Charlottesville, Virginia, is most well known for its University of Virginia campus and for being home to three former United States presidents. Over the years, the city has evolved, offering a vibrant food and drink scene, as well as a vast number of diverse local businesses. There’s even a thriving arts community just outside the city.

Shopping in Charlottesville, and shopping locally in general, helps build an accepting, welcoming and fun community. Consumer support also helps to keep a large number of Charlottesville residents employed and encourages other businesses to move to town. The push to shop locally has been a strong one for this reason. A recent Bankrate survey found 61% of holiday shoppers plan to shop on Small Business Saturday. Today, we’ll look at a few of the thriving small businesses Charlottesville has to offer.

The Downtown Mall

Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall is a staple in the city, offering more than 120 shops and 30+ restaurants. The mall extends the length of Main St. and is comprised of restored, historic buildings and a few modern ones as well. In the middle of the mall runs a beautifully paved, brick pedestrian walkway that makes the space easily navigable. Parking is easy to manage, with multiple lots and garages surrounding the mall. UVA students and their families can also enjoy a free trolley service that leads downtown.

Dozens of eateries along the Downtown Mall offer everything from gourmet sandwiches to burger bars, taprooms and more. The Fitzroy is a classic bar where you can enjoy classic cocktails and upscale bar food in a gorgeous interior. Another popular spot, The Southern offers music enthusiasts a place to see local and national acts most nights of the week. It has a basement rock-club vibe with a café-style menu.

Foodies who prefer a more diverse menu flock to options like Himalayan Fusion, which offers Indian, Nepalese, and Tibetan cuisine. There’s also Cinema Taco, a Mexican, movie-themed restaurant (located in the Jefferson Theater), Ten, a Japanese restaurant famous for its sake flights and Fleurie, a French fine dining option.

In between the delicious meal options, there are over a hundred shops to visit in the Downtown Mall. Shoppers who want more unique, one-of-a-kind items should pop into Low Vintage. Low Vintage is a curated secondhand store with vintage clothes, records, and other eclectic items. Book lovers won’t want to miss 2nd Act Books — a huge used-book store run by a retired UVA professor — which offers gently used books, book-themed puzzles and occasional author readings. The regal-looking Oyster House Antiques is the perfect stop for anyone seeking traditional antique Chinese furniture, all hand-picked by the owner and staff and carefully restored by their in-house expert.

West Main Street

You could have all of your meals in one day along West Main Street. Historically part of the Three Notch’d Road, vital for travel through Virginia in the 1800s, this street runs between UVA and the Downtown Mall — a prime location that led to its rapid revitalization. West Main Street now boasts a large variety of eateries and shops.

Today, you can find restaurants like the Blue Moon Diner. Once “The Waffle Shop” in the 1950s, this classic American diner is now a casual spot where you can grab your morning breakfast. Maya is a restaurant and bar that offers elevated versions of southern dishes like ribs, fried oysters and key lime pie. There’s also Tavern & Grocery, a local farm-to-table restaurant with a speakeasy in the cellar.

While you’ll find a number of hotels on this strip, largely in part due to the close proximity of UVA, restaurants dominate as you make your way down the street. The well-known Orzo Kitchen & Wine Bar will be every Mediterranean food lover’s dream. Right on the edge of the downtown area, the menu consists of Italian, Spanish, Greek, and French food. Next door is the Black Cow Chophouse. Sip on a happy hour cocktail before enjoying a quality cut of meat prepared over a wooden-fire hearth.

Crozet Artisan Depot

Artists and makers will thrive in the Crozet Artisan Depot. Less than 30 minutes from downtown Charlottesville, “The Depot” is an artisan gallery that hosts art openings, workshops and demonstrations. It’s housed in a historic train depot, with works from over 80 artists covering its walls. Local artists of all ages are featured in monthly exhibitions. You can find a list of the featured artists here.

For gift shoppers, The Depot features a variety of art, including painting, pottery, jewelry, photography and stained glass. Handmade goods sold in the Crozet Artisan Depot shop change from season to season and may include clocks, hats, scarves, wood carvings and other artisan treasures. The Depot also sells locally made honey and jelly, and it houses Gearharts Fine Chocolates where you can pick up handmade chocolates.

The goal of the Crozet Artisan Depot is to blend art and community, allowing artists to make a living simply by doing what they do best — and giving local residents a way to support them while picking up unique, one-of-a-kind gifts.

Looking for more?

We’ve only touched on a small number of the businesses in Charlottesville. However, this small sampling should give you a taste of the vast array of businesses located in the city. If you need full-length guides on the city and its local attractions, we’ve got a few local directory suggestions below:

  • Shop local Charlottesville brands: BuyCville allows you to search and do local shopping online for products available from Charlottesville businesses. A similar search experience to Amazon, the site makes finding local goods easy.
  • Cville Black Biz Directory: Want to support Black-owned businesses in Charlottesville? Cville Black Biz directory will connect you to local black-owned businesses.
  • Visit Charlottesville: The city’s tourist page allows visitors to search everything from museums to restaurants, bars, hotels, and outdoor activities. It also posts a list of upcoming events.
  • Charlottesville Guide: lets you search by activity (restaurants, hotels, eating, etc.). You can find popular locations with short descriptions, as well as parking notes and business hours.
  • The Daily Progress: Charlottesville’s newspaper, The Daily Progress, has a shop local section that allows you to search through businesses and find contact info and location. There’s virtually every business in town listed here.

Source: Google Maps

The bottom line

When you shop local and support businesses such as the ones in Charlottesville, you’re helping to support the whole country’s workforce. Small businesses account for over 99% of all businesses in the U.S., and without them, it would be difficult to grow and sustain communities. Plus, we wouldn’t have any of the local, unique creations that often come from these businesses.

Swiping your card at local businesses on Small Business Saturday is a great step in helping these businesses thrive, but remember to continue that support throughout the year as well.