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Gifts All Around

Small shops offer big gifts for the true shopper.

Shoppers in Alexandria, Belle Haven and Hollin Hall have no excuse for not finding just the right gift.

With an abundance of options and help in creating that special holiday atmosphere at home or in the office shoppers are being offered a number of options to make this season a merry one.

Dorothy Trimber, owner of The Blossom Shop, on Fort Hunt Road, Hollin Hall Shopping Center, does both home and office decorating using either live materials or silk. The store also has an abundance of silk wreaths, swags and garland for people with a penchant for crafting.

"We charge $70 per hour labor to do the decorating if the customer provides the materials," Trimber said. "If we provide those materials the price depends on what they chose plus the labor."

Some of the decorations available for purchase include topiary trees, boxwood and berry vine wreaths, as well as a wide range of wreaths using a multiple materials. They start at $20 depending on size and type.

The Blossom Shop is much more than a florist. There are items such as birthstone ornaments costing $10 to more pricey Waterford tree decorations. For the food lover, this year the store is carrying a line of gourmet jams and dips by Robert Rothschild. The treats range in price from $8.50 to $10.

Next door at The Gift Store owned by Deborah Bentley is definitely the place to go if searching for conversation starters.

One of the most eye catching pieces is The Tornado Roller Coaster for $121. The cars are pulled up the track just like an actual coaster and then released to swirl their way to the bottom.

Joining the coaster are carrousels priced at $115 and $120 and a big top circus tent with moving acrobats for $149.95. There is a good selection of miniature music boxes concealed in containers no larger than a matchbox, plus a wide array of musical treats, ranging from skaters to urban scenes, in very elegant enclosures.

A NEW ADDITION to this year's holiday inventory is a collection of carved wooden figurines called the Hardwood Creek Collection. There is everything from a full nativity scene to Santa and his reindeer. Individual pieces range in price from $24.95 to $49.95. An exquisitely carved large snowman is available to complete the set at $156.95.

The Gift Store also features toys, baby clothing, large stuffed animals, cards, a large selection of decorating items, and fiber optic trees. There are also fiber optic winter scenes for the table or mantel.

For do-it-yourself decorators or shoppers looking items that can't be found anywhere else there is no place better than Hollin Hall Variety Store, at Fort Hunt Road. Whether shoppers are hunting for decor items like ribbon, wreaths, garland, faux flowers, they're there.

"One of our best selling items so far this year are tree ornaments that carry a beach motif such as beach chairs, flamingos, beach umbrella, and flip flops. I don't quite understand it, but we've had to reorder already," said store owner Charles "Ben" Vennell.

These items sell for about $2.95 each. Right next to them are more traditional pewter ornaments at $3.95 each. There is an entire wall of ornaments in every possible interest area from cowboys, to space enthusiasts, to miniature Christmas trees, stars and angels.

Two items particularly helpful to any harried Santa or Mrs. Claus are the decorated gift box and cookie tins. The boxes come in a variety of scenes, colors, shapes and sizes. They are decorated inside and out and require no wrapping — perfect for anyone mailing gifts.

Prices range from very small, jewelry-size boxes at 69 cents to $7.49 for the large size. There is also a good selection of cylindrical containers in festive colors for wine bottles.

Decorated cookie tins come in one, two and three pound sizes. They are priced from $1.98 to about $4 each.

Hollin Hall Variety is also the place for those needing tree lights, indoor or outdoor. A set of 100 lights is marked at $4.79; 50 for $2.98; and 20 at $1.39. There are packs of regular and flickering bulbs for battery or plug-in candles.

"We are importing these through a dealer in Richmond. Our orders are combined with those from other small stores. That way we can

match any price offered by the big stores who buy in much larger volume," Vennell said.

HODGES GALLERIES, on Belleview Boulevard in Belle Haven Shopping Center caters to people who love their pets and might be in the market for ornaments bearing likenesses of their furry friends. Owner Libby Bryant offers an array of ornaments from Department 56 depicting both feline and canine friends priced at $10 each. These are complimented by a tree full of elegant Cloisonne ornaments ranging in price from $12 to $20 each.

Antique lovers will also find a range of intriguing possibilities from an outdoor phone booth to a wrought iron, half circle plant stand.

Hodges Galleries is first and foremost an art shop specializing in restorations and custom framing.

"One of the reasons that our customers really appreciate us is that we will take framing jobs right up to the last minute for the holidays," Bryant said. "That means up to the week before Christmas."

Several doors away on Belleview Boulevard, is Keedo. A children's boutique selling clothing made in Capetown, South Africa. This season they are highlighting a new line of children's leather shoes known as Pip Squeaks. The price range is $28 to $32 per pair.

To the delight of children and possible consternation of adults, the shoe actually make small squeaks as the child walks.

"Of course they can be turned off," said Keedo owner Lori Botha.

The store offers and entire assortment of children's clothing from full attire to accessories.

"We have a lot of very good presents in the $10 to $20 range," Botha said.

In Old Town Alexandria one of the stores which always offers elegant and unusual gifts is Wilfred-Rodgers on King St. One of their most popular offerings for the past two seasons is the six piece "Marching Bear Band," which have returned this year.

This ensemble of bears dressed in marching attire plays several holiday songs as they march in place while being lead by their own drum major. The set is priced at $175.

This year, however, the bears' popularity may be challenged by a "Moose on Skies" for $32.95. This comical addition talks and sings as he "skies" across the floor on his way to a "merry, merry Christmas."

For the more traditional minded there is also a skiing Santa at $35.

"The moose has really been a big hit so far this year as well as our marching bears," said Stanley E. Rudy, owner. "And we still have our carousel and Nutcracker music boxes." They are priced at $165.

Other possibilities are multi-colored feather wreaths representing different seasons of the year at $44.95; a Lionel Train wall clock for the model railroader at $54.95; snow globes from $34 to $48; and a fiber optic snow village for $95.

LOCATED AT THE REAR of Gadsby Arcade is Gallery Lafayette. Once again, owner Todd Healy is offering his annual calendar featuring hand drawn, color prints of various Old Town scenes for $16.

Included is a picture of one of the most unusual structures in Old Town, a home located on Prince Street. According to Healy, the home dated back to colonial times and had been vacant for 50 years. It was purchased in 2004 and the owners opted to have electricity turned on in the home for the first time.

Other items in the Old Town motif are holiday cards at $16 for a pack of 10; Old Town gift tags at $5 for 10; and the annual Christmas ornament for $26.

There are many prints, both framed and unframed, available in a wide price range.

"Our cut off date for framing for the Christmas holidays is Dec. 19," Healy said.

The Christmas Attic's House in the Country is on N. Fairfax St. For holiday decorating this is the place, along with its counterpart, The Christmas Attic at S.Union St.

With a complete line of Department 56 village pieces and accessories, The House in the Country is the place for those who love to create. This year's addition are several Department 56 gift sets selling for $75 each, according to owner Betsy Husser.

EACH GIFT SET contains six pieces, including the Dickens "Christmas at Ashby Manor," a North Pole collection set titled "North Star Commuter Train," and Visiting Santa at Finestrom's for Christmas In The City which features a tree in the department store window that intermittently changes color.

Each store has items for holiday decorating. There are also a variety of gift possibilities.

Finally, Old Town Alexandria can brag of having the only true hobby shop in the immediate area. Known as Whistle Stop Hobbies it opened in May at S. Royal St. and offers a full compliment of items for anyone into model railroading.

"I wanted to reinvent the old hobby store," said owner Frank Kozuch. The store has everything for the hobby enthusiast -- trains, planes, automobiles, and boats. The store offers model trains in various sizes, plus their accessories. These are supplemented by model kits for rockets, race cars, and speed boats plus remote controlled planes, cars and boats.

One of the train sets known as the George Washington has a passenger car called "Gadsby's Tavern." The set sells for $495.95.

A 1909 Bing Train Set valued at $10,000 is not for sale, but it is displayed in a wall safe built into the store.

"This safe is one of the reasons I bought this place. At one time it was an insurance agency and they kept their valuable documents in this safe," Kozuch said.

Kozuch brought his love of trains into the holiday world with the addition of the Santa Railway Express. The trip was instantly popular and quickly sold out for the season.

ON A VRE TRAIN, passengers travel from Alexandria Union Station to Old Town Manassas Station on Dec. 9,16 and 23 for $10 per person. Santa will be on board to greet children and present them with a special holiday goody bag, according to Kozuch's advertising flyer.

"We sold out in 10 days," Kozuch said, adding that he could have sold another 800 tickets. "Next year we hope to have more available. People can sign up now for next year." The train can accommodate 200 people on each trip.