If we asked you to imagine the start of the holiday season in Toronto, you'd likely envision crowds at the Eaton Centre, shoppers lined up around the block on Queen Street, and a lot of rushing around.

But this year, the holidays — like everything else in 2020 — are set to look very different from what we're used to.

We've had to say goodbye to flashy parties and big events. Instead, the focus is on gathering with loved ones, appreciating what you have, and supporting those around you  — including local businesses. 

Many small businesses across the city have been forced to close or remain semi-operational, especially with this second lockdown. By shopping local this holiday season, we support our economy, make a responsible choice for the environment, and help the countless small shops that keep our neighbourhoods vibrant and beautiful stay open.

Interac® has always been an ally of small- and medium-size local businesses and they believe in spending meaningfully. To embrace the spirit of coming together this season, here are 11 Toronto businesses that you can support as you check off your holiday gift list this year.

From custom-made jewellery to cocktail kits to coffee subscriptions, these thoughtful gifts beat any present bought from a big box store. 

1. Anice Jewellery

Address: Shop online and get it delivered or do curbside pickup at 102 Ossington Ave., Toronto, ON M6J 2Z4

Why You Need To Go: Anice is an Etsy-lover's paradise. Upcycled crystal earrings, custom healing bracelets, personalized necklaces and more await you at this online and retail custom jewellery boutique.

If you're looking for a one-of-a-kind gift (on a budget!) that will wow anyone on your holiday list and slays the accessory game, head to Anice.

This little slice of heaven on Ossington has everything from personalized jewellery to online jewellery workshops to gift cards.

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2. Dynasty Plant Shop

Address: Shop online and get it delivered or do curbside pickup at 1086 Queen St. W., Toronto, ON M6J 1H8 or 1250 Dupont St., Toronto, ON M6H 2A4

Why You Need To Go: We all have friends and family who are impossible to shop for. This year, instead of settling on something random and hoping for the best, offer them something useful that keeps on giving (and one they'll actually appreciate): a gorgeous plant.

Toronto-based Dynasty Gardens is a botanical boutique that specializes in unusual and high-quality tropical plants, cactus, and ceramics for any space.

They have items ranging from small snake plants to statement-making fiddle-leaf fig trees and everything in between.

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3. Downtown Winery

Address: Shop in-store or online for delivery; you can also place your order over the phone for curbside pickup at 30 Ossington Ave., Toronto, ON M6J 2Y7

Why You Need To Go: With a special license allowing them to import wines worldwide, family-operated Downtown Winery is the perfect place to shop for the vino aficionado on your list.

They import them in bulk, bottling and packaging them here right in their own facilities. This urban winery also does their own blending and ageing with the help of a winemaker.

With over 28 wines to choose from including affordable merlot, sweet rosé, Canadian iced dessert wine, and even custom baskets (just tell them your budget and they'll whip up something wonderful), you'll be walking away with a gift you know will impress — and they may just become your favourite local wine shop in the process too.

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4. Cocktail Emporium

Address: Shop online for delivery or curbside pickup at 972 Queen St. W., Toronto, ON M6J 1H1

Why You Need To Go: Toronto's only one-stop-shop for all things bar is the spot to shop for cocktail enthusiasts.

You’ll find everything you need to stock a brand-new bar cart, from mixes and tonics to bitters and all types of glassware and accessories. Get your sister-in-law a matte rose gold cocktail shaker, your dad a whiskey dictionary, and your BFF an at-home margarita kit you both can enjoy.

Warning: you'll spend hours browsing here, and you'll probably come out with a few things for yourself too.

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5. Yogaspace

Address: Online classes available or in-studio at 148 Ossington Ave., Toronto, ON M6J 2Z5 (once they become available again)

Why You Need To Go: Let's be real, we all need a little R&R after the year we've just had, so why not give the gift of yoga this holiday season?

Yogaspace, a popular yoga studio on Ossington, offers inclusive online classes for every yogi from beginner to advanced.

Yogaspace has single, 5-, 10-, and 20-class passes that can be used on an as-needed basis for a whole year. Daily classes include a choice of Vinyasa, Hatha, Pilates, and specialty classes.

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6. Blondie's Pizza

Address: Pickup or delivery at 88 Ossington Ave., Toronto, ON M6J 2Z4; 1555 Dundas St. E. Toronto, ON M4L 1K9; 199 Bay St., Toronto, ON J4Y 0K7

Why You Need To Go: Struggling for present inspo? Give something you know everyone will love: pizza.

Toronto's instantly recognizable pink pizza brand boasts some of the city's most delicious pies with catchy names like Dra...Drake Was Here and Regina, The Mean One.

Their gift cards make the perfect stocking stuffer for even the pickiest of gift receivers.

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7. Likely General

Address: Shop online for delivery or curbside pickup at 389 Roncesvalles Ave., Toronto, ON M6R 2N1

Why You Need To Go: The owners of Likely General set out to create an inclusive space where anyone and everyone could find something they loved.

From apothecary goods and tarot cards to ceramics and handmade soaps, Likely General stocks tons of artist-focused goods that suit anyone on your gift list.

The store is open on Roncesvalles Avenue, but they still offer curbside pickup and delivery.

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8. Balzac's Coffee Roasters

Address: Shop online for delivery (8 total locations including 1 Trinity St., Toronto, ON M5A 1G3; 43 Hanna Ave. #123, Toronto, ON M6K 1X1; 122 Bond St., Toronto, ON M5B 1E9)

Why You Need To Go: Do you have a coffee aficionado on your list? What about a tea-lover?

Balzac's Coffee Roasters' seemingly endless supply of coffee-related paraphernalia includes mugs, brewers, posters, apparel, and even weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, and bi-monthly subscriptions.

Order online and get your gifts delivered straight to your friend's house. E-gift cards are also available.

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9. Logan & Finley

Address: Shop online for delivery or curbside pickup at 670 Queen St. W., Toronto, ON M6J 1E5

Why You Need To Go: Looking for sustainable, eco-friendly products that are just as gorgeous as they are useful?

That's Logan & Finley's entire M.O. They sell thoughtfully chosen, well-designed, ethically sourced products like clothing, skincare, candles, household items, and more.

The best part? More than 20 of the brands they feature are based right here in Toronto!

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10. Bellwoods Brewery 

Address: Shop online for delivery or pickup at 124 Ossington Ave., Toronto, ON M6J 2Z5 or 20 Hafis Rd, North York, ON M6M 2V6

Why You Need To Go: Anyone familiar with Ossington's Bellwoods Brewery will know that the indoor/outdoor dining space was bustling every day of the week before the pandemic.

To keep up with safety regulations, both shop locations offer delivery or pickup.

You can find different products from local wineries, distilleries, farmers, and artists.

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11. Good Neighbour

Address: Shop online for delivery or curbside pickup at 935 Queen St. E., Toronto, ON M4M 1J6

Why You Need To Go: This lifestyle/fashion store with a curated selection of clothing, footwear, gifts, and accessories is the ultimate place to browse for gifts.

The team over at Good Neighbour has taken an ordinary house and turned it into a mecca of high-quality, handpicked products from home goods to fashion and everything in between.

Don't be surprised if you end up checking off everyone on your holiday gift list!

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Once you're finally able to shop in-store again, rest assured that you can stay safe as you purchase with contactless payments like Interac Debit and Interac e-Transfer®.

Interac makes it easy to use your own money to shop locally. So, no matter if you choose curbside pickup or delivery, purchase online classes, or even buy a gift card, you can safely support local this holiday season and help the places that you love to stay open.

To learn more about how Interac can help you stay safe while you shop local this holiday season, visit their website. For more stories from the Together For The Holidays series, check out our holiday hub here.