I had the luck to go to Alexandria, Virginia, a charming, historic community located 8 miles outside downtown Washington, D.C., right before it was shut down due to the corona virus. Looking back it seems like a lifetime ago when we were able to eat in restaurants with a large group or stroll into a store and browse around. What makes Alexandria unique is the absence of chain stores and restaurants. It’s filled with small boutiques, antique stores and local eateries that support sustainable brands, help the circular economy and promote seasonal, farm to table cooking. With Virginia set to open back up today it will be vital to support the small businesses that have been suffering from the shut down. So, if you are in the DC area or happen to be passing through, be sure to check out these spots.
Founded by Nicole McGrew, originally a lawyer from my home state of NJ, Threadleaf is a boutique committed to responsibly made clothing and accessories with respect to the environment, their suppliers and their customers. I bought some organic French moisturizing oil and originally designed cotton bandanas (a very prescient purchase!).
Bellacara is a cosmetic, skin and hair care store that has been in Alexandria for 20 years. Owned and edited by Angela Sitilides she carries several natural and ethical brands including RMS Beauty, Olio E Osso, One Love Organics, Maya Chia, Cannabliss, and Indie Lee.
Penny Post is more than just a stationary store. They carry fun cards and postcards made of recycled paper from brands like Blue Barnhouse, Pike Street Press, Lucky Horse Press, Near Modern Disaster, and Fugu Fugu Press. They have notebooks printed with soy ink by Designworks Ink, Baggu bags made from partly recycled material and handmade jewelry.
Ten Thousand Villages is perhaps the first fair trade store. Founded in 1946 by missionary Edna Ruth Byler, Ten Thousand Things works with artisans from 35 countries and markets their handmade goods. The Alexandria store is a gift shop carrying jewelry, accessories, home goods, teas, and artwork. I bought a bunch of all natural soaps that benefit the Palam Rural Centre which opens schools and helps local disadvantaged communities in Tirupur, India.
Caphe Banh Mi
Caphe Banh Mi offers delicious Vietnamese food. I’ll warn you, the place is small, the tables are very close together and it was packed when I ate there so don’t know how they will navigate the post-lockdown but it is worth going there even if it’s just for take out. I had the Pho and a Vietnamese coffee that was so yummy and strong I was levitating after I drank it. They have gluten free and vegan options.
Vermillion is an upscale yet cozy restaurant serving seasonal, farm to table food. They have amazing and innovative options for vegetarians and meat lovers and are known for their wine pairings. I highly recommend it.