Legendary Santa's been exiled to the Children's Museum of Richmond and the old department stores are being reborn as hotels and theaters, but one sign of downtown Broad Street's midcentury holiday splendor has been reincarnated.
The Fawn Shop, an old Miller & Rhoads Christmas mainstay, has returned with some very modern Richmond preoccupations: crafts, the Ukrop family and the Broad Street art scene.
The Fawn Shop, a temporary gift shop stocked with items by local artists, opened during this month's First Fridays Artwalk and will remain open in the storefront at the corner of Jefferson and Broad streets until Saturday, Dec. 13.
The shop gets its name from a key enticement in the Miller & Rhoads Christmas spectacle of yore. After little boys and girls told Santa what they wanted for Christmas, they could toddle over with a few dollars in their sticky hands and duck through the miniature doors of the Fawn Shop. No parents were allowed. Elves would gift wrap the inexpensive trinkets so the children could participate in the holiday shopping, recalls Dorman Hartley, a retired Miller & Rhoads vice-president.
With the department stores long closed and Broad Street struggling to regain some of its shine, local merchants welcome the retail, even if it's only temporary. The Ukrop family owns the building and previously loaned it out for 1708 Gallery's 30th anniversary event.
“We're trying to get everybody decorated,” says Kevin Korda, who owns Renovation Resources down the block. “Like, I've gone totally over the top.”
Well, maybe not totally. Hartley says that in the good old days, Santa and the Fawn Shop were joined by Felix the Clown from Ringling Brothers Circus. Felix would traipse around the store, trailed by droves of children, leading a small pig on a leash.
“He had a little pig and, of course, by Christmastime he had gotten quite large,” Hartley says. “He was a little competitive with Santa.”