Home & Style

A Totally Nostalgic, Not Entirely Practical Vintage DC Gift Guide

Show your love with Commander Salamander buttons and Garfinckel's umbrellas.

If you’ve been in DC for more than a decade, you’ve seen lots of businesses come and go. And if you’ve been here longer that, you’ve watched local bookstores, department stores, and restaurants get gobbled up or pushed out by national chains. Maybe it’s all the espresso martinis, but I’ve been nostalgic for the old days, when you went to Olsson’s and Kemp Mill, not Amazon. 

So, a gift guide for long-timers and natives. Will everyone want a cache of People’s Drug pencils in their stocking (or um, some 70 year old sugar cubes)? Probably not! But Ebay is full of relics of all kinds, from Woodie’s, Jhoon Rhee, and other institutions. 

Sans Souci ashtray, $64.99

This black glass ashtray from what was once DC’s hottest dining room has seen some stuff. A porcelain version from Paul Young’s will cost you less. Keeping my eye out for one from Yenching Palace. 

People’s Drug poker cards, $4.99

Before CVS came to town, there was People’s, a string of local pharmacies that started in Alexandria. Grab some “Say No to Drugs” pencils for the kids.

Commander Salamander button, prices vary
Pin-back buttons from Georgetown’s late punk-rock/rave kid clothing store abound.

Sutton Place Gourmet cutting board, $62.99

DC’s defunct fancy-food emporiums—folded into the Balducci’s brand in the early aughts—sold French cheeses and honey-mustard-slathered sandwiches and apparently a pretty nice looking embossed maple cutting board. 

Hogate’s sugar cubes, $4.99

We’d rather have the rum buns recipe, but apparently these two wrapped cubes, possibly from the 1950s, were found in a scrapbook homage to the long-gone Southwest Waterfront institution. There are also plenty of mugs, menus, and matchbooks. 

Woodward & Lothrop Christmas ornament, $49.99

The DC department store’s Christmas displays were epic. 

WHFS t-shirt, $199

The one-time alt-rock station’s HFStival t-shirts sell for $100 and (way) up. Dammit. 

Garfinckel’s umbrellas, $69.99

This pair of tasselled beige umbrella’s from the opulent DC department store is apparently from the 1920s. Some cool ‘70s era Christmas glasses, too (and a ton of clothes and bags).

Kid-sized Jhoon Rhee martial arts gear, $50

Nobody will bother the badass that shows up to class in these gloves and pads (and a few of the tae kwon do schools still exist).

Swizzle sticks, prices vary

Set your home bar with swordfish swizzle sticks from Bish Thompson’s, golf clubs from O’Donnell’s, or red spoons from Duke Zeibert’s. 

Vintage restaurant postcards, prices vary

Especially frameable: the ones from Duke’s, Hot Shoppes, Reeves Coffee Shoppe, and Rive Gauche.

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Logan Circle.