As the U.S. economy continues to struggle, retailers hope that sales and discounts will end the holiday shopping season “in the black.” However, Black Friday, Cyber Monday and other marketing gimmicks may not be enough if consumers continue to buy foreign-made products. Shoppers need to become label-readers. They should consider putting items “Made in China” or some other non-fair-trade entity back on the shelf.

Evanston residents are fortunate that an abundance of independent businesses make their home here. The busy homemaker whose time is stretched to the limit can leave the baking to someone else. Andi Katz, owner of Katz Cookies, can bake dozens of cookies in flavors from chocolate chip to walnut orange chocolate chip. Those wishing to place an order can visit her website at katzcookies.com or phone 847-847-609-6710.

A grown-up who has been nice might appreciate a bottle of American Gin or White Whiskey or a gift certificate from Few Spirits. Tours and tastings at this Evanston-based distillery can be arranged by calling 847-920-8628, and more information is available at www.fewspirits.com.

Choices, choices and more choices await visitors to Juanita Stansberry’s Mall Bags. Her home-based business makes and sells bags ranging from mini and small to large and carry-all sizes. Additionally, she makes tissue or cell phone holders, bags for coupon sorters, coin purses with a key ring and travel bags. Shoppers can check out her website at www.mallbags.com or call 847-475-8118 to set up an appointment to see a wide selection of bags perfect for gifting.

Aspiring rockers or those with unrealized rock musician dreams can have their wishes fulfilled at School of Rock, Evanston. The performance-based school offers lessons for beginners, intermediate and advanced musicians.
Additional information is available at www.schoolofrock-evanston.com or 847-864-ROCK.

Musicians can shop locally at Guitar Works, 709 Main St. The store sells acoustic, electric and bass guitars as well as mandolins, banjos and ukuleles. Store manager Steve Siculan says many of the instruments they sell are made in the United States. Guitar Works also repairs instruments and sells gift cards. More information is available at www.guitarworksltd.com or 847-475-0855.

Based on its name, one might think Squeezebox, a newcomer to the Chicago-Dempster Business District, sells musical instruments. Squeezebox is a used book store that caters to music-lovers with a selection of LPs, 45s and CDs. Store hours and more details can be found at www.squeezeboxbooks.com or by calling 847-943-9309.

Next door at 1231 Chicago Ave. is The Catalpa Gallery, which sells home accents and decorative accessories. Store hours and more information are available at 847-328-1600.

Speaking of accessories, a newcomer to the Central Street Business District is a store called Notice, Accessories for Living. Their merchandise not only accentuates fashion garments, but also dresses up the home or office with colorful yet useful objects. Curious shoppers can visit www.notice-this.com or call 847-905-0947 for additional information.

Both the young and the young-at-heart will be delighted with the yummy selections at Pop ‘n’ Go Nuts at 2016 Central Street. The “sweetery” sells more than a dozen flavors of premium popcorn, a variety of nuts and chocolates, plus customized gift baskets. Sweet-lovers can find out more at www.popgonuts.com or by calling 847-475-1515.

Advice that bears repeating: Using public transit makes for eco-friendly holiday shopping. The CTA will operate its popular Holiday Train. Santa and his elves will ride the el train, passing out candy canes and season’s greetings. Scheduled dates for the Purple Line include Dec. 15, 17, and 21. Check their site for details at www.transitchicago.com/holidaytrain.

Here’s wishing a green and happy holiday season to one and all.

Contact Eco Gal at ecogal247@yahoo.com or read her blog: http://askecogal.blogspot.com.