Maybe money can’t buy happiness, but it can get you pretty close, especially if you’re throwing cash toward a new car or some fresh flowers or even a $3,000 coffee maker. Whatever you’re snagging, one thing is clear: Charlottesville shoppers know luxury.
Vintage clothing store
Runner-up: Twice is Nice
Honorable mention: Low
Generally speaking, any clothing item from 20 years before the present day can fall into the “vintage” category. Which means that, while those denim flares you’ve kept since ’92 are cool again, you won’t be able to sell them to Duo, the new and used combo shop on the Corner. The second floor gently worn section only stocks contemporary used clothing up to two years old. But owner Greer Johnson curates the shop’s collection of used pieces, so you’ll always find something en vogue, vintage or not. Twice is Nice takes second place with an extensive selection of secondhand goodies for vintage (read: inexpensive) prices.
Women helping women
Newbie shop owners say fashion is esteem-building common ground
Linnea White was only half joking when she texted Megan Tiernan in the fall of 2014 about taking over Darling, this year’s pick for best consignment store.
“Hey! Want to buy a boutique with me?” she asked. Megan’s response? “Actually, I do! Let’s talk!”
They took ownership in early 2015 and have since put their own stamp on the downtown shop, bringing in local artisans and glob-al impact brands. Aesthetically, they created a new layout for the space and revamped the consignment process to achieve a more efficient turnover rate. Says Linnea, “All in all, it’s the same Darling with a new face!”
We asked the shop owners to tell us what it’s like being first-time retail owners, why consignment is better than brand new and what’s coming up for Darling.—C.W.
Had either of you ever owned a retail store before?
Megan: This is our first rodeo for owning a store! The way we do retail is the same way we strive to treat others every day, with integrity and by being authentic and personable. We want our store to be a place that is welcoming, inviting and encouraging—something Linnea and I both strive to do more of in and outside of the store.
Linnea: I’ve always been a fashionista. (I was called the “Bag Lady” as a little girl, always carrying a purse around with me—and freaking out if it was left at home.) In the past few years, as the editor of the local blog Cville Niche, I started a Dressing Up series, collaborating with local boutiques for regular features and photo shoots. As the owners of Darling, we’re taking our passions and wide range of experience to pour into our own business.
Were you Darling shoppers before you were Darling owners?
Linnea: I am a long-time Darling shopper and consignor! The conversation about buying the store started at a consignment appointment. I remember coming to the grand opening of Darling back in 2012. Many an item in my closet is a Darling find.
Megan: I remember the first time Linnea took me to Darling! I had a mixture of emotions, because I couldn’t believe the Frye boots that I had just bought full price were half the price at Darling. I knew from then on Darling was going to be my go-to.
What’s the best thing about consignment (as opposed to new)?
Linnea: I think of consignment as an extension of your own closet, allowing consignors to periodically refresh pieces in their closet in an affordable way. Darling Boutique is a network of women supporting women, sharing and recycling pieces to get rid of the old and find something new (to you). It’s about purging that dress you never wear to find a dress that makes you feel truly beautiful. Plus, finding a name brand item for a steal is easy on your wallet!
Megan: My favorite thing about consignment is the cycle of it. I think women often have too many items that just hang in the closet or sit in the back of the drawer. Consignment allows for those items to become new items to someone else, and, without spending more money on clothing, you can use the money (in the form of store credit) from items sold to buy new pieces. This means that you can continually get new items and get rid of ones you don’t wear without spending a dime.
What does the future of Darling look like?
Linnea and Megan: Expect new featured local artisans in the shop, exciting collaborations with local businesses on the blog and even Darling services like personal styling and private shopping events. We can’t wait to see our ideas and visions come to life. Being a small business owner is hard work! But we are so ready for this adventure, and so thankful for the amazing community that surrounds our little shop.
What’s the goal of Darling? What would you say its “mission statement” is, if there is such a thing?
Linnea and Megan: We are passionate about empowering women and inspiring strength through fashion to restore dignity and true beauty. We believe every woman deserves to feel truly beautiful. We believe we can be on mission in our own community by supporting women through consignment and by supporting local artisans. We can also be on mission in a global community and empower women around the world by supporting brands with a global impact mission. We believe personal styling is an expression of your inner beauty, and playing dress up is all a part of the process!
Honorable mention: Second Hand Rose
Women’s clothing store
Runner-up: Anthropologie and LOFT (tie)
Honorable mention: Eloise
BitterSweet was founded on a dare —and we double dare you to visit the Downtown Mall store and leave empty-handed. Besides the best selection of TOMS and Frye boots this side of well, anywhere, the perennial winner in this category also stocks heaps of other popular labels, including Free People, Angie, BCBGeneration, Blue Bird and Fifty Street. And if you’re looking for a pair of earrings or a necklace to complement your new kicks and duds, BitterSweet won’t disappoint. Across-the-street Barracks Road neighbors Anthropologie and LOFT tied for second place this year, which comes as no surprise to anyone who’s ever needed a last-second wardrobe pick-me-up.
Men’s clothing store
Men’s & Boy’s Shop
Runner-up: Banana Republic
Honorable mention: Beecroft & Bull
“Service,” says Men’s & Boy’s Shop owner Mike Kidd, is the secret to the longtime success of his Downtown Mall store. “We want to make everyone’s shopping experience as pleasant as possible,” he adds, which is probably why the shop is your fave place to buy men’s clothing. With everything from a boy’s size 4 to a men’s size 70—plus same-day service on tuxedos (“We own our tuxedos,” Kidd explains) —in stock, there’s clearly something for everyone here. Runner-up Banana Republic offers one-stop shopping for guys who’re looking for linen shorts and a polo shirt. Or a shawl-collar cardigan and skinny jeans. Or a seersucker suit. Or a…you get the idea.
Keller & George
A true gem
When it comes to jewelry stores, Keller & George has a nice ring to it
Layered delicate chains and stacked rings may be the current trend in women’s jewelry, but Keller & George knows the fads don’t last long. And it should know a little something about that—the Millmont Street shop has been in business since the 1800s. As it turns out, customers now are looking for the same thing as customers then.
“Beautifully designed and crafted pieces that reflect their personal style and tastes,” says store manager Charleen Pfaff. Take, for instance, engagement rings: Most shoppers want a beautiful diamond that’s responsibly sourced—and one that will leave their wallet intact.
“Traditional solitaires and three-stone rings are always popular,” while halo styles have become a new classic, she says.
They say a diamond is forever, but we can’t discount the jewelry industry’s revolving trends altogether.
“Designers are working with more colored gemstones like lapis lazuli, garnet, opal and turquoise,” Pfaff says, “and cutting [stones] like geodes or in other unconventional ways.”
She expects notable industry changes in the future, especially with regard to engagement rings. Not only will diamonds be set in new ways, but colored gemstones will be used in lieu of the traditional diamond. New materials like titanium, palladium, ceramics and metal overlays will become more prevalent, and once-semi-precious stones will be more attainable.
But what’s the best advice when it comes to making a purchase you’ll be happy with for years to come? Pfaff says to go with your gut. “It’s all about individualism; choosing rings that fit your personal style.”—K.S.
Honorable mention: Andrew Minton Jewelers
Kids’ clothing store
Whimsies is where kids dress for success
Just because Prince George is royalty doesn’t mean he’s the only baby who dresses up, and the parents of Charlottesville’s well-heeled tots to tweens say their babes look best when they’re donning duds from Whimsies in the north wing of Barracks Road. The store, owned by Betsy Lynn, is in its 29th year and Lynn says shoppers keep coming back through phases of life.
“I love seeing my generation parents now coming in for grandbabies,” she says.
We checked in with a regular Whimsies shopper, 10-year-old Olivia Stockhausen, who picked out some of her favorite things.—C.S.
Indigo skinny jeans ($54), two-tone purple sweater by Autumn Cashmere Kids ($116) “The sweater is really soft, and the jeans are very comfy,” says Olivia. “I’d wear this to school.”
Catalina cowboy hat by Wallaroo ($54) “I’d wear it at the beach,” says Olivia.
Runner-up: Petit Bebe
Honorable mention: Target and Kid to Kid (tie)
Place to buy wine
Market Street Wineshops
Runner-up: Trader Joe’s
Honorable mention: Market Street Market
What can we say about Market Street Wineshops? Plenty, actually. And so can C-VILLE readers, who have voted them the best place to buy wine more than a dozen times. With two locations —downtown and up 29 North—you’ll find more than 1,200 wines and 400 beers, plus a selection of specialty foods, coffees, teas and gifts. And if you’re like us and you enjoy tasting before you buy, Market Street’s Wines of the Week are open for your drinking pleasure every day. Like last year, Trader Joe’s, with its Three Buck Chuck, Coastal line ($4.49 a bottle) and Trader Moon collection (under $6 per bottle), is your back-up plan.
Locally owned grocery store
Market Street Market
Honorable mention: Foods of All Nations
Pay no attention to your friends and neighbors who tell you downtown doesn’t have a grocery store. Exhibit A: Market Street Market, on the corner of Fourth and Market streets, your pick for the best locally owned grocery store. In addition to plenty of fresh fruits and veggies, you’ll find an assortment of local meat, cheese, bread and baked goods. And don’t even get us started on the deli sandwiches—but since you asked, you’d be a fool not to order the prosciutto and blue cheese with sliced pears on ciabatta. Second place vote-getter Feast! was described by the New York Times as “an artisanal cheese shop, charcuterie and gourmet market that could easily be found in Paris.”
Runner-up: Lindt Chocolate
Honorable mention: My Chocolate Shoppe
They had us at Criolla. And Michigan Cherry, Raspberry Zin, Mint Julep and Vanilla Bean Brulee. Pretty much everything in Gearharts Fine Chocolates’ Signature Line is a winner. Just like the store itself, your pick for this year’s best chocolate shop. In addition to being in the tasting good business, Gearharts has also been doing good: For the last three years, the Main Street Market biz has featured artwork from Virginia Boys & Girls Club kids on its Mother’s Day chocolates. Headquartered further from home, but located locally in Barracks Road, Lindt takes the 2015 red ribbon.
Honorable mention: O’Suzannah
Shenanigans’ owner Kai Rady once said she considers “almost everyone to be a potential customer.” Which might explain why she’s been in business for more than 40 years—and carries over 300 lines of children’s merchandise. It certainly explains why her West Main store is your choice as the go-to vendor of games, books, dolls, puzzles, stuffed animals and pretty much anything else that keeps tiny—and not-so-tiny—tots occupied. Your second favorite place for birthday, Christmas, Hanukkah or just-because gifts for the little ones is Alakazam. (After you finish shopping here, don’t forget to take a stab at answering the joke of the day on the chalkboard outside the Downtown Mall shop.)
New Dominion Bookshop
One for the books
Print is alive and well at New Dominion
Some people think bookstores are doomed. They point to online shopping, e-readers and a list of brick and mortar shops that have bit the dust. What they neglect to mention, though, is that no website or personal electronic device beats browsing at a bookshop. When was the last time those people discovered their new favorite author thanks to a suggestion from a literature-loving clerk? Or settled into a quiet store corner to read a first chapter because they couldn’t wait to get home and start their new book? Oh, and Amazon’s calendar doesn’t seem to have a single upcoming author reading or book signing.
Lucky for us, New Dominion Bookshop, the oldest independent bookseller in Virginia, hosts plenty of author events. Plus it’s flush with comfy corners and brainy employees—and it certainly isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
But Carol Troxell, owner of the downtown institution for more than 30 years, claims she’s the lucky one. “Charlottesville is a strong, diverse intellectual community,” she says. “With UVA, PVCC and the school systems, it’s a reading community that fosters authors and the arts. Think about what we have here—the writers, artists, theaters, musicians, not to mention all the scholars in the area.”
And she says it’s thanks to a very loyal community of book lovers that New Dominion has been in business since 1924. Being on the Downtown Mall helps too. “We support each other,” explains Troxell from behind her desk in an office where every surface, and a good portion of the floor, is stacked with books. “I would hope we’d always have a copy of Gatsby, but if we don’t, there are several other possibilities downtown.”
“We’re always directing people to the used bookstores,” adds Melissa Lockwood, a recent UVA grad who’s worked at New Dominion for five years. Or a restaurant, stationery, gift or secondhand shop.
“The locally owned businesses bring people down to the mall,” Troxell explains, adding that residents and out-of-towners alike often stop by the store before meeting friends for coffee, lunch, dinner or drinks. And she’s seen a bump in business thanks to the shop local movement, which has “brought a much better awareness to all communities. People have told us that they could have bought the book at [a chain store], but they wanted to get it from the local place. When I started here, people weren’t saying stuff like that.”
Troxell also credits the annual Virginia Festival of the Book for delivering both area and far-flung readers to New Dominion. “We always have two or three events here each day during the festival,” she says. “It’s a lot of fun, and we meet some interesting authors. We try to sell their books, and our customers are introduced to very good writers.”
When it comes down to it, “the only reason we’re still in business is because of our customers,” Troxell says. That, and she thinks running an independent bookstore is a perfect job.—S.S.
Runner-up: Daedalus Bookshop
Honorable mention: Blue Whale Books
Fifth Season Gardening
Runner-up: Ivy Nursery
Honorable mention: Charlottesville City Market
The folks at Fifth Season Gardening say it best themselves: “With the threat of GMOs and other contaminants in our food supply, it is now more important than ever to know how to grow your own.” Which is why they’re at your service with all the organic seeds, plant starts, soil amendments, fertilizers, pest control supplies and advice you’ll need to find your way down the healthy gardening path. Ivy Nursery, established in 1975 by a couple of UVA landscape architects, offers a wide variety of fresh, healthy and unique plants.
Hedge Fine Blooms
Runner-up: University Florists
Honorable mention: cville BLOOMS
To paraphrase Donkey from the Shrek movies: Everybody likes flowers. Ain’t nobody don’t like no bouquet of flowers. Just ask Karen Walker, owner of Hedge Fine Blooms, who believes “fresh flowers are a vital ingredient to a happy life.” We couldn’t agree more —nor, it seems, could you, which is why this purveyor of a European flower market experience is again your pick for the best florist in town. Over at University Florists, the goal is to “exceed our customer’s expectations with quality, value and professional service.” Clearly, our readers think it’s doing just that.
Place for pet supplies
Pet Supplies Plus
Runner-up: Pet Food Discounters
Honorable mention: Animal Connection
When it comes to our furry, winged and scaly BFFs, nothing’s too good. And nobody knows that better than Pet Supplies Plus, where they believe pets own people, not vice versa. They also make certain the goodness starts the second you and Spot strut through the door of this supermarket-style food and supply emporium. And don’t miss the store’s frequent adoption events or visits from its Solution Specialist, who can answer all your pet-related questions. In addition to basic necessities, runner-up Pet Food Discounters on Woodbrook Drive has you covered in the chameleon cantina and Bio Bubble Dome fish tank departments (and more).
Place to buy a new car
Ticket to ride
Brown Automotive always provides a good buy
John Hulburt and his wife, Mary Pat, moved to Charlottesville from Northern Virginia in 1997 to open The Foxfield Inn and, a few years later, decided they wanted a Mercedes-Benz. On the recommendation of friends, they went to Brown Automotive, where John says car-buying was—and continues to be—“easy, no hassle.”
John retired from corporate finance in 2003 and retired the Benzes shortly thereafter in favor of more economical cars. But he and Mary Pat went back to Brown, purchasing over the next few years two Toyota Priuses and a RAV4, which they still have.
“Being a financial person, I look for great deals and Brown has met this requirement each time,” says John, who now teaches business courses as an adjunct professor at UVA, and photography courses at UVA’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies. For him, the buying process is always fairly quick. Once he knows what make and model he wants, he contacts Brown and the car is ready in short order.
With all that enthusiasm for getting behind the wheel, we had just one question: Any speeding tickets? “Very rarely,” says John. “I’m a careful driver.”—C.W.
Runner-up: Jim Price Automotive
Honorable: Volvo of Charlottesville
Place to buy a used car
Runner-up: Brown Automotive Group
Honorable mention: Edgecomb’s Imported Auto
Known for its set prices and no-haggle policy, CarMax is the nation’s largest seller of used cars —and your preferred place to drop a few thousand of your hard-earned dollars on a new-ish set of wheels. But before heading up to the Pan-tops showroom to test drive the merchandise, peruse the chain’s extensive offerings at carmax.com. Brown Automotive Group comes in close second when you’re looking to buy a gently used Toyota, Subaru or Honda, among others.
Place to splurge
The Happy Cook
‘We’ve got inexpensive stuff, too’
The $2,999 Jura J9 coffee center can whip up your cappuccino at the touch of a button. But Happy Cook owner Monique Moshier says some of the store’s most popular gadgets are under $10.
Honorable mention: Derriere de Soie
By Samantha Baars, Lisa Provence, Kathleen Smith, Susan Sorensen, Courteney Stuart and Caite White