The holiday shopping season is upon us, and Capitol Hill’s small business owners are here for all of your shopping needs. From clothing to toys to gourmet food products and more, you can find something for everyone on your list right here on the Hill.
There are many reasons to shop locally, especially in a neighborhood like Capitol Hill, where you are buying from a neighbor when you buy from one of our independent businesses. Many of our store owners are fellow residents with whom you develop relationships over time. They get to know you and your family, which means that they can contribute significant expertise when selecting the perfect gift. And unlike the big chain stores, independent retailers have curated inventory that is much more enjoyable to browse.
Shopping at stores where you know people is also more fun, engaging, and gives you a sense of belonging. In turn, that contributes to your mental health, which is especially important as we deal with life during a pandemic.
Shop to Win
Shopping locally this year can also translate into prizes with the help of CHAMPS, Capitol Hill’s Chamber of Commerce. In place of its annual Sip and Shop event, which usually draws hundreds to our local retailers, CHAMPS has launched a Holiday Passport program. Shoppers can be entered into a raffle by shopping online or in-person at participating retail businesses between November 28 and December 11. You can learn more at capitolhill.org.
We spoke with several Capitol Hill business owners to get their advice on making this a successful shopping season. What they want you to know? You really can find something for everyone while shopping on the Hill.
2020 is the year to ditch the procrastination and get your shopping done early. With limits to the number of shoppers permitted in stores at a time, increased cleaning protocols, and altered business procedures, store owners everywhere are urging people to shop early this year.
If there is a specific item you are searching for, inquire with local shops about their ability to order it for you. Just because it’s not on their shelf does not mean that they don’t have access to it through their suppliers.
East City Bookshop (645 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, eastcitybookshop.com) is an excellent example of this. Simply browse for a title on their website and place an online order for delivery or pickup. They generally receive orders from their suppliers within two or three days and will call you when it’s ready. The Bookshop has set up a pickup window for online orders to manage crowds in the store, making the process very efficient. Keep in mind that it is vital to ask about special orders as early as possible.
If you can’t get the exact item you want in time, consider a gift card that will allow the recipient to pick out their perfect gift.
Shop (Locally) Online
Many retailers who did not previously have online shopping options have launched new digital sites to make it easier to order from them without making an appointment or waiting in line.
DCanter (545 8th St SE, dcanterwines.com) relaunched its website this summer with an upgraded user experience to make the online shopping experience as easy and enjoyable as possible. Owner Michael Warner remarked on the community that has formed from their online events. “We have a lot of regulars joining our Friday night ‘Taste at 8:00’ wine classes, and many have started to form some online friendships. It’s been a lot of fun to see how Capitol Hill’s strong sense of community has carried over into online events, even if we all long to share a glass of wine in person again soon.”
On H Street, C.A.T.Walk Boutique (1000 H Street NE, thecatwalkdc.com) has been leveraging social media to promote products. Owner Carolyn Thomas encourages anyone looking for unique women’s clothing to follow her on social media (instagram.com/c.a.t.walk_boutique/), where they can place orders and receive free shipping.
Labyrinth Games & Puzzles (645 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, labyrinthgameshop.com), which celebrated ten years on the Hill this November, offers most of its inventory on their new online shop; customers have the option to pick up their order in the store or have it shipped to them. Labyrinth now offers shipping to anywhere in the US, making it a great place to shop for all of the gamers and puzzlers on your list, near and far. The popular game shop has also launched a new Gift Assist program to help shoppers find the perfect gift.
To keep shoppers and staff safe, there will be limits to the number of patrons allowed in a store at any given time, browsing for long periods of time is discouraged, masks will be strictly required indoors, and you will be asked to sanitize your hands upon entry.
“If you’ve ever been to Hill’s Kitchen in a weekend in December, there are lines to the back of the store,” but it cannot be that way this year, says Hill’s Kitchen owner, Leah Daniels. “We are physically a small store, and we are limiting how many people can come in. I encourage people to shop alone or with one other person and to not come with their kids.”
It’s a change that is hard on the retailers as well as shoppers. “The fun of a neighborhood store is taking your time, browsing around, seeing what’s new. And that’s the fun of it as a retailer too,” Daniels said. “As a retailer, I want to create a place where you feel comfortable spending time; it’s a neighborhood touchstone. The reason that you love small businesses is that you love the people, you love the atmosphere that it creates, and that goes for all the stores in the neighborhood.” But safety must come first.
As have many store owners, Kathleen Donahue of Labyrinth Games and Puzzles has remained committed to maintaining both her staff’s safety and Labyrinth’s high level of customer service. “A store built around community interaction suffers when events must be postponed,” she remarked while also applauding the community’s support. “But with some luck and the outpouring of community support the business has received, Labyrinth is hopefully here for many more years of fun and games.”
Find Something for Everyone
Capitol Hill has a very diverse selection of retail shops. Some of my favorite stores for unique gifts these days are Steadfast Supply (301 Tingey Street SE #120, steadfastsupplydc.com) and Made in DC (multiple locations, shopmadeindc.com). Steadfast Supply features goods from independent brands and designers from around the globe, while Made in DC focuses on DC-based designers and retailers. They never disappoint, and I always seem to find something extra for myself.
The weekend Flea Markets at Eastern Market (easternmarket.net) is another spot that I always swing through for gifts. Shopping the Flea Markets is especially festive this time of year when you are treated to the smell of Christmas trees under the Farmers’ Line while you shop.
The pandemic has seen a rise in reading among all age groups, which means everyone could use a few new books this year. East City Books and Solid State Books (600 H Street NE, solidstatebooksdc.com) have you covered for all of the latest releases and popular finds of the year. And don’t miss out on the gems within Capitol Hill Books (657 C Street SE, capitolhillbooks-dc.com), where their amazing collection of used books spans the store’s three floors.
Right around the corner from Capitol Hill Books, pop into Fairy Godmother (319 7th Street SE) for children’s books and gifts. After, swing by Groovy DC Cards & Gifts (321 7th Street SE, groovydc.com) for home accessories, cards, and other gifts. Then head upstairs to Paris Bleu (321 7th Street SE), which has a fabulous selection of Parisian handbags, accessories, and gifts that will delight. Next, head a few doors down to Woven History & Silk Road (315 7th Street SE, wovenhistory.com) for beautiful handspun rugs.
If you or someone on your list is into fashion, you are covered from Yards Park to H Street. In addition to the women’s fashion at C.A.T.Walk Boutique, Clothes Encounters (202 7th Street SE, clothesencountersdc.com) offers an ever-changing selection of beautifully curated consignment clothes and accessories. A Ma Maniere (1214 H Street NE, a-ma-maniere.com) and Maketto (1351 H Street NE, maketto1351.com) also provide a great selection of fashion wears, including men’s items.
If you or someone on your list has taken up running as a way to exercise this year, Pacer’s on H (600 H Street NE, runpacers.com) has everything you need from shoes to clothes for both men and women. Summit to Soul (727 8th Street SE, summittosoul.com) carries a curated collection of responsibly-sourced athletic apparel and accessories and offers custom gift boxes that make great presents. They and Pacers also have a fun selection of DC-themed shirts that you’ll be proud to sport on your morning jog.
For gifts for your favorite pet, go to Howl to the Chief ( 733 8th Street, SE yummy yummy cookies, bones, and treats. The shop also has a wide variety of dog coats that will fit the smallest to biggest dog on the block.
Another dog haven, Dogtopia, 900 M Street, SE, in the Navy Yard, knows what dogs like. Besides offering daycare and boarding, the shop has a nice selection of dog and cat toys. Unleashed in the Navy Yard at 300 Tingey St SE, a part of the Petco chain, offers and wide array of toys, beds, treats, and more.
Music on the Hill is ready to help you surprise your loved ones this season. Come in and buy your instrument (appointments are required). From guitars to the most colorful collection of ukuleles around to Casio digital pianos, this shop is making sweet music. Instruments, gift cards for lessons, and fun stocking stuffers are all great ideas awaiting you at the store, 801 D Street, NE.
And finally, 2020 has been a long year, and the holidays call for some libations. DCanter, Chat’s (503 8th Street SE, chatsdc.com), and Schneider’s of Capitol Hill (300 Massachusetts Avenue NE, cellar.com) can help you keep your wine and bar cart stocked with the best-curated wines and liquors. Delivery is free on orders over $100. Chat’s even has a section featuring Black-owned wine and spirit companies that are fantastic picks. Each of these local stores is owned and staffed by experts who have impeccable taste and suggestions. What’s even better is that you don’t have to leave your house to send some spirited cheers to someone on your list because Schneider’s, DCanter, and Chat’s all deliver!
While you are out shopping this holiday season, be sure to tag @HillRag on Instagram to share how and where you are supporting your community by shopping local.
Claudia Rauch is a Capitol Hill native, a long-time resident of the Hill, and serves on the CHAMPS board. You can find her on Instagram at @claudiahrauch.