Lifestyle & Culture

Shopping Old Town

May 18, 2014


Photo by Dra Schwartz / iStock

Photo by Dra Schwartz / iStock

NOW’S THE PERFECT TIME to visit the Old Town Boutique District (OTBD), 39  shops all within walking distance, showcasing one-of-a-kind items as well as popular brands in home decor, fashion, fitness, children’s apparel, books, food and wine.

Whether it’s a quick trip to pick up a must-have accessory for tonight’s cocktail party or to grab a graduation gift for your niece or nephew, the Boutique District offers plenty of opportunities to find something special. Furthermore, you can’t beat the personal attention and customer service that distinguish these independent retailers from the big chains. Here are three of my favorites:


Strappy high-heel sandals from Aerin at the Shoe Hive.

Tucked back in a courtyard, the Shoe Hive  (127 South Fairfax St., Alexandria, Va., 703-548-7105; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m, Monday to Saturday noon to 5 p.m. Sunday) is a regular destination for both me and my grown daughters. An independent retailer of shoes, bags, hats, and accessories, the Shoe Hive stocks Tory Burch, Butter, Stuart Weitzman, Hunter, Kate Spade, Sam Edelman and smaller brands like AGL and Aerin. One year, my NYC daughter was desperate to buy a Tory Burch flat, which she couldn’t find in any Big Apple store. The Shoe Hive had both the style and her size, a spot-on present for her.

There’s a separate sale area in the store, which has served me well. When I was the mother of the bride, I scored the perfect Kate Spade shoe to complement my outfit. I was also pleased with my steal of a purchase of  soft, comfortable AGL black leather wedges with taupe stitching.

On Thursday, May 29, Shoe Hive will host “Cocktails in the Courtyard with Cinco Powell” as part of the Old Town Boutique District Block Party series of events on Thursday nights from 6-8 p.m. Cinco Powell handbags are customizable, so you can build your own, plus the entire line of merchandise will be 20 percent off during the party.

Hooray For Books! (1555 King St.  Alexandria, Va., 703-548-4092; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday- Saturday,  11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday) is Alexandria’s only locally owned, independent children’s bookstore. It offers a wide selection of new and classic books for children of all ages (yes, even teens and grownups), as well as music CDs, educational games, puzzles and plush storybook characters. Authors frequently come in to read, entertain the children and sign their works.

The store is an invaluable resource for selecting the right book for the right age group. My granddaughter (who is in that “fun,” young-adult age group) wanted a specific book, the last in a series that she was reading, that I couldn’t find in the public library or at Barnes & Noble. Hooray! didn’t have the book but recommended several others by the same author as well as other books for my granddaughter.

Baroque Pearl Silk Lariat from Coco Blanco

Baroque Pearl Silk Lariat from Coco Blanco

Imagine that Ernest Hemingway and Audrey Hepburn had a love child. According to this shop’s tagline, that progeny would be Coco Blanca (210 South Union Street at The Strand, 703-535-8002; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday,  10 a.m. to -8 p.m. Thursday, noon to 5 p.m. Sunday), a home design and women’s clothing boutique in shades of white and taupe, all in natural fibers. Easy, breezy and elegant describe the clothing made from silk, linen, cotton, cashmere and leather. In particular, the Italian silk blouses have a melt-in-your-hand feel. The furniture, lighting (including sleek, modern chandeliers) and gift items are defined by themes–Beach  Bungalow and Chic City Loft in the store, plus Rustic Lake Cabin and French Farm House available online–each with items that embody the feel of the setting. A design consultation is available for $125 for the initial visit in the client’s home.

In addition to the Old Town Boutique District Block Party events in May and June, Elizabeth Todd, OTBD founder and owner of the Shoe Hive, says don’t forget other events that will be scheduled throughout the year—-October Scavenger Hunt, Trick or Treat on the Saturday prior to Halloween and Black Friday shopping on the day after Thanksgiving. Plus, OTBD’s signature event — the Winter Warehouse sale — where shoppers can receive up to a whopping 70 and 80 percent off on merchandise.

— Joanne Vinyard 
Joanne Vinyard lives and works in Alexandria.

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