A ZipsGuide to Gifting Grads

A ZipsGuide to Gifting Grads

Soon-to-be grad, Anthony Nichols, has some ideas about what you can give to the grad in your life in lieu of, or to accompany, a check.

By Anthony Nichols

As graduation quickly approaches, graduation presents become something of great interest to shoppers. 

Sometimes giving a graduation gift that your graduate will enjoy can be difficult. Whether you are shopping for a college grad, high school grad, or even a kindergarten grad, most of the time a grad gift is not like a typical birthday present, which can stump many gifters. 


Sure, the easy gift du jour is a check. But those with a closer connection to a grad will want to offer up a gift from the heart – a gift that lets their grad know that they thought about them and selected something just right.


I, for one, would love a gift from the city I have spent so much time in.


A thoughtful gift from a local business would signify the time I have spent at the University of Akron and would be something that would remind me of my college memories every time I enjoy or use it. 


Don’t get me wrong, a check is also appreciated to help me start out in post-grad life, but I look forward to the sentimental gifts just as much.


If you are looking for something to give other than or along with the typical cash gift, look no further than downtown Akron.

Anthony Nichols will graduate on Saturday, May 11, 2024.

(top) Fat T's 'OG' cookie, photo courtesy of Fat T's. (bottom) Madison Latona at a Duck's game, photo courtesy of Madison Latona.

Go for a gift that keeps on giving

If your grad is a fan – a true fan – of one of the businesses (or genres) I’m about to mention, they will absolutely adore a subscription whether for a few months or an entire year. In addition to gifts they will enjoy, you are also gifting anticipation, excitement and the fun of ripping open a new gift in the future as well as on the day.


For a bookworm, gift a subscription to the Cozy Corner Book Bundle or the Banned Books Box which both provide unique literary experiences. 


Cozy Corner provides a “blind date” book wrapped with some extra goodies that include a hand-stamped notebook, pen, stickers, tea, and a bookmark. The books come in various genres that you can preselect, but there is also a unique “Surprise Me!” category. 


The Banned Books Box offers multiple subscriptions, the original monthly box, the slim monthly box, and the literal monthly box. Each subscription comes with a different price point, which provides plenty of flexibility and affordability for the gift giver. 


Does your grad have a sweet tooth? Do they love animals – or the RubberDucks?  Fat T’s Cookies, the Akron Zoo, and the Akron RubberDucks all offer membership or subscription gifts that we love.


Fat T’s Cookies provides two subscriptions, the Full Fat Subscription Boxes, and the Fat Lite Subscription Boxes. The Full Fat subscription being the larger of the two, offers a 12-pack sampler of Fat T’s unique cookie selection. The smaller subscription, Fat Lite Subscription Boxes, offers a 6-pack sampler. 


A cookie sampler pack is a great pairing for a membership with the Akron Zoo. The Akron Zoo offers two ways to purchase a membership, by purchasing your own membership for your family or by using their gift a membership feature. 


Either option provides great experiences such as unlimited admission, admittance to member nights, and invitations to new area previews. The zoo membership also offers discounts to the gift shop and discounts to all major zoos in Ohio. 


If your graduate is more into sports, a ticket package for the the MLB Cleveland Guardians AA affiliate Akron RubberDucks is a great gifting option. The Akron RubberDucks offer an abundance of ticketing options from season tickets to FLEX ticket packages at a fraction of the cost of major league ticket prices. Any package that you decide to purchase will provide a quality sporting experience of a professional minor league baseball team. RubberDucks games offer many unique promotions and a great selection of food to enhance the experience. Check out the ZipsGuide story by Megan Williams here to learn more.

Gift something uniquely Akron

Today’s grads are looking for gifts that reflect their values and make an impact. One of those values for many is supporting the local community by shopping local. Of course it doesn’t hurt if the products themselves feature Akron, which will bring back great memories in the future.


Zeber & Martell Gallery & Clay Studio, LiRo Apparel & Accessories, and Rubber City Clothing each provide uniquely Akron gear. Purchasing from these small, local businesses means the gift you give will support your neighbors in the downtown community rather than big box stores.


Zeber & Martell Gallery & Clay Studio offers their very own Akron Collection, filled with one-of-a-kind cups, plates, ornaments, and more that capture the essence of Akron and its vibrant life. 


Most pieces feature the distinct Akron skyline with blimps flying. 


If you are looking to gift clothing, then LiRo Apparel & Accessories is a great option. The apparel shop offers high-quality, heirloom products made from alpaca and cotton fibers sustainably sourced from local Peruvian Farmers. LiRo’s uniquely Akron product is their Akron Sweater which features Akron, Ohio lettering on the front and the Goodyear blimp on the back. The sweater is a perfect gift for someone who wants to keep a piece of Akron with them as they move forward. LiRo sold out of the iconic sweaters the first day they were available, but plans to have another batch in early June, just in time for grad parties. 


Another fantastic clothing option is Rubber City Clothing which offers shirts, glasses, stickers, and more branded to all things Akron. Rubber City Clothing also features branded items from each neighborhood in Akron and can print your custom item on-demand in the shop while you wait. It’s the perfect spot to create something personalized to your grad. 

(top) Zeber & Martell's Akron Collection courtesy of Zeber.& Martell. (bottom) The ZipsGuide interns rocking their Akron sweaters. Photo by Julie Cajigas.

Photos of Lepley & Co. by Julie Cajigas.

Help them set down roots with Lepley & Co.

If you want to help your college graduate prepare to take on the challenge of taking care of something or someone else, buy them a plant. 


A plant can be a good prerequisite to taking care of pets, a spouse or maybe a child in the future. To buy that prerequisite plant, look no further than Lepley & Co. 


Lepley & Co. had humble beginnings originating in the front yard of owner Justin Lepley’s Goodyear Heights home. Now there are multiple locations with one in the front of Northside Marketplace located at 21 Furnace St in Northside District in downtown Akron. 


Lepley & Co. features various houseplants, pots, stones, crystals, and even apparel. If an experience is more appealing to gift your grad, then the Air Plant Terrarium Workshop on May 19, from 2:30-3:30 p.m. at the Massillon Museum is a great gifting option. 


If an event in June is a better option for your grad, then the Pot Painting Workshop on June 23 from 2:30-3:30 p.m. in the same location would be a fantastic experience for the grad and the family. 


Both workshops cost $35 per person for members and $38 per person for non-members of the Massillon Museum. 


Shopping for a grad at Lepley & Co. is a great choice to help your grad decorate their new place or to share a fun planting experience with friends and family. Visit https://www.lepleyandco.com/ for more information and current offerings.

Dress them for success with Modern Traditions Co.

Clothing is always a great idea for a present whether for a recent graduate or not. Retro-vintage clothing is very much in style right now, so it is a perfect opportunity to visit Modern Traditions Co. inside of Northside Marketplace on 21 Furnace St. to get the newest trendy vintage clothing.


“Join us on a journey through time as we curate and share the most unique pieces from the past," owners Aaron and Nicole said on their website. “Embrace the charm of yesteryears with our carefully selected vintage clothing.”


The shop focuses on original all-cotton Levi’s, painter’s jeans, mouton coats, bowling shirts, leather coats, flannel shirts, and jackets with stylish decorative patches that would help a grad have a new sense of style moving on to the next phase of their life. 


Another incentive to shop at Modern Traditions Co. this graduation season is the fact that they also buy vintage clothing. It is the perfect opportunity for the graduate in question to freshen up their wardrobe while also supporting a small business. Visit Modern Traditions Co. on their website, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, or at Northside Marketplace to see their current catalog of vintage clothing items. 

Modern Traditions owners Nicole and Aaron Gascon, via the MT Facebook page.

(top) tattoo by India Ink. (bottom) Inside the tattoo shop by Leanna Faulknier.

Mark their success with a tattoo from India Ink

An unconventional, but impactful graduation gift could be a tattoo from India Ink Tattoo Company to commemorate the significant achievement. Once you’ve earned your education, no one can take that from you – a tattoo can be a meaningful way to commemorate that permanence. 


India Ink is the perfect place for a tattoo of such great import. Located inside of Northside Marketplace, India Ink’s Owner India specializes in realism tattoos and capturing lifelike portraits on skin. What makes India Ink stand out compared to the other businesses is that it is a black female-owned business. 


India Ink owner, India stated in a ZipsGuide interview, “There are a lot of women in the tattoo industry, but there are not a lot compared to the men in the industry.” 


Later in the interview, India mentions the luxury of being inside Northside Marketplace. Having so many amenities readily available makes the tattoo process so much easier and does not require anyone to leave the building for any simple needs. This provides a great space with a creative artist to provide a graduation tattoo. Find more information on India Ink Tattoo Company on Instagram and Facebook.

Give them the world

Get your eco-friendly hooked on Earth-friendly laundry detergent, cleanser, and composting in their first grown-up place with a gift from My Eco Shop


Located inside Northside Marketplace, My Eco Shop offers many essential items for a new homeowner. It is also a refillery where grads can return time and again to reuse their containers and purchase more supplies.


Along with the products that they offer, My Eco Shop also has a Zero Waste Refill Bottle Return service where each reusable bottle or jar returned by the customer will receive a $1 credit towards their next purchase. This can be a great way to gift a graduate who strives to neutralize their own carbon footprint. For more information about My Eco Shop visit their Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok.

(left) Photos of My Eco Shop at Nothside Marketplace by Julie Cajigas.

Encourage them to relax, stop and smell the roses

The life of a recent graduate can oftentimes be very busy and stressful. 


Any time to relax and unwind after a tough day is essential for success. Glam Scents can help with that well-needed unwinding time with their wide selection of candles, wax melts, room spray, foam hand soap, and much more. These simple items from a local shop could be the difference between a stress-filled or peaceful day. 


In an interview for ZipsGuide, Glam Scents owner Ebony Jones stated, "All of my products create ambiance and provide a sense of relaxation.”


That ambiance and relaxation is something that is often overlooked by post-grads starting their careers. Giving a gift centered around relaxation and self-care would likely be appreciated and enjoyed. You can help your grad get ahead of the curve and gift a Glam Scents product as a graduation present. Visit Glam Scents website, Facebook,Instagram, or in person in Northside Marketplace on 21 Furnace St. 

Glam Scents display at Northside Marketplace, photo by Mona Abdeldaim.

Gift them downtown Akron

If you're not sure what your grad will like for their present, but you want to get them something that aligns with their values or commemorates their time in Akron, then Downtown Akron Partnership’s Downtown Dollars E-Gift Card is a great option. This gift card is not a typical gift card, it is fully digital and available to use throughout downtown Akron.


“Since it's an E-Gift Card, there's no plastic card to lug around or lose; it goes on your phone,” says Dominic Caruso, DAP Communications Director. 


This would give them a chance to pick out the perfect Akron memorabilia for their next adventure.


If your grad is going to be in the area after their graduation, they can also use the gift card for those nights when they miss Rob’s meal swipes. 


Some options that the grad can use with the Downtown Dollars E-gift Card are Northside Marketplace, El Patron, Chill Ice Cream, Chameleon Cafe, and so many more. 


Gifting the gift card still has the personal touch of downtown Akron but allows the spending freedom for the graduate to pick what they most want/need for the next phase of their life.

Shop UA

If your graduate is a University of Akron graduate, consider purchasing Zips gear. ZipsGuide intern Madison Latona has some ideas of what grads would enjoy from The UA Bookstore. Other places on campus you can find uniquely UA gifts include the Emily Davis Gallery Shop and the University of Akron Press, which has a complete collection in Northside Marketplace. 


Whether they are graduating from middle school, high school, college, or even have a loved one graduating kindergarten, enjoy the moment. Especially for those about to graduate high school and take the leap into college, just like your time in high school, college will fly by. Make sure you are always living in the moment and try to soak everything in, this time in your life can be some of the best. 


One piece of advice I have is to carry something meaningful from your school experience with you. The very best grad gift can remind you to take care of yourself and live in the moment.

Zippy Squishmallow® at the UA Bookstore, photo by Madison Latona.

Anthony Nichols is an Akron Community Internship Program (ACIP) intern with Downtown Akron Partnership, funded by The University of Akron EX[L] Center for Community Engaged Learning.

Want to reach him? E-mail him here.


It has been an honor to call myself a Zip. I hope all the class of 2024 will have a successful transition into their next step and a fantastic summer. Remember, we are #ForeverAZip, so - Go Zips!

-Anthony Nichols

To reach content author Anthony Nichols, email him here. Or, you can reach all of the guide staff by emailing zipsguideakron@gmail.com