Shop tycoons aim to entertain customers at new store in Carytown

Brick and Mortar Mercantile owner Ben Wegdam recently opened a store in Carytown, the brand’s fourth. (Courtesy of Brick and Mortar Mercantile)

A gift shop that aims to brighten up the brick-and-mortar retail experience has opened in Carytown.

Brick and Mortar Mercantile launched last week in the former Carytown Goodwill store at 3114 W. Cary St.

The store is the latest Carytown venture of Ben and Tara Wegdam, the married couple behind Zest Clothing & Co., Lou Lou Boutiques and Crème de la Crème stores in the same neighborhood.

The Carytown Brick and Mortar is the brand’s first location in Richmond. The Wegdams also have Brick and Mortar stores in Middleburg and Leesburg, and in Frederick, Maryland.

The brand was launched several years ago with the aim of reversing declining foot traffic at other Wegdams stores by emphasizing an engaging store experience and “forward-thinking” product offerings, a said Ben Wegdam.

“We saw that traffic in general was down, and there were several reasons for that. But the main reason is probably that everyone is shopping on Amazon,” he said. “We imagined a concept focused on entertainment. Not that I want to be a restaurant or a bar, but people need to be entertained when they come here because entertainment is something they can’t get online.

The Carytown store features a piano for customers to play and a birdcage with live birds as ways to capture customers’ attention.

“The idea is to bring people in. And once they’re there, they have fun,” Wegdam said. “Obviously we hope they will buy something. But even if they don’t, we hope they have a good time.

Brick and Mortar offers a wide variety of clothing, books, toiletries, novelties and other items. Brands on store shelves include names like hat company Stetson and outdoor clothing company Filson, as well as brands like shoe company Blundstone, soap company Dr. Squatch and clothing brand Upstate Stock.

Although Brick and Mortar is primarily a store-related concept, it operates a limited online store. He signed a lease on the 5,000 square foot space late last year.

Brick and Mortar’s parent company is West Federal Retail, which is owned by the Wegdams. In addition to the four Brick and Mortar locations, the company operates more than a dozen Lou Lou, three Creme de la Cremes and three Zests locations. West Federal is based in Middleburg.

Other new retailers that have recently opened in Carytown include collectible toy store Toy Lair and bag company Lineage.

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