Get your retail fix through these unique stores and online businesses that offer everything from spices and skincare to books and boxing.
DC’s vibrant Black history and culture has led to a thriving business community filled with creative entrepreneurs. The variety found in the businesses listed below is staggering; some use the African diaspora as inspiration, while others are distinctly DC. Some were founded by DC transplants, others by natives to the city. All of them are worth your patronage.
Looking for somewhere to eat? Check out Black chefs and Black-owned restaurants in Washington, DC.
Founded by Ramunda and Derrick Young and named after their daughter, MahoganyBooks has been a purveyor of titles that focus on the Black experience and culture since 2007, amassing one of the most impressive inventories you can find. The Youngs strive to connect communities through reading, writing and astute cultural awareness. The husband-and-wife duo opened their first physical location in 2017 inside the Anacostia Arts Center and still maintain a diverse online selection. Read more about the store and the Youngs on blackbooksmatter.com, MahoganyBooks’ website, which is filled with fantastic recommendations and reading lists. And check out how the Youngs dealt with the pandemic and racial justice movement on this Retail Gets Real podcast episode.
Nestled in the same Anacostia Arts Center as MahoganyBooks, Nubian Hueman has its own intriguing backstory. In her work for a national fashion brand, Anika Hobbs realized something was missing: large brands did not engage customers with handmade, artisan products from around the world, limiting their purview to the status quo. By 2013, Hobbs had opened her store, which is now complete with her signature feathered earrings along with a range of other offerings, including men’s and women’s apparel, jewelry, bags, scarves, footwear and much, much more. Nubian Hueman has an additional location in Baltimore.
Lee’s Flower Shop
The oldest Black-owned flower shop in the District has been a family-run institution on U Street since 1945. Currently owned and operated by Stacie and Kristie, the granddaughters of the original founder, Lee’s Flower Shop has been curating and delivering outstanding floral arrangements for any special occasion for 75 years. Peruse the shop’s bouquets, gift baskets and other products online, and keep in mind: Valentine’s Day is just around the corner.
With sharp, distinctive clothing and a store that vibes like an art gallery, The Museum is a hot spot for those chasing the latest fashion. Located on Rhode Island Avenue, the shop features footwear, apparel, artwork and collectibles, both from The Museum brand and nationally recognized lines. The Museum posts some of its coolest offerings and advertises its online pop-up shops on Instagram – make sure to give ‘em a follow before or after you visit the store.
Located in Union Market, Gift Shop is a Black-owned retail space featuring products from Black creators throughout the DMV. Through its ever-expanding selection of local Black brands, Gift Shop seeks to inspire guests to shop Black-owned every month. Gift Shop is powered by the DC-based multi-cultural marketing agency, Creative Theory Agency, and is one aspect of their mission to provide opportunities for Black-owned businesses in DC.
The Spice Suite
Angel Anderson’s story is now part of DC lore thanks to the fact that The Spice Suite has become a sensation, but we’ll recap it anyway: while working as an assistant principal at a local charter school, Anderson spotted a building for lease on her way home from a nearby nail salon. On the spot, she decided she would purchase the space and turn it into a spice shop. And voila: six years later, Anderson has built an adoring customer base with her exquisite spices and her shop has hosted more than 400 pop-up shops from local, Black-owned businesses. Note that you can only browse Anderson’s full selection of spices in-store; however, for online shoppers, she’ll craft a SPICEbox with an array of unique flavors.
Founded by Abai Schulze, ZAAF Collection sells high-end designer products from Africa, showcasing the continent's rich culture, design and natural wonders. Products include handbags, scarves, shoes and additional accessories for men and women. Check out the sleek retail store in National Harbor and make sure to watch our video with Schulze, in which she describes DC’s vibrant international community.
For more than 20 years, Louis and Jennifer Everard have run this beloved boutique in the heart of sophisticated Georgetown. The full-service shop began as a made-to-measure business in 1993 before the store opened in 1999. Louis spent much of his upbringing in a tailor shop in his native Jamaica, setting the stage for this successful business venture with his wife. The team offers high-end men’s and women’s designs, all personally selected by Louis and Jennifer. Men’s selections include Hickey Freeman, Southwick and custom-made designs; women’s designs include looks from Jude Connally, Anatomie, Joseph Ribkoff and more.
Fia’s Fabulous Finds
Although appointments at her store on Upshur Street are available, Fia Thomas has been hosting sales and raffles on Facebook Live with great success as DC continues to deal with the impact of COVID-19. Thomas’ consignment shop offers brand name women’s clothing and accessories in great condition at low prices. Make sure to stay tuned to the store’s Facebook page for the latest updates on her online events.
Brothers JC and Jeff Smith founded this DC-centric apparel store that features some of the coolest designs around. Bailiwick – a riff on an Old English word that in a modern context references a person’s area of expertise – captures the spirit of The District in its sweatshirts, hoodies, t-shirts, bags, hats, tank tops and other assorted products (including face masks!). Check out the store in District Square and also be sure to browse the extensive online offerings.
Frères Branchiaux Candle Co.
With soy and coconut wax, three brothers have created a candle empire. The Frères Branchiaux Candle Co. offers scented experiences that have been curated and hand-made to perfection; in addition to candles, you can purchase bath salts, room sprays, diffusers and wick cutters. The background on this company will only make you want to buy more: in 2017, Collin, Ryan and Austin wanted more money for video games, and after their mother attended a candle-making workshop, the brothers began an online business that has now boomed. And it’s not all about the video games: the boys donate 10% of their profits to homeless shelters all over the country.
Black Pepper Paperie Co.
Hadiya Williams, a DC native, founded this mixed-media art and design studio. Black Pepper Paperie Co. focuses on handmade pieces, uniquely crafted and globally inspired. Available for purchase: paper goods, wearable ceramic art, apparel and more. Williams’ aesthetic combines inspiration from West African art, ancestral memories and contemporary design. The online store offers delivery within 5-7 days.
District of Clothing
Distinctive in its celebration of the District, this local lifestyle brand, founded by owner and designer Dionna Dorsey in 2014, features an array of styles that send powerful messages of self-love, progress and hometown pride. Shirts, hats, mugs and a wide range of additional apparel can be purchased online, with each collection sporting its own exclusive look and feel.
This sports conditioning studio was founded by Chris Perrin, a former college football player at UCONN. Perrin’s technique, which he first tested on his wife, Alex, to great success, focuses on the heart, strength, rebuilding and total body exercises. Cut Seven’s team-based workouts equal the results and efficiency of receiving a personal workout from a trainer. The studio offers individual outdoor and virtual classes you can book online.
Boombox Boxing Club
Try group fitness inspired by boxing techniques at this cutting-edge studio in Capitol Riverfront. Co-founders Angela Jennings and Reggie Smith met on a Tinder date, discovered a shared affinity for working out and hip-hop and years later, the two run a club that offers intense 50-minute workouts perfectly set to thudding beats. The studio features aqua bags that are perfect for learning proper boxing form as well as a ring for practice. Classes can be booked online.
Skin Beauty Bar
Located in Capitol Hill, this boutique beauty bar was founded by Meka Mathis and has been featured in Essence. Skin Beauty Bar’s soft color tones will immediately put you at ease before a facial, massage or any of the many other spa services Mathis’ spot offers. You can also browse through an array of skincare products.
The Brown Beauty Co-Op
Marjani, an independent retailer known for its outstanding skincare products for Black women, teamed up with Product Junkie, which aims to offer natural hair DIY-ers a place to showcase their products, for this co-op in DC. The space contains an impressive inventory and hosts consultations. The co-op also serves as an incubator for emerging Black brands and hosts beauty-focused events.