Holiday Gift Guide: Local LGBTQ businesses

Ornaments from South Street Art Mart

The holidays are nearly upon us once again, and what better way to spend your money than at LGBTQ-owned businesses in Philadelphia? Minority-owned businesses are the backbone of our city’s neighborhoods, yet they still face barriers in applying for loans, getting access to capital, and other opportunities that promote equitable growth. PGN reported earlier this year that almost half of LGBTQ small businesses were denied Paycheck Protection Program loans offered during the height of the pandemic. 

So this year and always, it couldn’t hurt to give a little tender loving economic care to some businesses that probably need it the most. 

Sweet stuff 

Cake Life 

If you’re part of the LGBTQ community, you’re probably familiar with Cake Life bakery. Co-owners Lily Fischer and Nima Etemadi make sure that all of their baked items are made using fresh ingredients, and strive to use local makers and sellers to source their food. In addition to delicious cakes, Cake Life sells pies, cupcakes, cookies, sandwiches and more. Prior to creating Cake Life, Fischer and Etemadi appeared on the TV show “Cupcake Wars” three times, and won. As if that isn’t cool enough, the Cake Life team has made Beyonce’s birthday cake… twice. (1306 Frankford Ave.)

Pies from Darnel’s Cakes

Darnel’s Cakes

Kyle Cuffie-Scott created this bake shop named after his cousin Darnel who passed away in 2013. It grew out of a fundraiser that Cuffie-Scott created on World AIDS Day where he sold cupcakes through an Instagram account. Located in Fishtown, Darnel’s Cakes offers many types of baked goods, from brownies to danish to cake, as well as breakfast, lunch, t-shirts and free at-home HIV tests. (444 N. 3rd St.)

Plants and animals 


If you’re passionate about exotic amphibians, reptiles or houseplants, ILLexotics is the place for you. Franco and Chris Urban own this exotic specialty shop, where they bring their 10+ years of experience in herpetology and horticulture to growing and selling tropical plants and a variety of fauna including geckos, chameleons, tree frogs and tarantulas. Franco and Chris pride themselves on the business ideology of educating their customers on their new exotic pet or plant. All of their animals can live comfortably in a home habitat, and as such, they do not sell animals that thrive in the wild, like aquatic turtles, Iguanas, Monitor lizards, or extra large snakes and tortoises. (1704 East Passyunk Ave.)


Kristin Horst started their flower business right before COVID-19 hit in 2020, with just a few materials like thrifted vases, a mini wine fridge and a pair of clippers. After making a name for themself by delivering flowers and bringing joy to people’s lives during the pandemic, they expanded to a new location. They have contributed thousands of dollars to social justice movements focused on Black rights, including Camp Teddy, Black Lives Matter Philly, Philly Bail Out and more. (Online at @flower_shop_phl)

Candles and Scents

The Lion’s Den Candle Company 

Jacob Athony is the scent chemist behind Lion’s Den Candle Company, which he opened in 2020. He initially set out to bring warmth and joy to those most negatively impacted by the pandemic, and his business grew from there. He and his partner Tony work at the store, where they offer candles with aromas like “bliss,” “candied chestnuts” and “spiced honey.” They also sell accessories like 3D electric wax melters, as well as reed diffusers, soaps and tea lights. Along with their web site, their items are sold at the Woodmere Art Museum and other regional shops. 

Candles from Old City Canning Co.

Old City Canning Co. 

Hand-crafted candles, scented sprays and soaps populate Stanford Ponson’s scent shop, which recently reopened after closing in January, 2022. Ponson uses his background in wine and his sommelier savviness to create some of his scents, taking inspiration from food and wine pairings to devise candle aromas. He also offers private label services, where he creates candles specifically for clients’ businesses and brands. (1533 South Street)

Crafts, thrift, and collaborations

South Street Art Mart

This artist-run retail shop in the South Street shopping district sells the work of more than 180 artists and makers in the Philadelphia area. Open year-round, the Art Mart offers crafts with Philly-specific items, like a Christmas ornament with an image of Gritty, or a pint glass that says “Keep South Street Weird.” They also sell a variety of clothing, gifts for kids, books and zines, hair accessories, drinkware, prints and more. (530 S. 4th St.)

Joyful Revolt Art & Gifts booth

Joyful Revolt is a new vendor at the 2022 Holiday Market at City Hall, which runs from now until Jan. 1. A collaboration between Loretta Gary of Radical Hearts Print Lab, Robin Markle of Flaming Idols and Cole Zanne of Snug Baby, Joyful Revolt sells artistic prints with empowering messages rooted progressive ideals, alter candles bearing images of LGBTQ icons, non-toxic nail polish and a variety of other items. All products are made by the aforementioned business owners and other local queer artists. Each week in December, the Joyful Revolt booth will feature the work of a different LGBTQ artist in the form of a mini pop-up. (City Hall)

Sweaters from Baby Tooth

Baby Tooth

Located in the Bok building in South Philly, Baby Tooth is the permanent location that houses the work of many local artists who vend at the Feminist Flea Market, organized by Zi Aronow. Aronow teamed up with the mutual aid initiative Homies Helping Homies and graphic designer Corinne Dodenhoff to create this retail-community space hybrid. At Baby Tooth, shoppers can find jewelry, clothing, ceramics, candles, records and more from vendors including Rockers Closet, Laks Jewelry, MOMO Metals, Akhtarshenas Studios, Fluff Organix and much more. Aronow will host a one-time Feminist Flea Mini Market on Friday, Dec. 9 from 6-10 p.m. outside of Baby Tooth on the first floor of the Bok building. Artist, organizer and designer Bokeum Jeon co-curated the market, which will feature the work of 10 additional artists. The market will raise funds for Homies Helping Homies. (821 Dudley St.)

Worm’s Emporium 

This South Street-adjacent art and design mall offers a variety of crafts from Philly-area artists and markers, as well as vintage housewares and furniture. It also doubles as a community space for classes, events and pop-ups. Rose and Sabrena are the owners of Worm’s, where they bring their wealth of experience in making art, working in retail, organizing community events and their passion for collecting art. (523 S. 4th St.)

Philly AIDS Thrift and Giovanni’s Room

At this staple thrift store, patrons can find clothing, furniture, music, DVDs, books, collectibles and many more unique, quirky items. The folks behind this nonprofit charitable organization donate a percentage of their profits to organizations that provide HIV/AIDS services. In addition to regularly donating to the AIDS Fund, the PAT team also offers annual grants to nonprofit HIV/AIDS service organizations that apply. In 2014, after Philly’s LGBTQ bookstore Giovannia’s Room closed its doors, PAT became its new owner. It continues to sell LGBTQ fiction and nonfiction books there, as well as music, art, comics, clothing and more. (710 S. 5th St. and 345 S. 12th St.)