ANNUAL MANUAL-Outings: Shopping

It used to be that hardcore shoppers had to hit the road to get any satisfaction. Well, those days are over now that Charlottesville has more "shopportunities" than ever before. Whether you prefer chic boutiques, thrifty finds, or the wonder that is Target, all you need is your wallet and an urge to spend.

The Corner: Not just for fashion-fearless undergrads, The Corner offers serious Charlottesville shoppers a respite from faceless brands and bland store fronts. While most of the shopping trends towards chick-wear, there's something for all Cavaliers at stores like Mincers (434-296-5687) and the Student Book Store (434-293-5900). Athletes of all genres must stop by Ragged Mountain Running Shop (434-293-3367) to get their stride checked by a member of the Lorenzoni family, (Mark and Cynthia have owned the store since 1982) or snag comfortable and functional workout gear for all occasions. Shopping for that unique, one-of-a-kind Foxfield dress? A stop at Finch (434-244-0050), Duo (434-979-1212), or Catwalk Clothing (434-971-9255) is likely to turn up a preppy, glamorous, or quirky outfit that is likely to come in limited supply– so no repeat offenders at sorority functions!

Hook Favorite: Finch

Located off University Avenue in the heart of Corner real estate, Finch is chock-full of hip, up-and-coming brands of dresses, shoes, underwear, and accessories from designers such as Free People, Rainbows, and Steve Madden. Men, never fear– instead of sitting around a dressing room awkwardly, you can join your girlfriends in the shopping fun. Finch carries a small section of man-friendly clothing– shirts, ties, shoes, and pants are all located in the back and change seasonally.

Downtown Mall: Even with the introduction of a few chains (Urban Outfitters, The Melting Pot) the Downtown Mall and surrounding streets can't be beat if you're seeking locally owned boutiques where you'll find clothes of all kind, gifts, and art. O'Suzannah (979-7467) is a perennial favorite for gifty knick knacks; Rock Paper Scissors (979-6366) and Caspari (293-0623) offer high-end stationery and paper goods, and Glo (295-7432) will help light up your house with a whole storeful of candles. New Dominion Bookshop ( 295-2552) offers bookworms hours of happy browsing, as do several used book stores up and down the Mall and on sidestreets. Newly relocated to the Mall from a few blocks away, Bittersweet (977-5977) is a tempting addition to the Mall's women's clothing offerings with styles suitable for a range of ages and tastes. If you have a more generous budget, both Chloe (971-7554) Eloise (295-3905) on Water Street are known for carrying trendy and youthful yet elegant women's wear. Comfortable, stylish, and retro shoes (think Miz Mooz) call out from the shoe side of the Boutique Boutique clothing store (293-8400), and men can find their own styles at the Young Men's Shop (975-3131), where, apparently, men are always considered young, no matter their actual age (magic, that, eh?). The truly young can get outfitted in high style at Petit Bébé (244-9400), and find the perfect birthday present at Alakazam (971-1717). Tuckered out from all the shopping? Make your bed a sanctuary with bajillion thread-count sheets from Palais Royal (979-1581– and pay attention for notice of their great sales!)

Hook favorite: Bittersweet

It's a tough one given all of the Mall's clothing offerings, but for cute styles that you won't see on every other stylish chick around town (and that can be had for under $100), Bittersweet can't be beat. Owner Shannon Iaculli has spent much of the last decade building a loyal following with her mix of new and vintage duds. Her recent move from the Glass Building to a prominent spot on the Downtown Mall should serve her well as more window shoppers will certainly be lured inside for the Frye boots, adorable and comfortable organic cotton and hemp dresses, and hippy chick blouses. While it's no secret that Urban Outfitters, just a few shop windows away, targets only teens and 20-somethings, Bittersweet does a great job of spanning the decades, making hip mom/daughter shopping a one-stop pleasure without breaking the bank. Hint: Pair a cute Bittersweet dress with some rockin' shoes from Boutique Boutique, and you're ready to roll.

Barracks Road Shopping Center: While known more for its eateries and groceries, Barracks boasts an ever-growing cache of boutiques and mainstream shopping. Major draws for women include the newly-opened Anthropologie (434-295-1749), Francesca's Collections (434-296-9556), and White House Black Market (434-293-6448), while the old favorites are still Talbot's (434-296-3580), LOFT (434-295-3232), and Scarpa (434-296-0040). Adventure-seekers and outdoorsy types can revel in Blue Ridge Mountain Sports (434-977-4400). Men looking to spruce up their wardrobe can hit up the dependable Joseph A. Banks (434-244-0015) or splurge at Beecroft & Bull (434-977-9010). Both genders will find something fashionable at Banana Republic (434-872-9393) or Old Navy (434-984-0167). Looking for jewelry? Fink's (434-284-4060) or Penelope (434-977-5811) have all your hand, neck, and ear needs. If you're in the mood to shop, but not for apparel, Barracks has your knick-knackery or furnishing cravings covered– Bed Bath & Beyond (434-971-3098), Plow and Hearth (434-977-3707), The Happy Cook (434-977-2665), The Virginia Shop (434-977-0080), Michaels (434-971-1087)– oh my! And, to top it all off, a swing by Barnes and Noble (434-984-0461) is nearly required if you're in the vicinity of Route 29 North. Anyone who equates Barracks Road merely with Harris Teeter and Chipotle is seriously missing out.

Hook favorite: Francesca's Collections

One of the newest additions to Barracks Road, Francesca's is a national chain with locations in 32 states. While some may gripe and grumble about the prevalence of chain stores in town, Francesca's legitimately is a steal– upon our last visit soon after the store opened in the spring, we found nearly every garment reasonably priced at $35. Dresses, tops, skirts, rompers– all $35-45 or less. Their accessories and bags collections are equally as extensive and delightfully inexpensive. For one-stop-shopping that jazzes up your already-hip wardrobe and doesn't break the bank, Francesca's is not to be missed.

Seminole Square Shopping Center: This shopping center got a big family boost from the recent opening of kiddie wonderland Bounce n' Play in 2010, but for a retail fix, it's best known as home to Marshall's (974-9375) Big Lots (975-6440), Office Depot (975-1000) and a Giant food store. It's also adjacent to the Seminole Regal 4 movie theater. It should be noted for those who haven't visited recently (or ever) that Marshall's expanded its shoe section within the last few years and now offers a huge selection, much of it at clearance prices. Smaller shops at Seminole include the Party Starts Here (973-7359), not one but two bike stores, Downtown Athletic (975-3696), sporting goods and its offshoot, Total Soccer (220-2460).

Rio Hill Shopping Center: Perhaps the most manly of all Charlottesville's shopping centers, Rio Hill offers local electronics hotspot Crutchfield (817-1100), and not one but two sporting goods options: Dick's Sporting Goods (974-5640) and for second hand gear, Play it Again Sports (973-2638). Then there's Lowe's (975-7140) just across the way (although not in the shopping center proper.) In addition to a Kroger grocery store and several eateries, Rio Hill is also a good place for discount clothing prospects for men, women and children: Rugged Wearhouse, Rack Room Shoes(974-7303) Payless Shoes (973-0389), and TJ Maxx (974-7410) are there, as is hipster thrift store Plato's Closet (977-4722), where they guarantee none of their brand name duds are older than a year or two (but where shoppers over the age of 30 may feel woefully old.) 

Fashion Square Mall: Okay. Seriously, what doesn't Fashion Square Mall have? As the largest mall in the region– the next best thing is the substantially larger Short Pump outside Richmond– Fashion Square houses a bulk of big-name shops to which students and Cvillians alike flock. There are your basics: Abercrombie and Fitch (434-973-2051), American Eagle Outfitters (434-973-0144), Gap (434-973-9636), J.Crew (434-975-2889), and Eddie Bauer (434-973-8695). For women, Ann Taylor (434-975-2300), Cache, Claire's (434-973-1261), Coach (434-964-4693), Express, New York & Company (434-973-7019), Victoria's Secret (434-978-3771), and Wet Seal (434-973-8721) are all housed in Fashion Square. And for those who just like department store shopping, Sears (434-974-8200), JCPenney (434-973-7851), and Belk (434-973-7878) hold down the fort.

Hollymead Town Center: Its official name may be the Hollymead Town Center, but you'll get directions there much faster if you just mention its largest tenant: Target (Yeah, yeah, Tar-JHAY for you budget conscious snoots) (964-1231). Located three miles north of Walmart on 29N, Target–- as everyone well knows–- is a shopping mecca of sorts for students, hipsters, and anyone else who loves the wide aisles, color coordinated displays, unique-to-the-store designer brands (Isaac Mizrahi and Converse, for instance, design lines) and endless array of affordable gifts, home accessories, toys, clothes and even organic food.

Making Hollymead even more of a menace to your money this fall is the opening of Kohl's, another bargain store that inspires similar enthusiasm and loyalty, slated to open sometime fall 2010. Rounding out Hollymead is Harris Teeter (823-1184) and a variety food and retails chains– Bonefish Grill, TGI Fridays, Panera Bread, and Maggie Moos are among the dining options, and kids will cry (or, perhaps more accurately, whine and scream) for a quick trip into one of used and new video game emporium Game Stop's multiple locations (973-5981).

Looking for antiques or consignment? Charlottesville has tons of places to rummage for vintage or low-cost finds. If you have a few hours to spare or are just looking for that perfectly classic piece to complete your (or your home's) look, these are the shops for you: Downtown– Circa Inc (434-295-5760), Oyster House Antiques (434-295-4757), Rosewood Antiques (434-977-5008), Antics Vintage Clothing (434-293-9082), Ryal's Furniture and Consignments (434-971-1446), Ike's Underground Vintage Clothing (434-295-6111). Ivy Road– Joseph Joseph Joseph Antiques (434-970-7998), And George (434-244-2800), House of Jacobus Antiques (434-977-0024). Route 29– Harlowe-Powell Auction Ltd (434-293-2904).