My Grandmother’s Tip: The Art of the Gift

Chidi was an amazing employee at Kiskadee. She was working there when I bought the store and stayed with us until she moved to Richmond. You may recognize her…whenever she’s in town visiting family, I twist her arm to model. She’s also the brains behind my initial article. She’s a beautiful writer and an awesome editor. 

by Chidi Uche

As I pondered about what to write for this post, I thought it best to keep it simple: share a memory and a bit of advice from my beloved maternal grandmother. Her name was Lois, and she often went by the nickname ‘Loi’ (pronounced low-ee).

From a young age, I recall being in my grandparent’s upstate New York cape-style home and finding treasures and souvenirs everywhere. Some were large pieces like the antique doughboy from their years abroad in France, or the camel saddle-turned-ottoman brought back from a trip to Egypt. Others were small: nesting eggs from Russia, beer steins from Germany, art, greeting cards… you get the point. Every drawer and closet had something for a curious child like me to find, and there was almost always a story to accompany each one.


 Chidi in David Cline Dress, Available at Kiskadee, $118


Without a doubt, Lois had a knack for being prepared, but she never bought things just to spend money. After all, she was a Depression baby who had little in her early years and later raised her own family with modest means. But she knew that a delicate Christmas ornament always made for a thoughtful gift and hand-blown glass could be wrapped in tissue quickly. Whatever little town she traveled to, whichever market she traversed or little boutique she entered, she would always find “a little something” to take home with her. And while some may have considered Lois’ purchases to be a display of hoarder tendencies (and they may have been), to anyone who balked she would always flatly reply, “I have my reasons.”

She never explicitly told me why she shopped like this, but I feel like it was impressed upon my mother, who later impressed upon me, always to take time to stop in the little shops wherever you go. “Get to know the owners,” my mother advised. “Build relationships with the staff. Appreciate the role these places play in their communities and do your best to support when you can.” She‘d always tell me, “You’ll feel bad when you hear they’re going out of business or return to find a chain store has replaced it.”


 Chidi in David Cline Dress, Available at Kiskadee, $115


Two generations later, my husband rolls his eyes when he sees I’ve made a purchase and I often reply, “I have my reasons.” Here are a few tips on why my family shops small:

  1. Special items like those created by artisans carry meaning and memories. We tend to treasure them more and treat them with care so they can stand the test of time and last through the generations.
  2. Shopping for friends and family throughout the year protects me from the inevitable madness of the holidays. It saves money and also feels better to say, “I found this silk scarf when I stumbled into a small shop back in February and thought of you.” Wins every time!
  3. Quality matters, especially when it comes to clothes. The adage “you get what you pay for” always stands. Shopping small can also give one a sense of discernment. You begin to ask yourself: how would I use/wear this piece and is it transitional? Who could this be a good gift for? Is there some sort of memory that could be attached to this item?
  4. Supporting small businesses, especially those owned by women and BIPOC, are to be revered and celebrated. The only way to help these establishments thrive is to spend our money in their stores.*

*As a former classroom teacher, I operated on a tight budget, so price points mattered. I’m sure for store owners this is a pain point, but having a diverse range of merch will bring you a diverse range of customers.


 Chidi in David Cline Dress, Available at Kiskadee, $115


Lois’ legacy taught me the value of supporting local businesses. Shopping and later working some weekends at Kiskadee furthered my appreciation for the role they play in our lives. Before I moved to Richmond, I lived in Del Ray and felt deeply engaged in the community on Mt. Vernon Avenue. I often return to pop by to find a new treasure, enjoy a scoop of frozen custard, and say hello to familiar faces. Especially in these difficult times, by golly, it feels good to go somewhere familiar.


 Chidi in Rebecca Minkoff Dress, Available at Kiskadee, $188


  • The latest from Celeste

Looking for a killer cocktail number for the latest party? Shoes for running around town? Eye-catching separates for lunch at Cheesetique? Kiskadee has you covered. A favorite destination in the heart of Del Ray, shopping this boutique is akin to browsing your friend's lust-worthy closet. Kiskadee is fun, flirty and full of original designers,a ll presented to you with a focus on personal service. You will always be welcomed by a friendly face, eager to assist!

2205 Mount Vernon Avenue
Alexandria, VA 22301


1 Comment

  1. Avatar Christine says:

    Delightful read. Delightful woman!

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