By Cody Mello-Klein | [email protected]
The holiday season is finally here and with it comes the pressures of buying the perfect gift for friends and family.
The pandemic continues to impact our lives, with global supply chain disruptions affecting what gifts we can and cannot get this year. If you’re struggling to find the specific gift you’ve been trying to hunt down on Amazon or some other national retailer, don’t fret. Online shopping and creative solutions to the challenges associated with celebrating the holidays during a global pandemic are still the new normal, but that hasn’t prevented Alexandria’s local businesses from offering up some holiday cheer.
From books and candles to vintage barware and quality clothing, there are plenty of opportunities to pick up the perfect gift, at a variety of price points, from one of the Port City’s many boutiques and shops. Plus, with Alexandria’s Shop Small Week bringing discounts, live music and outdoor shopping displays this weekend, you can make your holiday shopping spree into a celebration of the city’s local business community.
Check out our top local picks in this week’s gift guide, and make sure to keep an eye out for next week’s gift guide, which will be all about self-care and personal health.
Before she founded Threadleaf, an independent boutique located at 102 N. Fayette St., Nicole McGrew worked as an attorney and for the federal government, experiences that show in many of the clothes she sells today. Threadleaf offers women’s apparel that doesn’t sacrifice style for functionality.
“One of the things I’m known for is dresses with pockets,” McGrew said. “Since I used to be a Fed, I’m always thinking of dresses you can put your badge in because they always tell you to take your badge off as soon as you leave the building.”
The Skate Dress, from Chicago-based designer Cynthia Ashby, is priced at $155 and provides an easy fit – with pockets – and sleek, stylish look that is perfect for holiday parties. If you’re looking for something to keep your loved ones warm and cozy, consider Bronte Moon’s plaid, unisex scarves, priced at $70 and made from 100% merino wool in one of England’s last remaining vertical mills.
Threadleaf also sells a set of canvas overalls that are perfect for the gardener in your life – or anyone who enjoys comfort and, of course, plenty of pockets.
“Half of what I buy is because I’m like, ‘I need something, and if I need it, other people probably need it,’” McGrew said. “ … I don’t bill them as just for gardening because they’re actually really soft, and they’re really comfortable and some people just like to wear overalls. But they’re actually great for gardening because they have lots of pockets.”
Or if the overalls are too much of an investment, build a gardening gift bag with Threadleaf’s pruners ($18) and a pair of gardening gloves ($7.50). Threadleaf also sells body and home goods that won’t break the bank, such as Be Kind’s toxin-free nail polishes ($15), natural French soap ($4.50) and lavender bath salts ($18). To browse Threadleaf’s online store, visit https://hellothreadleaf.com.
Shop Made in Virginia
One of the most recent additions to Alexandria’s roster of local businesses, Shop Made in Virginia opened about three weeks ago and is already making waves.
Shop Made in Virginia, located at 1121 King St., gives locals the opportunity to support more than 120 Virginia-based makers, all of whom sell their goods in Shop Made’s Alexandria location. From custom art prints and candles to peanuts and hot sauce, there is something for everyone among Shop Made’s selection of handmade products.
“Whether people want something that’s very Virginia-centric – we have Virginia shaped cutting boards and shirts that say, ‘Virginia love’ – or they just want to buy people gifts and want to know that what they’re shopping for is making an impact on others, we have all of those things,” Stacey Price, co-founder of Shop Made in Virginia and its sister store, Shop Made in D.C., said.
Candles always make great stocking stuffers, and Shop Made sells a variety of candles crafted by ISO Candles, an Alexandria-based candlemaker. ISO’s candles range from $20 to $32 and are scented like orange and goji berry, white cherry blossom or, intriguingly, a waterfall. ISO also sells a selection of candles meant to evoke the holiday spirit with scents like Douglas fir, mulled cider and holiday cheer, a combination of cinnamon, ginger, clove, pine and sweet apple.
For art lovers looking for a reminder of home, consider Shop Made in Virginia’s selection of custom art prints. Ali Douglass, an Alexandria-based artist, has prints depicting Old Town row houses and a stylized map of Old Town, which range from $27 to $45.
Shop Made’s holiday selections are still being laid out in-store and online, but the plan is to sell three different varieties of gift boxes that will help ease the stress of picking the perfect gift, according to Price. The gift boxes will likely range between $50 and $120.
“We will, by the first week in December, have a couple of Virginia gift boxes online that people can order,” Price said. “A big thing for us in D.C. is our gift box program, and it kind of takes the thinking out of it and allows you to customize them or you can just buy them as is.”
Shop Made in Virginia’s website is still being updated, but visit https://www.shopmadeinva.com/ to find the store’s online offerings.
529 Kids Consign
Whether you have children of your own or nieces and nephews, you’ll likely have to find something for the little ones in your life. Luckily, 529 Kids Consign, located at 122 S. Royal St., has you covered.
529 Kids Consign sells clothing for both children and soon-to-be mothers as well as toys, accessories and gadgets. The Animal Tourists Tin Tea set ($35), which just came in for the holidays, will provide children with everything they need for pretend tea time with friends, family or stuffed animal companions.
For the budding fashionistas, there are Tiny Treats handbags. Priced at $35, they evoke the styles of designer handbag brands and come in a range of colors. Or if your child is a future scientist or builder, try the STEM-friendly Power Blox starter kit ($31), which lets children build 3D light up structures with conductive blocks and batteries.
Winter might not be the best time for runners, but you can help alleviate the chilly weather blues and get the runner in your life excited to hit the road – or treadmill – with a gift from Pacers Running.
When it comes to shoes, Pacers has a daunting number of options, but staff recommended the Brooks Adrenaline ($130) as well as Hoka’s Clifton ($130) and Bondi ($150) models.
The Hoka Clifton is light and is designed with a breathable mesh and extended crash pad in the heel. The Hoka Bondi provides a smooth, balanced midsole and ultrasoft memory foam that accommodates any foot shape while providing a smooth run for anyone running down Old Town’s brick sidewalks.
Pacers also sells a number of accessories that would make any runner giddy. Goodr sunglasses, which range from $25 to $35, and Aftershokz over-the-ear Bluetooth headphones, which start at $80 and go up to $160, will help make a run into a joy ride. Meanwhile, for those that want to splurge on the post-run side of things, Pacers offers Theragun’s motorized massage gear, which sells for $200 to $600 depending on the model.
Visit Pacers Alexandria in-person at 1301 King St. or at https://runpacers.com/pages/alexandria.
Take the old saying “Drink and be merry” to the next level with some vintage barware from The Hour.
Located at 1015 King St., Victoria Vergason’s barware boutique sells her own custom items as well as vintage cocktail shakers, glasses and bar tools that Vergason has collected from estate sales, auction houses and European flea markets over the course of 30 years.
“The cocktail hour is a time for people to put down their phones, take time to shake a drink and talk together,” Vergason said. “We talk to each other. That, of course, happens with friends and families during the holidays.”
The Hour’s vast selection of barware is great for that friend or family member in your life who is building out their bar cart or is just interested in vintage goods. If you’re on a budget, there are bitters and syrups for those who want to experiment with flavors. The Hour sells Jamaican bitters from Bittercube ($27.95) and Hella Bitters’ ginger bitter ($21.50), as well as chai pear and honeydew jalapeno shrub syrups ($13.50) to give cocktail hour a bit of a kick.
If you’re willing to spend a little more, The Hour also has you covered with its selection of vintage cocktail shakers, which range in price from $87.50 to $1,500. A silver Art Deco style shaker ($375) or retro Bernard Rice’s Sons shaker ($125) are two classic options. Meanwhile, bar tool sets, which come in stainless steel, wood-handled or marble-handled, or Art Deco ice tongs made in the shape of a birds’ talons will round out any bar cart.
In addition to their regular selection of rocks, shot and cocktail glasses, The Hour is adding holiday cheer to any pour with a selection of festive glasses. A set of four reindeer or Santa-covered Modern Home Bar rocks glasses runs $62. Shop The Hour’s online store at https://thehourshop.com/.
Let’s be honest: The holiday season can be exhausting. Between shopping, cooking and planning for the holidays, there are a lot of plates to juggle, not to mention all of the complications involved with the pandemic.
To keep everybody lively and upbeat, consider giving the gift of caffeine – all while supporting an up-and-coming local roaster.
Michael Hinkle hesitated to call Whink’s Coffee Roasters, the company he runs out of his home kitchen with his wife Kayla, a micro-roastery. Instead, he referred to the venture, which he and Kayla split with their 9-to-5 jobs, as a nano-roastery.
The Hinkles sell single origin, light to medium roasted coffee sourced directly from farmers, and regardless of the size of their operation, the two James Madison University grads have found incredible success among local bean lovers since launching Whink’s in July 2020.
“We stick to the light to medium side because, honestly, in the end we tend to roast what we like, and what we like is the light to medium roast,” Hinkle said. “It just brings out a little more of the subtle fruit flavors in the coffee that are really refreshing.”
If you have someone in your life who shuns Starbucks and wants to expand their palette, Whink’s is for them. The beans Whink’s sells on its online store change every month, but always sell for $15 a bag. Currently, Whink’s is selling an Ethiopian Guji Oromia and Honduran Guinope El Paraiso on its website at www.whinkscoffeeroasters.com.
If you know someone who wants to commit fully to the micro-roastery lifestyle, Whink’s also sells a “Roaster’s Choice Subscription” for $14 per month.
“You put your coffee life in our hands, so to speak, and we send you something unique or cool or interesting, and sometimes that’s coffee that we don’t even put on the website because we just got a very limited amount of it,” Hinkle said.
According to Hinkle, he and his wife also have something special brewing for the holidays: a limited supply Guatemalan Huehuetenango coffee that has been aged in a wheat bourbon barrel for almost a month. The end result is a flavor profile well-suited for the holidays, complete with notes of bourbon, caramel, toffee and lemon.
“If you’ve ever had a barrel aged coffee, the coffee really absorbs those nice bourbon flavors and as a hot beverage, as a pour over or French press, it’s a really perfect winter drink. It kind of warms the soul,” Hinkle said.