Best of C-VILLE 2019: Shopping

Your choice for Best Toy Store: Shenanigans.  Kids’ choice for Best Store Ever: Shenanigans. Photo: Jen Fariello Your choice for Best Toy Store: Shenanigans. Kids’ choice for Best Store Ever: Shenanigans. Photo: Jen Fariello

What we’ve learned: Charlottesville loves to buy local.

Jewelry store


Runner-up: Andrew Minton Jewelers

Honorable mention: Tuel Jewelers

Browsing the displays at Angelo’s is like viewing an installation at a museum of contemporary art. Each piece possesses unique materiality, design, and fabrication, and shows the individual artist’s sensibilities. Some of the more impressive items are the work of Lee Angelo Marraccini, a veteran of the craft jewelry market. He owns the store with his wife, Pam Perugi Marraccini. The couple bring a loving touch to the shop that our readers find inspiring. • In business since 1978, UVA alum Andrew Minton also offers a unique alternative to the flashy jewelry chain store experience, with personalized service that includes an education about each piece he sells.

Local furniture store


Runner-up: The Habitat Store

Honorable mention: The Artful Lodger

Whether you’re hunting for a specific piece or just want to get lost among the trove of funky-but-chic vintage and antique furniture and home decor, Circa’s the place to go. Founded in 1998, the 10,000-square-foot shop’s formula for success is to price items fairly and quickly turn over inventory, which ranges from primitive to mid-century, and polished to patinaed. • The Habitat Store also has a warehouse-y feel and big inventory. The occasional high-quality antique turns up, but mostly the nonprofit store offers solid deals for economical home furnishing.

Consignment store

Darling Boutique

Runner-up: Twice Is Nice

Honorable mention: Kid to Kid

Darling Boutique owner Linnea White is the local standard bearer for slow fashion, helping clients look good with her carefully curated inventory of high-quality labels, and feel good for not adding to the flooded market of new women’s clothing. • Twice Is Nice offers a great selection but is not actually a consignment store—it’s a nonprofit that sells donated clothing, accessories, and home goods, and funnels its profits into charities that serve the elderly.

Vintage clothing store

Darling Boutique

Runner-up: Twice Is Nice

Honorable mention: Rethreads

The stock at Darling is mostly of the moment, although, as the store’s website states, “We also love gently worn vintage with a contemporary vibe.” Our readers obviously don’t give the distinction a second thought—if it’s not new, it’s vintage, and if they like the style and fabrication of a particular item, they’re going to buy it. And at Darling, they know they’ll always find high-quality fashions on the racks. • Twice Is Nice gives vintage shopping a good rep, with well-organized displays of freshly cleaned and pressed clothes.

Record store

Plan 9 Music

Runner-up: Sidetracks Music

Honorable mention: Melody Supreme

As a small city we are blessed with a wealth of record stores, (see “For the record.”) Over three decades, music mainstay Plan 9 has shifted its focus from vinyl to CDs and back again, but maintained its loyal clientele.

Kids’ clothing store

Kid to Kid

Runner-up: Whimsies

Honorable mention: O’Suzannah for Littles

Those of us who played the hand-me-down game as kids know that there’s virtue in frugality when it comes to children’s clothing. Parents flock to consignment shop Kid to Kid for good deals on quality duds (and toys, cribs, and other gear) for their little ones. • Whimsies is right at home in the upscale Shops at Stonefield. When you see a local kid turned out in fine fashion, chances are it came from the bright shop with the polished wood floors and neat displays.

Store for kids’ books

Barnes & Noble

Runner-up: Shenanigans

Honorable mention: Alakazam Toys and Gifts

Many of the Best of C-VILLE winners show our readers’ strong belief in supporting local, independently owned businesses. Barnes & Noble is a notable exception—a corporate giant that manages to endear itself to Charlottesville natives. The bookseller does this, in part, with the expansive children’s book section at the back of the store. Staff members lead story-time sessions for toddlers to teens, engaging parents and kids alike. The books are smartly displayed, and employees specializing in children’s titles are always on hand to offer recommendations. • Our Best Toy Store, Shenanigans (page 129), features a big selection of kids books and little chairs for young readers to take a seat and flip through their favorites.

Locally owned sporting goods store

Ragged Mountain Running Shop

Runner-up: Play It Again Sports

Honorable mention: Blue Ridge Cyclery

Virginia may be for lovers, but Charlottesville is for runners—and Ragged Mountain is the hub of all things running in our fair city. The shop offers training programs for runners of all levels, a 10 percent discount for clients who donate gently worn shoes to the shop’s Shoes for the Shoeless program, a competitive team (Ragged Mountain Racing), guides to trail-, street-, and track-running, and much more. Frequently updated Facebook and Twitter feeds deepen customers’ engagement and apprise them of race results, upcoming events, and shop news. • Play It Again Sports is the nation’s largest sporting goods resale franchise in the country, with hundreds of shops but only a few, like the one in Charlottesville, that earn the Gold Standard Store designation.

Wine shop

Market Street Wine

Runner-up: Wegmans

Honorable mention: Trader Joe’s

When all the votes were tallied, this list looked familiar—indeed, it mirrors last year’s. Market Street Wine retains the top spot, impressing readers with vast and unusual stock, Friday tastings, and local bread and cheese samples. The shop is small but mighty, tucked into rooms with low ceilings and an underground garage feel. • Wegmans has a huge wine inventory that includes an impressive selection of local wines, good values, and a high-end cave for special vintages and formats, for those times when only a Jeroboam will do.

Locally owned grocery store

Foods of All Nations

Runner-up: Reid Super-Save Market

Honorable mention: Rebecca’s Natural Food

Some locals jokingly call our winner “Foods of All Prices,” but they shop there, anyway. You get what you pay for at Foods, which has great local produce, dry goods from around the world, a boffo wine selection, an in-house sushi chef, freshly made salads and sandwiches, and a butcher to beat the band. Bonus: The café upfront provides a sunny spot to eat lunch or hang out and read the paper. • The secret is not so secret anymore: Reid’s has all the basics but really excels with its craft-beer selection and diverse offerings at the butcher counter.

Chain grocery store


Runner-up: Trader Joe’s

Honorable mention: Kroger

Wegmans is where you go to do a “big shop.” Food and drink selections in the Costco-sized store are so vast and varied that it’s all but impossible to just run in for milk and eggs. The more suitable experience involves a long list, a leisurely pace, and a taste for top-quality products. • Charlottesville is lucky to have a Trader Joe’s, where excellent groceries, wine, cheese, and prepared foods can be had at a reasonable price.

Independent bookstore

New Dominion Bookshop

Runner-up: Daedalus Bookshop

Honorable mention: Blue Whale Books

As the home of the annual Virginia Festival of the Book—not to mention a world-class writing program at UVA—Charlottesville is a mecca for book lovers. Readers looking for the latest titles—and expert guidance on their selections—put their faith in New Dominion. A robust program of authors’ readings and signings, story times for kids, lunch-and-learn events, and book-release parties keeps Virginia’s oldest independent bookseller (1924) fresh and vital. • Twenty years ago, a Washington Post writer called Daedalus “a three-story temple of secondhand lit, a bibliophile’s church.” That’s still true.

Gift shop


Runner-up: The Virginia Shop

Honorable mention: Rock Paper Scissors

Suzannah Fischer’s shop has been a downtown gift-buyer’s paradise since 1996. Her cheerful, whimsical disposition shows in her store’s wide selection: scarves, candles, soaps, jewelry, purses, books, stationery, and more, often displayed by color. • Are you proud to be a Virginian? Get on over to The Virginia Shop for a bottle of commonwealth wine, a mug or glass printed with the “Virginia Creed,” or a gift basket stuffed with from-this-state-only packaged goods.

Nursery/garden store

Ivy Nursery

Runner-up: Fifth Season Gardening

Honorable mention: Snow’s Garden Center

The shop on Ivy Road is worthy of a postcard, where the red metal roof covers a country-chic selection of botanical-themed gifts, fresh-cut flowers, plants, and gardening gear. In the greenhouse and on the grounds outside, shoppers will find a fine selection of plants, trees, shrubs, and ground cover. There is an orderly wildness to the place, which makes good sense since it was opened in 1975 by UVA landscape architecture grads Clare and George Carter, who still run the place with style and grace. • Fifth Season Gardening is the go-to for city gardeners and home DIYers, including craft brewers.

Locally owned pet supply store

Pet Supplies Plus

Runner-up: Pet Food Discounters

Honorable mention: Crate & Marrow

The 2018 subcategory winner takes the prize again this year, getting the readers’ vote for its vast, reasonably priced selection of food, health, and grooming products for their pets. The wash-your-own-dog wet room is a money-saving bonus. • Pet Food Discounters also offers deals and a selection good enough to rate the runner-up spot.

Umansky Automotive Group’s vast selection is tough to beat. Photo: Sanjay Suchak

Place to buy a car

Umansky Automotive Group

Runner-up: CarMax

Honorable mention: Jim Price Auto Group

We hate to point out the obvious, but the best place to buy a car is the place that has the most cars. Dan Umansky, a Memphis-based megadealer (16 locations and counting), serves the Charlottesville market with new marques from Subaru to Mercedes, as well as a limited selection of pre-owned vehicles. • CarMax, you’ve heard of it? The national used car chain touts its hassle-free prices and convenience (buy your vehicle online, have it delivered to your driveway).

Toy Store


Runner-up: Alakazam Toys and Gifts

Honorable mention: Walmart

Shenanigans has been a Charlottesville staple for 45 years. That kind of longevity owes to loyal clients who know they’re going to find great stuff for their kids inside the door. Much of Shenanigans’ appeal comes from its smartly selected inventory, which includes everything from old-school analog favorites (puzzles, baby dolls, kites, Hasbro’s Game of Life) to techy games and build-kits for budding STEM geniuses. Shopping in a classic toy store like Shenanigans is like entering a time capsule, which is just one reason our readers think it’s the best. • Alakazam gives the Downtown Mall a shot of color, whimsy, and childish fun.

Posted In:     Best of C-VILLE 2019

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