The Afternoon opened dangerously near my day job at Midtown Crossing. It’s so easy to stroll over to the gift shop/home décor/furniture/art gallery on a break and come away with a knick-knack. The shop, now with three locations (one at Westroads Mall, one at Midtown Crossing and one at Mall of America in Minnesota), stocks all variety of odds and ends for the home: art, frames, coffeetable books, journals, kitchen gadgets, games and some contemporary furniture. The store is locally owned by Marie Clifford. Her son, Peter Massey is the CEO and his wife, Michelle Massey, is a buyer and manager. The company has a team of buyers, including Michelle Massey, Clifford and the store managers from Westroads and Mall of America, who travel to shows around the country to supply The Afternoon with the unique gifts for which it’s known and for which it has been voted Readers’ Choice Best Unique Gifts. “Sometimes we go (to shows) and there are large vendors like Umbra, but we like to find the unique small vendors that people here haven’t seen before and that I think our customers have come to expect,” says Michelle Massey. “I love the Christmas and holiday stuff. One of our buyers loves books and cards.” Clever cards are what I seem to be walking away with of late. I bought a card with a picture of Grecian ladies socking each other that said “Happy Birthday to my Beloved Sister.” The store is a one-stop shop for stocking-stuffer-type items. There’s something for everyone with a good sense of humor in the form of global-warming mugs that reveal the worlds disappearing coastlines as the mug gets hot; a “WTF” self-inking stamp; ID tags for wine-glass stems featuring labels such as “woozy,” “tipsy” and “bemused.” The Afternoon also has jewelry, Christmas ornaments and trendy but affordable (and comfortable) furniture. “It’s really fun when you find something at a show that becomes a hot item,” says Massey, who showed me the Buddha Board that Clifford picked out several years ago that only just became popular. The Buddha Board is a plaque displayed on a frame that stands over a pool of water. Artsy folks can draw water paintings on the board that dry and can be repainted.

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