River City Reads

Rooted in RVA: Urban Traders

Story by Briana Thornton 

Photos by Spencer Sease 

Four years ago, Charles Brown used his “exceptional ability to pick really prime locations” and opened Urban Traders at 1387 Broad Street. Since then, he’s been selling products from all around the world to a multicultural and diverse audience. But this isn’t just a retail store — these days, a shopper just has to cozy up with their laptop in bed to find the item of their choosing. Urban Traders, on the other hand, distinguishes itself as more of a social destination, according to Art Burton, the Operations Manager.

“When you come here, you’re coming for more than just a piece of clothing: you’re coming for the conversation, the atmosphere, the camaraderie, the politics, the art, the music. You come here to figure out all the unique ways to express yourself in the context of the style and artistic culture in our community. You come here to be a part of the extended family,” Art said.

The Afrocentric boutique carries an eclectic mix of ethnic, urban, and military-like surplus with such variety it’s almost hard to sum up. It’s hip hop, it’s eccentric, it’s relevant to people young and old, and it’s a store that is with the times without being too concerned with modernity.  In a time where movements like Black Lives Matter and The Natural Hair Movement are working to show the world black is beautiful, a focus on urban wear is the job of those in the retail industry such as Charles and Art in order to accentuate beauty they have seen for their entire lives.

Charles has been an innovator in the multicultural fashion industry for over 40 years now and he expresses his vision around fashion, art and music through clothes. “He was multicultural and ethnically diverse before it was popular. When everything was black and white, Charles was shades of grey,” Art said.

And that’s certainly what you can expect to see when you enter Urban Traders, meet their exuberant sales staff, and see the worldly merchandise. It’s not something you see every day and certainly not something you can find in a mall. It’s a destination for those who want to step out of their comfort zone or find a way to really express themselves or tell a story through their fashion choices.

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