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The Hill Rag’s Holiday Shopping Guide

Have you ever thought about making your holiday season one where you never have to sit in traffic jams or say a special prayer that your online package is going to really arrive on time? This holiday season we challenge you to shop local and discover a holiday season of joy.

Capitol Hill has some unique and fantastic shops all within walking distance of one another. There are even special shopping nights where you can hop from store to store and let the amazing shop owners solve your holiday gift-giving puzzles. Imagine, finding perfect gifts for everyone on your list, and then having them wrapped in shiny bows all the while sipping on wine and eating yummy treats.  And, for the procrastinators (you know who you are), these local shops will be open on Christmas Eve bailing you out one more time.

This year, having shopped our way around Capitol Hill and H Street, we’re making your shop local adventures easier than ever.

Holiday Shopping Events

CHAMPS, Capitol Hill’s Chamber of Commerce, kicks off the season with a Holiday Sip and Shop night, December 4th from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.  15 different shops, including some special pop up stores, are coming together to give you a night you will want to star on your calendar.

If you have a tiny one on your list, you may especially want to check out Dawn Price Baby, where shoppers will receive 20% off purchases during the Sip and Shop. Dawn Price shop is located at 325 7th Street, SE.  In addition to the shops participating, a number of local businesses are sponsoring the event.  For more information see the CHAMPs website, www. Capitolhill.org.

Madeleine Odendahl, program manager for Eastern Market Main Street, says her organization begins the holiday season on November 25 and wraps up the season of joy on December 31.  The Holly Days has it’s own website, www.thehollydays.com.  Shoppers can see a map of Eastern Market and click on a Holly Wreath and be transported into one of many Hill stores to find out hours of operation, and much more.

Radici, an Italian market whose name means Roots, is located on the corner of 7th Street and C Street at Eastern Market.   Bridget Thibodeau Sasso, co-owner, will host an authentic Italian market on December 10 bringing ten very special Italian vendors to the neighborhood for a day of holiday cheer.  Vendors will be outside on the patio.   And, on December 23, Santa Claus will arrive and spend the day in the shop.  Party givers can easily order part or Radici’s entire catering menu throughout the season, but orders must be sent in by Sunday, December 17 for Christmas delivery.

If you own a holiday sweater– you know, the sweater with a blinking Rudolph on it– wear it to Music on the Hill and they will give you 10% off all products in the store, even their sale items.   Music on the Hill is at 801 D Street, NE.  Besides the best selection of guitars, mandolins and ukuleles in the DC area, Lindy Campbell, shop owner, says they have a really great collection of handmade stock stuffers with a musical theme.

Bringing the Best to Capitol Hill

One of the great things about shopping locally is that a lot of the hard work of gift giving has already been done for you.  Last summer, when you were enjoying the pool, Hill shop owners were spending day after day reviewing and ordering items to bring to you this holiday season.  As Dennis of Groovy DC says, “we really spend a great deal of timefinding the best things for our shoppers, so you don’t have to sort through to find great gifts.”

Dennis loves helping customers get ready for the holidays at Groovy DC. Photo: Rindy O’Brien

Groovy DC, at 321 7th Street SE, is stocked full of holiday cards, wrapping papers, and Christmas décor items.  For example, there are aromatic candles like Red Current and Christmas sage.  Dennis says that the European party crackers are becoming more popular for Hill families, and Groovy DC has five different kinds ranging from $20 to $27.  If you are looking for small hostess and friend gifts, this store has you covered on that front as well.

Next door to Groovy, Roberta Blanchard, owner of Fairy Godmother, a children’s book and toy store, puts her 33 years of knowledge to work for you.  Roberta says that the classic toys like Legos, Brio, and puzzles are always a good gift for children.  She also can help match books with the child’s age and interests. Roberta also has brought a very special line of stuffed animals made in Germany to the Hill this season.  The detail and softness of the baby owl and lamb will make them instant friends for your little ones.

When we stopped by Hill’s Kitchen at 713 D St. SE, owner Leah Daniels was busy sharing her knowledge about non-stick pans with a customer who had come to do some in-store research before deciding what to put on his Christmas list.  Leah was able to show him different kinds of pans at an array of prices and educate him on the pros and cons of each one.  “When you go online to do this research, often there is a very limited description and a rating system,” says Leah, “and that really doesn’t give you all the answers.”  Leah only chooses items that she can stand behind, giving shoppers solid confidence in their gifts.

In addition to kitchen gear, the store has increased its cocktail and bar offerings, including some local bitters, shrubs, and cocktails syrups.  If you are a fan of Baltimore’s Woodberry Kitchen, there is a great selection of jams and sauces from this local gourmet restaurant.  Soda stream machines are always a fun gift. Leah is sure that the new multi-cooker that can steam, brown, sauté, make rice and yogurt, and is also a pressure cooker will be the wow gift of the season. Hill’s Kitchen will be open until 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve.

DCanter at 545 8th Street SE is a wine boutique that specializes in artisanal wines from independent producers, along with craft beers.  Michael and Michelle Warner have filled this sunlit space with the best of the best and have developed a loyal customer following.  Michael says that their wine tasting classes make a great gift.   He reports, “the classes are limited to 16 people and are conducted in a way that makes everyone comfortable, whether you are new to wine or a pro.”  Gift cards for classes or merchandise make it easy for you.

Ask the Hill Experts

Sometimes we can be shy about admitting how little we know about things that we assume everyone else knows.  For instance, shouldn’t we all know about different wines or know what the latest cool whiskey is?  One of the truly great things about shopping on the Hill is that the shop owners are happy to share their experience and expertise.

Over at Schneider’s at 300 Massachusetts Avenue, NE, they have eight folks with high levels of industry certifications just in their wine department.  The Genderson family has been involved in the spirit business on the Hill since 1915. Elise Genderson says they love to help a customer figure out the perfect gift for family or friends.  “I suggest if you are buying for someone and you don’t know their specific taste, stick with the more widely known wines from California ‘s Napa Valley, Russian River or France’s Cabernet Bordeaux. And a Highland Scotch is always a good gift.”

Laurie Gillman, owner of East City Books, is all smiles with the holiday season just around the corner. East City Books has something for everyone.. Laurie Gillman

Laurie Gillman, owner of East City Books, is relative new to the retail scene, but she has calculated that collectively her staff has over 200 years of expertise in books.  The bookstore is downstairs at 645 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE.  It is amazing how much space this bookstore has, and it has become a second home to many, including young children and family dogs.  “I think we have a great variety of gifts whether you are looking for a book, t-shirts, posters, coffee mugs, art supplies, or one of the hot insider DC gifts: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg objects,” Laurie says.  Tell the staff who you are shopping for, and they are going to be able to give you a variety of unusual and highly contemporary gifts to choose from.

Labyrinth located next to East City Books really can solve all your gift puzzles.  The store is full of puzzles, toys, and board games from Monopoly to Magic cards.  A mom-owned game store, staff are incredibly knowledgeable about the latest trends.

Had enough shopping? Just stop in and take an hour of play.

One of a Kind

Another bookstore on the Hill, Riverby Books, can conjure up some shopping magic to complete your gift list.  Riverby Books is located at 417 East Capitol Street, SE.  There are over 15,000 carefully selected used books tucked into every available space in the old townhouse. Lori Grisham, manager of Riverby Books, is happy to point out special edition books that you can only find here, like an early edition of a guide to the National Parks or a first edition of The Cat in the Hat Comes Back.  Need a complete set of Harry Potter books, this bookstore has it.  Maybe gifting some really jazzy recordings on vinyl would make you the coolest aunt ever.  Staff is happy to point you in the right direction or make specific recommendations.

Mehmet Yalcin, proprietor of Woven History, at 311 7th Street, SE, also specializes in one of kind exotic gifts that he has collected from all over the world.  Walking into the shop immediately stimulates your senses with wonderful aromas of Middle Eastern incenses, bright colors, and a staff that will spend quality time with you.  While rugs are their specialty, the store is also filled with clothes, jewelry, sculpture, and other interesting items. Best part of the visit– Mehmet can transport you to another world with his poetry and stories.

Woven History owner Mehet Yacin shows one of the camel toys often seen outside his shop. Photo: Rindy O’Brien

Chat’s Liquor store is a place that you know your granddad would feel totally at home in.  Marcus Pickett, manager, says a good way to get to know about wines and spirits is to attend their weekly tastings on Friday night from 6 to 9 p.m. for spirits, and Saturday afternoons from 3 to 6 for wine.  He would be delighted to help you gather all the ingredients for the trendiest cocktails this season.

Clothes Encounters is another shop where you can only find only one of a kind fashion.   A women’s consignment store located at 207 7th Street, SE has been offering designer pieces for reasonable prices since 1979.

Making it Personal

H Street corridor may be known for its nightlife, but tucked in between the restaurants and bars, is the Daily Ride.  Soon to move to its expanded headquarters at the Apollo Building, 600 H Street, SE, this is a useful bicycle and essential accessories shop.  If you are shopping for bikes for the youngest to the oldest person on your list, Loren Copsey, co-owner of the Daily Rider, can guide you. “The smallest bike, known as a balanced bike, is an excellent way to get tots on a bike by letting them learn how to balance before starting to pedal,” says Loren.  The Striders are quite popular with the tot set on the Hill.  “Buying a gift certificate,” Loren suggests “ may be the best way to give a bike, since it really is important to fit the bike to the rider.”   Besides the bigger ticket item of a bike, the shop has cool messenger bags and other stocking stuffers for your cycling friends.

Loren Copsey of Daily Rider on H Street has great advice for finding a bike that works for your family. Photo: Rindy O’Brien

New or experienced cyclists can also turn to City Bikes and its sleek new bike store on 8th Street.  The store’s expert staff can guide you in buying a new bike.

The Forecast has been dressing Capitol Hill gals for decades and has a loyal customer base that knows they will look just perfect for all the holiday gatherings in their new fashion. “Our customers know that we can find just the right look for them,” says Debbie Danielson, owner.  For over 40 years, the store, located across from Eastern Market at 218 7th St. SE, has gathered lovely objects that make the perfect hostess gift, or a special holiday décor item that magically transforms your house. One of the most interesting items for your urban friends is a roller bag that would be perfect for grocery shopping at the market. Special gift-wrapping makes the store popular with those of us that are all thumbs.

Hometown Goodness

Local shops also provide very special merchandise that celebrates Capitol Hill or DC and can make a great gift to display your neighborhood pride.  Why not show off your runner’s body in a Summit to Soul T-shirt or tank top with Hill Runner embossed on the sleeve?  And wouldn’t every Mom and Dad be thrilled with an onesie for his or her baby that celebrates the DC flag?  Puzzles and maps of Capitol Hill are also great gift ideas with a local touch.  Almost every merchant has one or two special hometown items to choose from.

Summit to Soul at 727 8th Street SE is the go to store for women’s running and yoga apparel.  The shop will be participating in a number of the local pop up events around town as well as being available six days a week to help you pick a sporty top, pants, or accessory for your favorite athlete.

There are also a number of frame shops on Capitol Hill that can help you take one of your favorite photographs or child’s paintings and turn them into works of art.  The Capitol Hill Frame and Photo at 725 8th street is offering a 45 % discount for framing if you mention the Hill Rag and give a week’s production time. With over 50 frames in stock, storeowner, Nadin Jan, can also provide a one-hour service.

Frame of Mine has framed over 11,000 pieces of art in its 35-year history on Capitol Hill.  The staff has tremendous talent in helping each customer find the right frame or box for their antique maps, photographs, and objects.  To get it back in time to be under your Christmas tree, work needs to be in the store by early December.  The frame shop is at 545 8th Street, SE.

A few blocks east of Frame of Mine, Newman’s Gallery, a long time local frame shop at 513 11th Street, SE, is also a good bet for framing your special artwork for the holidays.  The frame shop has been providing frames for Smithsonian exhibitions to children’s portraits since 1984.

Meows and Woof Woof’s

Judging from the 200 dog portraits hanging in East City Books special entry gallery, we cannot leave out our four legged friends this holiday season.

Wagtime II located in the Navy Yard has rooms of toys, bones, sweaters, and almost anything else doggy in its shop.  It has a large section of kitty related toys, collars, and even books on how to cook for your cat.  Non-pet owners may even want to walk over and get a Presidential Parody Small Dog Toy of Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. Wagtime II has a huge selection of balls, stuffed toys, and rawhide bones that should satisfy every kind of dog on the Hill.

Howl to the Chief is one of the Hill’s most civic-minded merchants.  In addition to having been voted Best Pet Shop in DC year after year, the store offers adoption events every weekend from 12 to 3 pm. The store is found at 733 8th Street SE.  Kitty owners are raving about the new hemp cat toys and a soft stuffed lamb toy surely will make some small dog very happy.   Cute dog-themed pillows are the perfect gift for your favorite dog mom or dad.

By shopping locally, not only are you making the season of gifting easy on yourself, but also you are giving back to our local businesses whose philanthropic support of our community is incredible throughout the year.  Let’s make this holiday season the best ever by shopping near home.

Rindy O’Brien is a long time resident of Capitol Hill. She can be reached at rindyobrien@gmail.com and will definitely be seeing you at our local shops.

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