Painting with Light…

to help YOU find the magic behind each passing moment.

Small Businesses | Holiday 2012 Shopping Guide


I saw a Washington Post article this morning which reported that as a result of Superstorm Sandy, small business sales went up 5.2% in November. Small and large businesses alike had a busy month in November 2012, but the road ahead is still bumpy and full of uncertainty. When you are trying to cover a large gift list on a tight budget, it often makes more sense to get your shopping done in chain retailers like Target or any mall store out there. However, during this time of year, it is even more crucial to support the “little people” and help small businesses excel. It’s not just a fad, it’s the reality of hard-working individuals in our world today. Plus, these gifts have longevity… rather than splurging on the latest trends that will die out in early 2013 (or get shoved in the closet), why not purchase gifts that are personal, hand-crafted and made with the utmost care? Or simply, give the gift of good eating, drinking and EXPERIENCE?

If you still need to finish your holiday shopping (or and want to save this list for future gift-giving occasions) and believe in mindful gift-giving, here are some of my favorite small businesses and vendors to support:

{LOCAL :: DC/Baltimore Metro Area}

1.) Zerflin – my friend from college (Benjamin) and his wife Tamika head this Baltimore-based graphic design company. They feature real. good. design. with the client in mind and keep things honest. Zerflin is currently selling artwork from their recent exhibition, “The Who Said What” art show, featuring famous quotes submitted by friends and fans and designed on a 21-day road trip across the US of A. You can also get a spiffy awesome t-shirt with the official Zerflin logo (on quality light-weight cotton) for a great price. Check them out!

2.) Dolci Gelati – an artisan gelato company based in Washington DC, featuring seasonal, all-natural ingredients made with passion and flair. The company was started in 2006 by pasty chef Gianluigi Dellaccio. Gianluigi stirs up his creative magic every day in his “Laboratorio del Gelato” and the results always make my taste buds sing. Dolci Gelati is currently featuring mint chocolate chip gelato (my childhood fave… yum!) as a special holiday flavor and can customize any flavor order! Other holiday flavors (pack of 4) include gingerbread, cranberry-orange sorbetto, pumpkin pie and dark chocolate peppermint. If you are hosting a holiday party and need dessert ideas, Dolci Gelati gelato is simply perfection!

3.) St. Elmo’s Coffee Shop – an authentic community gathering place, located in the heart of the artsy Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, VA. This coffee shop features live music, open mike, artwork on display by local artists, a unique “take a book, leave a book” library and board games. Best of all, their coffee is superb and roasted by the Chesapeake Bay Roasting company (local!). They also feature a variety of sandwiches, cookies, baked goods and other treats either made on site or from Caboose Cafe (another local eatery) at affordable prices. Check out the merchandise and gift sets, sure to please any coffee lover on your holiday shopping list!

{OUT OF STATE :: in the US of A… somewhere!}

4.) Dinner Dealer (North Shore, Boston Area, MA) – as if running her boutique graphic and web design company wasn’t enough to keep her busy, star designer and business owner Jessica Brand (who also happens to be one of my good friends and study abroad roommate) launched Dinner Dealer in late 2012. Dinner Dealer is a coupon “deck of cards” (think Groupon and the Entertainment Book having a baby together!) featuring over 40 participating restaurants in Boston’s North Shore Area. The more you buy, the more you save. Online ordering available as well. 

5.) Touch of Italy (Lewes, DE) – This is a family-owned Italian cafe, with several locations (a bakery, a meat/cheese shop and soon to be opening a restaurant) in the Lewes-Rehoboth Beach, Delaware Area. I discovered this gem in 2011 when my mom and I stopped in for some sandwiches and a slice of Italian marble cake. They feature fresh pizzas, sandwiches and pastas using authentic Italian recipes and seasonal, fresh ingredients. Each store also has a nice selection of Italian groceries and holiday products, such as the delicious panettone from Italy. Their Italian cookies (pignoli and amaretti being my faves) are scrumptious and the perfect compliment to your steaming cup of tea, coffee or (sparkling) prosecco! They also make the ideal holiday party gift! **Online ordering is coming soon, but for now, Touch of Italy takes phone orders.

6.) Avenue Apothecary and Spa (Rehoboth Beach, DE) – For those who want to give the gift of experience (or relaxation), why not treat someone to a spa service at Avenue in Rehoboth Beach? For many of us in the DC Area, Rehoboth Beach is a popular tourist destination year-round. Why not treat a loved one (or yourself) by purchasing a spa gift certificate and using it the next time you are in town? Avenue also features a boutique, with essential oils and hand-made eye pillows from Sonoma, CA being my favorites.


7.) Alien’s Day Out Bake Shop (South Korea) – and finally, another friend from college makes it big in the world of small business ownership! Mipa Lee is an artist, writer and vegan living in meat-product heavy South Korea. She started the Alien’s Day Out blog in 2009 to record her journey, share curelty-free recipes and treasured vegan finds in the cities and towns of South Korea. Since then, Mipa has been able to connect with a community of like-minded individuals who share her passions and interests. She now offers delicious vegan desserts (cupcakes, bread, muffins and cookies) in her Vegan Bake Shop online. Orders can also be custom-made, but shipping can only take place in Korea for the time being. If you are interested in ordering some delicious vegan goodies, click here.

Are you an artist or small business owner? Would you like to be featured in a future “Small Business Shopping Guide” post? Email me at with information on your business, links to your website, Twitter/Facebook, etc. and a brief description of the products/services you offer. 

**Feel free to COMMENT and ADD the names of your favorite small businesses to this list. Happy Holidays!


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