The area around and north of Citrus Park is quickly converting from rural bastion to the housing development/strip mall formula that has come to dominate so much of northern Hillsborough County. While the Westfield Shoppingtown and adjacent big-box loaded strip mall dominate the shopping landscape in northwest Tampa, there are still a few places selling unique gifts and cool stuff you're not going to find at the mall.
Ruby's Cottage (8721 Gunn Highway, Odessa, 813-852-1533). Located in Odessa's cute Village Shoppes, and owned and operated by four sisters in loving memory of their late mother, Ruby's Cottage peddles a dizzying array of jewelry, housewares, art and assorted other antique-shop knick-knacks. The sisters travel up and down the East Coast, bringing back their latest finds from New York, Atlanta and the Carolinas. The stock changes with the season, and Christmas décor should dominate by the time you're reading this. Ruby's Cottage is the place to visit when looking for gifts for — of course — mom and the sisters.
JC Saddlery (8541 Gunn Highway, Odessa, 813-920-3587). Horseback-riding, both for fun and competition, is still big in this neck of the woods, and JC Saddlery has got you covered. In addition to candles, figurines, wall hangs, DVDs (both for sale and rent) and collectible toys, the store has everything needed for show riding, from saddles and bridles down to matching horse/rider apparel (the kids are into the neon this year). Plus, the staff tells me their line of Coolmax moisture-repelling collared shirts is popular among discerning golfers. About the only thing not for sale are horses, but talk to the employees. They might know someone.
Citrus Park Computers (7512 Ehrlich Road, Tampa, 813-926-9672). Forget the fact that Citrus Park Computers does all those fancy-pants corporate networking and support services that businesses clamor for in this high-tech world. And forget that they happen to sell routers and networking equipment that would be a great gift for the computer geek on your shopping list. No, keep Citrus Park Computers in mind this holiday season because they can convert all your old family videos to DVD. As we all know, the parents love that.
Best Of The Rest: Since no guide to shopping in Upper Tampa Bay would be complete without a store located in a supermarket shopping center, may I suggest Fast Frame (7889 Gunn Highway, Tampa, 813-792-1990), which is next to a Publix and is perfect for getting art and pictures properly displayed. For the gardener on your list, try Citrus Park Landscaping and Nursery (8848 S. Mobley Road, Odessa, 813-920-3813), a nursery with plants ranging in size from the teenie to the titanic. Lastly, if you're up this way already, why not follow Gunn a little further north, and stop at Willow Arts Fine Arts & Crafts Gallery (16921 Gunn Highway, Odessa, 813-926-6777)? They have a great selection of art-related gifts, some of which are actually affordable. Happy hunting.