Alexandria, VA – Two Alexandria gift shop owners have a simple message for this season’s holiday shoppers: Think small and shop local!
“Especially this year, the ‘think small and shop local’ message resonates more than ever,” said Willow Wright, owner of Urban Redeux on Cooper Road, an eclectic collection of unique vintage and modern resale housewares and décor.
Nicole Scott-Howe, owner of Re-Design in a Day in Hollin Hall, agreed and took that notion one step further. “My mantra for customers this season is ‘treat yourself and treat someone else.’ There’s a lot of stress out there! So bring the spa home and pamper yourself.” Nicole’s store offers home décor, gifts, and housewares, as well as locally made jewelry, pottery, candles, and soaps.
They are right on the money, of course. With recent changes to the post office, shipping is unreliable this year and delays are already mounting. And as the coronavirus pandemic refuses to subside, no one wants to go to a crowded mall.
It all boils down to one inescapable fact: If you want small businesses to survive and thrive in your neighborhood, they need your support and your dollars. It’s as simple as that. In addition to easier parking, fewer crowds, and no traffic, local small shops offer something else that’s invaluable: personalized customer service.
Both women enjoy, and are eager for, the opportunity to go the extra mile for their clients, whether it’s offering design consultation, advice, and assistance on locating that hard-to-find gift, or strategizing teacher or office gifts on a budget.
They met a couple of years ago when Nicole wandered into Willow’s store. Willow had picked up a love of antiques and architecture from her dad. When newly married and broke, she turned to thrift shops, antique stores, and estate sales to find items she wanted in her home, and appreciated the lower prices and unique styles she found. “Urban Redeux happened because I wanted to open a shop I wanted to shop in,” she said.
Similarly, Nicole had worked in decorating and home organizing at various gift shops in Old Town and enjoyed repurposing and painting furniture. When she met Willow, Nicole said, “I want a store like this.” To which Willow replied, “You should open one!”
Willow encouraged Nicole to follow her dream, believing the rising tide lifts all boats. “I don’t see other stores as competition,” Willow said. “The more the merrier. People shop at more than one store all the time.”
The women often refer customers to each other and confer on operating hours and the shopping habits of customers such as millennials, the generation born in the 1980s and 90s. They both noted that many millennials appreciate vintage and antique items with a sensibility different from older generations. “They like things fancy but with a twist,” said Nicole. “They just do things differently. My advice, for everyone, is to mix old and new and create a style uniquely you.”
Both women have a shared challenge in raising awareness of their stores, which are located below the beltway in Alexandria, away from the popular neighborhoods of Old Town and Del Ray. It’s tough to get people to walk inside, but once they do, they rarely leave empty-handed. Both stores will have expanded hours in December, with private consultations and even limited delivery options. While the COVID-19 vaccine news looks promising, they know they need to just get through the winter.
Nicole wants people to take care of themselves, especially when it comes to mental health in this crazy COVID-19 culture. “My advice is to treat yourself to a nice soaking bath. When you’re shopping, be sure to treat yourself, and then treat someone else.”
Willow added, “I’d like all of us to give ourselves a break this year and save perfection for another time. We always hear about searching for the true meaning of Christmas. Seems we haven’t learned it yet, but maybe this is the year.”
Re-Design in a Day (redesigninaday.com) is located in the Hollin Hall Shopping Center at 7942 Fort Hunt Road in Alexandria; 571-371-8417. Urban Redeux (www.urbanredeux.com) is located on the corner of Cooper Road and Route 1 in Alexandria; 703-780-4301.