Where to Find Reminders of Tucson to Take Home
By Stacey Gregory
Tucson is a magical place that beckons to people from all over the world. Whether you’re visiting the desert or you call this amazing landscape home, you surely want to purchase souvenirs for yourself and your loved ones. We’ve rounded up four one-of-a-kind shops to find mementos and keepsakes to treasure for years to come.
Why I Love Where I Live
What began as an exercise to seek beauty in a city she initially didn’t want to live in became a celebration of the Tucson lifestyle for transplant Kristin Tovar. It all started when she met and married Alex, a Tucson local who didn’t want to leave the Old Pueblo. Camera in hand, she set out to find beauty in the desert, posting on her Instagram page called Why I Love Where I Live. Her account struck a chord with people near and far, growing an active following. The page led to community art events, which led to a T-shirt design, which led to more products the couple sold at local markets. Eventually, they ran out of room storing wares at their home, and the 320-square-foot brick-and-mortar store opened in the Mercado Annex in May 2018.
Today, you can find a wide variety of Tucson-centric products, many of which are designed by local artists, displayed about the expanded 800-square-foot location in the Annex. The white space is the perfect backdrop for the colorful creations that adorn shirts, socks, hats, stickers, patches, ornaments, and more. There’s even a children’s section designed to infuse a love of where they live in kids through clothing, books, and games.
The Happy Saguaro
For more than 30 years, The Happy Saguaro has been the place where Tucsonans and visitors alike shop for Southwest home decor and unique gifts. The store itself is a sight to behold, with personally hand-selected pottery and art that is sourced directly from Mexico, Native American reservations and nearby Southwest states covering the floor, walls, and ceilings, many in bright, vivid colors that excite your imagination.
Sacred art includes milagros (the Mexican sacred heart), crosses, statues of religious figures, and catrinas (elegantly dressed skeleton figures used as a symbol of the Día de Los Muertos celebration). For your home, discover beautiful collections of ceramic tableware, glassware, lighting, furniture, and Talavera and Native American pottery.
The wonderland of Southwest goods spills out onto a patio filled with small to supersized pots and metal home and garden accents in all shapes and sizes from barrel cacti for your garden to kokopellis and geckos to hang on your walls. You’ll even find apparel, handbags, and jewelry.
A quest to connect with new people led Theresa Delaney to host her first workshop where people from around Tucson gathered to create a fun DIY project. She grew from hosting workshop pop-ups in restaurants to a downtown venue to what is now known as Creative Kind, a brick-and-mortar shop at the La Encantada Shopping Center in the Santa Catalina Foothills. More than a shop, Creative Kind is a place for people to gather, connect over creativity, and make or discover something beautiful through weekly instructed craft workshops, experiential online workshops, and drop-in DIY projects, as well as through curated goods for sale from small businesses and local makers.
The moment you enter Creative Kind, you are enveloped in the soft beige and orange hues of the desert. It’s a fitting spot to discover desert-inspired vinyl stickers, notepads, jewelry, postcards, candles, and even salts and cocktail mixes from Arizona. With a Creative Kind Circle membership, you can join in the fun anywhere in the world by participating in online workshops and accessing a full library of DIY downloads and mini videos, message boards, live events, and more.
Fourth Avenue is lined with shops, bars, and restaurants, to be sure. One eclectic shop is actually an art gallery “for weirdos” called & Gallery. The concept is pretty brilliant. The gallery is owned by Eat Sleep Work, a design and marketing company based in Los Angeles, California. The front is the retail shop where you can purchase prints and merchandise created by Tucson artists. The next section is an exhibition space for art events and shows. Even further back is the Eat Sleep Work office where web design and marketing magic happens.
The white-and-black walls inside & Gallery are adorned with contemporary art, pop art, and unusually wild and wacky creations by local artists, including many up-and-coming young artists. Choose from high-end and limited-edition art prints, comic books, toy sculptures, and stickers. Frequently found works include Marcoso’s pop art, Gabby Vee’s loud and graphic comic punk comic books, Ben Mackey’s comic books, and soft and cartoony fun works by Sophie Mictear, a well-known nonbinary artist.
No matter which shop you choose, you’re sure to find the perfect mementos to remind you of your time exploring Tucson, to give as thoughtful gifts, or to celebrate the love you have of where you live. When you do stop by, be sure and tell them you saw it first in Tucson Guide.