HYDE PARK — Gifts mean more when there's a story attached to it and Hyde Park shops make it easy to find a present that's personal.
From olive oil made at a local restaraunteur's farm in Greece to a bike custom built by youth in Woodlawn, it's easy to give a gift that is both pleasant in-and-of itself and also offers a little slice of the South Side.
FOR THE DIEHARD HYDE PARKER
Grandpa knows every building in Hyde Park and everyone who used to live there — usually. The Seminary Cooperative Bookstore (5751 S. Woodlawn Ave.) can grease the gears and has a limited number of signed copies of Susan O'Connor Davis' new book on Hyde Park history, "Chicago's Historic Hyde Park," for $60. If you're trying to for one day avoid the inevitable conversation about the gentrification of the neighborhood, the bookshop also has copies of "Vivian Maier's Self Portraits," the newly released collection of photographs by the obscure 1950s Chicago street photographer, for $50.
FOR THE CHICAGO ARCHITECTURE BUFF
The Robie House offers laser-cut reproductions of the windows from the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home at 5757 S. Woodlawn Ave for $26. Or pick up "The Wright Three," a book by Blue Balliet about three kids trying to solve a mystery and save the Robie House, from 57th Street Books, (1301 E. 57th St.) for $7.99.
FOR YOUR COOL SISTER
The South Side's only skate shop, LDRSkate (1013 E. 53rd St.), has launched a line of Hyde Park fitted caps. The embroidered New Era caps are custom made for the shop and come in a University of Chicago style with white letter on a maroon cap and the Harper Court style with blaze orange lettering on a camo cap. $40
FOR THE COFFEE SNOB
Your brother-in-law has every pump, press, carafe and pot imaginable for making coffee and can explain in detail the subtle differences in that final cup, but it's unlikely he has a Egyptian delah. Harper Foods (1455 E. 57th St.) carries a range of the brass-clad pots used to make the traditional Middle Eastern style coffee, which often has a dash of cardamom and a pile of sugar in it. Owner Bader El Sharif is happy to give a quick lesson, too. From $10 to $18
You will need some coffee to go with the delah, and Robust Coffee Lounge (6300 S. Woodlawn Ave.) is one of the few stores in the city that carries Colectivo Coffee. Colectivo carefully sources the beans directly from farmers in South and Central America with whom they have built up personal relationships with over years and roasted in Milwaukee, Wisc. A pound of unground beans is $12 and is sure to impress your brother-in-law — unless he's now so fixated he's roasting his own beans in the basement, then you have our sympathy.
FOR THE IGNORED DAD
Show your dad you were listening to those skreeds about how in his day musicians had something important to say and get him that rare Donnie Hathaway Live record he lost in 1971 from Hyde Park Records (1377 E. 53rd St.) If Hathaway's epic piano solo on the 12-minute "The Ghetto" wasn't dad's style, Hyde Park Records offers a huge selection of rare jazz and soul records. Donnie Hathaway Live, $10. Prices vary on other albums.
Your dad used to ride his bike everywhere until it got crumpled under the front bumper of mom's car in the garage. With every bus trip to work his gut grows, why not get him a custom built bike from Blackstone Bicycle Works (6100 S. Blackstone Ave.) The bike shop manned by Woodlawn teens will build him a custom bike for as low as $80. You're not innocent, you wrecked your little brother's bike just days after getting your drivers permit when you mistook reverse for drive. Good news, Blackstone Bicycle Works sells kids bikes for as low as $15.
FOR THE LOCAL, ORGANIC, FAIR-TRADE MOM
The Food Network has turned your mom into a foodie evangelist, but she hasn't made it past the aisles of Whole Foods yet. Ease her into it, get her a bottle of extra virgin olive oil from Salonica (1440 E. 57th St.) owner John Frangias' farm in Kalamata, Greece, for $13. Or pick up a $5 jar of olives also from Frangilas' farm at the restaurant.
That chipped plaster bust of Cleopatra that mom got at an estate sale in 1992 is back on the mantle, but now is referred to as a proud symbol of heritage and exquisite craftsmanship. Check those rolling eyes, the Oriental Insitute (1155 E. 58th St.) can help you out. The museum carries a range of alabaster vases made in a family workshop outside Cairo, Egypt. $13 to $55
If mom is getting really serious, What the Traveler Saw (1508 E. 55th St.) carries imported artifacts from across the world, including a kalaga, a hand-embroidered tapestry from Thailand for $1,000. On a budget, a set of chocolate faces flavored with tahini, ginger and hazel for $12 are a good stocking stuffer.
FOR THE LITTLE BROTHER WHO'S NOT NERDING OUT RIGHT
Your little brother is into cutesy Japanese comics and card games with unpronounceable names (it's called Yu Gi Oh). Come on, "Sandman" is a classic and way better, but he won't listen and you know he needs to up his game before high school. First Aid Comics (1617 E. 55th St.) carries Chicago-writer Jill Thomson's "The Dead Boy Dectectives," a spin off of the "Sandman" comics done in the Japanese manga style. Pick up the "V for Vendetta" compendium and a Guy Fawkes mask for his birthday while you're there — and a few packs of Yu Gi Oh cards, just to be on the safe side.