Sep 28 2014

Historic Fredericksburg’s Downtown

Published by at 5:26 pm under Uncategorized

On Friday, September 26th, 2014, Erin and I headed downtown to observe shoppers. Around 11:20 am, we headed into Forage, a trendy secondhand shop. We were only accompanied by two other shoppers, who looked like a mother-daughter pair. The larger crowds downtown were enjoying the nice weather, as opposed to inside shopping.

Due to the architectural attractions (brick sidewalks, vintage buildings, and eye-capturing store fronts) consumer transportation around downtown is typically walking. One way streets keep traffic manageable, and the municipal lot encourages shoppers to leave their cars behind.

Forage, located further up a hill, was a small boutique with clothing items arranged as best as possible. With this type of store, only one of each item is available, in whichever size it was consigned for. Towards the front of the store, at a vintage style desk/counter, sat the only visible employee. She acknowledged our entrance with a greeting, but otherwise went back to minding her own business. After all, the point of Forage is to forage around, making the theme of the shopping experience a type of exploration. This makes for a very passive seller-consumer relationship, though an effective one.

Each purchase in Forage is considered a lucky find. Shoppers may discover that someone, usually another young woman, has donated a denim jacket that has been perfectly worn in. Forage does carry a small inventory of items that they’ve ordered, but they’re always small accessories like cheap sunglasses or artisan styled jewelry. Everything in the store is completely unique, so it’s up to the shopper to discover what they’re looking for, or happen to find. My personal style does not exactly fall in line with Forage, so I do not shop there regularly.

Stores with better organization and dependable qualities, however, have a very different selling pattern. The Cat’s Closet, located on Caroline Street, is far more traditional. Their website categorizes items such as cat owner apparel, cat grooming products, and other miscellaneous items. Because they are more centrally located, and more of a novelty store, Erin and I observed more people. Like Forage, Cat’s Closet is able to offer a handful of street parking spots. Their window display attracts pedestrians with live cats, setting it apart from the other stores who simply boast their products.

The Cat’s Closet’s employee repeatedly asked Erin and I if we needed anything, making for a more active shopping experience. I asked her of the cats wandering the store were hers, and she responded warmly, explaining that they belonged to the owners. She then promoted their newest item to me, leggings with cats printed on them. They may sound strange, but the leggings matched every other item in the store, from stationary and throw pillows to sweaters and t-shirts.

While I didn’t purchase the leggings, or anything from The Cat’s Closet, ever, I have a slight connection to the store. I have two cats at home, and it’s nice to be able to simply play with one every once in a while. I’ve visited The Cat’s Closet several times before, although usually to laugh at the loud cat patterns on clothing. This was the first time that the cats were not in the display window, napping, so it was nice to pet them.

Lastly, we visited The Toy Store. Their parking is the same for all of downtown Fredericksburg: access to the municipal lot or a few street parking spots. The store was completely empty, unsurprising for 11:45 on a Friday morning, when children are in school and their parents are presumably working. This last stop was perhaps the most unusual, if only because The Toy Store carries a mix of new and vintage toys. Schleich animal action figures, for instance, have become a classic toy. They provide the only emotional connection I have to the store, despite the fact that I have never purchased them there. The woman working behind the counter seemed eager to talk about them to me, in hopes of making a sale. However, she was not active to the point of getting up and coming over to me, a relief since I didn’t plan on buying any. Interestingly, however, The Toy Store carries the original animals, like penguins and moose, as well as Schleich’s line of Smurfs. Symbolic of Fredericksburg’s entirety, The Toy Store’s collection is stuck between new and old.

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