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The couple’s enthusiasm — both for each other and their store — is infectious. Their obvious ease with and affection for one another makes spending time at Y&H feel like more of a visit with friends than merely a stop in a store. (Photo by Megan Parry)
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“I’m always willing to take a chance on something new,” Yaa Taah laughs, explaining the circuitous route their shop’s trajectory has taken. (Photo by Megan Parry)
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Yaa Taah “filters buying for the store through my own aesthetic,” and tries to find vintage-inspired pieces that will work on all women’s bodies, no matter their size or shape. (Photo by Megan Parry)
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The menswear leans casual to business casual, so that men can find pieces that will serve them for a backyard barbecue, a show at the National or their 9-to-5 at Capital One. (Photo by Megan Parry)
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The pair has plans to add to their home goods and accessory lines for the holiday season. Hansi says, “The shop is always a work in progress,” with the couple continually pushing themselves to improve their shop. (Photo by Megan Parry)
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“I love women. I love dressing women, and I love talking to women,” Yaa Taah says. This appreciation shines through in the feminine, flattering pieces she chooses for Y&H. (Photo by Megan Parry)
You may remember when Y&H Mercantile opened in 2013; nestled next to Halcyon Vintage on Robinson Street, it quickly became a local favorite for its eclectic mix of classic and casual clothing, jewelry, accessories and home goods.
But then, in 2015, owners Yaa Taah and Hansi Armentrout moved their entire business across the country to Oakland, California — the very place they’d moved from two years earlier to come to Richmond.
“ ‘This is dumb,’ ” Yaa Taah says, explaining her thoughts on the shop’s move once the couple opened the Oakland iteration. She, Hansi and I were chatting about the store in its recently opened third location, a breezy, homey space with high ceilings and concrete floors on East Franklin Street in Shockoe Bottom.
Hansi explained the impetus of the move, saying, “I was back in Oakland on vacation, came across the open space and thought, ‘If we don’t do this now, we’ll never do it.’ ” Yaa Taah further explained that “the original plan was to be bi-coastal” and have a Y&H Mercantile in both cities, especially since they were keeping their home in Church Hill while also renting in Oakland. The pair quickly realized the move wasn’t right for them as a couple or for their business. Yaa Taah says, “We weren’t done with Richmond yet. We were happy, and the pace of life just suits us here.”
And so they closed up the Oakland shop in early 2016 and opened the Shockoe location less than six months later. “There’s an energy going on that starts downtown and spreads to Shockoe Bottom and Church Hill that we find exciting,” Yaa Taah says of their decision to open downtown. They’re cautiously optimistic about the area’s potential for growth; with the city’s new plans for Main Street Station and the farmers market, they feel like it’s poised for a transformation that will benefit nearby businesses and residents.
With that said, the Armentrouts are also perfectly happy to do business in a neighborhood not known for being a retail mecca. Nearby residents “don’t have to get in their cars and drive 20 minutes to shop,” Yaa Taah explains. And speaking of local residents, one of Y&H’s loyal customers from the Fan days actually rented an apartment on the same street after seeing that the store had recently moved in.
The shop’s aesthetic is a pitch-perfect balance of classic Americana and global bohemian. Reclaimed Phillip Morris beams serve as a display for Field Notes notebooks, Sydney Hale candles and AJ Morgan sunnies. Handmade iron-and-wood racks line the walls, and the floors, fitting rooms and vintage couch are dotted with rich, woven textiles. It’s retro and rustic, charming and contemporary.
Yaa Taah puts an emphasis on stocking brands that use ethically sourced materials, are manufactured in America and are women-owned when she can. She favors graphic prints and bright colors for the women’s selection, highlighting Los Angeles-based brands like Cleobella and Flynn Skye as two of her current favorites. They’re pieces you can wear to a wedding, to work or brunch, and for Yaa Taah the connecting thread is simple: “It’s all stuff you feel beautiful in.”
Hansi, however, is drawn to casual, classic pieces with a rock-and-roll edge for their menswear collection. Right now, he’s majorly into Iron and Resin, a T-shirt company founded by surfers and motorcyclists who make one-of-a-kind, artist-produced pieces.
To celebrate the impending arrival of autumn, Y&H will be hosting a fall kickoff Sept. 23; there will be drinks, entertainment and lots of new stock to refresh your cold-weather wardrobe.