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Based on the types of businesses City Paper staffers and contributors highlighted as the best goods and services providers, you can see 2022 was a year of maturity for us. Some are getting married, some are trying to buy homes, and some of us are still searching for that one perfect outfit. Read on to learn more about where to get a hand-crafted knife, where to get your morning news, and how to print in multiple dimensions for free.
To see what readers selected in Goods and Services categories, click here.
As a geriatric millennial on an alt-weekly editor’s salary, I’m inclined to believe that buying a house is basically impossible. But the last year really seemed to drive that point home as houses sold for over asking price with cash offers followed by steep interest rate hikes. Despite all that, I’ve spent the better part of this year scanning listings and touring houses in various states of disrepair looking for something that might fall within my budget. Spoiler alert: There’s nothing. It’s enough to make you feel disheartened, overwhelmed, and forced to spend the rest of your life in a one-bedroom apartment. Luckily, I have a realtor who’s made this house hunt not only survivable, but fun and certainly educational. Renee Peres, cofounder, partner, and realtor at Arrow Group at Compass, has been selling houses in and around D.C. for 17 years—with a few breaks in between to cook (she was the chef at Sixth & I Historic Synagogue for a year!). She knows the people to call for every question—or inspection—you have and she has a gift for taking some of the dauntingness out of such a daunting endeavor. In fact, her skill, as she notes herself, is making the connections that matter. “Connecting the dots is what I do,” she says. More than that though, she’s the kind of person who will give it to you straight, which means sometimes telling you the bad news, like, “I’d let this one go,” while never pressuring you to do so. Buying a house in D.C. is terribly scary—err, serious—business. It’s best to do it with the support of someone you can trust. —Sarah Marloff
Fia’s Fabulous Finds
There are few thrift boutiques with the vibrant authenticity of Fia’s Fabulous Finds. From true vintage and trendy overstock to the piece you would never wear but still might turn heads in, Fia’s collection is dynamic and inclusive. Owner Safisha “Fia” Mance Thomas curates her own pieces in a Petworth storefront, but also hosts live auctions and online sales via Instagram and her personal website. Inside the shop, you’ll be greeted by Fia herself. A warm and welcoming personality, she will give you space to explore if you ask for it, or she will style you personally. (I have walked out many times with that one perfect item.) While the shop typically opens only on weekends, Fia updates by season and it’s easy to find oneself peering into the window and dreaming of the next visit. Consignment can be a tricky business, but Fia’s is also a terrific place to sell. Accepting all sizes and styles, Fia will help you learn the ropes of consignment, offering advice on what pieces will sell, and kindly suggesting what might have to wait for next season. Dozens of racks make up the deceptively expansive boutique and prices are usually around a 60 percent markdown. Plus, Fia will be there to guide your way. Whether buying or selling, Fia’s Fabulous Finds delivers the glamor of vintage fashion without the pretension. —Melissa Lin Sturges
806 Upshur St. NW. fiasfabfinds.tumblr.com
Robert Laurence Jewelers
Steve Wiczek says he’s been in the diamond business for the better part of the past five decades, and it shows. His shop, the humble Robert Laurence Jewelers in the heart of downtown D.C., may not be the flashiest place to pick up a big rock. But it is certainly the most welcoming, with Wiczek and the rest of the staff at the family-owned jeweler dispensing practical advice that is far more helpful than anything you’ll find at a big chain. They’ll handle basic repairs or watch battery replacements, often at no charge, but the real value comes when you’re looking to pop the question and don’t know the first thing about engagement rings. Even with a humble reporter’s salary to work with, Wiczek was able to track down a diamond that was both affordable and sufficiently sparkly to impress skeptical future in-laws. —Alex Koma
1202 G St. NW. robertlaurencejewelers.com
Knives are probably not the first kitchen utensil that comes to mind when thinking of a pastry chef. But blades are the obsession of David Collier, a longtime pastry chef with career stops at 1789 and Blue Duck Tavern who now custom crafts chef-level knives under the moniker DC Bladewerks when he’s not teaching pastry classes.
In the backyard of his Fairfax home, he has a small workshop packed with belt grinders, a drill press, a band saw, and a heat treat oven (he steps outside to hammer blades on his anvil). Each knife he makes is one-of-a-kind. The big question a customer must answer is whether they want a blade made of stainless steel or the more expensive high-carbon steel.
“It’s the difference between the car that’s your daily driver and the McLaren that sits in the driveway with the cover on it,” Collier says.
Then clients hone in on the look of the knife and how they want it to feel in their hand. Blades can be etched with a name or date, or a more complex image, like a sorority’s crest or Hello Kitty (Collier has done both). It takes him six to eight weeks to craft a custom blade; those made with high-carbon steel are generally in the $300 range. It sounds splurgey, but Collier believes it’s a worthwhile investment. “I don’t think there’s anything more personal you can do for somebody than cook for them,” he says. “So, when you buy yourself a knife, it’s not just that you’re giving yourself something; you’re using it so you can give to other people.”
Mostly, Collier crafts utilitarian, multi-use blades—chef knives and petty knives—though he has made hankotsu (Japanese butcher knife) and a version of a M3 fighting knife for a soldier in the 173rd Airborne Brigade. He is willing to tackle any knife project, viewing the work as a “parachute” from working as a pastry chef. “This way, I’m still associated with the kitchen,” he says. “But in a different way.” —Nevin Martell
DC Public Library
There are plenty of contenders for the worst agency in local government, but there’s one that is undeniably the best: the DC Public Library. It’s not just about book lending. Libraries also fill critical gaps in social services, provide education and entertainment, and serve as gathering places. There are increasingly fewer spaces in D.C.—and in the world—where all people (unhoused people in particular) are welcome, where you don’t need to pay for entry or buy something or justify your right to be there. Whatever stage of the COVID-19 pandemic you believe we currently are in, DCPL branches serve as pick-up and drop-off sites for test kits, and also pass out at-home tests. Then there’s the fun stuff. The Labs have resources for 3D printing, digitizing photo and video files, sewing, and audio and video production. You can print up to 20 pages per day for free, which is yet another reason to never go back to the office again. Your library card gets you access to all kinds of digital services, such as archives for dozens of publications, online craft tutorials, and movies from the Criterion Collection on Kanopy. (Life hack: Renew your free Washington Post trial every 7 days through their portal and get it for free.) DCPL hosts multiple events per week at any given location, and offers classes on everything from American Sign Language and zine-making to yoga. The inside slide at the renovated Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library has gotten some well-deserved buzz, but across the portfolio, new building projects and renovations are always gorgeous, thoughtfully designed, and often award-winning. Starting in November, opening hours will extend, with most neighborhood branches staying open until 9 p.m.—someone alert the Night Mayor. And while those ubiquitous “What’s More Punk than the Public Library?” t-shirts are produced by the Mount Pleasant Library Friends nonprofit and not technically affiliated with the agency, they’ve taken off precisely because they capture why DCPL is so amazing. —Stephanie Rudig
DC Line’s District Links
The newsletter game in D.C. has gotten a little crowded lately. Axios and Hey D.C. are new on the scene. 730DC is still kicking around (and is the only newsletter to feature a gecko). DCist has one, the Informer has one, and about a month ago the Washington Post introduced 7 DMV or whatever they’re calling it. Yawn.
We at City Paper, of course, believe that the only email newsletter a Washingtonian needs is District Line Daily. But if we were to recommend a competitor, the far-and-away favorite is the DC Line’s District Links, authored by Chris Kain. It’s comprehensive, yet scannable; clean and organized; and arrives just in time for lunch every week day. The newsletter originally launched in June 2018, ahead of the primary election, and was written by Cuneyt Dil. Kain took the reins when Dil, ironically enough, moved on—he now writes Axios’ local newsletter. Kain says it takes him the better part of the morning to put the whole thing together, scanning each and every local news outlet and summarizing pertinent details from each piece. His subscriber base is getting close to 3,000 with nearly a 40 percent open rate, which is elite status. “No one newsroom, at this point, has resources to cover even all the pressing local news,” Kain says. “Which is why it’s valuable to have multiple sources that we’re able to digest.” —Mitch Ryals