Good Neighbors

A new gift shop joins effort to spark retail growth in Richmond’s Church Hill.

Visiting the Church Hill neighborhood in Richmond? Among popular bakeshops like Sub Rosa and Proper Pie Co. and hip restaurants like the Roosevelt and Dutch & Co. you’ll find a new addition: the Dear Neighbor gift shop, opened in November 2016 by Brooklyn native Kristy Santelli Cotter and her husband and VCU alumnus Evan Cotter. The couple spent three years shopping an ideal location for their store before settling into an unassuming, renovated garage at 2415 Jefferson Ave. in their own neighborhood, Church Hill.

Kristy, a former Henrico County Public Schools teacher, and Evan, an art director for the Richmond menswear company Ledbury, were looking to expand Drift/Riot, the side business and handmade jewelry brand they launched in 2012. Church Hill seemed like a perfect place to set up shop, and the Cotters hoped to curate a selection of goods that they couldn’t find anywhere else in the neighborhood. “Looking around Church Hill, you see a stroller and new mom on every corner,” says Kristy. “We wanted to have items for our neighbors like that.”

And represent their neighbors they do. With a stock of dog toys and accessories, unique baby gifts like baby tattoos and swaddles, and a range of adult human gifts—like Colorado and New York-made bags that are exclusive to Dear Neighbor, apothecary items from Atlanta and local sellers, leather goods from Holland, ceramic crafts from Israel and a plethora of incense from Wales. Kristy says, “Wherever we travel, we try to reach out to local crafters and makers and bring stuff back to Richmond. Being able to connect to artists in different communities and seeing what their culture is like is important to us.” 

Among items for men are handsome bottle openers to gift along with a six pack from a local brewery, money clips, cufflinks and an ever-expanding selection coming in the next year.

The Cotters join the owners of several recently-opened businesses in the Church Hill neighborhood like Tiny Space, Gather and Roaring Pines, that are all looking to breathe retail life into the mostly residential area already known for its robust restaurant scene. Kristy says the other retailers have been encouraging and even generous. Owners of Carytown clothier Need Supply Co., in the process of renovating their flagship store (read more about Need Supply here), gave the Cotters a countertop.

The residential neighbors have been friendly as well: “People from the neighborhood kind of pop by and just hang out—sometimes people coming in and out of Sub Rosa. We’ve had one event so far and it went very well.”

Dear Neighbor has an outdoor space that the owners plan to utilize more when the warm weather returns, as part of the shop’s experience. Of Church Hill, Kristy says, “It’s just such a community. It feels very Brooklyn like, and that’s where I’m from. It just feels like a neighborhood.” She adds, “We’re all kind of supporting each other because it’s such a new endeavor [to have retail] in Church Hill. I think the neighbors want us here. There’s so much food, but then what do you do in between. We get a lot of people around just checking it out.”

With customers in mind, the Cotters have designed a gift set specifically for Valentine’s Day shoppers that will go on sale February 11th during a women’s shopping day event. A men’s event will follow, “Probably on the day of Valentine’s Day,” says Kristy, “because that’s how men tend to shop.”

Suffice to say, the Dear Neighbor owners pride themselves on knowing the art of gift-giving and even better, they know their neighbors. The store is open Wed.-Fri. from 10-6, Sat. from 10-5, and Sun. from 10-4.

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