East City Bookshop
As the social unrest following George Floyd’s death erupted, Keiana Mayfield kept hearing from parents who wanted to know which books would help them talk about race with their kids. So she curated a selection of anti-racism resources for East City Bookshop, where she also leads workshops and book clubs. Then, in late summer, Mayfield — a doctoral candidate who studies the social and cultural processes that affect Black families — developed a new monthly subscription service.
There are three versions of the Shelf Improvement Subscription Box: Strong Foundations is geared toward the youngest readers, up to age 5. Nurturing Awareness is for kids ages 5 to 11, and Shelf Growth is for adults. Each month, subscribers get age-appropriate books that are written by or feature people of color. Mayfield also includes a reading guide to help steer learning and discussion.
The subscription is ideal for “anyone who wants to broaden their horizons and have a more robust experience of reading about the lived experiences of people of color,” Mayfield says. It’s also a nice way to build a diverse, inclusive home library. Prices range from $150 to $420 total for either six or 12 months. eastcitybookshop.com.
Mignon Hemsley and Danuelle Doswell have the key — or at least part of it — to having less stress and more happiness during these turbulent times. Houseplants, they say, help us disconnect and decompress. The D.C.-based friends launched Grounded, a virtual houseplant shop, on Earth Day, and are convinced that we can all excel as plant parents. “There’s a plant for everyone,” Doswell says. If you think you can’t keep a plant alive, you “just don’t know the right one for you.”
Every month for three months, subscribers will receive an easy-to-care for plant, such as a snake plant or golden pothos. It’s $75 for the duration, and each plant comes potted in a terra cotta planter. Though the shop is sold out, new memberships will be available starting Oct. 14 — and come with access to a portal full of advice, plus free “office hours” for those who need assistance with their plants or repotting.
The co-owners post tips and hacks on Grounded’s Instagram account (@groun.ded), such as explainers on how different types of water affect plants. “We’re really big on introducing plants to our community and shedding light on the fact that everyone can own a plant,” Hemsley says. She notes that, as a Black-, women-owned business, Grounded can reach people who aren’t aware of plants’ healing benefits, and who often shy away from discussing issues like depression and anxiety. “We have a big focus on mental health, and how plants can help your mental health.” grounded-plants.com.
Each Peach Market
If you love cheese — a rather universally relevant statement — Each Peach Market in Mount Pleasant might just brie (ahem) home to your favorite subscription box.
The shop’s monthly “I Love Cheese” box offers two or three cheeses paired with condiments or snacks. Expect a different theme with each delivery: Past favorites include an Italian-themed box; apples and cheddar; and “it’s all Gouda.”
“The first one we did was an introduction to our cheesemongers, so each cheesemonger chose their favorite cheese and included a little description of why they liked it,” says the market’s co-founder, Emily Friedberg. “February was about cheeses that had love stories around them, and March was ‘Ladies of the Curd’ — all female cheese producers.” October’s theme is cheeses that melt.
Each box comes with “a pretty sizable amount of cheese — almost half a pound,” as Friedberg puts it. It’s $200 for a three-month subscription, and $350 for six months. eachpeachmarket.com.
Blue Ribbon Floral
Ali Chrisler’s mobile floral business was less than six months old when covid-19 put the brakes on street vending. She could no longer cruise the District’s streets in her powder blue truck, talking customers through which blooms they ought to take home. So she started offering contactless delivery and subscriptions.
“I try to use a wide variety of flowers,” Chrisler says, noting that bouquet designs change every week and depend on what’s in season. She aims to include at least a few unique flowers that you can’t easily find at grocery stores, plus one big, focal flower — think sunflowers, pincushion proteas, zinnias and peonies.
“So many people tell me that these deliveries are the highlight of their week,” she says, plus an ideal way to brighten up their homes-turned-offices. “And it’s so easy! It’s like UberEats, but with flowers.”
On a recent Thursday afternoon, Julie Powers was “working” from home as her son attended virtual phys-ed class directly above her office. “I can’t get a darn thing done,” she said. “I love to envision a Mom Things box arriving at this time for a mom, and making her smile.”
Mom Things, an every-other-month subscription service based out of Ashburn, brings pampering to moms who aren’t going to seek it out themselves. Each box contains accessories, easy-to-apply makeup, kitchen tools and self-care items, like face masks.
“I just feel like women don’t do a lot for themselves, and when and if they have children, they really don’t do a lot for themselves,” Powers says. “It’s filled with special items that are designed to make a woman feel special. I like to pick out things that make you feel pretty or that you might not necessarily buy for yourself.”
Subscribe on an ongoing, bimonthly basis ($34.99/box), for three boxes ($99) or for six boxes ($209.99). The latter two options are popular as gifts, Powers says. themomthings.com.
Two years ago, Emily Yeskel Rubin launched District DabbleLab in her basement: studio space for kids to make crafts like collages, jewelry and Popsicle stick wall art. She offered four classes a week and birthday parties on the weekends until the pandemic hit and, like many small business owners, she was forced to pivot. Eventually, “I thought, I really should start trying to get crafts to these kids somehow,” Rubin says. The result is the DabbleBox, a new subscription service available as a one-time purchase ($65), on a three-month basis ($60/month) or for six months ($55/month).
Each box has a theme, such as back to school or Halloween, and contains four craft projects and the supplies needed to put them together. Subscribers also get access to instructional videos starring Rubin and, often, her high-spirited young daughter. “She has a lot of personality,” Rubin says. “The kids don’t want to see me, they want to see one of them.”
Rubin’s a big proponent of upcycling and challenges subscribers to turn the boxes into toys instead of throwing them out after completing the crafts. “I give them instructions to go raid the house, and the recycle bin,” she says. “The idea is to come up with something creative, like making a mailbox out of the box, or turning it into a voting box.” districtdabblelab.com.