Take a walk in almost any D.C. neighborhood, and you’ll find dozens of bars and restaurants—from cozy neighborhood spots to nationally ranked eateries with a line of patrons snaked around the block to elaborately themed cocktail joints—many of them opening faster than you can count.
But retail? Retail is a different story. Even a casual observer of the District’s small-business scene will have noticed that options to buy local are dwindling. (Goodbye, Pulp; goodbye, Nana.) Food is booming in D.C., while the number of boutiques shrinks and box stores and large chains storm the city.
The folks at the helm of small businesses are weathering modern economic tsunamis to stay afloat. Rents are soaring. Postal prices are increasing, which means the price of receiving goods is cutting into profit margins. As large companies merge and cut deals to make products cheaper and cheaper, these owners are taking new action to combat the forces that threaten them with extinction. Many have found that harkening back to craft—to those things that are local, handmade, and personal—plays an essential role in combatting a creeping movement to turn the District into one generic shopping mall.
While curating this guide, I visited more than 100 area stores and, in some cases, got to know the personalities behind the brands. Richard Farino and Grizzly Lambert from Urban Angler spent an hour teaching me the basics of fly fishing. (Then I was shown pictures of their latest catch.) Michael Haft and Harrison Suarez, former Marines who decided to launch Compass Coffee within the District, demonstrate an astonishing attention to detail for the life cycle of their product. I observed the entire staff of City Bikes search for a little girl’s bubble-gum-pink cardigan when she lost it in the store. (They found it.) Shannon Murry from Fine’tique proudly showed me the inscription written on a compass that’s more than 70 years old. Niko and Oana Adamopoulos from The Mediterranean Way Gourmet Market spend three or more months researching every product they carry in their store—the honey on their shelves was chosen because of its superb quality, but also because a small family farm off the coast of Greece supplies it.
This holiday shopping season, consider patronizing some of these local spots. When you’re there, say hello, introduce yourself, and ask questions. You might make some new friends.
For the friend who has everything, it’s time to give the gift of an amazing athletic experience. Take yoga to the sky with aerial yoga classes.
Aerial Yoga, three class pass ($57 for members, $114 for non-members). YMCA Anthony Bowen. 1325 W St. NW. (202) 738-5005. ymcadc.org
Capture all of your extreme exploits with the GoPro Hero4. Durable and waterproof, it has built-in WiFi, a touch display, and can be mounted on everything from a skateboard to your pet.
GoPro Hero4 Silver, $399. Embassy Camera. 1735 Connecticut Ave. NW. (202) 483-0900. embassycamera.com
Track & Field
If Wes Anderson created a journal.
Field Notebook, $42. Proper Topper. 1350 Connecticut Ave. NW. (202) 842-3055. propertopper.com
I Believe I Can Fly
Do you believe you can you touch the sky? Do you think about it night and day? Set up a Discovery Flight for the wannabe pilot in your life.
Discovery Flight, $145. Washington International Flight Academy. 7940 Airpark Road, Hanger M. Gaithersburg. (240) 246-7529. learntoflydc.com
Keep the after-dark cyclist in your life legally and safely outfitted with this theft-resistant bike light.
The Defender, $49.99. City Bikes. Multiple locations. citybikes.com
Stitch Craft (Peru)
You don’t have to pick between fashion and warmth. This Chacana pattern scarf from Peru is a solution to the winter chill that will be stylish for years to come.
Chacana pattern scarf, $69. Toro Mata. 2410 18th St. NW. (202) 232-3890. toromata.com
Mango Unchained (India)
A beautiful box made out of mango wood is sure to keep small treasures safe.
Inlay mango wood chest, $35. Pansaari. 1603 17th St. NW. (202) 847-0115. firstlook.pansaari.com
Jasmine Guide (China)
Give the gift of stress reduction in the form of an aromatic tea from China.
Jasmine tea, $3.50. New Da Hsin Trading Co. 811 7th St. NW. (202) 789-4020. dahsin.com
Mustaching Through the Snow (England)
Shaving doesn’t have to be a monotonous routine. Geo. F. Trumper, which has been around since 1875, makes a shaving brush that’s both practical and swag-worthy.
Geo. F. Trumper shaving brush, $84. GoodWood. 1428 U St. NW. (202) 986-3640. goodwooddc.com
The Bees Knees (Greece)
This honey comes from an organic family farm on the island of Evia in Greece.
Vasilissa Greek organic honey, $25.95. The Mediterranean Way Gourmet Market. 1717 Connecticut Ave. NW. (202) 560-5715. themediway.com
The Chocolate Curse (Spain)
Who will eat the cursed skull? Chocolates are created in a mold, then guests bet on who’s going to eat the chili-spiked treat in a game perfect for your foodie friend.
Crazy skull game, $9.99. Home Rule. 1807 14th St. NW. (202) 797-5544. homerule.com
Stay Between the Lions (Kenya)
Give dinnertime a sense of whimsy with a set of hand-carved animal napkin rings.
Napkin ring set, $24/set of 6. Amani Ya Juu. 3166 Mt. Pleasant St. NW. (202) 536-5303. amanidc.org
Turkish Delight (Turkey)
Sparkle will always be in season. A pair of hand-crafted earrings is made of sterling silver, Swarovski crystals, mother of pearl, and green quartz.
Cocktail earrings, $155. Bloom. 1719 Connecticut Ave. NW. (202) 621-9049.
Crank that Soldier Boy
Give the gift of dance with tickets to the Washington Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker. [Note: Photo credit – Maki Onuki by Dean Alexander]
The Nutcracker, ticket prices vary. Performed at the Warner Theater. washingtonballet.org
Your mother-in-law will applaud your discerning taste when you give her this catalogue celebrating Richard Estes’ photorealistic work.
Richard Estes’ Realism, $40. Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery Museum Shop. 8th & G Streets, NW. (202) 633-1589. npg.si.edu/museumshop
I Scream You Scream
In a Metro car of neutral D.C. workwear, it’s nice to show hints of eccentricity. These socks are the perfect prize for an art enthusiast.
Famous artist series socks, $12. Chocolate Moose. 1743 L St. NW. (202) 463-0992. chocolatemoosedc.com
Your Days Are Numbered
Go analog for your Luddite buddy with an engagement calendar that features some of the National Gallery of Art’s most amazing works.
Engagement calendar, $14.99. National Gallery of Art. 6th & Constitution Ave. NW. 800-697-9350. nga.gov
Put a Bird on It
Thespians. Need. This. Play. This modern day adaptation of The Seagull by Anton Chekhov is brilliant and beautiful.
Stupid Fucking Bird by Aaron Posner, $15. Woolly Mammoth Theater. 641 D St. NW. (202) 393-3939. woollymammoth.net
These brightly colored coin purses are built for little hands and ready to hold treasures of all sorts.
Coin purse, $8/each. Little Birdies Boutique. 3236 P St. NW. (202) 333-1059. shoplittlebirdies.com
It’s alive! Youngsters can build scary and funny creatures with this creative block set.
Stack & Scare monster block set, $48. Appalachian Spring. 1415 Wisconsin Ave. NW. (202) 337-5780. appalachianspring.com
Bringing Up Baby
These books will help your little kid learn about the joys of becoming a big kid.
Big kid book set, $19. American Holiday. 1319 Wisconsin Ave. NW. (202) 684-2790. iloveah.com
Oui Mon Cheri!
Colette is a little French doll who is ready for soft snuggles and hours of play.
Mademoiselle Colette by Moulin Roty, $69. Dawn Price Baby. Multiple locations. dawnpricebaby.com
Dinosaurs will always be cool. This eco-friendly puzzle will be a fun introduction for your petite paleontologist.
BeginAgain triceratops puzzle, $31. Why Not? 200 King St., Alexandria. (703) 548-4420
You might never be one of the Rich Kids of Instagram, but this sequin top will add some sparkle to your social media accounts without breaking the bank.
Tribal print sequin top, $44. Violet Boutique. 2439 18th St. NW. (202) 621-9225. violetdc.com
Gesso You Know
Bypass the normal gift-giving routine and invest that money in a piece of art that brightens your space (and makes you think).
Psychotherapy East & West by Katherine Hattam, $2,500. Morton Fine Art. 1781 Florida Ave. NW. (202) 628-2787. mortonfineart.com
The Eyes Have It
Eyes might be the window to the soul, but diamonds are a girl’s best friend. Indulge both cliches with a handmade, 14k gold ring containing a .25 carat diamond by D.C. jeweler Rachel Pfeffer.
Diamond eye ring, $780. Rachel Pfeffer Designs. rachelpfeffer.com
Nautical or Nice?
This gorgeous antique compass dates back to 1937 and still contains a handwritten inscription.
Brass gimballed nautical compass, $495. Fine’tique. 119 N Washington St., Alexandria. (703) 879-1612
Where the Wild Things Are
Plan a once in a lifetime family trip to Galapagos. Spend time learning about wildlife, hiking, exploring, and snorkeling as part of this 10-day National Geographic adventure. [Note: Photo credit – Stewart Cohen]
Galapagos family odyssey. Prices from $6,290. nationalgeographicexpeditions.com
Red Hot Chili Peppers
Experience pleasure and pain with a rich hot cocoa with hints of chipotle spice.
Chipotle-spice drinking chocolate, $15.75. CoCoVa. 1904 18th St. NW. (202) 903-0346. cocova.com
You’re My Butter Half
Lotion is good. A thick, delectable cream containing pheromones and a blackberry honey scent is better.
Booty Parlor’s Flirty Little Secret Body Butter, $28. Le Bustiere. 1744 Columbia Road NW, #2. (202) 745-8080. lebustiere.com
Wax On, Wax Off
It might just look like a candle, but after 20 minutes, the scented, melted wax can be massaged into the skin for an intoxicating experience.
Seagrape massage candle in “exotic fields,” $18. Secret Pleasures Boutique. 1510 U St. NW. (202) 664-1476. secretpleasuresboutique.com
Pretty In Pink
A more original choice than Victoria’s Secret polyester: 1950s-era vintage lingerie that’s never been worn.
Bustier corset with garters, $36. Meeps. 2104 18th St. NW. (202) 265-6546. meepsdc.com
Dance the Night Away
Nostalgia reigns supreme with this Van Halen concert T-shirt from the band’s ’84 tour.
Van Halen vintage T-shirt, $124.99. Joint Custody. 1530 U St. NW. (202) 643-8614. jointcustodydc.com
Black Cat New Year’s Eve Tickets
What are you giving your BFF for the holidays? What are you doing on New Year’s? Answer two questions at once with tickets to the Black Cat’s NYE bash featuring Peaches O’Dell.
New Year’s Eve ball, $30. Black Cat. 1811 14th St. NW. (202) 667-4490. blackcatdc.com
Ex Hex’s Rips is receiving rave reviews far beyond the Beltway. Support your local record store, your local band, and your local music-loving fiend of a friend with this album.
Ex Hex Rips album, $16.99. Crooked Beat. 2116 18th St. NW. (202) 483-2328. crookedbeat.com
Smells Like Cream Spirit
Get in the holiday spirit with holiday spirits. This festive drink is a blend of rum from the Caribbean and dairy cream from Wisconsin.
RumChata, $17.99. A B Liquor. 1803 Columbia Road NW. (202) 234-5500
I Like Big Pugs (And I Cannot Lie)
For those who are all about the pug life.
Vintage pug necklace, $24. Analog. 716 Monroe St. NE, Studio #5. shopanalog.com
Box clutches are on-trend for nighttime accessories. This one also happens to be glittery, gorgeous, and at the right price point.
Night Out box clutch, $28. Gossip on 23rd. 566 23rd St. S. Arlington. (703) 920-1498. gossipon23rd.com
Supa Dupa Fly
In case there was any doubt your buddy is the life of the party, this shirt will perfectly compliment your extroverted friend.
Fly Guy T-shirt, $25. Rosies and Rockers Boutique. 2001 13th St. NW. (202) 328-7625. rosiesandrockers.com
Mo’ Money, No Problems
Help someone keep those Hamiltons together.
Brass-plated money clip, $22. Salt & Sundry. 1309 5th St. NE. (202) 556-1866. shopsaltandsundry.com
This towel, made of natural yarn and created on a traditional loom, is an ultra-absorbent alternative to a beach blanket.
Turkish towel, $30. Bloom. 1719 Connecticut Ave. NW. (202) 621-9049
Joan Wulff, champion fly caster and fly fisher, offers a solid introduction to the sport on this DVD of basic techniques.
Joan Wulff’s Dynamics of Fly Casting, $24.95. Urban Angler Ltd. 108 N. Washington St. 2nd Floor, Alexandria. (703) 527-2524. urbanangler.com
Sock It to Me
Keep those toes warm this winter with a pair of heavy alpaca socks.
Alpaca socks, $28.95. Federal. 2216 14th St. NW. (202) 299-9008. federalstore.com
These coasters are hand silkscreened and can be mixed and matched to show off your favorite pet breeds.
Pop art coasters, $8/each. The Cheeky Puppy. 1709 Connecticut Ave. NW. (202) 621-8868. thecheekypuppy.com
Raising the Bar
Happy hour doesn’t have to end at 7 p.m. Pop in your favorite bottles, turn on the transistor radio, and your party is ready to go.
Traveling bar, $46. Junction. 1510 U St. NW. (202) 483-0261. junctionwdc.com
Shake It Off
Encourage your cousin who makes extravagant cocktails to keep the booze flowing with this hand-blown shaker.
Glass shaker, $38. Lettie Gooch. 1517 U St. NW. (202) 332-4242. lettiegooch.com
Bloody Mary, Blessed Are You Among Cocktails
Brunch is inescapable in this town; you might as well go ahead and have a breakfast cocktail. Gordy’s uses fresh, local ingredients to give your bloody mary a refreshing zing.
Gordy’s bloody mary mix, $10. Pleasant Pops. 1781 Florida Ave. NW. (202) 558-5224. pleasantpops.com
Can’t We All Get Oolong?
Capital Teas owner Peter Martino, a graduate of the Naval Academy in Annapolis, pays homage to his alma mater with this green and black tea.
Annapolis Treasures tea, $17.95 / 4oz. Capital Teas. 1627 Connecticut Ave. NW. (202) 462-8327. capitalteas.com
Hill of Beans
If your bae goes through a pot (or two or three) a day, give him or her the gift of caffeine.
Cardinal Coffee, $12.99. Compass Coffee. 1535 7th St. NW. (202) 251-7402. compasscoffee.com
Dat Cookie Doe
Carla Hall is known for her time on The Chew and Top Chef, but her talent really needs to be tasted. These petite cookies will make you the toast of any holiday party.
Carla Hall’s Petite Cookies in Chocolate Chip Cherry, $6.99. Glen’s Garden Market. 2001 S St. NW. (202) 588-5698
So Fresh And So Clean Clean
D.C.-based artist Bekah Kitterman hand-prints her illustrations on 100% cotton so you can add a touch of innuendo to post-dinner cleanup.
Let’s Get Dirty Kitchen Towel, $12. If+When Workshop. www.ifandwhenworkshop.com
Home is Wherever I’m with You
At a loss for how to verbalize your love this season? This small gift expresses a sentiment that will leave its recipient tongue-tied.
Magnetic Quote Tile, $15. Lou Lou. 1623 Connecticut Ave. NW. (202) 817-3089
Play it Before it Becomes Cool
This tongue-in-cheek game is full of pop culture graphics and is small enough to fit into the pocket of your vintage hoodie.
Spot It! Hip, $11. GroovyDC. 321 7th St. SE. (202) 544-6633
For the furry ones among your friends, this collapsible bowl works for a dog on the go.
OllyDog Travel Bowl, $12.99. Metro Mutts. 407 8th St. SE. (202) 546-7387
We Can Pickle That
Portlandia may lovingly poke fun at the foodie lifestyle, but this cookbook is no joke. It’s filled with delectable dishes from a town known for its quirky food culture.
The Portlandia Cookbook: Cook Like a Local by Fred Armisen & Carrie Brownstein, $24.95. Kramerbooks. 1517 Connecticut Ave. NW. (202) 387-1400
Museum Mania / Do Not Pass Go
Combine your love of Monopoly with your passion for history, art, dinosaurs, and astronauts in this museum spin on the classic board game.
Smithsonian-opoly. $40. Multiple Locations.
Part game, part paper DIY project, this set is a must-have for chess enthusiasts with origami interests everywhere.
Paper Chess Set, $14.95. tabletopdc. 1608 20th St. NW. (202) 387-7117
This Is Not a Drill
Is that a 11-in-1 tool in your pocket or are you just happy to see me? This handy invention will solve any quick fix-it problem and is thin enough to throw in a wallet.
Survival Tool, $5. International Spy Museum. 800 F St. NW. (202) 654-0950
A League of Their Own
The comic fan will freak over this seven action-figure collectible set.
Justice League Action Figure Box Set, $100. Aftertime Comics. 1304 King St. (Alexandria). (703) 548-5030