Holiday gift guide: Ideas for practically everybody from DC-area small businesses

‘Tis the season for holiday shopping! Last-minute shoppers don’t have to go far to find an array of gifts ideas — small businesses in the D.C. area are stocked with possibilities.

Your loved ones may mail a Christmas list off to Santa, but that won’t help you find the right present. WTOP has compiled a gift guide of products sold at small businesses throughout the D.C. area to give you some ideas.

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WTOP’s Kate Corliss contributed to this report.

For the animal lover

Pet lovers who are always on the go could use this water bottle that doubles as a travel bowl ($18.99). The District’s Big Bad Wolf sells the water bottle which comes with a detachable bowl for your pet.

A whimsical pet portrait could liven up any room. Cathy Cole is based out of Maryland and creates oil paintings of furry friends ($175); among her past subjects: a rooster.

If a dog can be bribed with treats to sit in a studio, J.B. Shepard photographs pets in Baltimore. In the particularly magnificent photos, the sweet subjects of his photographs are accessorized with handmade paper hats. Session costs vary depending on whether your pet goes for a classic or paper hat session and you can purchase a digital or paper gift voucher.


For the beauty and health guru

Some scents like peppermint, cinnamon, and pine put you right into the holiday spirit. Lemon & Whim sells a line of merry and bright soaps; check out the sparkling Cinnamon Kane ($10) and Peppermintini ($10) soaps. The business owner handmakes the soaps, candles and other self-care products in Arlington and they can be shipped or picked up for free in Clarendon.

A gift card to your local spa can provide a much-needed break from the bustle of life. Check out the spa at Salamander Resort in Middleburg, Virginia, which offers seasonal promotions on treatments like a winter warning massage ($185) and a spiced cashmere quench wrap ($205) for those with dry skin.

Treat the beard-owner in your life to a spa-treatment with this Grin + Beard It kit ($55) from District Batch. It comes with a eucalyptus shave bar, labdanum and amber beard serum and a face tonic that are free from many chemicals and fragrances. You can add on a wooden soap tray for $5.

For coffee nuts

‘Tis the season to encourage your loved one’s caffeine addiction. D.C.-based Down the Block Coffee is here to help, with a nostalgic twist. Their ’90s-inspired packaging is a throwback, and so fun that you probably won’t even need to wrap it.

Down the Block has three different blends to choose from, and you can buy them all at local gift retailer Shop Made in DC. Check out Saturday Morning Cartoons ($22), which hearkens to the breakfast cereal-packed days of yesteryear with notes of milk chocolate, fruit and nuts.

For the gift that keeps on giving, consider a coffee subscription. Swing’s Coffee Roasters offers a biweekly or monthly customizable coffee subscription of freshly-roasted goodness. How much it will set you back depends on the size of the bag and the frequency of the delivery; a standard 12-ounce bag of beans delivered once a month for a year comes to $234 ($13 a bag and $5 for shipping).

Swing’s has been around for 100 years and calls itself D.C.’s original coffee roaster.

Of course, your coffee-loving recipient will also need a vessel to sip their new brew from. They probably have a hundred mugs, but it is doubtful they’d be opposed to one more — especially one by Arlington-based ceramist Jimmy Potters, who sells his goods out of an Etsy storefront.

Each piece is one-of-a-kind, so your recipient will certainly have nothing like it in their cupboard. Take, for example, this orange 18-ounce mug ($36). Plus, it’s microwave and dishwasher-safe, so it can be reused cup after cup.

For teachers

If you’re searching for a thoughtful gift that your child’s teacher will actually use, look no further than Penny Post in Alexandria, Virginia. Choose from a variety of stationery sets, funky desk décor, quippy mugs and more. Visit the shop at 1201 King Street, or place an order online.

This Plum Bouquets Boxed Set ($25) of stationery is a good place to start.

When in doubt, you can also always go for a candle. Handmade Habitat offers soy wax candles and beauty products crafted by founder Amina Ahmad. She started the company while she was a student at the University of Maryland.

Think the teacher in your life needs some rest after dealing with your child all day? Check out the Hibernate candle ($36), with notes of cedarwood and lavender.

For travel junkies

If your jet-setting loved ones can stay in one place long enough for you to give them a holiday gift, D.C.’s local artisans have some great options. D.C.-based husband-and-wife duo Cesar and Pial Vega started leather goods brand Quavaro to make it easier for travelers who live out of their bags. The pieces are manufactured and shipped here from their small factory in Mexico.

Fun fact: The brand’s Quince Duffle ($275) was designed in collaboration with DC United Defender Steven Birnbaum. It’s made of ballistic nylon, so it will hold up on even the most chaotic luggage carousels.

Speaking of leather goods, Sophisticate Supply Co. in Alexandria offers a unique array of gifts for travelers — from on-the-go cocktail kits to duffel bags ($350). Lots of their items are small and easily packable, so they’ll add to any travel experience without up too much space.

This leather-bound travel journal ($30) comes in a set of two, so your traveler can take as many trips as they’d like and still have plenty of space to document their memories.

Depending on what part of the world your traveler is headed off to, the right accessory from Hats in the Belfry could be a fashionable, functional present. This wine-colored Belfry Stefani ($180) is made in Italy. It’s soft and flexible, making it a good option to pack.

The storefront is in Annapolis and if you can’t find the right one, there’s the option to buy a gift certificate.

For trendsetters

It can be intimidating to buy a gift for a fashion-forward friend or family member. Fortunately, local D.C. artisans have you covered. Blue Moon Aquarius is an independent jewelry brand based in D.C. Its founder, designer and artisan Sue-Ling, started the business when she was furloughed from her hospitality job during the pandemic. Since then, Blue Moon Aquarius has produced dozens of polymer clay earrings and necklace designs — a lightweight medium that’s comfortable to wear. You can order pieces online at her website, or shop some of her work at local retailers like Shop Made in D.C.

Know someone who loves bold geometric designs? Take a look at these Circle Square Dangle Earrings ($38)

Sticking with accessories, 3 Sisters has bunches of options for hair clips and even has some kits with four claw clips ($26.95) to give some variety. The boutique is unsurprisingly family-owned and has locations in Alexandria and Annapolis. You’re sure to find something for your sister there: here’s the best sister candle ($26) and favorite sister T-shirt ($32)

If you’re looking for locally-curated clothing, check out Tribute, another D.C.-based small business. Their digs are produced by independent, sustainable designers and brands. You can find everything from garments, to accessories, to housewares on their website. There are also a couple of vintage items thrown into the mix.

There’s some apparel for everybody here, but if you need a spark of inspiration, the Straight Pants ($75) — a cotton velvet corduroy trouser — could quickly become a wardrobe staple. There’s nothing more gift-able than a garment with an elastic waistband. (And yes, they have pockets.)

For the plant aficionado

Houseplants can be a lively and personal gift when the gift-giver puts some thought into their selection. A D.C.-area chain, Rewild let’s you browse plants by category including plants that are “hard to kill” for that friend who may still be perfecting their “green thumb.”

Perhaps the gardener in your life could use a plant that makes a statement like the rattlesnake calathea which starts at $17.99 and has bold markings on top with a burgundy underside. A peace lily ($194.99) is a “beginner friendly” plant, according to Rewild. For a little more guidance, Rewild has a group of plants and products it deems as good for gifting.

Someone who frequents the U.S. Botanic Garden might appreciate a memento — like this conservatory pin ($10.99).

Rewild delivers locally or offers pickup options. Its stores are in the District, Arlington, and Bethesda, Maryland, for those looking to shop in person.

For the foodie 

Give people food, and you feed them for a day. Teach people how to cook, and you feed them for a lifetime — or however the adage goes. Arlington-based Cookology offers gift cards for its cooking classes. Among the classes is a 6-week culinary boot camp, a date night and Thanksgiving specialties. The cost varies but most classes are priced at around $100 a person. Some classes are geared toward adults looking to fulfill their culinary dreams while others are aimed at kids.

Maria Kopsidas founded the business and she’s no stranger to teaching cooking — she also created the Metropolitan Culinary Arts Institute. Her first flagship store opened at Dulles Town Center in February 2009, during the Great Recession, according to its website. After the business grew, it moved to Ballston Commons.

Those who want to master the art of barbecue might enjoy the “pitmaster’s gift box” ($225) from 2Fifty Texas BBQ — which is located in Riverdale Park, Maryland. The kits will equip your chef with a pork and beef rub, as well as several sauces and the necessary knives to chop the meat.

For those who’d prefer dessert, the Capital Candy Jar in D.C. has a Holiday Truffle Gift Box ($25) with a half-pound of decadent dark, milk, and white chocolate truffles along with dozens of other holiday candy options.

For the craft enthusiast 

Embroidery kits aren’t hard to come by and can help someone break into the world of embroidery with a guide. Some festive options include this Holly and Pine kit ($32) and this Hannukiah mini kit ($20) from Capital Stitch Co. 

Fibre Space in Alexandria has your knitter covered as far as yarn, tools and even books go. Stock up on supplies for your loved one or get adventurous with one of the business’ kits, like this magical dragon ($42) or this baby aubergine ($42).

Danielle Romanetti owns and operates Fibre Space, which also offers small classes for various skill sets.

For someone with hometown pride

For an area where many people live in one spot and work in another, oftentimes, D.C.-area residents are pretty proud of their hometown — and are sure it beats out other spots nearby.


This colorful printed art poster ($15) includes depictions of iconic spots on both sides of the Potomac with well-known roadways like Interstate 66 and the Beltway running through impacts of horse-drawn carriages, airplanes, monuments and pandas (gone but never forgotten). You can purchase the map at Art A La Carte in Occoquan, Virginia, which is stocked with local artists’ creation.

The District

There’s nothing like baking cookies during the holiday season. This baking-centered gift box ($43), assembled with products from the District, includes a gingerbread cookie box, a cookie cutter in the shape of the U.S. Capitol and a playful D.C.-themed oven mitt that features images of several iconic local buildings. You can pick it up in Georgetown or buy it online from Shop Made In DC.

For the smallest advocates for D.C. statehood, take a look this onesie or toddler tee ($24) that says “Taxation Demands Representation.” Bailiwick Clothing Company’s products are designed and printed in the D.C. area.

The apparel company has D.C. merch for grown ups too, including hats, accessories in addition to shirts and sweatshirts. The tops are even organized by neighborhood.


One thing Marylanders pride themselves on is the iconic seasoning oftentimes packed onto seafood. Route One Apparel has Old Bay themed apparel, including this knit sweater ($69.99) and a 40 ounce tumbler ($29.99). The brand’s 3,000 products can be found online or in stores.

All this shopping can make some people feel crabby. This 5-inch handcrafted bowl ($24.95) has a doodled image of Maryland’s favorite crustacean. In fact, The Annapolis Pottery has a number of crabby products including a wine crock ($56.95).

Jessica Kronzer

Jessica Kronzer graduated from James Madison University in May 2021 after studying media and politics. She enjoys covering politics, advocacy and compelling human-interest stories.

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