Salted Caramel Oolong, as well as free handmade stocking stuffers with a $30 purchase of gift merchandise. Follow them on Instagram to stay updated on their offers. 



Speciality: Gifts and Stationery

Located in Midtown Waterloo, “Gifted” is a gift and stationery boutique. For the gift giving and receiving season, Gifted is offering a variety of holiday specials, in addition to necessity items from greeting cards, socks, candles, and much more. 

The local vibes are strong in Gifted’s selection of items, with a variety of Waterloo- and Kitchener-themed items. If you are looking to send your cartography-nerd friend a gift while showing off your city, there are even holiday themed postcards with maps of Kitchener and Waterloo.  

Customers can shop online or in store and get a glimpse of their collection on their Facebook, Instagram or Twitter


Four All Ice Cream Scoop Shop

Speciality: Hand-crafted Ice Cream

Holiday seasons are notorious for being the “cheat season” for those counting calories, and sweet treats are to blame. Located in Uptown Waterloo, Four All Ice Cream Scoop Shop lets you indulge in the sweetness of desserts without feeling guilty this holiday season. 

This ice cream parlour was founded by Ajoa Mintah in 2016 with a dream to make “handcrafted ice cream using all-natural, locally-sourced ingredients,” and four years later, the dream turned reality is staying true to its word. 

For this holiday season, along with releasing a holiday menu, the store introduced the “12 Days of Ice Cream Minis Gift Box” initiative, where each gift box comes with 12 mini cups of ice cream from the holiday menu, a $25 gift card, and a surprise gift. 

If your loved one is an ice cream lover, and you wish to acknowledge that with a gift,Four All Ice Cream has revealed their “Ice Cream Themed Gift Giving Guide” on Instagram

The founder, Mintah, graduated from the UW Chemical Engineering in 2001, read her story featured on the Waterloo Magazine here. If you’re looking to satisfy your sweet tooth, support your local business, support a Waterloo alumnus and a Black-owned business, then this is your place! You can order online with free delivery from their website or give them a follow on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter


Words Worth Books

Speciality: Books

Voted the 2020 Best Bookstore by Community Edition Waterloo, Words Worth Books, located in Uptown Waterloo, is an independent bookstore that has been around for over 30 years.  

At the start of lockdown, Wood Worth Book hustled and pivoted overnight to promote online sales. We have the most amazing staff who weathered the change with determination, even as we felt less and less like booksellers over the past months,” their Facebook page claimed. 

Words Worth Books has an immense inventory of books, and for the holiday season, they are offering the “Holiday Gift Guide 2020 Picks” with a variety of genres ranging from fiction, non-fiction, travel, nature, and many more. 

Books have always been a “timeless” gift and the pandemic made many of us rediscover our hobby of reading.  2020 saw some notable literary works and if you wish to add them to your shelf, make sure to get it from Words Worth Books or your local bookstore. You can order online from their website or follow them on Facebook or Instagram

Support local businesses on Small Business Saturday

This holiday season’s retail shopping event Small Business Saturday is about supporting your local independent stores. “Small Business Saturday is the day that we work on every year to celebrate the contributions of small business owners, to encourage Canadians to go out of their way to support small businesses,” said Dan Kelly in an article by Global News. 

Local businesses give us a sense of community, and supporting them supports our community. If you don’t know where to start, here’s a list of small businesses put together by The Cindy Cody Team. If you are looking to support Black-owned businesses in the Region, here’s a list put together by African Caribbean Black Waterloo Region. 


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