Small Business Saturday: Guide to shopping small in the DC area

The turkey and pumpkin pie have been gobbled up, and your focus has shifted to that holiday shopping list. Before grabbing your phone and loading up your online shopping cart or heading for the big-box retailer, D.C.-area small businesses hope you give a thought to shopping local.

Small Business Saturday, which falls the Saturday after Thanksgiving, was created in 2010 by American Express to promote shopping at small businesses during the holiday shopping season.

Shops, main streets and business groups across the D.C. region are hosting shop-small events.

Alexandria’s Old Town and Del Ray neighborhoods are home to more than a hundred small shops and boutiques welcoming shoppers this weekend. Many are family-owned businesses, and they take time to offer a personal touch.

“You’re really greeted with those local shop owners and just offered more personalized customer service than you’d get at Amazon or, you know, even other retailers,” said Rebecca Dozer, the communications manager at Visit Alexandria. She added, “You can really feel good about your purchase.”

This year, business during the holiday season could be more important than ever. The COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on many small businesses throughout the D.C. area and around the U.S.

In any given year, about 800,000 businesses permanently close their doors. Between March 2020 and February 2021, the Federal Reserve has estimated, an additional 200,000 businesses shuttered.

The holiday shopping season is often a make-or-break time for small businesses — and shopping small has positive ripple effects throughout the local economy.

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich, who said he will be shopping local on Saturday in Takoma Park, Wheaton and Silver Spring, urged residents to do the same.

“For every dollar you spend at a local retail business, 68 cents stays in our community, as compared to 43 cents at national chain retailers and even less for shopping online,” Elrich said, pointing to widely cited research on the economic benefits of buying from small businesses.

Here’s a guide to shopping local on Small Business Saturday events throughout the holiday season.

Virginia

Alexandria

For the second year in a row, Alexandria is putting on a whole Shop Small Week that runs from Friday, Nov. 26, to Dec. 2, and you can enjoy free parking at many Old Town parking garages.

All told, some 50 independent businesses are participating.

Here’s a rundown of the deals and happenings.

Things kick off Friday, Nov. 26 with “Plaid Friday,” where garage parking is also free and shops are offering special discounts. Shoppers are encouraged to check out Black-owned businesses and to “Buy Black” every Friday through the end of the year.

On Small Business Saturday, garage parking is free; there will be live music performances and outdoor shopping displays.

Also on Saturday, members of the Elf Patrol will hand out gift cards to reward shoppers. The Elf Patrol will be spread cheer (and gift cards) every Saturday through Dec. 11.

From 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., shops in Del Ray will also be offering special promotions and giveaways.

On Sunday, it’s Museum Store Sunday, where you can get 20% off merchandise at several participating museum stores, including the Alexandria Archaeology Museum, the Carlyle House and Gadsby’s Tavern Museum.

The events continue through Dec. 2, with the inaugural Moonlight Merriment festival from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

See all the events on the Alexandria Shop Small website.

Fairfax City Elf Hunt

More than two dozen small businesses in Fairfax City are participating in a Small Business Saturday, and there’s a scavenger hunt twist.

Head to the Welcome Station at Old Town Hall on University Drive and pick up tote bags, treats and your elf scavenger card. Elves are hidden in store windows and on store shelves throughout Fairfax City.

Take your card with you on your shopping excursion and scan the QR code or get a stamp from the business. If you find five or more elves, and have proof of purchase from a participating business, you can register to have your name entered in a drawing for a $50 gift card.

See more information on the Fairfax City website.

Loudoun County Old World Christmas Market

The Bear Chase Brewing Company, in Bluemont, Virginia, is hosting 25 local makers with handmade holiday gifts. Enjoy beer and food while browsing; warm up around the firepits with mountain views, and feel free to bring your furry friends: The event is dog-friendly.

The event runs from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

See participating vendors on the website.

DC

Shop in the District campaign

The Shop in the District campaign offers a retail directory of stores in D.C., with an option to filter by neighborhood and other categories. Some of the stores offer same-day delivery through the service Near.delivery.

The program launched last year to encourage shoppers to support local D.C. retailers. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s office and the Washington, D.C. Economic Partnership are providing free training to minority- and women-owned businesses to amplify their digital presence.

DC Shop Small

The DC Shop Small initiative launched in spring 2020 with a special spring Small Business Saturday sale to boost sales at local businesses amid the early round of restrictions due to the coronavirus.

The DC Shop Small website maintains a searchable directory of small businesses throughout the D.C. area by category.

This year, a number of stores are offering discounts ranging from 10% to 40% to mark the traditional Small Business Saturday. You can see all the promotions on the DC Shop Small website.

If you’re planning to shop small this year, you can download several different graphics designed by Appointed Co. and share them on social media to let your followers and community know you’re shopping local.

Georgetown Small Business Saturday

Georgetown is a key shopping destination, and this year, dozens of small businesses are participating in Small Business Saturday and offering discounts, deals and other special promotions.

Businesses include wine cellars, clothing boutiques, beauty and wellness stores.

Shop small in Shaw

Visit the Shaw Main Streets tent at City Market at O (on the east side of the 1400 block of Eighth Street) or the Shaw Art Market at 625 T Street (across from the Howard Theatre) from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday and pick up $20 in “Shawbucks,” which can be used at participating area small businesses. The $5 “Shawbucks” bills can be used just like cash, but are only valid Saturday, Nov. 27.

Participating Shaw businesses include Cheryl Lofton & Associates, District Cryo, Grand Cata Latin Wine Shop, Ivy & Coney, La Jambe, Lee’s Flower & Card Shop, Lettie Gooch, Modern Liquors, A New Image by Acia, Roasted Boon, Shaw’s Tavern, Stop Smack’n, TG Cigars, Touchstone Gallery, Wanda’s on Seventh Salon & Spa, and Yoga Heights.

DC Downtown Holiday Market

The Downtown Holiday Market is a tradition, already in full swing and a great place to check out unique D.C. small businesses.

The outdoor, open-air market runs on F Street from Seventh to Ninth Streets.

The market, which features 70 businesses across the D.C. region including artwork, clothing, crafts and jewelry, is open daily from noon to 8 p.m. except for Thanksgiving Day and Monday, Dec. 6. There are also food vendors and live entertainment.

Eastern Market Holly Days

Small Business Saturday coincides with Eastern Market’s “Holly Days,” which runs until Dec. 31 and features shopping, dining and holiday lights displays.

Put on by the Eastern Market Main Street organization, the weekend outdoor markets and the Flea Market operate Saturdays and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The farmers market runs from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. The indoor market is also open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday.

The Capitol Hill market is a go-to shopping spot around the year, and especially around the holidays.

To encourage people to shop early, given expected supply chain challenges, Eastern Market Main Street is encouraging shoppers to buy online. Monday Nov. 29 — and every Monday through the end of December is “Cyber Monday.” Select shops are offering special online shopping deals.

Maryland

Montgomery County

Montgomery County offers a bevy of farmers markets with unique experiences to do your local shopping.

The Silver Spring Farmers Market at Veterans Plaza in downtown Silver Spring features dozens of market merchants from Atwater’s bakery to Waredaca Brewing Company.

The market runs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. through Dec. 18.

There are also Saturday markets in Kensington at the Historic Train Station on Howard Avenue and the Kentlands Main Street Farmers Market.

Looking for more places to shop small this Saturday? Check out this list from Visit Montgomery.

Prince George’s County

Robin Hill Farm and Vineyards in Brandywine, Maryland, is hosting a big Small Business Saturday local vendor fair, with more than 30 vendors and featuring local handmade and unique items, plus food trucks and live music.

If you head out to do your shopping in Laurel, you can get free coffee and doughnuts at 378 Main St. from 10 a.m. to noon.

The Janemark Winery and Vineyard is featuring local vendors from noon to 4 p.m., plus live music and food trucks.

You can search a directory of local businesses across the county on the Buy Prince George’s website.

Ellicott City Small Business Saturday

Historic Main Street in Ellicott City is the scene for a big small-business shopping celebration all day Saturday.

From 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., visit the Welcome Center at 8267 Main St. and you can get $15 in Old Ellicott City “bucks” that you can use at participating businesses through Dec. 12.

You have to register in advance for your OEC bucks.

Dozens of businesses are participating, and several are offering discounts.

Jack Moore

Jack Moore joined WTOP.com as a digital writer/editor in July 2016. Previous to his current role, he covered federal government management and technology as the news editor at Nextgov.com, part of Government Executive Media Group.

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