A few decades ago, holiday gift giving for Loudouners meant beating a path to Tysons Corner. But in the 21st century, it’s easier than ever to give fabulous locally made gifts. With the explosion of wineries, distilleries, artists and other producers in the county, shoppers can score unique finds while giving the local economy a boost.
“People come here to find things they don’t see anywhere else. That’s always been my goal,” said Amy Turner, owner of the Twigs boutique in Purcellville, where she specializes in locally crafted items as well as U.S.-made and fair-trade gifts.
Turner said some of her most popular items are Sydney Hale Co. candles, made in Loudoun but sold at retailers across the country.
The soy-based candles, hand-crafted by Meghan and Chris Cook on their farm near Purcellville, have national distribution thanks to their stylish, retro packaging and scents like applewood/birch, bergamot/black tea and bourbon/brown sugar. And Twigs is the only Loudoun retail outlet for the company.
“People are going crazy over these candles,” Turner said. “The scents are so unique.”
Honey from beekeeper Bill Bundy, produced on his Red Gate farm near Leesburg, is another hot holiday seller, Turner said, illustrating a growing trend in gifting consumables for friends and family who have everything.
That trend is a winner for Kellie Capritta, who has developed a loyal following since launching her Catoctin Coffee booth at the Leesburg Winter Farmers Market in 2011. Capritta will hook coffee lovers up with a great latte while they shop, but her bread and butter is in selling fresh, small batch roasted coffee by the pound or half pound. And the weeks leading up to Christmas are her busiest time at the market, which is her biggest retail outlet (she also ships via her website catoctincoffee.com).
“It’s a great local, consumable gift,” Capritta said.
She offers a Christmas Blend—a ground blend of her Three Regions coffee with cinnamon nutmeg and cloves—and a dark roast Snowball Blend (sold ground or whole bean) featuring her Kenya and Sumatra roasts. Her customers are often looking to put together creative locally themed gift baskets for holiday giving—whether that’s a breakfast basket (featuring Catoctin Coffee paired with local bacon and eggs) or a coffee-lovers basket (featuring several blends along with a handmade mug.)
“I used to do gift baskets, but I found that people want to put their own spin on them,” she said.
The Leesburg Winter Farmers Market is one option for those looking for a one stop shop for Loudoun-made gifts. On Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon in November and December, the market offers a special craft market in addition to local produce, said market manager Kathryn Willis, with vendors like Two Hands in Harmony (handmade pottery), Made With Love (hand-knitted and -crocheted items), Full Moon Farm (handcrafted glassware), Solitude Wool (hand-dyed wool yarn and Loudoun Valley Sheep producers (wool and fleece items, including Christmas decorations). The market is held at the Virginia Village Shopping Center on Catoctin Circle SE.
The county’s burgeoning winery scene also makes for great gift giving. Loudoun wine is something truly local to offer loved ones, especially when heading out of town for the holidays, said Mark Fedor, owner of the award-winning North Gate Vineyard near Hillsboro. Customers looking for gifts gravitate toward Virginia’s marquee varietals—like Viognier, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, which may be new to friends and family.
Being able to say you met or tasted with the winemaker is a great conversation piece when gifting a bottle of local wine, Fedor said: “They want to give something that has a story behind it.”
Laurien Dowdy, a painter in Lucketts, started her jewelry business Talula Bea Designs four years ago and has grown a following in Loudoun for her jewelry, including beadwork and stamped metals.
“Everything I’m doing is always growing and evolving,” Dowdy said, so there’s always something fresh for longtime customers.
Lately, Dowdy is best known for her I Am line of necklaces, which she hopes will catch on beyond her own community. The simple, elegant necklaces are 3D printed in sterling silver from molds made from sea glass. Inspired by a friend’s suicide, a portion of profits from the I Am line goes to suicide prevention. Dowdy will host an open house at her home studio Saturday, Dec. 12, from 3 to 6 p.m. See details on Talula Bea Designs’ website.
For Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce President Tony Howard, shopping nearby is about keeping local dollars in the local economy, but it also offers something more.
“Shopping local creates a sense of pride and a sense of community—it’s a little less tangible [than the economic side] but it’s just as important,” he said. “It does something to support the quality of life and sense of place that people really strive for.”
Looking for some other made-in-Loudoun gift ideas? The county Department of Economic Development has a list of farm-based merchants at loudounfarms.org/products.
Contact Jan Mercker at firstname.lastname@example.org.