Andrew Minton Jewelers
Runner-up: Schwarzschild Keller & George Jewelers
Honorable mention: Tuel Jewelers
Here’s where the rubber meets the road on this whole “buy local” business: Go into a big chain store and the jewelry displayed before you is the same as the jewelry displayed before shoppers in Urbandale, Iowa, or Maricopa, Arizona. In other words, it’s nothing special. And, we’re willing to bet, the person behind the counter knows very little about each piece beyond what he’s recited to customers every day for the last year and a half. That’s why readers choose Andrew Minton, who helps them understand each facet of jewelry-buying, from diamonds and pearls to custom pieces made in-house. On Millmont Street, family-owned Schwarzschild offers more than 100 years of experience in luxury watches and estate jewelry.
Honorable mention: The Habitat Store
Sometimes the best plan you can have is no plan at all, and that works out well for readers, who say that HomeGoods—that 29th Place mecca for pillows, pitchers, rugs and rustic outdoor furniture—is their go-to spot for a room refresh, even if they don’t exactly know which direction to go just yet. French country? Modern glam? The décor chain encourages keeping your options open. In McIntire Plaza, browsing Circa’s 10,000 square feet will always turn up a treasure.
Honorable mention: Kid to Kid
The secret to Darling owner Linnea White’s success? Besides a major sense of style (and consequently stylish inventory from clothing to locally made accessories), we’d wager it’s social media. The downtown shop owner shows off her #darlingfinds @shopatdarling on Instagram, as well as co-founded @bossbabes cville, a collective of local female business owners and entrepreneurs. Speaking of, Melissa Meece’s ReThreads takes the second place spot with her robust collection of new-to-you pieces in McIntire Plaza.
PLACE FOR A DRESS
Honorable mention: BitterSweet
Look in just the “dress” category on Belk’s website and you’ll find more than 3,000—that’s three thousand—options. Fit and flare, casual, bodycon, homecoming, cocktail, sweater… No wonder readers say Belk is best for everything from a LBD to a cotton shift. For the more creative dressers (with deeper pockets), runner-up Anthro stocks frocks with unique patterns, textures and silhouettes for women who are too cool for trends, but still want to look (and feel) beautiful.
PLACE FOR KIDS’ GEAR
Runner-up: Kid to Kid
Honorable mention: Shenanigans
Let’s be honest: Kids grow at such a rapid pace that what fits little Bowen-Arrow this week might not fit her in a few more, which is why readers refuse to pay more than a pocketful of loose change to outfit her in the latest trends. Old Navy, you say, is the go-to spot. The Barracks Road chain offers deep—and frequent—discounts on everything from onesies to knock-off Vans. At consignment chain Kid to Kid, parents stock up on everything their little one needs, cribs, clothes, toys and hair accessories included.
Market Street Wine
Honorable mention: Trader Joe’s
When Market Street Wineshop owner Robert Harllee announced in early 2018 that he was selling his downtown shop, local oenophiles shuddered to think that the charming store, with its Friday tastings and local bread and cheese offerings, might be lost forever. But true fans knew better: New owners and longtime employees Sian Richards and Thadd McQuade wouldn’t fix what wasn’t broke. They did make a few minor adjustments: Now called Market Street Wine, the store boasts new floors and a rearranged shelving system. Over at Wegmans, shoppers choose booze from all over the world. What pairs with kale-and-quinoa cakes?
LOCALLY OWNED GROCERY STORE
Foods of All Nations
Honorable mention: Reid Super-Save Market
Whether you’re an expat looking for a taste of your home country or just a curious foodie hoping to surprise guests with an unforgettable treat, you agree that Foods of All Nations has what you’re looking for (and even what you’re not). Beyond dry goods from every corner of the world, the Ivy Road shop stocks fresh-made sushi, prepared foods to go and a full deli with some of the most reliable sandos in town. Runner-up Feast! has been doling out quality samples from Spanish manchego to country ham—as well as offering the best from local purveyors—from Main Street Market for more than 16 years.
CHAIN GROCERY STORE
Runner-up: Trader Joe’s
Honorable mention: Whole Foods Market
If we picture our former grocery store as a paramour, we can imagine that the day we left it behind for Wegmans was a tough one: We’re sorry, baby. It’s not you; it’s just that Wegmans makes it so easy to, like, be myself, y’know? Like my true self, the one who feels like Marathon bread is its own food group, and who doesn’t like chopping up veggies to make a mirepoix. We’ve had a really good run, but I just need to see where this goes. Of course we’d never say that to Trader Joe’s, though, which comes in second for its Everything But The Bagel seasoning and affordable wine section (among other things).
New Dominion Bookshop
Runner-up: Blue Whale Books
Honorable mention: Read It Again Sam
The oldest independent bookseller in Virginia (the shop opened in 1924 and moved to its current spot on the Downtown Mall, a former shoe store, in 1926), New Dominion carries on a decades-old tradition of matching reader to reading material. Owner Julia Kudravetz does so by hosting regular events and continuing a tradition of thoughtfully curating the store’s collection of fiction, non-fiction, children’s literature and informative coffee table books. A few blocks down, at Blue Whale, find tomes on Thomas Jefferson, Virginia history and architecture, including rare hardcovers.
Runner-up: The Virginia Shop
Honorable mention: Rock Paper Scissors
Since 1996, shop owner Suzannah Fischer has been stocking her shelves with a playful, joyful array of, well, just about everything you might want (or want to give)—scarves, candles, soaps, jewelry dishes, jewelry!, purses, books, stationery, figurines—each display after the next arranged by color to delight (if not mesmerize) you. To expand on her downtown shop’s offerings, in mid-2018, Fischer opened O’Suz For Littles on Second Street NE, so finding something for your best friend’s new baby is as easy as snapping a onesie (even easier, probably, if you factor in the squirming). Across town at The Virginia Shop, snag a postcard depicting Monticello or a tin of real Virginia peanuts.
Runner-up: Fifth Season Gardening
Honorable mention: Snow’s Garden Center
Owners Clare and George Carter have spent the last 43 years cultivating such a beautiful scene at their shop off Ivy Road that even novice gardeners feel compelled to give it two black thumbs up. The landscape architects opened the store shortly after graduating from UVA with three goals in mind: provide the freshest, most beautiful plants and flowers they could find; hire folks who knew what they were talking about and could advise those who didn’t; and provide helpful design and horticulture guidance. More than four decades in, they’re still the standout. Fifth Season Gardening, in the No. 2 spot, rules the garden scene inside city limits with garden fixins’, urban DIY equipment and landscape décor.
LOCAL SPORTING GOODS STORE
Blue Ridge Cyclery
Runner-up: Great Outdoor Provision Co.
Honorable mention: Mincer’s
Few shops do bikes like Shawn Tevendale and his team do bikes. Since 2010, the Preston Avenue and Hollymead Town Center retailer has serviced, sold and rented rides, not to mention led group road, dirt and gravel treks of its own. Needless to say, at BRC, it’s ride or die. Meanwhile, Virginia and North Carolina chain Great Outdoor Provision Co. helps get you outfitted for camping, hiking, fishing, paddling and more.
LOCALLY OWNED PET SUPPLY STORE
Pet Supplies Plus
Runner-up: Crate & Marrow
Honorable mention: Pet Food Discounters
We wouldn’t trade couch snuggles and slobbery kisses for anything, but we’ll admit that even the cutest, sweetest, smooshiest wittle wub-wub face can be a drain on the finances, not to mention—gasp!—kind of an inconvenience sometimes. Readers say Pet Supplies Plus is their go-to spot for easy shopping for food, health care and pet grooming. In Stonefield, Crate & Marrow offers all-natural, organic food and treats for your furry friend, plus collars, leashes and toys.
PLACE TO BUY A CAR
Umansky Automotive Group
Honorable mention: Jim Price
As the woman in the commercials sings, “Brown, Brown, Brown, you’ll love the service.” And that rings true even after Dan Umansky, a Memphis-based dealership owner, bought the Brown fleet in fall of 2017. Umansky, who employs 850 people across 16 dealerships, hasn’t changed much about the popular car shop—prospective buyers are still greeted by the same faces and still peruse the familiar selection of brands. And, of course, they can expect the same reliable service. On Pantops, powerhouse chain CarMax gives buyers affordable used and new options.
PLACE TO BUY A SUIT
The Men’s & Boy’s Shop
Runner-up: JoS. A. Bank
Honorable mention: Beecroft & Bull
Woe that good service is so missing from the modern-day shopping experience that a trip to The Men’s & Boy’s Shop feels like traveling back through time, but that’s part of its charm. The Downtown Mall store prides itself on attentiveness, consideration of details and reliability. And, if that’s not enough, the shop offers free alterations for the life of the suit you buy. In Barracks Road Shopping Center, runner-up Jos. A. Bank stocks suits, separates and design-your-own pieces.