Holiday Gift Guide: Go big and go home

Holiday Gift Guide: Go big and go home
Photo/Brenna O'Donnell These rings and other pieces in Today's Cargo are hand-picked by staff. Left: A topaz ring with a 14k gold band framed with diamonds. Right: The best-selling morganite ring complemented with rose-gold.

By Brenna O’Donnell |

For a lot of people, 2021 is a year defined by hard work. The COVID-19 pandemic continues, and this year was characterized by a can-do attitude as we all pulled ourselves back up from unimaginable difficulty and took care of our loved ones through it all. Alexandria’s local businesses did just that, and then some, as they adapted to the times and emerged as pillars of the community.

This week’s gift guide is about rewarding the hard work that you, your family and local businesses have put in over the last year by going big this holiday season. These high-quality, splurge-worthy items are the perfect way to treat your friends and family – while supporting small businesses – after a tough year. From a luxury jeweler to a cycling retailer to an engraving artist, each of these retailers has something that will bring unforgettable joy to everyone on your holiday shopping list.

And if you haven’t quite started your holiday shopping, make sure to check out next week’s gift guide for some last-minute gift ideas.

Red Barn Mercantile

Walking into Red Barn Mercantile, located at 1117 King St., you’re immediately embraced by the warm atmosphere of the store and the warmth of its owner, Amy Rutherford.

Since opening Red Barn Mercantile in 2007, the store has prided itself on carrying quality craft goods sourced from across the country and in some cases, across the world. sourced from across the country and in some cases, across the world.

“We take a lot of care to curate a collection of goods for the community,” Rutherford said. “I always say bigger stores may carry pieces for the living room, but we carry pieces for the family room. We want people to come in and feel at home.”

Photo/Brenna O’Donnell
These laurel spoon rests, and matching laurel embossed set, are the perfect addition to any kitchen, and can also be used as a small olive oil dish for dipping.

The store’s wide breadth of items balances yesterday’s traditions with today’s modernity, with classic pieces like hand-crafted kitchenware to Christmas ornaments nodding to cultural references of our time.

The artistry behind the set of Terrafirma Ceramics trays had the store’s patrons stopping and leaning in for a closer look. At $85, each tray is different, made entirely by hand and is as durable as it is gorgeous. These trays can be mixed and matched to bring a timeless look into a modern home.

Rutherford’s favorite items in the shop right now are comfy Herringbone blankets. Priced at $275, they are made with wool from Ireland and cashmere-soft, an ideal staple for your family room on a cold and cozy winter day.

Today’s Cargo

The folks behind the counter at jewelry store Today’s Cargo, which is located at 1102 King St., know their many returning patrons by name and style preference. Carla Clarke, the store’s manager, holds a degree in gemology and an abundance of dedication to her craft.

“Many of our imports come from overseas, everything is hand-picked for our collection,” Clarke said.

The store, which has served Alexandria since 1973, is a lightbox of every type of glimmering jewel you could imagine or didn’t even know existed until you walked in. Diamonds, amethysts, sapphires, morganites and precious metals line every surface in the store, with stunning finds for women, men and children, too. Today’s Cargo also offers custom-made pieces and specializes in repurposing old jewelry.

Photo/Brenna O’Donnell
Go all out on your holiday gift giving with a watch from Old Town jeweler Today’s Cargo.

“Our philosophy is that everyone wants something special; there can be sentimentality behind every piece,” Clarke said.

That philosophy co-exists with breathtaking luxury in the rings available at Today’s Cargo. These rings, like all other pieces in the shop, were selected with careful consideration by Clarke and her team. A topaz ring with 14k gold band framed with diamonds matches with a necklace, both available at $814. Meanwhile, the best-selling morganite ring is complemented by stunning rose-gold and priced at $2,750.

The store’s dainty oval rings are luxury personified, as each one features a vibrant gem complemented by a 14k gold band and framed by small but brilliant diamonds. At $500, these rings can also be customized.


Entering Goldfinch at 806 N. Fairfax St. transports you into the home of an ideal host. From the bar cart to the kitchen, there’s no doubt you’ll find eye-catching home decor for that member of your circle who loves to entertain.

Founded in 2018 by interior designers Jeff Akseizer and Jamie Brown, Goldfinch is an eclectic vision, bringing together pieces with class and character in equal measure.

“I think what makes a great gift from Goldfinch is something someone wouldn’t think to buy for themselves,” Marlene Cabezas, the brand’s manager of retail and events, said.

Photo/Brenna O’Donnell
These eye-catching Artel Glasses are popular gifts, according to the staff at Goldfinch.

This holiday season, Goldfinch is offering a variety of gift boxes, which come in themed variations, such as the gentleman’s gift box, featuring cologne, a candle, and men’s handkerchiefs at $109, the whiskey lover’s box, containing a “World of Whiskey” book, Woodford Reserve bitters and two Old-Fashioned glasses at $135 and the golf lover’s box, which boasts a gold club bottle opener, golf-themed cocktail napkins and Caswell-Massey Greenbriar aftershave at $119. These boxes can also be customized with other items of your choice from the store.

For those looking to spice up their bar cart, the Baccarat Everyday Collection consists of six crystal glasses each with its own distinct pattern. A staple for any connoisseur of fine spirits, this brand-name set is $470. And, you can put those glasses to good use with “The Art of Entertaining” by Relais and Chateaux. At $45, it’s the perfect how-to guide on hospitality, whether you’re planning an intimate soiree or grand gathering.

Lastly, according to the staff at Goldfinch, the Artel glasses are a bestseller, often going in pairs and beloved by all who receive them as gifts. Match or mix these glasses for $185 each.

Spokes Etc.

Since opening in 1986, Spokes Etc., on 1545 N. Quaker Lane, has been a dependable storefront that keeps up with changing trends in the cycling enthusiast world, offering something new to even their oldest and most loyal customers.

Some of these new products include state-of-the-art biking computers, smart bike trainers and even electric bikes.

“Everyone has different riding experience,” Jay Cato, assistant sales manager for Spokes Etc., said. “We’re here for the right gift for your experience level. Cycling is an inclusive sport, and we offer whatever is needed to help get people out on their bikes.”

Additionally, renowned engineer and wheel-builder Bob Mould, who operates out of Spokes Etc., can build custom wheels for your loved one’s bike, ensuring they have the smoothest, best ride possible.

Photo/Brenna O’Donnell
This lightweight hybrid bike from Spokes Etc. weighs less than 15 pounds.

This Garmin Edge bike computer comes with comprehensive navigation, performance and cycling awareness features so you can tell exactly where you’re going, as well as how fast, how far and for how long. This gadget also has rider-to-rider messaging so you can stay in contact with other riders in your group. At $699, it’s a cyclist’s new copilot.

With winter weather fast approaching, your beloved cyclist might not be as keen to get outside on the icy roads. Starting at $899, the KickrCore Smart Bike Trainer allows them to train indoors and includes popular apps simulating outdoor and group rides.

For cyclists eager to get around the city – or just around the block – the sleek VAAST bike, which is priced at $1,199, weighs less than 15 pounds and includes electronic gear switching for an easy, lightweight ride. 

Gerda Glass

Based out of the Torpedo Factory in Old Town, artist Gerda Atzl is a premier master of engraved glass, using stone and copper wheels to bring incredible scenes to life on delicate objects. Atzl’s studio is a shining showcase of what she calls a lost art, one that is coming alive in her space.

Photo/Brenna O’Donnell
Torpedo Factory glass artist Gerda Atzl has an array of engraved glasses with design that range from firebreathing dragons to flowers.

Her work, which comes at a variety of price points, features everything from mystical dragons to state flower engravings, and much of her work is custom-made. The artwork aims to capture the personality or memories of whoever she is making a piece for. Some of her custom projects feature childhood homes, family pets and even children’s drawings brought to life.

“When my daughter was little and I had to work, I would have her working next to me and she would draw on the glass. That’s where I got the idea to put children’s drawings on the glass,” Atzl said.

In another proud project of hers, Atzl’s points to the case of remarkable engravings of state flowers, the dogwood of Virginia seen up front and center. These glasses would be a priceless set to a friend or family member with a history and heart in multiple states.

Though Atzl’s custom orders might be difficult to acquire this close to the holidays, each piece in her shop is sure to become a loved one’s new favorite gift.