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Local RVA artist The Night Owl painted the exterior of 3027 W. Cary St. in his signature “cartoon pop” aesthetic; Lauren says she and Mike plan to carry the color scheme throughout the store’s interior, from hang tags to wall colors. (Photo by Lauren Skinner)
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Lauren and Mike are pleased with the progress they’ve made in the past month and hope to have the Carytown store open by the end of September. (Photo by Lauren Skinner)
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Hooked is a modern take on a family-run business, adorable bulldogs included. (Photo by Lauren Skinner)
When I first met Mike Skinner, it was May 2010; I’d just opened a vintage store in downtown Fredericksburg, and he was a few weeks from opening his own around the corner. He’s the kind of person for whom the phrase “never met a stranger” was coined. He’s warm, friendly, thoughtful and funny — a natural business owner, to be sure.
He called his store Horseshoes and Hand Grenades and sold a mix of new and used records, vintage clothes, comic books and jewelry. It quickly became a local favorite, catering both to an older age group sentimental about a generation past and younger students who find cassette tapes endearingly retro.
Two years later, Mike upgraded to a larger, more prominent location in Fredericksburg that just happened to be across the street from Hyperion Espresso, the coffee shop where Lauren Kennedy was a barista at the time. The two met on one of Mike’s initial coffee runs, fell in love and got married soon afterwards. Lauren joined the Horseshoes and Hand Grenades team as the sales floor manager, pulling from her past retail merchandising experience to help expand and refresh Mike’s initial concept into a more cohesive, purposeful lifestyle brand.
They changed the name of the shop to Hooked and began selling a more diverse cadre of merchandise, bringing in contemporary labels and indie grooming and beauty product lines to appeal to an even bigger customer base. They also began updating the shop’s interior, refinishing the floors, building custom wood fixtures and amping up their window displays.
Lauren says the Fredericksburg store “showed us what works and what doesn’t,” serving as a working means to continually refine their brand. (Photo by Lauren Skinner)
The hard work paid off, and last year the couple decided to leverage their increasing popularity in Fredericksburg by opening a new store in Richmond. They’d always wanted to open a shop here, not just for the physical proximity to their Fredericksburg flagship but also because they’re so inspired by the passionate, supportive small-business community and were excited to add their own unique point of view to the mix.
For the Richmond outpost, Lauren and Mike will elevate the original rustic hipster aesthetic of Fredericksburg Hooked to something more refined and streamlined. Lauren is looking forward to having more space in the Carytown shop, not necessarily just for more inventory, but for the ability to have an intentional flow to the store and allow the product (and the customer) a chance to breathe and be seen.
Speaking of inventory, Richmond Hooked will maintain a curated selection of photography equipment, records, new and vintage clothes and accessories, grooming products, video games, and comic books just like the Fredericksburg original, though the specific pieces will all be unique to the Carytown store. Lauren explains that Hooked has customers both from Fredericksburg who often travel to Richmond and Richmonders who regularly head north to Fredericksburg; they want to have unique offerings for these crossover customers no matter when or where they stop in.
One thing that will absolutely carry over from Fredericksburg to Richmond is the couple’s do-it-yourself spirit that made their first store such a success. Mike and Lauren sand, pour, build, tear down, install and refinish everything in their stores, making them a true labor of love — and a true reflection of who they are. You can also definitely expect to see Hooked’s mascots, Sgt. Pepper and Padmé, when you walk into Carytown Hooked.
When I ask Lauren what she was most looking forward to once they open their Carytown doors, she grins. “I’m just excited for the day-to-day, being in the store — and getting dressed!” She explains, “In Fredericksburg, I often feel overdressed in my three-piece ensembles, but I feel like in Richmond, people dress boldly and are more inclined to be themselves.” They’re both ready to meet their Richmond customer and expand their building empire built on millennial nostalgia and an independent spirit.
Hooked will open this fall at 3027 W. Cary St. in Carytown.