The best local shops for holiday gift hunting

Want to give a gift that's fun and educational? Labyrinth Games and Puzzles on Pennsylvania Avenue sells puzzles and board games for people of all ages. (WTOP/Megan Gygax)
Customers browse Proper Topper merchandise in search of special gifts. Loyal customers have been shopping at Proper Topper since its opening in 1990. (WTOP/Megan Gygax)
Tara McCredle, the general manager at Proper Topper, helps a customer with her purchases. Proper Topper won "Best Women's Clothing" in the Washington Post Express's Best of 2012. (WTOP/Megan Gygax)
Proper Topper near Dupont Circle began as a specialty hat store and has since expanded to offer hundreds of gift items for people of all ages. (WTOP/Stephanie Steinberg)
Labyrinth Games and Puzzles carries all kinds of fun activities - like handmade wooden puzzles and European-style board games - for the whole family. (WTOP/Megan Gygax)
Young children enjoy the challenges of a board game in Labyrinth Games and Puzzles on Capitol Hill. (WTOP/Megan Gygax)
Customers shop around Labyrinth Games and Puzzles, a specialty store that was voted the "2011 best new retail" in the Washington City Paper's reader poll. (WTOP/Megan Gygax)
Caramel on U Street offers a wide range of clothing, art and accessories. Customers can find anything from stylish dresses to eco-friendly shoes. (WTOP/Megan Gygax)
Caramel's fall designs include coats and dresses that blend a vintage style with warm colors. (WTOP/Megan Gygax)
Racks of clothes fill Caramel on U Street. The local store also gives back to the community with silent auctions and art sale fundraisers. (WTOP/Megan Gygax)
Handmade earrings decorate the craft table in the center of Bedazzled, a jewelry store near Dupont Circle. Customers can choose beads and create their own custom jewelry. (WTOP/Megan Gygax)
A Bedazzled employee helps a customer find the best jewelry for his loved ones. Bedazzled features pieces from all over the world, including Guatemala and Haiti. (WTOP/Megan Gygax)
Bedazzled has been operating for more than 30 years on Connecticut Avenue. (WTOP/Megan Gygax)

Megan Gygax, special to

WASHINGTON – Looking for a holiday gift that’s a little more personal and not the red wool sweater from a department store?

WTOP scoped out several local stores with promising gift options – from jewelry, books, puzzles to clothing – that are guaranteed to please a loved one or friend. Beside receiving an earnest “thank you” from the recipient, you’ll support the local business community in the shopping process.

Happy holiday shopping!

Proper Topper

1350 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington D.C. 20036
Hours: Mon. – Fri. 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sun. noon to 6 p.m.

If you are looking for a wide selection of gifts make sure to pop into Proper Topper near Dupont Circle. This store may seem small from the outside, but don’t be fooled. You could spend hours inside looking at all its treasures – including jewelry, candles, books, frames, ornaments and clothing.

Anna Fuhrman opened Proper Topper in 1990 as a hat store. Throughout the years, the merchandise grew, and the store now features a wide range of products by local artisans such as Petal Press, Ciao Nina, Middle Kingdom Porcelain and Lil’ Fishy.

Fuhrman’s success inspired her to help other women launch their own businesses. She supports women’s collectives from around the world, and sells items from Handmade Expressions from India and Lucuma Designs from Puru.

Fuhrman says her favorite items in the store are cookbooks like “Roots: The Definitive Compendium” and her large collection of vintage votive candle holders like the antiqued silver votive.

Labyrinth Games and Puzzles

645 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, Washington D.C. 20003
Hours: Tues. – Fri. 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sat. 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Labyrinth Games and Puzzles is the place to go to find your classic blast-from-the past board games or a brand new wacky brain teaser. The store also likes to promote education and give back to the community.

Each month the store donates a game or puzzle to a different local school so kids can learn while having fun. Any customer who buys something from the store can vote for their favorite local school. At the end of each month, the owners tally the votes and donate an educational game or puzzle to the winning school. They also update the results on the store’s Facebook page.

The mom-and-pop specialty store offers non-electronic games for kids and adults of all ages. Customers can purchase the classics, like Scrabble and Parcheesi, or explore new games like Ticket to Ride, where players collect cards with train cars to claim railway routes in North America, and the player with the longest route wins the game.

Labyrinth Games and Puzzles is celebrating its second anniversary this year. Employee Kathleen Donahue says she constantly hears, “This is the coolest store ever!” from first-time customers.


1603 U St. NW, Washington D.C. 20009
Hours: Thurs. and Fri. noon to 8 p.m., Sat. 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sun. noon to 6 p.m.

Caramel is not only a delicious treat, but also the name of Sarah Watkins’s boutique on U Street in D.C. Caramel is named after her grandfather’s favorite candy, and the store reflects the smooth, sweet sensation of caramel with its unique designs and giving nature.

This store features a wide range of items, but the store’s main attraction is its clothing. Customers can find anything from elegant women’s jackets to men’s jeans.

Eco-friendly, recycled and vegan lines are also available with designs by Ethos Paris, a French fashion house that creates organic garments, and Novacas, a Portuguese shoe company committed to providing environmentally-friendly products. This quaint store also purchases items from local designers like ADMK Jewelry.

Watkins always wanted to open her own business after watching her grandparents own and operate grocery stores over the years. When she finally got the opportunity, she wanted to make sure it was a business that featured creative designs and gave back to the community.

Over the past 17 years, Watkins has managed educational programs and helped fundraise for non-profit organizations. She continues to work as a part-time professional fundraiser, and she says running Caramel helps her give back to the community.

Her most recent project was a silent auction and art sale to benefit Loaves and Fishes, a local meal program that serves low income and homeless individuals in Mount Pleasant and Columbia Heights.

Watkins also supports local artists in the U Street community by displaying and selling their artwork in her store.


1507 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington D.C. 20036
Hours: Mon. – Sat. 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sun.11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Walking into Bedazzled on Connecticut Avenue in D.C. is like walking into a different world, with tapestries covering the walls and authentic jewelry in every corner. Customers can find pieces that incorporate everything from vibrant turquoise to miniature gingerbread men.

There are three Bedazzled stores, all owned and operated by Penelope Diamanti. Diamanti’s father was a United States diplomat, and she traveled the world until she moved back to the United States. She then earned a master’s degree in journalism and continued her adventures collecting her favorite beads and gifts. Diamanti decided to pursue her passion and opened Bedazzled, which has been operating for more than 30 years.

Diamanti’s travels inspire her collection, which includes jewelry pieces made by Guatemalans and Haitians that decorate every corner of the room. Diamanti also teaches Ayuvedic yoga in Takoma Park, Md. Her other stores are located at 501 N. Charles St., Baltimore, Md. 21201 and Tysons Corner in McLean, Va.

Edited for Goodwill

Pepco Edison Place Gallery
702 Eighth Street, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20001
Hours: Dec. 12-13 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Dec. 14 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

On a budget this holiday season? Try scoping out Goodwill’s holiday pop-up shop sponsored by Goodwill of Greater Washington and Worn Magazine.

The pop-up shop first appeared in August and did so well that Goodwill decided to open it again.

The store will include winter apparel and seasonal accessories. Shoppers who do go over their budget can’t feel too guilty — as Pepco plans to match every dollar the store generates up to $25,000.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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