For nearly a year, Instagram and Facebook feeds have been swamped with earnest messages about local small businesses shutting their doors for good.
Prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Maryland was home to over 170,000 businesses, 30,000 of which have now closed.
The average consumer spent $196.13 on Valentine’s Day in 2020, where spending was estimated to total $27.4 billion, breaking 2019’s record of $20.7 billion. Presently, this number may not be matched due to the decrease in discretionary spending and general shopping. With the money that is spent on Valentine’s Day this year, it would benefit the community greatly to assist struggling businesses by shopping small.
Latinx, Black and other minority-owned businesses are closing at a higher rate than white-owned businesses in the county. The effects of the pandemic are predicted to create a higher degree of inequality for minority-business owners for years to come.
The following is a guide to picking up three of Valentine’s Day traditional essentials locally and sustainably: a gift, chocolate and flowers.
“[The pandemic] has made us very grateful for the clients that we do have,” owner of Our Gift Biz Becky Briggs said. “We are grateful that we’ve been able to help clients who wouldn’t otherwise be able to gift with shops closed.”
Our Gift Biz is a woman-owned, environmentally conscious gift shop in Potomac, Maryland, only three miles away from RHS. Our Gift Biz was started by Briggs, who set out to make the process of giving meaningful and beautiful gifts hassle-free. Our Gift Biz specializes in business-to-business gifting, individual gifts, gift sets, custom gift design, floral design and branded items that are guaranteed to bring the “wow-factor.”
“[Our Gift Biz] goes to markets all over the country to find artisans with unique backstories and bring them on board as a part of [Our Gift Biz’s] lineup,” Briggs said.
Our Gift Biz aims to take the time to produce their best possible product. They create custom gifts and write handwritten notes with a calligraphy pen to make sure that gift-givers can be meaningful, memorable and lasting with their gift-giving.
“We go that extra step to make sure [our vendors] are taking care of the planet in everything they do,” Briggs said.
Our Gift Biz offers an array of different goods at prices to match any budget. When asked what her favorite products are, Briggs recommends their Cinnamon (no nut) Coffee Cake and the plant-based Kindle Candle Company products that are on the site.
“Every time you purchase mass-produced chocolate, you’re actually investing in the poverty of farmers,” co-owner of SPAGnVOLA Eric Reid said. “When you start buying from bean-to-bar makers or higher-quality chocolate from reputable small businesses, they typically treat their farmers 50 to 100 times better. ”
For a Valentine that has a sweet tooth, try SPAGnVOLA—pronounced spang-vola—a minority-owned chocolatier that has three locations in the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia area (DMV). Their closest location is in Kentlands, Gaithersburg, 10 miles away from RHS.
The owners of SPAGnVOLA were growing cocoa beans in the Dominican Republic when they decided to cut out the middleman and oversee the entire chocolate-making process. They roast and refine their cacao beans in their artisan factory in Gaithersburg, producing premium, ethical chocolate.
For the holiday, SPAGnVOLA is selling heart-shaped gift boxes of truffles or bonbons, traditional gift boxes, chocolate bars and gourmet hot chocolate. If you’re searching for a gift that keeps on giving, consider a chocolate subscription.
Some of Reid’s personal favorites are the blackberry and blueberry bonbons, lavender truffles and the 70% dark chocolate bar.
SPAGnVOLA has been voted as “Top 10: World’s Best Chocolate Shops” by National Geographic, the only chocolatier from the United States to be on that list—and it is right in Rockville’s backyard.
“When you think about chocolate, you think of Switzerland and Belgium…We are filling a gap that perhaps needed to be filled, you don’t see [much diversity] in the manufacturing and retail shops,” Reid said.
Roses are one of the most obvious choices for a Valentine’s Day gift: a symbol of love and beauty. Roses can be quite tricky, as a dozen roses can cost anywhere from $10 from a street vendor to over $90 at a high-end florist. The following are some of the closest, most affordable florists in the area.
Aspen-Hill Florist is located 10 minutes away from RHS. Valentine’s Day floral arrangements start at $50 for a mixed bouquet of yellow roses and chrysanthemums. Their red rose arrangements start near $80, with a dozen red roses costing around $90 and extravagant arrangements costing up to $250.
Muh Flowers is located in Poolesville, around 11 miles away from RHS. While they are a bit farther, they offer same-day shipping and their arrangements are far less expensive than other florists in the area.
Muh Flowers carries the same bouquets for half the price of other florists closer to Rockville; small bouquets of red roses and small flower arrangements are in the $40-$50 range. Though Muh Flowers is farther away, if you are willing to pay for shipping or make the extra trip to save yourself money, this is a feasible option.
When looking for a unique, high-quality, sustainability sourced and produced gift for your Valentine this year, look to your small and local businesses first: you will not be disappointed.