Sep 28 2014

Fieldwork: Downtown Fredericksburg

Published by at 7:37 pm under Uncategorized

I explored downtown Fredericksburg on Friday, September 26th between 11:15 and 11:45. Although the weather was beautiful (it was sunny and warm) not many people were walking around. Considering the time (lunchtime on a Friday), however, there were small groups congregated outside restaurants and coffee shops. Downtown Fredericksburg is highly accessible for shoppers and employees of downtown businesses, with plenty of curbside parking and even a few parking lots. Public transportation is also available, and walking is also an option for shoppers who live in the area. The roads were not terribly crowded, however there were some delivery trucks (presumably dropping off new inventory or food at stores and restaurants) stopped in the middle of the road, causing confusion for drivers.

Jewelry stores, antique malls, and gift shops seem to be the most popular types of shop downtown, although there are also high-end clothing boutiques, home good and decor shops, and various specialty stores. All of these businesses are housed in historic buildings that have been revitalized, renovated, and preserved as a means of making downtown Fredericksburg more attractive and palatable to visitors. (The city is historic significance, so revitalizing and preserving buildings allows the downtown neighborhood to retain its historic charm while making sure it is presentable.) I noticed that most shops were not busy, which makes sense because it was still fairly early in the day and most shops had just open, but as previously mentioned, restaurants were beginning to serve lunch. There were people clustered outside Hyperion and a small lunch crowd in Goolrick’s.

In contrast, the toy store and a consignment shop were empty of shoppers. Forage, a vintage boutique on William Street, had a few shoppers, mostly young women. Clothes were displayed on mannequins and pictures of fashion editorials were on the walls, but the lone employee at the register was pretty passive, only speaking to greet me and say goodbye when I left. The Cat Closet, a boutique for cat owners, was a sharp contrast to Forage. It was more crowded than the other stores I had been to that day (most of the customers were older couples) and the woman behind the register was eager to show me a pair of cat leggings that she thought were my size. The store owner brings her cats in to roam around the store, which is a nice touch for a store whose customers will clearly like that. The merchandise was displayed in various ways: items for cats (like bowls, toys, and specialty snacks) were displayed in the front, while items for owners (clothing, coffee mugs, and picture frames) were displayed in the back. The displays were crowded and slightly cluttered, but easy to navigate: The cat toys, for instance, were organized by type in canisters on their own shelf, while the cat tee shirts were hung up on racks in their own separate area.

There was nothing particularly unusual going on downtown that day, although there was a man standing on the corner of William and Princess Anne who offered me a small card explaining Senator Mark Warner’s politics to me. This did make me a bit uncomfortable, and I wondered if there were any regulations or ordinances that could prevent situations like this, because I’m sure I’m not the only person who was put off by it. Overall, I felt a connection to the location. As a UMW student, I have been downtown many times, and I always feel comfortable in the “small town” environment. I also appreciate the businesses that offer discounts to students. Downtown Fredericksburg is a lively shopping district that provides shoppers with a variety of goods and services in a safe, attractive environment.


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