Why, yes, you can shop online or at the mall for holiday gifts …. or, you can get personalized, friendly service and distinctive, high-quality goods by supporting your Vienna-Oakton small businesses, typically owned by local people who give back to the community. Most of the owners know the background of their products, some of which are made by local artisans, and have pride in what they sell, from birdhouses to hand-crafted ornaments and the diversity of merchandise in between.
Since many of the world’s Christmas traditions originated in Germany, it’s fitting to buy – and use – a German-made Advent calendar filled with German chocolates to count down the days to Christmas. You can find these colorful, whimsical Christmas countdown calendars at drug stores, grocery stores, and gift shops.They range in price [depending on the glitter quotient] from $2 to $5.
The Connection features two holiday gift guides, so, if your favorite local business is not included in the first one, perhaps, you’ll see it featured in the December guide.
VIENNA BIRDWATCHERS SEED AND SUPPLY, 396 Maple Avenue E; Maple Avenue and Beulah Road intersection.
This year-old shop sells more than bird seed ---- although it does sell seed to attract birds of pretty-much any feather. It sells birdfeeders of all varieties, including the accoutrements – baffles - that make squirrel pilferage difficult, but there are “houses,” too. Houses with see-through walls for humans to peek through, and houses for bats, owls and squirrels, as well. The owners, Cindy and Jeff DeMeglio, are knowledgeable and passionate, and their prices are reasonable-enough to inspire your recipient to start a new hobby. The pocket guides make great stocking-stuffers.
The price for window-nest birdhouses with a see-through plastic wall for viewing are $25. Decorative birdfeeders start at under $30. The ornithologically-correct birdhouses are built by Coveside Conservation of Maine. There’s a bat “mansion” that holds up to 150 bats selling for $70.
You can buy an owl house at Vienna Birdwatchers and squirrel feeders. The store sells little bags and huge bags of birdseed, as well as fold-out bird and wildlife guides that make identification easier for the novice birdwatcher. It would be hard to find a stocking-stuffer more unique than that.
Call 703-242-4565 for store hours or go to www.birdwatchersvienna.com.
THE ARTFUL GIFT SHOP, 145 Church Street, NW, lower level.
Here’s the mission of The Artful Gift Shop: the products for sale must be handcrafted. Unique, one-of-a-kind pieces are the specialty of this little shop, from birdhouses crafted by local crafter Howard Lewis to natural soaps, jewelry, art pieces, and, one of the area’s most distinctive finds – handknitted hats and scarves.
Owner Peggy James, like many other Vienna shop owners, is more than a proprietor. James is one of the most active members and supporters of the Vienna Business Association, volunteering in VBA’s myriad community events, from the Halloween Parade to Oktoberfest. She’s everywhere in the community but makes the time to run her shop and fundraise on behalf of Homeless Animal Rescue Team.
James knows the history, background and producer of everything she sells. If Mayberry had a shopkeeper, Peggy James would have been it.
Artists collaborate with James to set prices. Elegantly handpainted handbags sell for $25 and up. Vienna crafter Howard Lewis designs and builds fanciful birdhouses that begin at $70. Handknit scarves and hats run from $18 each to about $32 for the combination hat/scarf.
For holiday hours and information, call 703-242-1220 or see www.artfulgiftshop.com
FREEMAN STORE AND MUSEUM, 131 Church Street, NE.
Known around Vienna as “Freeman House,” the white clapboard building in the historic Church Street district houses an upstairs museum and exhibit room, as well as an old-fashioned country store on the main level. Step into Freeman Store and you’ve stepped back in time.
In line with the history of the store – the building goes back to 1849 when it was called Lydecker Store – the ambiance and tenor reflects a bygone era of penny candy, pot-bellied stove and old-time toys and games. The store maintains a selection of Virginia-made food products the year-round.
Every year, Historic Vienna, Inc., administrator of Freeman House which is owned by the Town of Vienna, contracts artist Rachael Peden to design and handpaint holiday ornaments representing a Vienna icon. The individual ornaments sell for $19.50 each. The 2014 design depicts “Once Upon a Time,” the iconic little upscale toy shop that was housed in one of Church Street’s early 20th-century houses, not torn down.
Among the tried-and-true sale merchandise is Vienna-logo pottery made by a small Pennsylvania business. Pieces include mugs, storage containers, and serving pieces and prices start at under $10.
For information on stock, call 703-938-5187 or go to www.Historicviennainc.org. Or just stop by this nostalgic store that is unlike most of which consumers see nowadays.
TOY CORNER – Oakton Shopping Center, Suite # 106
When kids think of the December holidays, they think of cookies and gingerbread houses, evergreeen trees, parties, and gifts and toys. Mostly toys.
Toy Corner, a staple of the Oakton Shopping Center at the corner of Chain Bridge and Hunter Mill roads, offers classic toys and dolls and games, but, more than that, they offer personalized customer service. Walk through the door and an employee greets you and asks if you need help. Here’s what separates Toy Corner from mega-stores: the employees know their products well and understand what is age-appropriate. They take the time to walk around the store with their customers, answering questions from them.
And their science activity kit selection is without peer in the area. There are microscopes with low magnification for very young children and microscopes with high-quality magnification for older kids (sells for $90). Some of the smaller science “experiments” start at about $4.
A hot item for curious kids are the collection of Snap Circuits, a build-it-yourself electronic kit. Single-design kits start at $25.
Got a kid who loves Playmobil or Legos? They’re here. Corolle dolls? Yes, they’re here. Brain teasers, crafts, books and puzzles share space with classic toys.
Call 703-255-3232 for hours and questions regarding stock or see www.toycornerva.com/
ABC LIQUOR STORES OF VIENNA AND OAKTON
Vienna store: 436 Maple Ave E; 703-938-2476
Oakton store: Oakton Shopping Center, 2930 Chain Bridge Road, Suites 109-110; 703-242-2627
Big kids – over 21 years old – might appreciate the seasonal offerings of the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control store system. In addition to the ABC’s regular stock of fine domestic and imported spirits, local ABCs are selling holiday-inspired liqueurs and eggnogs, from candy cane flavored vodka to pumpkin spice cream-based libation. Eggnogs are made by several U.S. companies and are “spirited.” Prices for the seasonal liquors start at under $10 and usually sell out.