Feature Articles

Feature Article – developed for Lancaster, Virginia’s Lancaster By the Bay Chamber of Commerce 2018 Visitor’s Guide.

4 Must-Visit Lancaster Boutiques to Shop This Summer

While Lancaster County’s scenic waterways, enriching historical sites, and outdoor recreation draw thousands of visitors annually, its abundance of boutique stores are also must-visit tourist attractions. Before you plan your next local shopping excursion, read below to discover four, of many, one-of-a-kind boutiques scattered throughout the towns of Kilmarnock, Irvington, and White Stone, and be sure to add each of them to your day’s itinerary.

Attitude Boutique

Opened in September 2012 by Joni Dowling, a career federal employee turned fashion lover, Attitude Boutique boasts a hand-picked collection of women’s clothing and accessories that are equal parts comfortable, well-made, and stylish. As a proud, two-time breast cancer survivor, Dowling named her boutique “Attitude” as a testament to how she tackles life’s hurdles.

“If life throws you a curve ball, you take it with attitude,” Dowling shares.

Dowling extends her positive approach to life into her day-to-day business operations as well, electing to source much of her apparel from companies with “do good” missions that support free-trade, sustainable practices, or economic enhancement or from those that only manufacture their goods in the United States.

To compliment her merchandise selection, Dowling and the Attitude team pride themselves on delivering personalized, customer-centric shopping experiences to each store guest.

“We work really hard on getting to know you – your lifestyle, your size, and your taste in clothing,” Dowling says. “Our goal is to develop a long-lasting relationship.”

Attitude Boutique is located at 76 South Main Street, Kilmarnock, Virginia. Be sure to follow them on Facebook and Instagram for updates on promotions and in-store happenings.

Aubergine Boutique

Boasting a curated selection of clothing, accessories, and jewelry, Aubergine Boutique is known for its trendy merchandise that resonates with women of all ages. Owner Sandy D’Antonio, a lifelong fashion connoisseur, decided to launch her own shop in 2012 after noticing a shortage of local boutiques that stocked apparel that was both on-trend and budget-friendly.

“I saw an opportunity in the area for a fashion-forward boutique that offered items that were both in line with current trends and affordable,” D’Antonio notes. “From my experience, the only place I could find this was by driving to Richmond or Newport News.”

Since its opening, Aubergine Boutique has become a popular addition to downtown Kilmarnock’s shopping scene, due in part to D’Antonio’s commitment to frequently restock the shop with fresh, modern inventory sourced during buying trips to New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Las Vegas. With a rotating supply of brands and styles, returning customers can expect to discover new and unique pieces with each visit, making every shopping experience at Aubergine Boutique just as exciting as the last.

Visit Aubergine Boutique at 41 South Main Street, Kilmarnock, Virginia. They are open Tuesday through Saturday, 10am to 5pm.

The Dandelion

An Irvington mainstay for over 40 years, The Dandelion has long delighted shoppers with its sophisticated mix of women’s apparel, shoes, and accessories, as well as a stylish selection of giftware and home accents. The key to the boutique’s longevity? Co-owners Jean Ward-Smith and Sheila Broderick Brown’s keen eyes for the timeless and elegant products that keep their customers coming back time and time again. The duo’s meticulously curated merchandise collection, sourced worldwide, brims with classic, yet highly unique items and includes pieces from top brands such as Adrianna Papell, House of Harlow, and Parker Smith, to name a few.

And if the allure of fashionable finds alone isn’t enough to entice a visit, The Dandelion’s charming setting certainly will. The boutique is housed in a character-rich, former parsonage erected during the historic Steamboat Era, captivating history buffs and making for a winsome in-store experience that you won’t soon forget.

The Dandelion is located at 4372 Irvington Road, Irvington, Virginia. They are open Monday through Saturday, 10am until 5pm.


As a child, Emily Carter Donofrio spent countless hours playing make-believe “shop” with her cousins at her family’s farm. Her merchandise consisted of driftwood and crab shells handpicked from the nearby Rappahannock River shoreline. Today, as an adult, Donofrio has turned her youthful fantasy into a reality in the form of FARM, a White Stone-based boutique with a name that pays tribute to her childhood roots.

In addition to a chic selection of women’s apparel, jewelry, and accessories, FARM stocks a variety of gifts and vintage home accents, including stationary, books, and tableware. What’s more, the shop’s swoon-worthy blog and artfully curated Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Tumblr feeds make it easy (and fun!) for devoted local and out-of-town patrons to stay current on the boutique’s latest happenings.

Visit FARM at 25 Rose Lane, White Stone, Virginia. They are open Thursday through Saturday, 11am until 5pm.


Although Fore-and-Aft is a recent addition to Lancaster’s crop of boutiques, it is quickly becoming a local shopping fixture. Located in the quaint town of Irvington, this up-and-coming retailer carries a tasteful assortment of hostess gifts, nautical and garden décor, and home accessories.

After founder Terri Wesselman opened its doors in spring 2016, Fore-and-Aft, which is an offshoot of its nearby sister shops, Weekends and Objects, quickly began delighting customers with its vast selection of merchandise. In particular, the boutique stocks an extensive variety of unique tabletop pieces, including placemats, napkins and napkin rings, and serving ware, that are a favorite collection of many returning customers.

Whether you’re searching for a special gift, a coastal-inspired home accent, or an entirely fresh tabletop look, Fore-and-Aft’s charming inventory is sure to please.

Fore-and-Aft is located at 4323 Irvington Road, Irvington, Virginia. Visit them seasonally from Easter through Christmas on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Mondays.


Feature Article – developed for Lancaster, Virginia’s Lancaster By the Bay Chamber of Commerce 2018 Visitor’s Guide.

Wine, Oysters, and Artisans…Oh My!

Discover the Northern Neck’s 3 one-of-a-kind trail tours

With its storied history, vibrant culture, and picturesque setting, it’s fitting that the Northern Neck of Virginia is home to three of the state’s most unique trail tour experiences: the Chesapeake Bay Wine Trail, the Virginia Oyster Trail, and the Northern Neck Artisan Trail. Each tour is self-directed, meaning visitors can explore route attractions at their leisure over the course of several hours or multiple days. Additionally, many participating businesses and sites of interest boast experiential activities to help cultivate guests’ appreciation for the trails’ central themes. Whether you’re a lifelong resident or a visitor to the area, add one (or all!) of these must-experience Northern Neck trail tours to your bucket list.

Chesapeake Bay Wine Trail

Voted as the #2 Wine Trail in Virginia by Savor Virginia Magazine in 2017, the Chesapeake Bay Wine Trail is comprised of eight superior wineries located within convenient driving distance of one another throughout Virginia’s scenic Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula regions. At each stop along the trail, enjoy a winemaking facility tour and purchase a keepsake from the in-house gift shop. Most importantly, be sure to sample each winery’s signature varietals during a wine tasting. Before you leave, purchase a glass or bottle of your favorite house specialty to sip on while admiring vineyard views from each property’s picnic grounds.

Participating wineries include:

– Caret Cellars, 495 Meadow Landing Lane, Caret, Virginia 22436; (540) 413-6454

– General’s Ridge Vineyard, 1618 Weldons Drive, Hague, Virginia 22469; (804) 472-3172

– Good Luck Cellars, 1025 Good Luck Road, Kilmarnock, Virginia 22482; (804) 435-1416

– Ingleside Vineyards, 5872 Leedstown Road, Oak Grove, Virginia 22443; (804) 224-8687

– Jacey Vineyards, 619 Train Lane, Wicomico Church, Virginia 22579; (804) 580-4053

– Oak Crest Vineyard & Winery, 8215 Oak Crest Drive, King George, Virginia 22485; (540) 663-2813

– The Dog and Oyster, 170 White Fences Drive, Irvington, Virginia 22480; (804) 438-9463

– Vault Field Vineyards, 2953 Kings Mill Road, Kinsale, Virginia 22488; (804) 472-4430

Call ahead for winery operating hours or to schedule a wine tasting, and be sure to visit each location’s website via chesapeakebaywinetrail.com/wineries/ to learn about upcoming special events.

Virginia Oyster Trail

The Virginia Oyster Trail’s mission is to educate locals and tourists alike about the positive impact that oysters have on Virginia communities and economies. Comprised of a variety of oyster-affiliated sites, attractions, and events, trail participants include restaurants, artists and art venues, agri-artisans, tours, cultural sites, and lodging, with many trail tour points of interest located right in the Northern Neck.

Eager to explore Lancaster County’s Oyster Trail sites? Start by heading to Belle Isle State Park (1632 Belle Isle Road, Lancaster, Virginia), Historic Christ Church & Museum (420 Christ Church Road, Weems, Virginia), or the Lancaster By the Bay Chamber of Commerce (16-A Town Centre Drive, Kilmarnock, Virginia) to pick up educational materials on the Virginia oyster. Afterwards, swing by Pearl (35 S Main Street, Kilmarnock, Virginia) and Burke’s Fine Jewelers (86 S. Main Street, Kilmarnock, Virginia) to peruse oyster and nautical-inspired jewelry and gifts created by local Virginia artisans. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, drop by Willaby’s Cafe & Catering (327 Old Ferry Road, White Stone, Virginia), Byrd’s Seafood Co. (170 White Fences Drive, Irvington, Virginia), or Good Luck Cellars (1025 Good Luck Road, Kilmarnock, Virginia) to sample fresh, locally harvested oysters firsthand. Order your serving breaded and fried or, for the adventurous food connoisseur, raw on the half shell.

For a complete listing of Virginia Oyster Trail businesses and sites of interest, visit the trail’s official website at virginiaoystertrail.com.

Northern Neck Artisan Trail

Would you enjoy witnessing a professional stained-glass artist in action? Or would a lesson in mural design from a world-renowned street painter make for a fun-filled afternoon? If you have a passion for creative craftsmanship and appreciate handmade and homegrown wares, the local talent featured along the Northern Neck Artisan Trail, including those highlighted above, is sure to leave you impressed and inspired.

Established by the Artisans Center of Virginia to promote local artists and businesses and support communities throughout King George, Lancaster, Westmoreland, Northumberland, and Richmond counties, this unique trail tour consists of certified Juried Virginia Artisans who have each undergone an intensive review process to ensure that their work is of the highest caliber. With a focus on crafting original pieces that are functional, yet highly artistic, participating trail tour members include agri-artisans, craft artisans, art-related businesses and venues, as well as restaurants, lodging, and other trail site sponsors.

Ready to discover the Northern Neck Artisan Trail for yourself? Find a complete list of participating trail members at artisanscenterofvirginia.org.


Feature Article – developed for Sophie & Mollies, a North Carolina apparel and accessories retailer. The company was hoping to generate publicity for their new brick and mortar location in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and wanted a carefully-crafted feature article written that would share their unique history and attract new customers. 

Eyes for Fashion

To refresh a lifeless wardrobe, look no further than the chic, trendy staples found in Sophie & Mollies Boutique of Chapel Hill.

“We wanted to bring really unique pieces to people in North Carolina,” Joan Simpson says of the inspiration that brought local fashion boutique Sophie & Mollies to life.

With equally keen eyes for style, Joan, who studied fashion merchandising in college, and business partner Maria Ortega, who sold clothing in her native Guatemala before moving stateside, met through their young daughters, who were schoolmates. In 2011, when Joan and Maria learned of a struggling clothing store in Apex, they decided to give entrepreneurship a try and transformed the shop, filling it with an array of hand-selected apparel and accessories, and named it Sophie & Mollies Boutique after Maria’s two miniature schnauzers.

The boutique met instant success and was a hit among women of all ages and with ranging budgets searching for eye-catching outfits to wear to their most special events, from long, weekend getaways to festive, dinner parties. As Sophie & Mollies’s popularity surged, Joan and Maria began scouring the Triangle for the ideal location to open a second store. After a lengthy search and no promising leads, they had nearly lost hope when a light-flooded, vacant storefront became available in downtown Chapel Hill.

“It just felt right,” Joan recalls of the home of their second brick and mortar location, which opened in April 2014.

Situated along bustling Franklin Street near UNC Chapel Hill’s campus, the new shop is flourishing, largely due to Sophie & Mollies’s one-of-a-kind offerings.

“We have everything from a really great blue jean to a really edgy legging,” Joan boasts of her merchandise. The pair also “work with designers by telling them, ‘I want that fabric on that body.’ You won’t find these pieces anywhere else in the country.”

With the two-year anniversary of Sophie & Mollies of Chapel Hill approaching, Joan and Maria have high hopes for the boutique in 2016. Following in the footsteps of their Apex flagship, they hope to partner with more Orange County charitable organizations and host more cause-focused fundraising events, including fashion shows, in their roomy space.

As for her personal goals in the coming year, Joan hopes to continue building relationships with those most instrumental to Sophie & Mollies success: their customers.

“When people come here, you want them to feel like they’re shopping with their friends,” Joan says of the customer experience her team provides. “My favorite part of this job is that I’m a part of all of these great women’s experiences in their lives.”

Hunting for a head-turning outfit worthy of your next big soiree? Visit Sophie & Mollies of Chapel Hill today at 431 W. Franklin Street, Chapel Hill, NC.


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