Cathy Jett is the assistant business editor at The Free Lance-Star, and specializes in covering the area's retail scene.
Downtown Culpeper gets two new shops
Kate Shrewsbury noticed a trend when she looked for labels to stock her new store in downtown Culpeper.
About two-thirds of those that caught her eye as candidates for Harriet’s General, 172 E. Davis St., were made in America.
“There’s quite an American-made resurgence,” said Shrewsbury, who decided her shop would sell only those things for him, her and home that are made in the United States.
Harriet’s General is one of two new shops that have opened recently in Culpeper’s revitalized downtown. The other, Unique Boutique, features fashionable accessories and clothing for women and girls at an affordable price. It’s located above The Cameleer at 125 E. Davis St.
Harriet’s General, which Shrewsbury owns with her husband, Acie Shrewsbury, is named for her grandmother, the late Harriet Harrell. It has a dual meaning, she said, because the shop is a general store and her grandmother was married to Gen. Ben Harrell.
The store’s logo was inspired by a photograph of her grandmother waiving a white-gloved hand to people as she and her husband left Turkey, where they’d been stationed. A framed copy of the photograph hangs in the back of the store.
Shrewsbury got her love of retail during childhood summers spent helping her grandmother run a UNICEF. shop in California, and would go with her to gift shows in San Francisco to find new merchandise.
“I’ve always wanted to own my own store,” said Shrewsbury, who previously managed the nearby Pepperberries gift shop.
Harriet’s General, her first venture, has a vintage vibe and Western feel that Ralph Lauren might envy. She and her husband, Acie Shrewsbury, scoured antique shops to find unique display pieces for their shop.
Greeting cards, for example, are displayed in wooden library card catalog drawers, and such retro toys as jacks and Tiddlywinks fill metal bins tucked under what was once a hardware store counter.
There’s even an antique Coca-Cola cooler in the back of the store where customers can get bottles of Coke, Sprite and Fanta; and a vintage pinball machine where every quarter customers drop into its slot to play a game is donated to the Wounded Warrior Project.
Harriet’s General carries everything from candles to cologne to clothing for men, women and children, as well as soaps, jewelry and things for the home.
Many come from small independents, such as the trio of University of Georgia fraternity brothers who came up with a men’s cologne called Moonshine. It comes in a flask-like glass bottle and the company describes the scent as a blend of forest, black pepper, tobacco, leather—and gin.
“We really wanted to focus on men because there’s a little bit of a gap [in that area] in Culpeper,” Shrewsbury said.
Others are more mainstream. They include Minnesota-based Red Wing Heritage shoes or Jacob Bromwell, an Arizona company that has been manufacturing chestnut roasters and flour sifters since 1819.
“Our goal is to have something from every state,” Shrewsbury said. “We’re not there yet, but that’s our goal.”
Unique Boutique takes a totally different approach. Its emphasis isn’t on its clothing comes from, but on the price.
Owners Corey and Ashlie Frazier have three young daughters, and know how hard it can be for families to buy clothing and stick within their budgets.
They’re able to keep the prices on their women’s and girls’ fashions low because they buy from wholesalers who sell overstock from stores in California. The most expensive item they carry is a pair of women’s shoes that costs $39. Winter coats are just $28 to $32.
“They’re very fashionable,” said Ashlie Frazier, who was wearing an outfit selected from her boutique on Monday.
It consisted of a black wool jacket over a purple knit top, black leggings and a pair of jeweled ballerina flats. The total cost, she said, was $65.
The Fraziers spent 10 days transforming what had been a spa into Unique Boutique. The space consists of several rooms with large windows overlooking East Davis Street, and a roomy dressing area complete with multiple mirrors and a sofa.
Ashlie Frazier orders new stock every Sunday, and posts a “sneak peek” to the store’s Facebook page on Monday. She’ll be offering discounts on purchases during downtown Culpeper’s holiday open house Nov. 18.
“It’s really cool,” said Corey Frazier, “to bring an idea to life.”