Beginning with Black Friday, the holiday shopping season is upon us. The day after Thanksgiving, masochistic holiday shoppers packed themselves into the mall and fret over the prices of gifts compared to their shrinking bank balance. Heres a sensible alternative: Do some holiday shopping in Alexandrias antique stores. The advantages are many, but chiefly, youll find better gifts at better prices.
Keep in mind, too, that local antiquing for holiday gifts is more than bargain hunting; its shopping with a conscience. Supporting small, local businesses supports the city and the services it provides. In addition, giving antiques is deep green. Genuine antiques (over 100 years old) as well as vintage items are recycled goods with stories behind them. These are beautiful things that have already been loved, says local decorator Lillian Siegal.
Heres an example: Not Too Shabby in Del Ray has a lovely ribbed-glass lidded refrigerator container for $12. Your grandparents used these safe and attractive glass boxes to store leftovers in their ice box in the days before Tupperware. When you wrap this gift, jot down that bit of history on the card. Fill the box with Hersheys Kisses and youre good to go. (Antiques dealers love to share these little morsels of history.)
Antiques announce your creativity and your desire to give something truly different. This is a joyous hunt: Strolling Old Towns historic and lovely streets is a lot more pleasant than staking out the parking garage at Pentagon City waiting for a spot.
Finally, Alexandrias snacking opportunities are far superior to those at a food court. Try the cheese Danish at Quotidian (701 King St.), the focaccia at Grape and Bean (118 S. Royal St.) and the hot chocolate served with a homemade peppermint marshmallow at The Dairy Godmother (2310 Mt. Vernon Ave.).
Here are some great values for under $50 spotted recently around town. Please note that once you start looking, youll come across other items that will work perfectly for lots of folks on your holiday shopping list.
Eight Hands Round (2301 Mt. Vernon Ave.): Very pretty earrings made by hand out of sterling silver and antique beads ($10 to $25).
Potomac West Interiors (1517 Mt. Vernon Ave.) Great buys on vintage silver plate pitchers (under $50). Tell the recipient you thought the pitcher would look great holding a bunch of supermarket flowers; Sterling silver wine coaster ($25); Sterling silver salt and pepper shakers ($48); Painted wicker and wood dresser tray ($50); Vintage beaded cuff bracelet ($11); Ornate celluloid and crochet evening bag ($25). Celluloid, the worlds first plastic, was invented in 1869 to replace high-priced ivory in the manufacture of billiard balls.
Not Too Shabby (1515 Mt. Vernon Ave.) Best value: kids hand-painted tea sets ($16.75 to $25); Distressed red wooden childs chair ($29); vintage gooseneck lamp with ornate iron base ($24); Pretty etched metal baby cup ($30).
Trojan Antiques (1100 King St.): Vintage sterling silver charms ($10 to $l5). Make one of these into a slightly goth-looking choker for a teen or preteen. Buy black velour tubing and a closure device at Michaels ($12, total). Allow five minutes to assemble.
Antique Guild (113 N. Fairfax St.): The best deal here is on gold jewelry, particularly the 19th century stick pins and scatter pins which would look very cool on a denim jacket or blazer lapel ($40 and under). Nineteenth-century coin silver flatware ($12-$20 a piece) was made from melted down silver dollars. Here are two ideas for giving coin silver: Buy a beautiful soup spoon. Polish it for 90 seconds. Wrap the spoon along with a box of organic oatmeal and give it to someone who needs to lower their cholesterol. Upgrade by adding a lovely old soup bowl. Buy a fork and spoon for the brown-bagger on your list. Write on the card: Thought you might like an alternative to plastic utensils.
Red Barn Mercantile (113 S. Columbus St.) Picture frames made out of 19th century building remnants ($38); Pretty blue mason jars ($8). Fill with a healthful mix of sunflower seeds, sliced almonds and pepitas to sprinkle on salads. Makes a great hostess or teachers gift.
Wrapping suggestions: Antique dealers will provide you with protective wrapping for fragile items.
To enhance the uniqueness of your gift, wrap it in rice paper (a.k.a lokta), which is sourced from sustainable forests in Nepal. Get it at Paper Source (118 King St.). Tie up ordinary twine. Better yet, cut up a brown paper grocery bag. Wrap with the non-printed side facing out. Tie up with ribbon.