The Wash
Holiday Market in Penn Quarter

Annual holiday market visits Penn Quarter

The annual Downtown Holiday Market is now open on F Street in Penn Quarter. This year, more minority-owned small businesses are present than ever.

Washington, D.C.’s own Christmas shop, the 18th Annual Downtown Holiday Market, welcomes visitors on 9th and F Streets NW in Penn Quarter.

Shops started opening despite a rainy December day when shoppers gathered to grab holiday gifts and collectible items. With the participation of live music, a small section south of the Portrait Gallery on F Street NW is branded into the holiday season.

“I think this is my favorite time here in DC,” shopgoer Kim Schmith said. “It is important to support DC’s small businesses and there is no better time to do it than Christmas.”

Among the stores is “Smell of Love Candles,” a Vienna-based start-up company founded by Alejandro, a 9-year-old ‘kidpreneur.’ His mother, Patricia Buxcun, said she loves candles but is also sensitive to smell and allergic to many ingredients that candles contain.

Vienna-based Smell of Love Candles

“He decided that he was going to experiment with different types of waxes, and he created a candle that did not give me headaches,” Buxcun said. “That kind of turned into ‘let me try a different type of sense’, and we decided to launch an Etsy.”

In their second year at the holiday market, Buxcun said the project increases the visibility of Smell of Love Candles. “There are also a lot of tourists that come in; we have customers from California, from New York.”

This holiday season is Love Candles’ third year participating in the program. While many are new in Penn Quarter this year, one business stands out as an 18-year participant in the Holiday Market.

Promoting small businesses has always been part of the holiday market project. But this year, more small businesses owned by people of color and indigenous people are present.

On the western edge of the festival, Oswaldo Sinchico greets customers as they walk in to check out handmade art and craft from overseas. Sinchico said that indigenous Inca people made everything inside the two tents in Ecuador.

Oswaldo Sinchico sells products of indigenous people from Ecuador

Sinchico said he entered the business when he was 16 years old and traveled to Europe and the Caribbean to promote the people of Inca’s products further. When he was in his 30s, he arrived in the United States for the first time.

From sweaters to jewelry, “everything is from Ecuador and works off all indigenous people,” he said.

As more people become aware of environmentally friendly products such as handmade local artwork, bringing life to forgotten pieces is another way some businesses choose to fight pollution. At Lost and Forged, visitors can purchase restored antique silverware.

“A lot of generations are getting handed down their families’ antique silverware. It just becomes something we don’t use anymore because it is just harder to take care of and it is just a lot more effort,” Alexis Abel said. “So we might as well turn it into something we are actually going to use on more of a daily basis.”

The National Portrait Gallery and Christmas decorations

Abel said the Silver Spring-based small business transforms old things that “may not have a use or perfect anymore.” Abel added that during the 5-week period in which Penn Quarter visitors can get to see artcraft provides an excellent opportunity to market their brand.

“Typical art shows are two to three days but this market has been going on for so many years and it is a great exposure for us and everybody,” Abel said.

Terratorie Maps and Goods sells artwork of popular cities

Further down the aisle, colorful maps of American cities bring positive energy to this gray December day. At Terratorie Maps and Goods, Olivia Music assists her friend’s small business for the second year in a row.

“Even if people don’t necessarily buy something, it is just good to get the exposure,” Music said. “People get to pick our business card and visit our website later on.”

Music said the Holiday Market is a great opportunity to showcase the talent of the District area small businesses as it is one of Brookland-based art shop’s “biggest revenue generator.”

Ibrahim Aksoy

Ibrahim 'Abe' Aksoy is a graduate student at American University pursuing a master's degree in journalism and public affairs international specialty. Abe is also an investigative reporting intern at the Investigative Reporting Workshop where he covers immigration.

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