Mincer's: a University legacy
A look at the historic family business and its iconic spot on the Corner
The blue and orange awning that extends above the Corner’s brick sidewalk is an unmistakable landmark of the Charlottesville area. Mincer’s University of Virginia Imprinted Sportswear has been a part of University tradition since 1948, opening as a tobacco shop under the name of Mincer’s Humidor. Since then, the legacy of Mincer’s —and the types of products it offers — has developed under the three generations of ownership by Mincer men.
Mincer’s initial business model reflects the starkly different picture of University life in the mid-20th century. Bestselling products initially included tobacco goods and stationery, as smoking was relatively common among the young male students who primarily used letters to communicate with friends and family from home. Among many of its other historic quirks, Mincer’s was also once the largest record dealer between Washington D.C. and Raleigh, N.C.
“A lot of people still come who remember the cigar box on the counter,” current owner Mark Mincer said. “[It] had $5 in it, and you could leave your name and borrow [the money] when you were in a tough time and didn’t have anywhere else to get it.”
After women were first allowed to enroll at the University in 1970, students found themselves looking for more casual wardrobe options to counter the classic coat-and-tie uniform of a University gentleman. It was this growing demand for T-shirts that prompted Mincer’s to begin selling University apparel. With the advent of Easters Weekend parties and the 1976 ACC Basketball Championship, more and more students wanted to represent their school and community while celebrating its athletic success.
Mincer said the business has strived to take calculated risks since its opening, experimenting with merchandise throughout the decades.
“You try these things out and if they work, you go with it,” Mincer said.
Today, the store specializes in University printed goods, including a variety of clothing, hats, accessories and gifts. While other vendors like the University Bookstore and the local Target sell similar products, Mincer’s offers a number of custom-printed products unavailable at competitors’ stores.
The store’s uniqueness also stems from its family-based ownership, operating entirely under the Mincer family name since its opening.
“Very few family businesses actually make it to the third generation,” Mincer said. “Though the merchandise has changed, [our] philosophy has remained the same.”
There is also a certain unspoken relationship between Mincer’s and other Corner establishments that contributes to the commercial district’s constantly bustling business and lively atmosphere.
“Mincer’s is the anchor for the Corner area as a whole,” said Virginian Restaurant owner Andy McClure, a 2001 Commerce graduate. “Having a place like that — that everyone has heard of, that everyone shops at, that everyone personally knows — is really invaluable. My hope is to last as long as they have and thrive as they have.”
Growing up in Charlottesville, first-year College student Riley Crowell had her first Mincer’s experience even before orientation, when students far and wide are seen carrying around the iconic orange bag.
“I remember my dad [taking] me [to Mincer’s] before a football game when I was 7 or 8 years old to buy my first U.Va. T-shirt and a set of pom-poms to bring into the game,” Crowell said.
Mincer’s will soon open another location in Charlottesville’s Shops at Stonefield. The second location, designed to serve those members of the community who would like to buy something from the store but tend to avoid the often-congested Corner location, is scheduled to open this October.