11 Dec 2020

Slightly Off-Hill:

Four Questions with Mariana and Leela of Districtly Local

You may have already caught up with our special Instagram stories on presents to buy (which we will pull into a post…. soon, we promise). Through the magic of Instagram, we’ve become pals with Mariana and Leela, who have a magical little website called Districtly Local. Districtly Local is a great directory of DC brands and you need to know more about it, especially if you want to look beyond the Hill or you want to support makers who represent different perspectives. I especially love that they have gift ideas for varying budgets– you can browse for gifts under $20 or higher! I sent Mariana and Leela a few questions so you know more about their website and how it came together, and I’m sharing their replies lightly edited for clarity. Enjoy!

How long have you been around?

DistrictlyLocal.com launched in August 2020. The two of us (Mariana & Leela) learned JavaScript, built the entire website and launched this searchable directory of DC brands all while social distancing during the pandemic. The directory has had filters for woman-owned, Black-owned, POC-owned and LGBTQ-owned brands since day 1 but we have grown the directory quite a bit; we started with ~140 brands and now have over 400 brands!

What are some of the trends you see/support that are 100% DC?

DC is inherently a political city. In our circles, very few people actually work in politics, yet everyone seems far more politically engaged than in other cities we’ve lived in. We’ve seen many politically-themed product lines made in DC that you won’t find elsewhere. Whether it’s apparel, cards, ornaments, cookies or even chocolates, you can find all sorts of items with witty phrases and interesting graphics featuring not just our future President+Madam VP, but also items that cleverly exalt important figures such as the Obamas, Shirley Chisholm, Maxine Waters, John Lewis, AOC, and of course, RBG. 

We also strongly believe that makers and entrepreneurs in DC have always been very supportive of one another (displaying a true “community over competition” mentality), but with the pandemic this has become even more apparent. We’ve noticed that artists have invited other artists to pop up in their studios more frequently than in previous years. Retailers, bars & restaurants, and even historic homes such as Dumbarton House have set up outdoor booths and orchestrated mini-markets. Many holiday markets or physical spaces that provided a revenue stream for makers no longer exist due to covid (or sometimes makers may not feel comfortable setting up shop indoors or in large scale markets) – we’ve loved encountering the creative alternatives that have appeared across DC. One of the reasons we created DistrictlyLocal.com is because we noticed how covid impacted the in-person shopping experience, so we wanted to create a centralized, searchable directory where DC residents could easily discover all the amazing brands and products in our city. We’ve also seen that people want to shop with purpose more than ever. DC residents care about ownership, brand mission and product messaging. It is much more than just finding a product – it is supporting a vision. With DistrictlyLocal.com, we hope to help DC residents find the brand/product that they feel passionate about.

What are some of the DC makers that are going to end in your personal gift list? I know this is a tricky question, because the answer is that you, as well as I, love them all! 

We try not to play favorites, but here are our top 2: 

  • Second Story cards: This year we purchased our holiday cards from Second Story. They have an AMAZING mission and the founder is great! They create beautiful greeting cards and help our neighbors who are most in need (homeless men & women). The cardmakers receive 15% of each sale. Additionally, they donate 10% to a nonprofit of their choice in an effort to give back to the organizations that have helped them overcome the challenges they’ve experienced.
  • Jicara Remedies: We will be going to Femme Fatale’s outdoor market to pick up some of their delicious rose cacao. With the chilly weather, we’ve been craving hot chocolate more than ever and this is a unique, healthy twist on a classic. We’d also get some of their Maví (a fermented Caribbean drink made using Soldierwood tree bark along with other spices). These are gifts for ourselves!
Some of the RBG swag @DistrictlyLocal curated on their feed in honor of the one and only Ruth Bader Ginsburg. On Instagram, via screenshot.

What’s a perfect way to spend a Districtly day? 

This definitely depends on the season (and the pandemic), but we love exploring different neighborhoods of the city and spending as much time outdoors as possible!

Our perfect day starts at a local bakery or coffee shop. We fuel up on coffee (drip with oat milk for Leela, a whole milk breve latte for Mariana) and delicious pastries to start the day strong! So many great spots to choose from in DC…but if it’s a weekday, we’d go for the croissants and the airy Merveilleux from “Un Je Ne Sais Quoi.” If it’s the weekend, we’d head down to 9 Bars in Dupont Underground to start our day with an art exhibition, cortados and authentic Belgian Liège waffles with pearl sugar (Art, the owner/artist who runs 9 Bars, imported an incredible heavy duty Belgian waffle maker that had to be declared at customs, so you know it’s the real deal). We are also thrilled that Little Pearl brought back their weekend cafe service, so an extra perfect morning would also include a sweet potato doughnut and more caffeine from there later in the AM.

After that, we’d try to attend a local event or market. A market is a great way to meet the makers, support local businesses and find unique products. If there is not an event/market, we like to pick a new neighborhood to explore without a specific destination. Stumbling upon an unexpected book store, wine shop, mom-and-pop grocery store or trail has often resulted in some new beloved spots for us. We recently discovered the beautiful Tregaron Conservancy within Rock Creek Park! We’d also probably go for a stroll near the water around The Reach at the Kennedy Center. Since we’re talking a perfect day here (assuming lots of daylight / not dark & gloomy at what seems like an unreasonably early hour), we’d then head over to Crispus Atticus park to recharge and read the latest musings in a communal journal stashed underneath the “Open Spaces Sacred Places” bench. This was another serendipitous find – in this waterproof journal, Bloomingdale residents and passerbys jot down their deepest and/or most trivial thoughts, and it’s always a joy to read.

We’d wind down our evening with a to-go cocktail like a spicy ají daiquiri from The Royal or a hot matcha cocktail from Cotton & Reed, before an outdoors dinner. We love the international cuisine in DC and one of our favorite spots is Supra, a Georgian restaurant in Shaw. You can find us here sharing a khachapuri (a boat-shaped bread filled with copious amounts of butter, cheese, and egg) and some soup dumplings.

We’d finish the day with hot tea (a smokey Lapsang Souchong for Leela and a chamomile blend for Mariana) from Teaism. Their herbal tea selection is incredibly vast and their tisanes are perfect for a non-boozy night cap!

A peek at the Districtly Local site. Via screenshot.

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