If you haven’t checked out DC-based Neighborgoods yet, prepare to be smitten with an ultra-fun, beautifully designed selection of food-themed products! From tote bags to dish towels, if you’re looking for last-ish-minute holiday gifts, these are pretty perfect. (You can also take a page out of the business’ book; they’ve been posting great video tutorials demonstrating how you can use dish towels to create super cute ‘n sustainable gift wrap.)
Swing by the Downtown Holiday Market to do some in-person shopping!
I caught up with Jodi Kostelnik, the designer, illustrator, maker and creator behind Neighborgoods to find out more about her mission to spread a little cheer not just for the holidays, but year-round:
So tell me a bit about how you got started with Neighborgoods, and when the idea went from fledgling to fully-fledged?
It started as a side hustle of my design business where I designed food packaging. (That’s kind of how the foodie theme came to be.) Then in 2018, I made Neighborgoods my main business. It’s been a slow transition to making it my full-time.
Cool! I know a lot of businesses have had to wrap their heads around online sales now that that’s the primary way people are doing their shopping, but it looks like you already had at least a bit of a foothold in that territory. Did that make it easier to transition when the initial restrictions really clamped down on everybody?
Well, being a smaller business it’s definitely easier to make shifts. We always had the online store, but it was never our main focus; we sold in-person, in markets and stores, and we also did wholesale. Those two were our top channels. But since we did have the website, it was pretty easy to make the transition, which was nice.
What were some other changes for Neighborgoods? I noticed you sell some super cute masks, which I assume are a new-ish addition to the repertoire!
Yeah, so we had a discount bin for dish towels that might have been slightly misprinted or frayed; we’d usually sell those at in-person markets, but since we weren’t doing that anymore, we decided to work with a local seamstress here in DC and use them to make masks. We launched those at the end of April, and since masks were in high demand, that helped to boost our online sales.
That’s great! And how do you come up with all the amazing designs? Are they things that people suggest to you, or are they all from your brain?
Sometimes when we do in-person markets, if enough people mention a certain idea they’d like to see come to life in the designs, then I might do that. But mostly they all stem from things I personally love, and a lot of it comes from my love of foodie items, which is a love that a lot of other people share.
The things you’ve done so far are all so great! Can you walk me through some of the designs that extra-stand out to you?
The first design, which I actually don’t have anymore, was a cupcake recipe. (I love baking, so I decided to illustrate a particular cupcake recipe.) The pickles were another one of my very first designs back in 2014 when I took a screen-printing class, so that design is special to me since it was my first kind of, “Wow, I can make something!” And that one I originally made for a friend’s birthday that was coming up, because she loves pickles. Everybody loved it in the print studio, so I started printing more, and started putting that design onto more things.
I also came out with a beet design; beets are a love-hate thing (you either love ‘em or you hate ‘em), but I personally love them, and found that a lot of other people do, too. The oysters, too; one year I’d been to a lot of weddings, had been out West and just had eaten a lot of oysters, so they were at the top of my mind, and that’s how that design came to be.
And actually, some of the things (like wine and coffee) I love so much that I feel pressure around making a great design! [Laughs] I knew I wanted to make a wine towel for two years before I actually made it because I wanted it to be really good, to turn out really well. And then with the coffee towel…I love coffee, so that one I’ve been thinking about for years. It only just came out this August, but I’m really happy with the way it came out.
Amazing. Alright, and I also noticed you’ve been doing some super handy gift-wrapping tutorials on your Instagram, so let’s talk about that! (I love that idea for any kind of sustainable packaging, but especially one where the recipient gets a bonus super cute tea towel with a fun pattern to keep!)
Yeah, I always like to have low-waste wrapping when it comes to presents, or even better, to be able to find out ways for what’s being used to act as part of the actual gift. I’ve personally always done that, but we wanted to make the videos as a way to give back something useful to our customers, not just selling them things, but actually giving them information. They’re really fun to make, and I’m glad I can share them in a way that people can enjoy them and use them to get ideas, and get into a low-waste mindset.
Super cool! And obviously all of your products would make for great gifts, but is there anything to mention specifically for the holidays?
We recently launched our dish towel gift set, and those were also kind of the result of Covid; in-person we would sell our dish towels with a bit of a discount the more of them you’d buy, and that ended up being too complicated online as a small business. I came up with these dish towel sets as a way to offer that online since we’re not doing the markets anymore and there are more online customers. We put together sets of two and three, and the price per towel is less than if you were to buy them individually. We wrap them up super cute in a produce container, they come with a gift tag on top so they’re ready to gift, or people can disassemble them and use the towels as gift wrap. (That’s also sort of why I started the video tutorials.)
Beyond that, we did these postcards to voters during the election; we made the American flag out of blueberries and strawberries, and people really loved the design, so we started making art prints after people asked us to do that. (We also printed and sold over 3000 of the cards.) We were excited that Biden won, so to celebrate, I think we’ll be printing that strawberry and blueberry flag design onto a tote bag and dish towel for the inauguration in January. That’ll be a new addition next year.
I’ve also been talking about making candles for two years now, so let’s put it in print so I do it. [Laughs] I’m making little juice glasses that you can use as a glass after the candle is finished, and they’re all going to be foodie themed. They’ll take a while, but I’m going to try to launch those by the holidays next year.
Shop Neighborgoods online, or if you’re looking to secure holiday gifts without postal service-induced nail biting, check out the stall at Downtown Holiday Market to do some shopping in-person!
All images via The Neighborgoods