Off the Beaten Path: Del Ray
Funny how things have a way of reinventing themselves. We've seen that in various D.C. neighborhoods. But even the 'burbs need some reinventing from time to time. One of the most dramatic transformations has been in Del Ray, a quiet Virginia neighborhood of cape cods and bungalows tucked between Crystal City and Old Town Alexandria. It was one of Washington's first bedroom communities, originating in 1894. And it claims to be home to the first interurban streetcar line.
I spent part of my childhood in Del Ray. The main drag, Mount Vernon Avenue, once a sketchy area with boarded-up buildings, is now the neighborhood's biggest draw. The street is chock full of unique shops and outdoor eateries that are attracting the residents who have moved into Del Ray in the last few years to fix up homes. But then outsiders like me have also realized the unique shopping experience of Del Ray.
Since I've now fallen into the monthly habit of featuring a community off the beaten path for great shopping, some of you may wonder how I define great shopping. First, it has to have some places to eat or to grab a cup of caffeine. Second, there has to be some variety. Give me some clothes, some home decor, some kid stuff, some shoes (duh!) and some unique gifts. Third (this might be the most important), let me be the only person there. OK, that's totally impossible. I can tolerate a few other people but the fewer, the better.
Now, back to Del Ray. While Mount Vernon Avenue, tenderly called "The Avenue" by business owners, stretches for several blocks through Del Ray, I found the best shopping between Uhler and Bellefonte avenues. The blocks are filled with a wide range of retailers selling clothing, gifts, local art, home furnishings, wine and fine cheeses and hats. And mixed in is an unusual amount of therapeutic businesses, such as a yoga studio, a few massage places -- including one devoted to feet, and some spas.
Here are a few of the stores I liked:
The Purple Goose is a small shop stuffed with children's clothing, shoes and a few toys. You won't find any bargains here even though some of their kiddie clothes were marked down. But the threads, which included the popular Lily Pulitzer designs, were unique and cute. The store had a rack devoted to Easter dresses, which ranged from $30 to more than $100.
Kiskadee, a women's clothing store, feels like a chic boutique in a quiet beach town. The store, painted in a beachy yellow, featured what I like to call "happy clothes" -- the kind of threads you wear on vacation. Nice bright colors and unique designs in tunics, cocktail dresses, flowy pants. The store also sold stationery, jewelry, handbags, placemats and frames.
Eight Hands Round is a great spot for garden accessories and neat gifts. Here you'll find iron garden decorations that look like they've been weathered for several years, as well as wooden Adirondack chairs. The store also has nice soaps, neat stationery, journals and address books, some matted artwork and other home decor items. You'll even find some baby gifts.
A Show of Hands is also a nice find in the heart of Del Ray. The gift shop features the work of local artists, including paintings, pottery, glass work, jewelry, handbags and even some $15 headbands made by young kids. As a consignment shop, the inventory belongs to the artists but the shop gets a cut when something is sold.
And the shops will keep coming. Del Ray will soon be home to Let's Meat on the Avenue, a butchery, and Bungalow, which will sell home furnishings from around the world.
Are you familiar with Del Ray? Where do you like to shop off the beaten track? Post a comment below.
Please email us to report offensive comments.
Posted by: reuben | March 6, 2008 9:52 AM
Posted by: Native Alexandrian | March 6, 2008 12:46 PM
Posted by: Raised in Del Ray | March 6, 2008 1:17 PM
Posted by: alexandriamom | March 6, 2008 1:42 PM
Posted by: Tania Anderson | March 6, 2008 5:51 PM
Posted by: another native del raynian | March 7, 2008 11:41 AM
Posted by: Jim | March 7, 2008 3:15 PM
Posted by: teddy | March 8, 2008 9:00 AM
Posted by: Ramona | March 8, 2008 3:06 PM
Posted by: Karen | March 11, 2008 8:51 PM
Posted by: Chris Marsh | March 19, 2008 2:36 PM
Posted by: Del Ray Guys | April 4, 2008 3:37 PM
Posted by: Growing up in Del Ray | May 1, 2008 1:41 PM
The comments to this entry are closed.