The B.E.S.T. Gift Shop is showing the community what people with disabilities can do by partnering with artisans throughout the nation to display and sell their handmade products.
B.E.S.T. stands for Building Employment Solutions Together, and the shop is a collaboration between ServiceSource, a nonprofit organization that supports people with disabilities, and the Joey Pizzano Memorial Fund, an Alexandria-based nonprofit. The initiative between the two started with The B.E.S.T. Program, a community employment program that includes a team of people with disabilities who partner with local businesses.
“When I first got wind of the project back in 2019, I can remember there being a rush of excitement for the artisans within the ServiceSource program and the endless journey of discovering so many amazing artisans,” says Larrisha Leach, sales and marketing specialist for the gift shop.
The COVID pandemic delayed the process a bit, but ultimately the plan was pushed ahead.
“When I got word that the B.E.S.T. Gift Shop was a go, I felt that rush of excitement from 2019 again,” Leach adds. “I can remember the joy I felt in my heart and the big smile on my face as I met with different artisans, and they expressed amazement while I explained our mission and goals, and most importantly, interest in their creations.”
The gift shop opened in Old Town in September 2021 and is currently showcasing work from eight artisans. The options range from jewelry and scarves to handbags and totes to greeting cards, paintings, and soaps.
“And the best part of all, or the reason it’s the best gift shop, is the fact that everything was created by people with disabilities,” says Leach.
Some of the artisan booths within the gift shop are local to NoVA, including Arlington Weaves Etc., which creates woven art and products, and Zenaviv, an Ashburn company that turns out paintings, tote bags, puzzles, greeting cards, and more.
The average price point of the items varies, with totes ranging from $22 for a smaller size to $45 for a larger one. Jewelry falls anywhere between $12 and $75 depending on the item, and soaps are around $8.
Leach says the program helps to not only showcase the work the artisans are creating, but also to support their overall growth as well.
“The artisans come and work at the shop,” says Leach. “Which is great because they get to see their items being sold and see the smiles on the faces of those who are buying them.” 122 S. Patrick St., Alexandria
What’s in Store
1. Love Life bangle set, $25
2. Arlington Weaves large tote, $45
3. Sammy Soap African Black, $8
4. Pink tourmaline earrings, $25
5. JG trinket dish, $45