Best of C-VILLE 2017: Shopping

Best Jewelry Store: Andrew Minton Jewelers (Photo: Lora Kelley)

What are you spending your money on? Just about everything, from furniture and books to kids’ clothes and potted plants. There’s no end to your love for shopping local (and, occasionally, not-so-local). Like *NSYNC sang: baby, buy, buy, buy!


Andrew Minton Jewelers

Runner-up: Keller & George

Honorable mention: Tuel Jewelers

When UVA basketball star Anthony Gill was shopping for an engagement ring last year, he turned to Andrew Minton Jewelers. The Seminole Square jewelry store scored with our readers too, who say it’s the best place in town to buy everything from diamonds, gold and pearls to pendants, bracelets and other precious things. Founded in 1978 by Minton, a three-year starting defensive back on the UVA football team, the store also offers jewelry repair, restringing, custom work and appraisals. Keller & George, this year’s second-place winner, knows a thing or two about a sparkling lineup, too: The shop’s been in business since 1873 and is the oldest retail establishment ’round these parts.



Runner-up: ReThreads

Honorable mention: Natalie Dressed

When we talk about hip threads, that can mean one of two things: the kind of stylish pieces you’ll find in Linnea White’s downtown boutique and the photos you’ll find on the store’s Instagram feed. Since she took over Darling, White has worked to make her shop “an extension of your own closet, allowing [you] to periodically refresh pieces…in an affordable way,” she says, and in the process has curated a cool collection of images in which she styles and models her wares on Insta. Clearly, you think the owner of this year’s pick for best consignment store has the hang of it. ReThreads, the red ribbon recipient, takes pride in its carefully curated vintage stock, ranging from the best of the ’90s to century-old heirloom pieces.



Runner-up: BitterSweet

Honorable mention: Darling

College roommate getting married? Going on a first date with the dude of your dreams? Need a perfect Foxfield frock? No matter what the occasion, Anthropologie has you covered—literally. Which is why the Barracks Road shop, with its lace-trimmed maxi dresses and whimsically embroidered minis, gets your vote this year for best place to find the perfect dress. BitterSweet, home to an impressive selection of Frye boots to go with any of the Downtown Mall clothing emporium’s impressive selection of dresses, comes in second.

Company president Troy Coppage (second from right, with Billy Coppage, Sara Utz, Danny Clore, Charles Ford and Edward B. Clore) says that, beyond the appeal of E.A. Clore’s history, it’s the familial (and familiar) nature of the place that keeps folks coming back. Photo: Amy Jackson


Shaping history

Madison’s family-owned furniture store preserved

With roots that can be traced back to 1830, the Clore family has been crafting fine, handmade furniture for going on 187 years. Located in Madison, E.A. Clore Sons, Inc. is the direct result of that legacy. Family-owned for four generations, the company makes tables, chairs, bedroom suites, cupboards, hutches, desks, coffee tables and more, and its time-honored boutique products have won the acclaim of customers throughout the United States.

“People know us for our history and the quality of our craftsmanship,” says 50-year-old company president Troy Coppage, who is founding patriarch E.A. Clore’s great-great grandson. “Our family has been making furniture by hand at this location since E.A. opened his first factory here in 1921.”

Despite the passage of nearly a century, a trip to Clore’s Roaring ’20s-era showroom wouldn’t be all that different from today. You’d find the same mortise-and-tenon construction, precisely dove-tailed drawers, air-seasoned hardwoods and beautiful, hand-rubbed lacquer finishes. “Basically, we use the same techniques now as we did then,” says Coppage. “In that regard, not much has changed.”

Despite its renown craftsmanship, E.A. Clore Sons ran into some issues last year. “Last spring, we’d actually sold off the bulk of our inventory and decided to close our doors,” says Coppage. “We just weren’t doing enough business.” However, when word of the closure hit the streets, customers became distraught. From Crozet, to Chicago, to California, they reached out in droves. “We got this huge influx of calls and visits,” says Coppage. “People would come in literally in tears telling us about a table they had that we’d made that had been handed down from generation to generation. It was an incredible and humbling thing to experience.”

But more than sentimental reminiscences, the visits yielded orders. Lots of them. In fact, within days of the announcement, E.A. Clore had enough orders to keep the factory running for a year. “We currently have a six-month backlog of orders and it appears that will continue to be the case for the foreseeable future,” says Coppage.

But for him, while what saved E.A. Clore had much to do with the company’s historical narrative, the true secret lies in its sense of family. “So many of these people remembered coming in here as little children, then maybe as young adults,” he says. “They remembered my father and my grandfather. And time and again they’d say this was an experience they wanted their children and grandchildren to be able to have. For them, this place is an extension of their homes. And we’re excited to have the opportunity to be able to carry that relationship into the future.”


The Men’s & Boy’s Shop

Runner-up: Tailored Quest

Honorable mention: Eljo’s

Looking for a boy’s size 4? Or is it a men’s size 70 that you’re after? Oh, you need same-day service on a tuxedo. You can get all that and more at the Downtown Mall’s Men’s & Boy’s Shop. And you keep coming back because store owner Mike Kidd makes certain that “everyone’s shopping experience is as pleasant as possible.” Plus, he can teach you how to tie a bow tie in less than three minutes. (“If you can tie your shoes, you can tie a bow tie,” he says.) New to Best of C-VILLE this year is runner-up Tailored Quest, an online-only suit spot that specializes in made-to-measure pieces and custom shirting and tailoring.


Foods of All Nations

Runner-up: Reid Super-Save Market

Honorable mention: Market Street Market

If you want—or need—it, odds are good that Foods of All Nations carries it—be it Helmut Sachers kaffee, De Ruijter chocolate or Divina dolmas stuffed grape leaves. But the Ivy Road institution, your favorite locally owned grocery store, also carries products that are made closer to home, including fruit and veggies from area farms, Chaps ice cream, Gearharts chocolate, Barboursville Vineyard wines and MarieBette bread. Reid Super-Save Market, which also has a wide variety of items on its shelves, takes the runner-up prize this year.


New Dominion Bookshop

Runner-up: Blue Whale Books

Honorable mention: Read It Again Sam

Before she died unexpectedly in January, Carol Troxell, the longtime owner of New Dominion Bookshop, told us that Charlottesville “is an intellectual community…a reading community that fosters authors and the arts.” And those readers have again voted New Dominion the best independent bookstore in town. We suspect that Troxell, who said running the store was “a perfect job,” would have also said this: “word.” Here’s what another reader recently had to say about Blue Whale Books, this year’s runner-up: “I’m a sucker for independent bookstores, and this one greatly impressed.”

Ken Farmer has appeared on every season of “Antiques Roadshow” since it premiered in 1997. Photo: Amy Jackson

Treasure hunter

Hitting the ‘Roadshow’ with Ken Farmer

In the early 2000s, personal properties appraiser Ken Farmer had a client who said she wouldn’t sell a painting for less than $10,000. “So I told her we’d put a $10,000 minimum on it, and go from there,” says Farmer, who was working as a Sotheby’s associate at the time. “It was a great painting, and I thought, ‘If that thing’s not worth at least $10,000, I’m a monkey’s uncle!’”

Farmer brought the piece back to his office (“where I could look at it closely”), and it didn’t take him long to figure out he was in possession of a work by Sir Frederic Leighton, a well-known late-19th-century English painter. “Long story short, it sold for $550,000,” Farmer says.

A few years earlier, Farmer and his wife, Jane, were running an auction house in Radford, Virginia (they’ve since moved to Charlottesville), when he received an invitation to travel at his own expense to Durham, North Carolina, and spend a day doing free appraisals. “I said, ‘I beg your pardon?’” he laughs. He was told the trip was for “Antiques Roadshow,” a new PBS TV show, and Farmer eventually decided to go because “I thought I might get some decent PR,” which would be good for business. What he didn’t expect was that the journey would mark the beginning of a successful new chapter in his life as an antiques dealer, appraiser and auctioneer.

Back in the day, people showed up for “Antiques Roadshow” and got in line, Farmer says when asked about the selection process for the program, which premiered in 1997 and visits half a dozen cities every season. “I remember that first year in Durham, we had less than a thousand people—we asked them to go back through the line so it would look like something was going on.” In Los Angeles the following year, 20,000 people lined up to have their prized possessions appraised by experts like Farmer. “All of a sudden antiques was this cool thing, and we became the No. 1 show on PBS—the idea of hitting the lottery with your attic resonated with people,” says Farmer, who’s appeared on every season of the series.

Today the show holds an online lottery, and upward of 35,000 people apply for 3,000 pairs of tickets for every episode. You can bring two objects to be appraised, and Farmer, who specializes in folk art, furniture, decorative arts and musical instruments, says the first thing he asks everyone who comes to his table is if they own the object—if they don’t, the show can’t film it. Then he wants to know if the item has been appraised before, and what the person knows about it. “If they know everything about it, including what it’s worth, that’s not great TV,” he says. “We’re looking for an ‘aha’ moment.”

Working on the series is “a long, hard exhausting Saturday that can run from 7:30am to 9pm,” he says. “Imagine sitting there and talking to 200 people; your brain is mush by the time the day is over.” But he quickly adds that “it’s also exciting and it’s fun…it’s like every Saturday morning is Christmas, and you just don’t know what’s going to be under the tree.”



Runner-up: Alakazam

Honorable mention: Toys“R”Us

As its name implies, there’s a lot of fun happening at Shenanigans —and that’s a good thing for a toy store. The West Main shop claims that “‘just for fun’ is a perfectly good purpose for a toy.” And they “hunt down the most engaging and appealing arts and crafts, science kits, games and building sets.” This year, you said “amen!” to all that. At Alakazam, which takes second place, you’ll also find plenty of fun stuff, including puppets and educational toys, as well as a joke of the day on the chalkboard outside the Downtown Mall shop.


Natural Pet Essentials

Runner-up: Pet Supplies Plus

Honorable mention: Pet Food Discounters

Big-box stores have certainly made a dent in neighborhood pet supply stores, but that didn’t scare off the owners of Natural Pet Essentials, who make it their mission to “provide customer service and consultation on natural animal wellness by educating and supplying Charlottesville area pet owners with natural nutrition, superior supplements and high-quality products.” And as your votes attest, you can’t get enough of the shop’s all-natural food, treats, supplements and eco-friendly pet toys and supplies. The animal-loving staff at Pet Supplies Plus, this year’s runner-up, is happy to consult on everything from food allergies to the purchase of the right reptile.


Brown Automotive Group

Runner-up: CarMax

Honorable mention: Jim Price Automotive

If you’re going to drop a few grand on a new set of wheels, you told us again this year that you prefer to do it at Brown Automotive Group, where there’s something for everyone—from Hondas and Subarus to Jeeps and Mercedes. A local fixture since 1981, when Kenny Brown purchased the original location on 29 North, Brown promises “fair, honest and reliable services.” And you clearly, as Brown’s tagline claims, love the service. Over on Pantops at Car Max, the country’s largest used-car retailer, their no-nonsense approach took the red ribbon this year.


Market Street Wineshops

Runner-up: Wegmans

Honorable mention: Trader Joe’s

With more than 1,200 wines in stock (and thousands more available on a week’s notice), it’s no surprise that, again this year, Market Street Wineshops are your favorite spots to get the right bottle (or three) for any occasion. And don’t forget about the free Friday evening (downtown) and Saturday afternoon (Route 29) tastings. New to this category (and Charlottesville) is Wegmans, which made headlines a few months ago when threats of a boycott (because the 5th Street Station store carries Trump Winery products) had the opposite effect: The grocery chain sold out of all its Trump wines.

Photo: Martyn Kyle


On the record

Gwen Berthy’s sticky notes make for a supreme bin-browsing experience

There are many cool things about Melody Supreme, the vinyl-only record store at 115 Fourth St. SE, but Gwen Berthy’s breadth of knowledge about recorded music is definitely the coolest of all. While browsing the bins, be sure to read the square sticky notes fixed to the top right corner of many album sleeves—Berthy hand-stamps and hand-writes all of the notes himself, “mostly for the weird stuff,” he says, to remind people of how good a Sergio Mendes record is, or that Florence Foster Jenkins “was to opera what the Shaggs were to rock ’n’ roll.”

Many of the sticky notes indicate details about an album’s genre, the rarity of a certain pressing or the quality of the vinyl. Sometimes a note serves as an explanation of price—why this copy of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band costs $75 but that copy costs $8. Berthy says he got the idea from a favorite bookstore in his native France, where the opinionated owner would share his thoughts, in note form, about the books he stocked. And Berthy has plenty of opinions of his own. The sticky note on a copy of Joe Jackson’s 1979 post punk/new wave debut Look Sharp reads, “EU import. I know it’s not cool to say that J.J. is essential, but this album is.” On Jackson’s sophomore effort, I’m the Man, Berthy scribbled, “EU import. Essential. (Yes it is!).” Every note is different, but they all suggest the same thing: Just give this record a spin.



Runner-up: The Habitat Store

Honorable mention: The Wooly Lam (Ruckersville)

If you’re looking for the perfect table to fit in that odd-shaped corner of your 18th-century farmhouse’s family room, Circa is likely your first stop—which is why the vintage décor and antiques shop gets your vote as this year’s best home store. Located on Allied Street since 1998, the 10,000 (plus!)-square-foot shop is run by mother-daughter duo Jackie Binder and Robin Slaats, who’ve made it their business to always have a lot of everything for everyone in the McIntire Plaza treasure chest. This year’s runner-up is The Habitat Store, which is operated by Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville, and is a must-stop when you need quality new and used building materials and home furnishings.



Runner-up: Old Navy

Honorable mention: Kid to Kid

If your votes are any indication, you think Charlottesville’s best-dressed wee ones look a lot sharper after donning duds from Whimsies, now located in the Shops at Stonefield. Owned for more than 30 years by Betsy Lynn and now run by her daughter, Jessie Wright, the store, which carries a wide variety of unique brands, including Catimini, Kit + Lili and Pink Chicken, sees return customers in the form of “my generation parents now coming for grandbabies,” Lynn told us a couple years ago. Second place this year goes to Old Navy, where parents know they can find racks filled with reasonably priced, no-fuss shirts, shorts, pants, dresses, skirts and more.


Ivy Nursery

Runner-up: Fifth Season Gardening

Honorable mention: Charlottesville City Market

Arrive at Ivy Nursery with an idea (you want to create a pollinator garden) or a problem (Japanese beetles are decimating your rosebushes), and the knowledgeable staff of landscape architects, horticulturalists and gardeners will have the answers and solutions for you. Established in 1975, this year’s top vote-getter for best nursery/garden store is located on seven acres and carries trees, shrubs, annuals, perennials, herbs, indoor plants, orchids, books, lawn decorations and gifts—to name just a few. Fifth Season Gardening, your first stop for hydroponic and organic gardening needs (plus beer-, wine-, cheese- and vinegar-making supplies), comes in second.