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The Evolution of Old Town Alexandria

The Old Town Shop is a destination boutique known for original branding, support for local artisans and vendors, and celebration of Alexandria’s history.

The Old Town Shop on S Union St is a destination boutique for locals and tourists. (Photo: Grace Billups Arnold)

Alexandria, VA – “Old Town Alexandria is unique. There are not a lot of places that can recreate history,” says Valerie Ianierie, owner of The Old Town Shop on S. Union Street.

A recreation of history is a delicate balance of maintaining historical integrity while simultaneously shifting culture with the times. As a long-time Alexandrian and since opening her shop in 2017, Valerie has witnessed that shift in culture while also promoting historical integrity.

The Old Town Shop is a destination boutique known for original branding, support for local artisans and vendors, and celebration of Alexandria’s history.

The Old Town Shop always supports local artisans and vendors, like The Hubbard Peanut Company. (Photo Grace Billups Arnold)

There are layers to The Old Town Shop:

· Curating local products like Hub’s Virginia Peanuts and works from Alexandria farmer’s market artisans

· Creating original products with the logo OTX

· Collaborating with local establishments like the tall ship Providence to develop custom retail products

· Celebrating Alexandria history with a regional history section in the shop

These four C’s have helped The Old Town Shop thrive during change, which has included blessing and challenge, celebration and struggle.

“Over the past four years since we opened the store, the increase in activity in Old Town Alexandria—thanks to investments made to redevelop the waterfront—have resulted in a vibrant community,” says Valerie.

With the relocation of the Old Dominion Boat Club in 2018, “the whole energy of the waterfront changed,” Valerie says. “It gave the waterfront more space and more possibilities, more opportunities and more tourism.”

More tourism meant more business for local establishments like The Old Town Shop. “Shoppers are looking for something unique, something to take home with them,” says Valerie.

The Old Town Shop designed its own logo for Old Town Alexandria – OTX. (Photo Grace Billups Arnold)

Before the pandemic, Valerie says, “Visitors who came into our shop would all walk away with something. We have been a mini visitor center with international exposure. It is so special for Alexandria to appeal outside the U.S. and be that place people want to come. That is the importance of preserving our historical charm.”

The Old Town waterfront stands alone, separate from other notable waterfronts such as Georgetown and National Harbor, with its historical charm and rapid growth. That growth came to a sudden halt when COVID-19 rocked the globe in 2020.

COVID-19 has challenged the world to begin anew. Residents and businesses in Alexandria, as elsewhere, have had to survive financial crises, health and safety challenges, and for many, a complete overhaul of business strategy. Others, however, have thrived, no doubt thanks to a sense of unity instilled by Alexandria’s historical charm.

“What is newsworthy is the underlying theme of the transformation of and investment in Old Town, and as it survived and even thrived through Covid,” says Valerie. “This local shop, against all odds, made it.

“And 2021 has started out to be the shop’s best year yet! As we continually develop new designs and products, we stay invested in supporting our community and promoting Alexandria’s historical charm.”

The Old Town Shop is a destination boutique for visitors from all over the world. (Photo Grace Billups Arnold)

With installations of public art and new restaurants opening on the waterfront (one actually on the water), and the conversion of lower King Street into a pedestrian mall, you can see and feel Alexandria thriving. The Old Town Shop strives to embody that feeling and make it tactile, bring it to life.

“We want to make sure every sense is stimulated,” says Valerie. With delicate aromas, local food products, gentle music, bright colors, luxurious textures, and an interactive push-pin map for visitors to mark where they came from, The Old Town Shop stands true to itself and to our city.

Old Town’s focus on restoration, not redevelopment, has protected what is special and unique. We couldn’t have progress without the past, so we must preserve history while committing to the future. The fact that a chic tapas bar built on the water and an eclectic local boutique can coexist in a historic city demonstrates that change can be a beautiful thing.

ICYMI: DONATIONS NEEDED: Old Town Alexandria Diaper Drive for Community Organizations, May 2

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