Y&H Mercantile Brings West Coast Feels and Fashions To RVA, Celebrates 1 Year Anniversary

by | Jun 2, 2014 | ART

At the corner of North Robinson Street and Grove Avenue, a bright orange building with a motorcycle resting in front stands out. Inside, fashion forward apparel and accessories for men and women abound. Founded in June 2013, Y&H Mercantile is a fairly new shop to Richmond, and one that all stylish Richmond shoppers can truly appreciate.

At the corner of North Robinson Street and Grove Avenue, a bright orange building with a motorcycle resting in front stands out. Inside, fashion forward apparel and accessories for men and women abound. Founded in June 2013, Y&H Mercantile is a fairly new shop to Richmond, and one that all stylish Richmond shoppers can truly appreciate. And an adorable married couple, Yaa Taah Armentrout and Hansi Armentrout, run this local boutique.

Upon entering the store, I was immediately struck by the vivid colors and prints of the women’s section in the store. Lively hues – tangerine orange, cyan blue and violet-purple – practically leap off of the racks. The prints are just as enchanting – easygoing tie-dye prints, paisley patterns reminiscent of the seventies and unique floral prints dominate the women’s side of the store.

As I began to browse the merchandise, the textures of the clothing also stood out. Lace, crochet, velvet and silk add to the unique appeal of the merchandise in Y&H. Dreamy maxi skirts, luxurious jumpsuits, gorgeous tops, and stylish bandeaus all caught my eye. Yaa Taah explains “what I’m into buying is influenced heavily by fashion of the late sixties and early seventies,” which definitely explains the abundance of colors, prints and textures.

Well-tailored jackets and blazers, button downs in plaids and gingham prints and crisp jeans dominate the men’s side of the store. However, Y&H also offers more casual pieces such as fresh snapback hats and graphic tees to male customers. Pieces can easily be mixed and matched to form a truly distinctive look.

Both owners moved to Richmond from Oakland, California and I could sense the West Coast influence as soon as I stepped through the door. There is a very free-spirited, laid-back mood in Y&H that instantly conjures thoughts of California.

The eclectic décor, consisting of a large American flag hanging on the back wall, a luxurious red velvet couch alongside the dressing rooms, ornate wooden tables to display merchandise, and an assortment of lavish mirrors hanging on the walls, adds to the relaxed, easy-going vibe of the store. It instantly allows you to free your mind of worries and just shop.

Yaa Taah explains that in their shop they “wanted to create an environment where everyone was very welcome” and the décor adds to that inviting atmosphere. However, when talking to Hansi about the West Coast vibe of the store, he explains that it was entirely unintentional. “We weren’t trying to be that, but it’s just a function of who we are,” he said.

Another thing that makes Y&H truly stand out among other shops in Richmond is their focus on buying their merchandise domestically. The Armentrouts work hard to bring pieces that are made in America into their store and try to avoid buying pieces from foreign countries when possible. Hansi explains their goal is to “bring in fashionable but still price-conscious pieces that are still quality pieces.”

The Armentrouts were drawn to open Y&H in Richmond for various reasons. They were set on opening their shop along the East Coast, because most of their family lived along the East Coast and they wanted to be closer to them. However, they weren’t sure exactly what city in which to open their shop. They debated between Philadelphia, New York, and Richmond but finally decided on Richmond due to the abundance of culture, art, and education.

The affordability of opening their shop in Richmond was also a key factor in their decision of where to open the shop. The affordability of property in Richmond allowed them to be able to afford to open up their own shop in a city environment.

The Armentrouts have a background in both business and the fashion industry; both worked corporate jobs before deciding to open Y&H Mercantile. Yaa Taah has experience working with Buffalo Exchange as well as working as a corporate buyer for Gap. While Hansi does not necessarily have much experience in the fashion industry, he does have a lot of corporate knowhow. The combination of Yaa Taah’s interest and experience in the fashion industry with Hansi’s corporate experience lead them to open Y&H Mercantile. “After a while, we just wanted to see if we could do our own thing,” said Hansi.

Y&H Mercantile is located at 119A North Robinson Street, Richmond, Virginia 23220 and is open Monday through Saturday 11AM-6PM and Sunday 1PM-5PM. To keep updated on future sales and events at Y&H Mercantile, check Y&H Mercantile out on Facebook. Additionally, watch out for their website, as Hansi explains that he and Yaa Taah plan on “launching the website very, very soon.”

Brad Kutner

Brad Kutner

Brad Kutner is the former editor of GayRVA and RVAMag from 2013 - 2017. He’s now the Richmond Bureau Chief for Radio IQ, a state-wide NPR outlet based in Roanoke. You can reach him at BradKutnerNPR@gmail.com




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