If ever there was a holiday season where spirits needed to be uplifted and smiles brought back to the faces of young and old alike this is it. And, there is no better place to find that certain something to accomplish that task than in small specialty shops.
They not only have gifts one cannot find in the big box and chain stores, they offer them with a neighborhood friendliness and knowledge of their products that seems to be only a distant memory in today's mass marketing world. For that special package under the tree come Christmas morning visit these holiday treasure troves.
In the Mount Vernon area there's nothing like Hollin Hall Shopping Center on Fort Hunt Road for one stop shopping with easy parking. And, one of the most complete stores in the small strip mall for just about every need, not just at the holidays, but throughout the year, is The Variety Store, 7902 Fort Hunt Road.
Well under way for its second 50-year run under the new ownership of Doug Bentley, The Variety Store, has it all from do-it-yourself decorating supplies to decorated gift boxes that need no wrapping.
Two of this year's "must have" offerings are musical and lighted gift bags. The musical bag sells for $2.79 and the fiber optic lighted bag goes for $4.69.
For those who like to wear their Christmas cheer there are holiday hats depicting Santa's elves, snowmen, and St. Nick. There is also a Christmas tree hat with a star on top that lights for the really venturesome. It sells for $9.98. Other hats range from $1.99 to $4.29.
For home decorating there is everything from ready-made bows, to an array of ribbons, to garland, wreaths, baskets, strings of lights, and all the accessories needed to create an individualized holiday spectacular. The Variety Store is just that— something for every need whether during the holidays or in mid summer.
Next door at 7906 Fort Hunt Road is The Blossom Shop, a floral shop with a wide range of specialty gifts and items for giving and decorating. Owner Dorothy Trimber also does personalized home and business decorating by appointment.
One item that immediately catches the shopper's eye is the illuminated 10-inch lighted snowmen and penguins that are the perfect addition to any home decorating efforts. When lighted they also have swirly snow within that constantly changes color. They are $54 each.
Enhancing any holiday table for parties or family is a group of ceramic food imitations that include a full scale gingerbread house, candy cane trees, decorated cup cakes, and a wooden chocolate wreath. There are several decorated seven-foot trees throughout the shop that display an array of items both on their branches and underneath.
Finally, there is The Gift Store, 7910 Fort Hunt Road, owned and operated by Deborah Bentley. It is home to some of the most unusual and spectacular music boxes in the region. This year's most recent addition is a large winter scene with a model train priced at $127.50.
Other selections include a Merry Go Round at $110 and a Roller Coaster at $127.50. For that special stocking stuffer there are miniature music boxes with different winter and holiday scenes that play when the see-through top is opened. They sell for $16.50 each.
Instead of the usual greens on the mantel, how about a holiday or colonial lighted streetscape. They can be found at The Gift Store for $64.95 and $24.95 depending on size.
The perfect addition to any holiday decorating collection are the wood carvings of Harwood Creek by Jim Shore. Among those selections are decorative wooden trees at $20.95, reindeer at $24.94 and Santa seated on the chimney, taking a break from his annual rounds, at $25.75.
NOT TO BE OUTDONE there are the shops in the Bellehaven Shopping Center on Belleview Boulevard. At the eastern end of that center is Hodges Galleries that, in addition to custom framing, has a wide array of unusual potential gifts. Their framing can also be done up to within a couple of days before Christmas.
For anyone wanting to show off their "green" dedication during the holidays, Hodges Galleries has just the thing — recycled aluminum serving dishes that won't tarnish. Various pieces range from $18 to $85 and include such items as a large platter and an assortment of varying sized bowls.
For that Scottish Walk Weekend party there is a Westie Dog Band in full Scottish garb. The large Westie serves as a cookie jar and the two smaller dogs are banks. The jar is priced at $40 and the banks at $18.75 each.
The Gallery also has an array of ornaments and other potential gifts not readily found elsewhere. Their Pilgrim Ornaments, designed in Wisconsin and made by Thailand villagers go for $10 each. Some are even on Christmas cards.
As with every holiday season, some of the most specialized, conversation stimulating gifts can be found at The Virginia Florist, 1632 Belleview Blvd. Again this year there is the five-foot Santa adorned in flowing robes and surrounded by various potential gift items.
For something more in line with the greenery symbols of the season there is a large evergreen reindeer with a colorful bow around his neck. And, in keeping with the present Wall Street bear market there is a five-foot bear chef with his holiday apron.
In honor of the Abraham Lincoln anniversary, The Virginia Florist owner, Kevin Green, has brought in hand carved models of the Lincoln Memorial to be used as bookends. The one on display is perched atop a stack of antique books that complement the memorial miniature.
As well as offering a variety of floral possibilities for individual purchases, the shop also provides floral decorations to both businesses and private homes throughout the year as well as during the holidays.