An Expert's Guide to Gift Giving

Nick Huff knows a thing or two about giving people what they really want.

He and business partner Brandon Beed opened Hutch in 2013 with a collection of well-curated vintage pieces. Their spot-on style and open, gracious approach to business made them an overnight sensation and it wasn’t long before their adoring public called upon them to expand — and pivot a little — to fill Omaha’s modern furniture void (which was, frankly, gaping until they came along). Today, the big, beautiful Hutch flagship in Midtown Crossing is Omaha’s exclusive purveyor of the Blu Dot and Gus* Modern furniture lines, has an in-house design team that provides residential and commercial interiors services, and sells art and gifts by many local makers.

Nick and Brandon didn’t stop there, though. Three-and-a-half years ago, they launched HutchFEST, a day-long annual event showcasing hundreds of handmade artisans from all over the Midwest; this past summer they opened Hutch KC in the design-minded East Crossroads section of Kansas City, and, most recently, they débuted Made in Omaha in Omaha’s Countryside Village.

A Made in Omaha custom gift box for the gourmand includes locally made jam, granola, hot sauce, toffee, chocolates and other treats.

A Made in Omaha custom gift box for the gourmand includes locally made jam, granola, hot sauce, toffee, chocolates and other treats.

I recently attended a holiday event at Made in Omaha with the Omaha Done Well Influencers group and, without even really planning to, I was able to check about ten names off my holiday gift list (by the next morning, I thought of ten more perfect gifts I found there — need to get back pronto).

Nick also gave us four expert tips for gift-giving that are so simple, yet so fail safe, that I really think he should hand them out on business cards this time of year. They are:

Be Original

Trust me, if you bring me a bottle of bubbles from Trader Joe’s as a hostess gift, I will drink it — and merrily. But if you bring me a box of hand-painted chocolates from Farine + Four, or a bottle of rosé Cava selected by its owner Ellie Pegler (who’s a certified sommelier as well as a pastry chef), I’m going to remember it forever — and also think you are so damn chic. Same goes for a delicate pair of clay earrings by EARTHENJoy or a cheekily inscribed mug from Pleasant Avenue Paper Co.

Be Thoughtful

Gift cards are nice to have, but they’re not all that fun to give. It feels infinitely more meaningful to commemorate my friend’s first Christmas as a pet owner with a Dog Mom stocking cap, or give my Omaha Mayflower father-in-law a Nebraska t-shirt with a covered wagon on it (reminiscent of old-school license plates from the ‘70s). Even when you’re doing a mass distribution, you can put a personal spin on it. My husband works for our local school district and, in past years, his boss has given everyone on the team Benson Soap Mill soaps and custom-embossed Artifact key rings because the founders of these companies are alumni.

Shop Locally

It wasn’t that long ago that, when I wanted to give a friend something cool from Nebraska, I’d come up empty. Maybe there were artisans making great things, but I didn’t know who they were or where to find them (and gifting high-fructose corn syrup salad dressing just isn’t my thing). That has SOOOO changed in recent years. Between Made in Omaha and Hutchfest, and boutiques like Among Other Things selling custom home items, and eCreamery shipping bespoke ice cream all over the world, Omaha has become a one-stop shop for stylish, small-batch gifts. This year, instead of getting gift cards to a coffee or fro-yo chain, my children’s teachers are getting candles by Happy Place Candle Co. or Wax Buffalo (both out of Lincoln) and Charmpads (notepads) by Inclosed Letterpress. “People go to other cities and talk about the cool, locally made things there,” says Huff. “Well, there’s a lot of value and talent right here, and people are starting to see that and be more confident in Omaha. Shopping locally helps keep the talent here and the synergy alive.”

Be Festive

I once received an invitation where the suggested attire line read: “For God’s sake, make an effort,” and that’s kind of how I feel about all things holiday. There will be plenty of time in Jan and Feb for drab, December is the season to sparkle. (Or as this NYT beauty feature put it, “it’s the holidays, you’re not supposed to look natural.”) This includes going beyond predictable gift wrap and doing something a little over the top. At Made in Omaha, they can create custom gift sets in gorgeous, limited edition wooden tea chests — great for hostess or corporate gifts — but it doesn’t necessarily have to be that elaborate. “Even something as simple as sticking a little air plant in the ribbon really elevates a gift and makes the recipient feel that much more considered and cared for,” Nick says.

Each one of these sublime hand-painted chocolates from Farine + Four, Nebraska’s only totally organic bakery, takes four days to make.

Each one of these sublime hand-painted chocolates from Farine + Four, Nebraska’s only totally organic bakery, takes four days to make.

I gave this Not Nebraska Nice welcome mat from the Hutch signature line to my BFF years ago and it’s still proudly displayed on his doorstep.

I gave this Not Nebraska Nice welcome mat from the Hutch signature line to my BFF years ago and it’s still proudly displayed on his doorstep.

A holiday-themed print by local artist Andrea Stein and candles by Happy Place Candle Company.

A holiday-themed print by local artist Andrea Stein and candles by Happy Place Candle Company.

Dogs get their own section of locally (and lovingly) made biscuits, accessories and other wag swag at Made in Omaha.

Dogs get their own section of locally (and lovingly) made biscuits, accessories and other wag swag at Made in Omaha.

It really is possible to find great Nebraska gear for people who don’t know from football.

It really is possible to find great Nebraska gear for people who don’t know from football.

Clay pots for air plants from Omaha-based artisan EARTHENJoy.

Clay pots for air plants from Omaha-based artisan EARTHENJoy.