Sep 28 2014
Although I have been to Downtown Fredericksburg since coming to Mary Washington, I never took the time to stop and look around at the layout of the downtown, the stores, and the people. I went and explored the Downtown areas of William Street and Caroline Street on September 26th from 11:10 to about 11:45. It was a beautiful day out which allowed for many people to walk around this area. Transportation for the people who walk around and shop downtown as well as those who are employees downtown range from their own personal cars, walking, biking, or even taking the Fred bus. I also noticed a trolley that was giving tours of the downtown area, so that could also be a means of transportation through this downtown district. There were many cars driving through the downtown area as well as parked on the side which leads me to believe that most people will drive to the area, park and then walk around. The type of transportation that I noticed for retail goods were delivery trucks. One company that I saw pass 2 or 3 times was Alsco. I am unsure if the train down at the edge of this area could also be a means of transportation for retail goods.
In this downtown area the types of retail space are mainly privately owned small (family) businesses. There are no chains except for the Holiday Inn hotel. I found this to be interesting because this specific layout attracts certain types of people who are more interested in the community aspect that these retail stores bring rather than the fast-pace, efficient aspects that come with chain stores. The types of people (shoppers and walkers) that I saw were Caucasian young adults, middle aged and older people. Some were pushing strollers and others were walking dogs. Only one did I pass an African American couple.
The first store that I went into was the Re-Run Shoppe, which was labeled as a “commission merchant.” This store was a consignment shop with clothes for a person of any age. Jewelry and other accessories such as handbags were also sold here. The employees that I noticed were three, middle aged Caucasian women. The next store I went into had two parts. The first was the PA Dutch Candy & Food store which had all stores of both name brand (M&M, Snickers, Fun Dip etc.) but also “PA Dutch” brand candy, snacks, and toys. The employee in this store was an older Caucasian woman. The other part to the store was a PA Dutch Tea shop that sold a huge variety of teas, mugs, and spices. The employee working in this store was a younger girl and the youngest (20’s) of all the employees I saw. The third store I chose to go into was The Museum Store, which is the gift shop for the Fredericksburg Museum. Here they were selling paintings and artwork of Fredericksburg along with all sorts of pottery. There was also a section of books with information on the Civil War and slavery. The final store that I went into was Hyperion that (as most of us know) sells a huge variety of coffees and teas. As I walked by the window displays I took note of the fact that some were designed for the seasonal aspect and others were not. For example, the PA Dutch stores had a Halloween display in their windows.
The selling patterns that I noticed in this area were that many of these stores sells antiques or souvenirs. These are the types of stores that don’t have 100 of everything like your typical chain store would, but they are the types of stores that sell items with a lot of use or history. Although there are very nice boutiques and jewelry stores as well, I got the impression that the majority of the stores portray an historical aspect. As noted earlier, the merchandise that is being sold in this area ranges from clothing to jewelry to food to antiques and souvenirs. I noticed that some of the stores had “Welcome Students” sign in their windows or doors which allows me to make a stronger connection with this area in that they are welcoming and pay attention to the types of people living in this area. The one disconnection that I feel my generation might agree with is the idea that this downtown area has a lot of history to it and as I said before sells a lot of souvenirs and antiques that college students wouldn’t be interested in. That aspect of the downtown could appeal to the old generations, in my opinion. However, I do think that us students should take the opportunity to appreciate the history that the downtown and that the stores have to offer. There were a few unusual things that I saw such as a dog statue on top of one of the buildings. I also saw that in the PA Dutch Tea store that there was a pet toad from South America, which I found cool but also random and uncharacteristic considering what the store was selling. There was also a man on the corner of William St and Princess Anne St who was holding up a sign that said “Google Mark Warner’s business ethics.” These were a few things that I saw and found unusual because I did not expect to see them.
Overall I believe that this downtown space takes pride in preserving his historic past through from the look of their buildings to the items that they sell. The historic information signs on the corners along with the Visitor’s center and Fredericksburg museum also support this idea. The trolley that you can see going through downtown offer the people in the area the opportunity to learn more about it. This area, in my opinion, is meant for small privately own businesses with a sense of community. I do not think that chain stores would fit in or thrive here because of the history that each part of the area portrays. For example, The Orion was modern sushi bar that originally was on William St but closed down after a year of being in business because they wanted to move to a bigger city area. Although I understand the reasoning for this, I think this alone shows the type of businesses and consumers that Fredericksburg attracts.
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