Executive gift giving doesn’t have to be a chore!

It was probably the single most traumatic experience of my early career: trying to figure out what to buy my boss for Christmas. He was a venerable ad man in a Brooks Brothers suit and a Rolex watch. I was a green girl, fresh out of college and brand new in the big city from the rural Appalachian Mountains.

I honestly don’t remember what I gave him. I think it was a decanter that I’m sure was below his standards, especially since I didn’t have much money to spend. I do remember, though, that he was gracious and acted like it was the best gift in the world. What he gave me, however, spoke volumes of how much he valued me as an employee. My heart skipped a beat when I ripped the paper to reveal the famous sky blue of a Tiffany’s box. Inside was an elegant sterling silver fountain pen with a note that said, “Keep writing.” I still use that pen today.

Employee/employer gift giving really is a tricky business. Even if you’re a veteran of office gift exchanges, it can be difficult deciding what gifts to give and what they say about you and the relationships you have with your office co-workers.

But not to worry. Northern Michigan merchants are stocked to the brim with innovative ideas that say “good job” and “you’re valuable.”

First, almost anyone in these parts will tell you that a gift reflecting this area’s star product–cherries–is always appropriate. Gail Lange, owner of The Cherry Stop in Traverse City highly recommends gift tins and gift baskets for work-related gift giving, noting “they’re great for an office to share.”

Cherry products are so versatile that you can design a basket with dried fruits for the health conscious, to cherry chocolate truffles for the die-hard chocoholic in your office.

Like many area merchants, The Cherry Stop is happy to ship your gifts, taking one more “to do” off of your Christmas list.

An appropriate idea for co-workers is buying them something they can use at work, such as an elegant day planner with the company logo debossed on the front. Ruth Gilmer, who co-owns the Leelanau Trading Co. with her husband, Ted, says it’s really not that expensive to have a leather dayplanner personalized for your staff.

“Bring in your artwork or company logo and we can make a die to deboss the leather,” she suggested.

The products the Gilmers sell are all designed and manufactured in Leelanau County. If you can’t make it to Empire, you also can find their products at Horizon Books, Wild Birds Unlimited and Traverse Bay Woolen Co.

Or how about giving an employee a little respite from the busy working world? Tamara Vomastek, co-owner of Imprés Salon in Traverse City, says a gift certificate for a massage, manicure or pedicure is always well-received. These types of services are appropriate gift for both men and women and are a wonderful way for someone to “take a moment” for themselves, says Vomastek. Unlike a little trinket that’s liable to sit on a shelf, salon and spa services give the recipient lasting effects.

If you have an employee or a boss who’s a bookworm, a gift certificate to a local bookstore is a good idea. Also, subscriptions to area publications–like Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine or the Business News–or a magazine that focuses on a favorite sport or hobby make wonderful employee stocking stuffers.

Local charities like the Goodwill Inn, could always use a helping hand, especially this time of year. Why not make a donation in honor of a boss or co-worker? A donation is not only a discerning gift, but it touches more than one life.

Northern Michigan offers plenty of cultural events and tickets for an evening out. Just a few on tap for the winter season are “A Christmas Spectacular” musical revue running from Dec. 1-23 at the Milliken Auditorium in the Dennos museum.

The Old Town Playhouse will be presenting “The Rainmaker” from Jan. 18-Feb. 3 and Interlochen Arts Academy will feature, among other specials, “A Christmas Carol” and the ballets “Coppelia” and “Giselle.” BN