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Looking for the Perfect Gift This Year?

Patronize the local merchants and discover some special items.

Special holiday gifts are waiting to be snapped up in some of the most unusual places. Don’t overlook local businesses when doing the annual holiday gift buying. They are located in just about every nook and cranny. The following is a random sampling of some local businesses in the Mount Vernon and Alexandria area. The list is by no means inclusive, and for every store mentioned here, there are dozens more just waiting to be discovered.

<sh>The Gift Store

<bt>Charming music boxes, decorative sweater vests and an extensive supply of military gifts. These are just a few of the things found at The Gift Store in the Hollin Hall Shopping Center.

“The music boxes are a big hit,” said Deborah Bentley, owner of The Gift Store, as she proceeded to turn on the Nutcracker music box ($165, with four different scenes); piano ($165, plays 15 different tunes — half holiday and half generic); ballet dancers ($181.50, dainty ballerinas); and a xylophone music box with ballet dancers. They also have matchbox boxes for $11.50 each.

“We sold out of the nutcracker boxes before Thanksgiving,” Bentley said. “The piano has been a favorite too. They just go and go.”

The military collection has been popular. With items like frames, bookends and photo albums with the various services’ insignias, they make nice gifts for military men overseas. The faux fur and suede jackets ($57.95-$62.50) have been flying off the hangers. They come with horses, cats, dogs and other embroidered items. Sherry Shultz decided that the one with the horse motif would be just right for her mother-in-law and snapped it up last week. The Gift Store also has an extensive line of Red Hat items, very popular with ladies 50 and over.

The Gift Store is located at 7910 Fort Hunt Road, call 703-660-8550.

<sh>Holly, Woods & Vines

<bt>Glittering trees filled with decorations are waiting to be picked at Holly, Woods & Vines. Check out the theme trees; one is decorated with all blue & white decorations; another in a nautical theme; yet another with whimsical decorations and one with colorful porcelain dolls. There are plenty of traditional decorations as well. Roping, wreaths, centerpieces and more can be found at this garden store. Don’t forget the gardener or pond lover on your list; Holly, Woods & Vines has a nice selection of gifts for these aficionados.

Holly, Woods & Vines is located at 8453 Richmond Hwy., call 703-799-1607.

<sh>Classics & Country

<bt>Anybody looking for bears, angels, Santas or snowmen can find them at Classics & Country. Stella Ploutis said that they have wood snowmen and Santa figurines from Jim Shore; decorative angles from Willow Tree; resin and plush figurines from Boyd’s Bears and lots of home décor items.

They have a full line of Yankee candles and Lang Graphics. Also popular are the holiday figurines from WilliRaye Studios and the whimsical Kringles figurines. Look for the advertisement in this week’s Gazette and receive 20% off on all items other than Dept. 56.

Classics & Country is located at 8365 Richmond Hwy., call 703-360-6443.

<sh>The Gift Shop at Inova Mount Vernon Hospital

<bt>While not typically thought of as the first place to do holiday shopping, the hospital’s gift shop has a nice selection. Louise Hopkins is one of the buyers for the shop and said that all of the items left over from the holiday bazaar are stocked at the shop; these include an extensive line of food gift items, like sauces, spices, soups, jellies, nuts, dressings and dips.

Also available for sale are assorted holiday figurines, ceramic angels and nativity sets. They carry several music boxes, including a Ferris wheel, merry-go-round and piano.

Inova Mount Vernon Hospital is located at 2501 Parker's Lane; call 703-664-7313.

<sh>Mikel’s Antiques & Garden

<bt>Therea are only a few weeks left to find a one-of-a-kind gift at Mikel’s Antiques and Interiors. After years of running this special shop in North Old Town, owner Doris Reither has decided to close her doors at the end of the year. Everything is being sold at a 50% discount; Christmas items at 75%. Reither anticipates that she will be sold out by the middle of December.

“It’s bittersweet — I’m excited, but sad,” she said. “My customers are sad.”

Abaca Imports is currently subleasing part of the store, but Reither is not sure who is going to move into the space, which is bordered by MetroStage and Café Marianna.

Still available for sale are some nice antiques, Rose Garden china, Mikasa china and an assortment of whimsical decorations from Fanciful Flights.

Mikel’s is located at 1201 N. Royal St., call 703-684-2901.

<sh>Empowered Women International Inc.

<bt>Help others while helping yourself to find some new and innovative original works of art. Empowered Women International Inc. (EWI) is a non-profit organization located on Prince Street in Old Town, Alexandria. They feature the works of immigrant and refugee artists such as Edith Graciela Sanabria & Chela Sanabria, Bolivia; Pallavi, India; Mekbib W. Gebertsadik & Meseret Desta, Ethiopia; Diana Ngbokoto, Romania; Shakuntala Hira, India; and Fataneh Dadkhah, Iran.

These artists and artisans comprise A Woman's Story Gallery and they are busy creating handmade holiday gifts. Paintings, jewelry, Indian handmade bags and shawls, greeting cards, home accessories and Christmas tree decorations are just a few of the gifts that can be found at the gallery. A Woman's Story Gallery will be open Nov. 26, 27, 28, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. and then Mon.-Fri., 10 a.m.-6 p.m. between Dec. 1-20.

“We proudly invite you to shop with us, and to empower immigrant women by investing in their talent and artwork,” said Marga Fripp, founding president, EWI.

EWI is located at 1212 Prince Street; call 703-778-3799 or send email to: CFripp@aol.com.

<sh>Hobby Town USA

<bt>Locally owned and operated, Hobby Town USA opened a few months ago in Gunston Plaza. Manager Alex Lane said that RC — remote control — cars are very popular. These aren’t your grandfather’s RCs. Lane said that some of these cars do 40 to 80 miles per hour. He also said that a lot of the cars are gas-powered and have piston engines and that people use them for competition racing. He plans to hold a race in the parking lot of the Gunston Plaza next spring. Prices for the RCs range from $200-500.

Hobby Town also has a full line of Legos, Brio and K’nex. They have puzzles, models, games, action figures, war game characters and accessories and much more. Lane said they have people available during the week (not weekends) to help with some assembly of items.

Hobby Town USA is located at 7714 Gunston Plaza, Lorton. Va.; call 703-339-6420.

<sh>Territory

<bt>Gloria Blalock and Tamara Schulman opened their new store this past Mother’s Day.

“We opened on Mother’s Day because we're both mothers, and we looked at this as another child,” said Schulman.

Blalock said, “We wanted to create a store that was a lot like a home. In the back, we have a kid’s section set up with snacks, crafts and games.”

Since May, the two owners have been busy building up their business, where they sell a line of select furniture and accessories and provide interior design services.

“We have hundreds of catalogs, and thousands of fabrics,” Blalock said.

While they have many large pieces — both new and antique, there are also plenty of fun gift items for the holidays as well. Check out their soy candles and their boxed Voluspa candles. The latter sell for $40 and the scents, of orange and pear, are as real as can be. Check out the holiday ornaments; the coinboxes ($125); amazing doorstops ($25); Captain's telescope boxes ($245); and cast iron cows ($65). There are two sizes of cloches and two sizes of canisters; they are all etched crystal from Romania and sell for $40-65. A wooden table-top lectern makes a nice rest for a cook book. The set of tea towels, designed with spotted deer, makes a nice hostess gift.

“We focus on quality and uniqueness. If we find something at an amazing price, we will pass it along,” Schulman said.