Catholic gift shop to open in Arlington

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When Meg Rydzewski's son made his first Communion, she wanted to buy him a religious gift to mark the occasion, as most parents do.

The Arlington resident decided to shop online rather than make the trek on Northern Virginia's notoriously congested roads to other shops in Alexandria, Fairfax or Washington. But when the item arrived, the quality wasn't quite what she wanted.

"I said, 'I can't be the only one who's frustrated,'" Rydzewski recalled.

The St. Agnes parishioner, who was planning to go back to the workforce after years as a stay-at-home-mother, asked other mothers at the parish school if this had ever happened to them. "They all had the same experience," she said.

Rydzewski will open Joyful Spirit Gifts in Arlington's Cherrydale neighborhood during the first week of September. The shop will offer a range of typical Catholic gifts, like statues and crucifixes, but some things that can be a little harder to find, as well. There will be an area for vintage religious items, costumes for school Christmas and Easter pageants, and black clothing for priests.

As a D.C. native and secretary for the Cherrydale Citizens Association, Rydzewski was familiar with businesses in the area and thought it was important to include locally made products. The shop will includes stained-glass ornaments, frames decorated by a Virginia artist, custom embroidered pillows and handmade religious jewelry.

"I put a lot of effort into finding some really lovely things, things that I had never seen before," Rydzewski said. "I think that when people come in they're going to be surprised by the variety."

Her family pitched in, babysitting Rydzewski's two children, setting up the shop and providing moral support. A Catholic construction manager of a local company, Landeros Construction, also worked with Rydzewski to help keep renovations to the new store, a former RE/MAX office, affordable. "He loved that he was working on the only Catholic store in Arlington," she said.

"I had a very strict budget. There are plenty of Catholic shops that go out of business every day."

She has reached out to all the local Catholic schools and parishes via email to introduce herself and ask about suggestions for things to carry in the store. "Anything that they need with some regularity I'm happy to help," she said.

Some already have replied back with requests for "school spirit" attire. With clothing, toys, and comfortable places to sit, Rydzewski hopes that the shop will be a place people of all ages will want to visit.

"I really want this to be something where the whole family is drawn to the store," she said.

Stachyra Lopez can be reached at

Find out more

Joyful Spirit Gifts, located at 3315 Lee Highway, is open Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday 1 to 8 p.m., and Sunday 1 to 5 p.m.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2014