Best Local Gift Shop 

Readers' Pick

click to enlarge A shopper checks out specialty gift items at Mongrel in Carytown.

Scott Elmquist/File

A shopper checks out specialty gift items at Mongrel in Carytown.

First Place:

Mongrel (Hall of Fame Winner)

2924 W. Cary St.
342-1272
mongrelrva.com

Second Place: Tweed
Third Place: River Road Cottage
Honorable Mention: Sassy Bee

When Stan McCulloch and Mark Burkett, owners of Mongrel, opened their shop in 1991 the retail landscape in Richmond was pretty much a desert. With a clear vision, they set out to offer local shoppers something they hadn’t seen before. Part of their inspiration came from a tiny card shop that Burkett had stumbled on in Boca Raton, filled floor to ceiling with alternative greeting cards made by small presses and individual artist-driven lines.

“We carried that idea from greeting card brands to gift and home accessory brands,” says McCulloch, also the store’s head buyer. “It’s been a very time-consuming process to uncover and source the variety of inventory we currently offer – 30 years in the making – that literally changes on a daily basis.”

Mongrel is known for the variety of candle brands it carries, all chosen because they juxtapose with one another. In contrast, the store carries only one stuffed animal brand, Jellycat, because of its quality, uniqueness, variety and ability to complement vignette displays in the store. Designed and developed in-house, a U.S.A.-produced line of Richmond gift merchandise remains popular with residents and tourists alike. In addition to the hundreds of greeting cards, Mongrel also carries myriad books specifically curated to complement other gift merchandise.

The inventory has changed immensely over the years because, as time passed, the owners were able to stock products better suited to the open and progressive lifestyle of so many Richmonders – including themselves. Word of mouth has brought in new customers for years but it helps that Mongrel’s is located in the high-traffic neighborhood of Carytown with retail neighbors who serve as a supportive network.

“In the very early years, the RVA gay community was a huge support for us and really helped us gain momentum as a business,” McCulloch says. “So, a huge shout out and thank you goes to them.”

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