Holiday gift ideas from D.C. small businesses

Saturday was “Small Business Saturday,” but small businesses should always be front-of-mind these days. Now more than ever, local shops and entrepreneurs deserve our support. But that’s pretty easy when what they’re making is this cool.

Compiled by Adele Chapin, Anying Guo, Fritz Hahn, Angela Haupt, Michael O’Sullivan and Stephanie Williams.


Packages of stationery from Appointed arrive fastened with tape inscribed with the words “Beautiful Tools to Inspire Beautiful Work.” That’s graphic designer Suann Song’s mantra. After having a hard time finding “minimalist, super-functional, well-designed American-made paper products,” she decided to make them herself, launching Appointed in 2015. All the materials are purposefully selected (such as the U.S.-manufactured, water-resistant book cloth covers), and then almost everything is assembled in Appointed’s Ivy City warehouse. The signature product is Appointed’s monogrammable spiral-bound notebook ($24). But lately, Song’s having trouble keeping up with demand for planners, which went up more than fivefold over last year. “That I attribute to aspirational buying. I think everyone is just wanting to get to 2021 and plan for 2021,” she says. — A.C.

Bailiwick Clothing Company

Few clothing lines capture the effervescent spirit of D.C. better than brothers JC and Jeff Smith’s Bailiwick Clothing Company. Bailiwick, which takes its name from an Old English word meaning a person’s particular area of interest or authority, sells shirts, hoodies, hats and other clothing adorned with proud District prints such as “202” and “District of Champions.” The brand currently features a limited edition Madam Vice President shirt, an ode to Sen. Kamala D. Harris’s historic vice-presidential win ($25), and “The District” shirt ($25) that was made in collaboration with local bagel joint Call Your Mother. — S.W.


For years, Topaz Terry has been giving new life to things other people discarded. So when she got her bicycle repaired one day, she asked for the trash — and turned the castoff chain and gears into a one-of-a-kind bottle opener. That was the beginning of BicycleTrash, which specializes in wearable accessories made from old bike parts and other overlooked, commonly discarded materials. The bottle opener ($28) remains a gift-giving favorite — it’s grease-free and polished with a steel brush. Other options: shimmery GearFlake ornaments ($15) for the gear heads and a funky tote designed with recycled bicycle inner tube ($178). Terry also started making face masks during the pandemic: They’re $22, with adjustable ear loops made out of recycled rubber cord and fun, vintage prints. — A.H.

Capitol Hill Books

When beloved used-book store Capitol Hill Books closed early in the pandemic, its owners hit on a novel way to keep business going: give their expert booksellers a budget and answer a few questions about the genres and authors you enjoy, and they’d build a “grab bag” of books (prices vary) sure to keep any housebound reader entertained. Since March, bookstore co-owner Aaron Beckwith says they’ve shipped thousands of packages. “Early on we were getting way more requests for dystopian fiction than normal,” Beckwith says, but requests have settled back toward literary fiction, including “novels to read after a breakup” and, since the summer, “Black authors whose books focus on race in America.” Capitol Hill Books offers the option of letting you see the stack of books before they’re shipped, but it’s just as much fun to put your trust in the booksellers. After all, Beckwith says, “it takes some of the work out of your hands and puts it in the hands of people who really know books well.” — F.H.

Costa Cosmetics

Emoke Gaidosch has always been interested in living sustainably and curbing her family’s ecological footprint. So a few years ago, when she moved to the United States from Hungary, she started making laundry soaps and other cleaning products out of used household oils. “It’s a nice blend between chemistry and creativity,” she says, noting that she has a degree in the former. That initial experimentation led to fine soap-making: Today, Costa Cosmetics offers an array of natural cosmetics, including shampoo and shea body butter. But Gaidosch’s felted soaps are a clear must for gifting. They’re handmade with goat milk and wrapped in wool stitched into colorful designs. Animal designs ($18 each) — a sloth, sheep, fox and llama — are charmingly cute, and the wool creates a soothing exfoliation experience. — A.H.

Farrah Skeiky

Coloring books were marketed as a way for stressed-to-the-hilt adults to reduce their anxiety years before the pandemic, but they’ve found a new audience among people looking for a creative, stress-free home activity. In a genre filled with abstract designs, adorable animals or inspiring historical figures, one of this year’s more interesting offerings will make you nostalgic for going out and seeing live music. D.C.-based photographer Farrah Skeiky is known for raw, visceral photos of punk bands that place the viewer in the pit, but her new book “Paint My Life” ($15) turns her images of Krimewatch, Screaming Females and Soul Glo into ready-to-color pages — she chose the 18 photos, she says, with an eye toward “facial expressions, the movement of hair and clothes, cool outfits.” All the little things you might have taken for granted before and can’t wait to see again in person. For now, this book will do. — F.H.

Hinckley Pottery

For fans of Jill Hinckley’s traditional, wheel-thrown ceramics — all functional, but far from formulaic vessels, inspired by the elegant, utilitarian pottery of Japan, China and Korea — the realization that the pandemic would mean no annual, in-person holiday sale this year (featuring mulled cider, snacks and works for sale by Hinckley, her studio’s teaching staff and students) must have been a disappointment. But the 84-year-old Hinckley is still going strong, after moving her school/studio in 2015 to Blues Alley from the Kalorama Road location where she trained a generation of Washington potters. Her website proves it: It’s there you’ll find an assortment of the artist/educator’s elegant and understated bowls, plates, vases, teapots and mugs — most of which are priced under $50. (Even more is available for in-person shopping at the Georgetown studio, by appointment only.) Nothing gimmicky or cutesy here. Like Hinckley herself, they’re not just durable but leave a lasting impression. — M.O.

Hooked & Loopy

Sarah Potter spends 2,000 hours a year — evenings and weekends on the couch — crocheting cuddly stuffed toys: forest animals, dinosaurs, water dwellers. The creatures, as she calls them, are her passion project, and they’ve earned her daughter’s stamp of approval. “They all have their own names and personalities,” she says. “I love talking to folks who bought the creatures in the past, and they always refer to them by name: ‘I bought Angus the bunny from you. Do you remember?’ Of course I remember.” Her “Women We Love” series is full of gift contenders: A 7-inch Ruth Bader Ginsburg ($49), for example, is decked out in black-rimmed glasses and that unmistakable white collar. It’s made with cotton yarn and stuffed with a washable fiberfill that keeps its shape, and it fits perfectly into the crook of its handler’s arm. — A.H.

Langdon Wood

The culinary side hustle of Washington furniture-maker Art Drauglis and his wife, Ketzirah Lesser, Langdon Wood may have temporarily suspended production of its signature condiment: maple syrup aged in wooden casks once used to make whiskey. But despite the loss, for now, of this complex and zesty nectar, they’re still peddling intense and idiosyncratic flavor. The 2020 version of the couple’s 1814 hot sauce, a limited edition of fewer than 300 bottles made with a blend of chiles, including ghost peppers, that starts sweet and smoky — the seduction of the barrel — before delivering a kick of stinging heat, is still available in two sizes: a perfume vial-size 1.75 ounces ($7) and, for those who aren’t commitment-phobic, 5 ounces ($15). (A version of sriracha, made with maple syrup, is also available, along with a seasoning mix of sun-dried-and-ground pepper “sprinkles” left over from the mash used in the sauce-making process.) — M.O.

Lid Flutters

Artist and art teacher Christine Vineyard wanted to find a way to support D.C.’s local businesses while she was stuck inside during the city’s stay-at-home order this past spring. So she started drawing and didn’t stop, posting more than 100 prints of iconic Washington restaurants, shops, and landmarks on her website for sale and then donating funds to DC Central Kitchen. Her illustrations ($22) feature such favorite places as Ben’s Chili Bowl, the 9:30 Club and Union Market, rendered in crisp lines, bright colors and in a very hopeful light. — A.C.


Lita+Ro’s soy-based candles do more than make a room smell good. Founders Tiffany Coln and Kayvone Harvey say they also invoke memories of people and places, such as their hemp flower and white tea candle dedicated to Martha Stewart and Snoop Dogg, or the red cedar and cinnamon candle called “Doin it in the Park,” a nod to the Blackbyrds’ song “Rock Creek Park.” Pre-pandemic, Coln and Harvey enjoyed sharing the personal stories behind their candles at markets around town, but they’ve since pivoted their business online and offer priority shipping. For the holidays, Lita+Ro offers their Candle Love Gift Set (starting at $65) that comes with two candles of your choice, matchsticks, a canvas tote bag, a lavender home fragrance mist, and white tea and birch goat milk soap. — S.W.

9:30 Club

The 9:30 Club occupies an outsize role in Washington’s music history. It’s welcomed the biggest names in music, from James Brown and Bob Dylan on down, but for locals, it’s much more: It’s where we saw our new favorite band for the first time, went on a date with a future spouse, or had the Best Night of Our Lives with friends and roommates. To commemorate all of these occasions, the club and its sister venues, including the Anthem and Merriweather Post Pavilion, have created an incredible gift for music fans: A Framed Concert Memorabilia Print that can be customized with reproductions of a poster, ticket stub and photo from almost any show from 2005 to now, starting at $54. (The Foo Fighters’ opening-night performance at the Anthem is the best seller, but Maggie Rogers and Garbage have also been popular.) The club says, however, that it cannot guarantee that orders will arrive before the holidays, so if you really need a present under the tree, you might consider a 1000-piece 9:30 Club Puzzle that compiles more than 80 concert posters from across the years ($45), and serves as a musical history lesson. — F.H.

Petite Soeur

Ashleigh Pearson’s handmade chocolates and confections are an elegant fusion of French and American traditions. Before launching Petite Soeur, Pearson earned her pastry diploma at the Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and subsequently worked alongside some of the top restaurateurs in the business, including the stylish Per Se in New York and Marcel’s in Foggy Bottom. Some of Petite Soeur’s sophisticated sweets include its festive nine-piece bonbon sampler ($28), which are hand-painted to order and come with three creamy caramel, s’mores and hazelnut praline bonbons. — S.W.

Rako Coffee Roasters

Lisa and Melissa Gerben grew up in a family where coffee was taken very seriously, and the sisters were allowed to drink coffee starting at age 10. Flash forward to 2020, when the duo set up a state-of-the-art roasting facility in Northern Virginia to launch their own sustainably sourced single-origin coffee company. The tasting notes for bags of Rako Coffee Roasters reference such intriguing flavors as graham crackers, butterscotch and pomegranate. Explore the roasts via a $50 holiday gift set in either “Bold” or “Classic” versions: each package contains three bags of coffee and a guide to brewing the perfect cup at home. Buy a set online or at the Downtown Holiday Market or the Victura Park holiday market at the Kennedy Center. — A.C.

Republic Restoratives

Ivy City’s Republic Restoratives knew it would be tough to follow Rodham Rye, a blended rye whiskey that received national attention after namesake Hillary Rodham Clinton tweeted a photo of the bottle in 2017. They chose to call its successor Purpose Rye, because of “the idea that we’re a values-based company,” says Pia Carusone, the co-founder of D.C.’s first woman-owned distillery. “We’re not afraid of being outspoken and disruptive.” Purpose debuted in August, but after the vice-presidential debate, Carusone says, they had a brainstorm: Local artist Samantha Testa was asked to etch “I’m Speaking” — Kamala D. Harris’s viral rejoinder to Vice President Pence’s interruptions — onto a limited number of bottles. “We thought it would be a week,” before people lost interest, Carusone laughs. Instead, they’ve sold hundreds of the decorated bottles, and plan to keep going through the Inauguration. Of course, a pretty package is less important than the juice in the bottle. Purpose ($79) is the distillery’s first single-barrel whiskey, and picks up a rich, cocoa-like flavor from four years in dark-char barrels. It’s a high-rye mashbill, made with 95 percent rye, but doesn’t have the kick in the teeth you might expect from a young whiskey. The bottle makes Purpose giftable, but you’ll be happy if the recipient offers to make you a drink with it. — F.H.

Romy Studio

When she’s not working her day job at an architectural design firm, Romy Studio’s Camille Hay spends her time making colorful polymer clay earrings at home. She recently partnered with Madewell’s Hometown Hero program, which supports independent makers around the country, to sell her geometric creations that look like works of modern art on the Madewell website. Earrings such as the Romy Studio Pebble Dangle Earrings ($40) are a striking statement piece that will liven up the drabbest of outfits. — S.W.

Second Story Cards

If you think about it, Reed Sandridge says, greeting cards are all about making connections. And often, that’s exactly what those who have experienced homelessness crave. Sandridge is the founder of Second Story Cards, which works with people in the Washington area who are or have been homeless to design their own greeting cards. Fifteen percent of each card’s sale price goes to its author, and another 10 percent goes to the charity of that person’s choice. The results tend to be witty and timely: A “6-pack of corona” ($24) includes cards with messages such as “Even during social distancing you’re an overachiever!” Order a nine-pack of holiday favorites ($32.99) and send a burst of joy to everyone on your mailing list: “Just like it was when we were kids,” reads one of the cards, designed by District resident Cynthia Mewborn. “Except now with gluten free cookies, soy milk, and wifi.” — A.H.

She Loves Me

Fresh flowers from Trader Joe’s are a cheap and easy way to brighten up a home. But if you know someone curious about flowers who wants to dive a little deeper into designing and arranging the perfect vase, the answer might lie in a new, members-only Instagram group called the Secret Garden. Holley Simmons, the owner of the hip Petworth florist She Loves Me (and former Washington Post journalist), taught flower arranging over Zoom and in socially distanced classes during the pandemic, but she’s now pivoting to Instagram for this new subscription series, which will feature new instructional videos every week, leading up to a big project at the end of each month. The Secret Garden videos have much higher production values than a pixel-y Zoom video, with multiple camera angles that capture the twist of a wire or how flowers fit into a holder called the frog. They can be watched on demand, so participants don’t have to block out class time. Simmons wants the series to appeal to beginners and hobbyists looking to up their game — “these are things I wish I’d known straight out of the gate,” she says — but there’s also something cool about the idea of welcoming a friend into a secret club. Membership starts at $22 per month. — F.H.

Stitch & Rivet

Stitch & Rivet’s Katie Stack built her business constructing beautiful, handworked leather cross-body bags, belts and wallets to sell at markets and, eventually, from a studio on Brookland’s Monroe Street Market Arts Walk. When the studio closed earlier this year, Stack relocated her workshop to her dining room table, where she makes two- and three-layer cotton masks ($16.50-$19.50) in a variety of pretty patterns. (Stack’s weekly mask drops regularly sold out earlier in the year, but they’re readily available now.) But don’t overlook the leather goods, including DIY earring kits ($26-$38) and a brand-new vintage-style day bag ($169). — F.H.

Tina Seamonster

Tina Henry-Barrus doesn’t do traditional: Her Christmas cards over the past 15 years have incorporated zombies, for example. So on March 15, the day she started working from her home and her twins’ high school closed, she began hand-sewing a card concept for this year. Henry-Barrus worked with her daughter Rachel to create printed cards and decoupage ornaments ($24 for a set) depicting 2020 as a literal dumpster fire, and people are snapping them up 10 at a time. She explains: “Yes, 2020 is a dumpster fire, but yes, we will survive it. It’s such a positive message while acknowledging how horrible this year has been for some people.” — A.C.

Valley Brook Tea

Valley Brook Tea opened in Dupont right before the pandemic started — a challenge for a new shop that primarily relied on foot traffic and word-of-mouth. The store offers variety packs of tea (owner Yunhan Zhang saw how indecisive customers could get when confronted by “gazillion tea choices”) and a new product introduced in July called Instant Drip Tea ($19.50) an elevated tea bag with paper grips that attach to the rim of the cup and only requires a cup and hot water. But it’s the handmade holiday tea set, adorned with a simple, eye-catching graphic of a reindeer, that winks sublty at some holiday spirit ($70.40). — A.G.


Kitschy puzzles of kittens in a library have their place, but way before the pandemic hit, Alisha Ramos dreamed of creating puzzles featuring art you’d be proud to display in your home. So the Bethesda-based Ramos, who is the founder of the popular newsletter Girls’ Night In, worked with four artists to create colorful jigsaw puzzles worthy of framing. The $37 puzzles in the debut collection range from 500 to 1000 pieces (the most challenging might be B.D. Graft’s version featuring cute dogs). For Ramos, doing a puzzle means a break from screen time and a chance to slow down and connect. “I really love the power of the puzzle to bring people together,” she says. — A.C.

Wick & Paper

The kitchen in Do Ahn’s Arlington apartment resembles a busy candle-making factory: She uses the small space to hand-pour and package candles with inventive designs and scents, like apple-maple-bourbon and banana nut bread. Ahn, a graphic designer, has a flair for the fun and unexpected. Colorful confetti swirls through a “happy birthday” candle that pulls off that daunting feat of actually making the recipient happy. A coffee candle — made out of soy wax — has a cream base and sugar in the middle, and is topped with freshly ground coffee beans. Treat a candle lover to one of the shop’s quirky, non-jarred designs, like a set of four realistic pine cones ($25). “I have so many different looks and feels because, I think it’s part of your identity. It’s a statement,” Ahn says. “So that’s what I want to create: not only high-quality products, but something that’s fun and memorable visually.” — A.H.

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