Discover the perks of shopping with a small business this season.
By Kate Rader
The best gifts reflect both the giver and the receiver. Giving a thoughtful gift can show the recipient they are understood and cared for. It doesn’t have to be difficult—it just takes a little imagination and a visit to a locally-owned business, where retailers are ready to help you find the perfect gift.
GIFTS FOR A CUSTOM CONNECTION
At One Stop Jewelry Shop, Denise Jacobs greets customers with her infectious energy and passion for the business she shares with her husband Joe, a jeweler for more than 20 years. The couple works directly with each customer to find them that special, unique piece they’re looking for. They carry custom-designed rings, necklaces, bracelets, and earrings in gold, silver, and platinum made with carefully hand-selected stones. They also sell the popular Alamea line, which is designed in Hawaii using Larimar, a beachy, blue-colored stone sourced from the Dominican Republic.
Joe’s favorite pieces, however, are those he gets to collaborate on with clients. “People come in with an idea, and I work with them to understand their goals,” he says. “They work directly with me. Once I understand all the detail they’re looking for, I can make it exactly how they want it.”
Joe first sketches the design and then models it in 3D to show the client. They choose the metal and stones, and the design is sent for casting. When it returns, Joe sets the stones and adds the finishing touches.
Joe remembers the stories behind each piece he creates. One dad was particularly proud when his daughter bowled a perfect game and asked Joe to design a pendant for her with the number 300, a bowling pin, and her birthstone. Another couple wanted a ring shaped like a hose clamp after they got engaged at Home Depot. Other special pieces have celebrated race car wins, breast cancer recovery, grand-parenting, and more. The couple value the joy they bring to their customers. Joe says, “It’s all about the expression on their face when you hand them that special, unique piece no one else has.”
One Stop Jewelry’s Alamea line is designed with materials like larimar and Koa wood, inspired by a Hawaiian lifestyle.
FOR THE POP CULTURE ZEITGEIST
Retro-Metro—the wonderfully quirky brainchild of owner Sherri Johnson—offers a gift shopping adventure filled with Instagram-worthy moments. The former graphic designer curates her merchandise to meet standards that have garnered the downtown Frederick, MD store the “Best Specialty Shop” award in several area magazines and the Frederick News-Post. “Every single thing in our store is something I would buy for myself or someone else. It’s all handpicked, of great quality, and at a good price.”
Sherri organizes the store’s wide selection into themed “collections” which are always changing. There are “sassy girl” items celebrating wine and girls’ night out; “nerd subculture” items with pop culture icons like Star Wars, Star Trek, and Bob Ross; and out-of-the-ordinary gifts for dads, pets, kids, and more.
With a menagerie of novelties and toys, home décor, accessories, and stationery, customers can count on “something for everyone”—if they’re up for some fun.
Popular items include socks with giggle-worthy sayings like “pretty decent boyfriend” and “go away I’m introverting,” a line of foul-mouthed linens and cosmetic bags from Twisted Wares, seasonal items, and tongue-in-cheek office supplies to help you get through the workday. The store’s Maryland Pride collection—which features accessories and décor emblazoned with the Maryland Flag and Old Bay logos—has grown so popular that Sherri has added Frederick- themed items as well.
While some products are available online, Sherri suggests visiting in person for the best experience. “Our inventory is always changing. People don’t always know what they want until they get here. The best way to experience our collections is to walk around and see a variety of things and just laugh and have a good time with your friends.”
It’s important to Sherri that customers feel welcome. She believes that Frederick helps support its small businesses and that in return, they help make downtown areas vibrant. Shoppers can check items off their list and enjoy themselves. “Frederick offers a great afternoon experience, places to go eat, drink, and mix in an event.”
Not sure what to give this year? Retro-Metro curates collections of themed items for inspiration, including gifts like these to show off your Maryland pride.
Fueled by their passion for collecting, Greg and Janie Henry opened Queen Street Gallery, which offers hard-to-find items from limited edition posters to African art, and West Virginia Glass Company, which features useful and beautiful artisan glass.
FOR THE CONNOISSEUR
A longtime retail anchor in Martinsburg, WV, the Queen Street Gallery reigns when it comes to shopping for hard-to-find collectibles. Husband and wife Greg and Janie Henry began as avid art and glass lovers turned retailers. “Everything we sell, we collect,” Greg says, of the wide selection of items that fill approximately 6,500 square feet of retail space—ranging from oil paintings from the 1600s, to jewelry from the Victorian Era, to glass from the 20th century.
In addition to custom framing services, Queen Street Gallery is filled with classic and modern art, mid-century furniture, spectacular estate and costume jewelry, and several notable specialties, including nearly 4,000 rare posters and prints from artists, shows, and movies—not to mention the largest selection of African art on the East Coast.
As demand for locally-made glass grew, Greg and Janie opened the West Virginia Glass Outlet just down the street. The airy, colorful shop carries ornaments, animals, vases, and more from current makers like Blenko Glass to now-closed factories like Fenton Art Glass.
Understanding what a collector is looking for isn’t always easy, but the Henrys freely share their knowledge and passion for finding that perfect item. “We provide insight into the history of pieces. Art can be intimidating but it doesn’t matter here if you know anything about art or you don’t—we treat you the same.”
BEFORE YOU GO
One Stop Jewelry Shop Hagerstown, MD
Retro-Metro Frederick, MD
West Virginia Glass and Queen St. Gallery Martinsburg, WV
AN OUNCE OF RETAIL WISDOM
Two Locals weigh in on their favorite tips for shopping small.
When Kathryn Gratton’s stepson Jarrett and his girlfriend welcomed a new baby this year, she knew just what to get for the young couple. “I’m getting them gift cards to different local restaurants so they can have a date night each month,” she says. Kathryn enjoys the variety and quality she finds shopping with small businesses and likes that it gives back to the community, too. When her daughter suggested she try bath bombs from BATH in Waynesboro, she discovered they were willing to customize their formula for her cinnamon allergy. “People remember who you are, greet you, and chat with you. Shopping local is my go-to. I love it.”
- Search for small businesses on social media by location and product.
- Don’t exclude a local business that’s outside your area. “Most can ship anywhere now. I can get cookies from a small business in California.”
- Gift cards give a small business a boost in sales, but they also encourage additional spending when they’re used.
- When it comes to finding the perfect gift, Lydia Elsner prefers the hunt. “I don’t want to buy that gift that everybody’s got,” she says. “It’s fun finding something that’s unexpected.” Historic areas like Shepherdstown and Harpers Ferry are two favorite areas where she can find items like handmade jewelry, popcorn, wine, bath salts, and even local art. “I don’t mind paying for something original, because it’s unique.” She enjoys making a day of her shopping, stopping at various places to get stocking stuffers or grab a cup of locally roasted coffee. “New things are always coming in. It’s fun to walk around, especially in the fall and at Christmas.”
- Pay in cash for smaller purchases. “I know it costs a lot for credit card fees, and every little bit makes a difference for a small business.”
- Bring your own reusable bags, especially for larger items.
- Wherever you’re shopping, make it enjoyable. Plan to eat out at a locally owned restaurant while you’re there.