Keith Lipert: The Gift Master

Keith Lipert of Keith Lipert Corporate Gifts in his Canal Square gallery. Photo by Patrick G. Ryan.

“What we have in Georgetown is unique,” says Keith Lipert. “I don’t think there is another store like mine in the world.”

The thoughtful, stylish Lipert just might be correct. After all, he has been solving the gift-giving puzzle for diplomats and corporations for decades. Keith Lipert Gallery, the M Street store he ran since the 1990s near the Four Seasons, was transformed last year into his Canal Square showcase, where he holds court today.

Lipert’s career has been about artful gifts, exquisite jewelry, Italian silver plates, unique presents for the family and, particularly, presents that tie the corporate world together and create opportunities for diplomats. “My role is to do the research, do some thinking and present choices,” he says.

Arriving from London in the early 1980s, Lipert worked in the premium incentive world. It was a heady time for this Englishman in New York, living on Madison Avenue and learning all about America’s upscale retail stores. He was on his way to making an unusual and intriguing life in his new, beloved country.

Lipert has both run his business and lived in Georgetown since the 1990s, serving clients from the business, political and diplomatic worlds. He and his wife Rina live on 35th Street near Dent Place.

“We have a different point of view, that gifts tell a story,” says Lipert, who calls his business an oasis of gift-finding that “reflects you” and is also about “your company or your country.”

“Gifts are the vehicle that show that you care,” he says. “Taking time and thought is one of the most flattering things you can do for someone. It’s not so much the budget or cost, it’s about empathy and caring. It’s about respect.

“While gifts show gratitude and act as a reward for some, on another level gifts can help change perception and even provide a safe space where participants can talk — about the gift, if selected wisely,” Lipert adds. “Such gifts are placed in homes or office and sort of live forever. A good example is Churchill’s home, where gifts from FDR and Stalin are displayed.

“Stuff carries emotion and remembrance,” Lipert says, “and are better than flowers or a bottle of wine.”

For Lipert, everything comes together. His business is his “dream job.” His store is full of beautifully designed and crafted novelties: statues, clocks, pen sets, chess sets. One client calls his business “a niche within a niche within a niche.” Clients have included kings, queens … and madams.

Georgetown is small but has a large stage, Lipert likes to say, mindful of the town’s retail ups and downs. He recalls more vibrant times on his block in the late 1990s and knows that Georgetown is no longer the only game in town, citing downtown, CityCenter, the Wharf. Online shopping has made for a new retail environment, too. He concedes that, today, people seek experiences and value “stuff” less.

Lipert is proud of his more than 25 years in Georgetown matching unique gifts with their recipients. Especially memorable: finding tiger and Pegasus bookends for ExxonMobil and choosing the image of two cranes as a gift from an American company to an East Asian company. It made the Asian executive see the U.S. firm in a new light, he recalls.

A Brit who grew in Westminister, not far from 10 Downing Street, Lipert is now similarly positioned in the States, not far from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. For him, one of the best gifts has been Georgetown itself — living here, working here, making friends, meeting customers. And Lipert continues to be thankful for that.

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