ContraVan Mobile Boutique
Goldie is her name. And a boutique on wheels is her game. Mobile boutique ContraVan all started with a daydream.
After more than 10 years in retail, ContraVan co-owner Tommi Long began dreaming up how she’d run her own boutique. “After seeing the success of the food trucks around town and the revitalization that had started with the ViBe District in Virginia Beach, it just felt like the perfect time and place for it,” she says. Once she brought up the idea to her husband, Geoff, this past February they began researching and sharing new ideas over dinner each night. “Every discussion ended with why it would work, so we had to go for it.”
ContraVan is a beautiful, golden mobile boutique with custom minimalist-style décor and wooden ceilings, sanded and stained by Tommi herself. But Goldie—a Golden Girls reference, of course—hasn’t always been this glamorous. Originally a Lance Cracker delivery truck, the interior was due for a makeover.
Geoff and his family own a fabricating company. With his background and the help from one of his employees, they were able to transform the delivery truck’s bare bones into a sleek, chic boutique. Everything was installed—flooring, cabinetry, a dressing room, an A/C unit, lighting, generator and wires were run for electricity. Nearly five months later, ContraVan hit the streets on July 18. Their first stop? Old Beach Farmers Market on 19 and Cypress.
On any given week, ContraVan’s white shelves carry items from 10 different designers ranging from Colette Paperie’s handmade cards with saucy phrases like “Fries before guys” to specialty skincare items or intricate gold rings. The clothing racks carry items that evoke the “casual luxury” vibe that Tommi aims for as well as pieces handcrafted or from up-and-coming designers.
The lineup can change after one day, so you’ll always find a new, rare treasure when you step into ContraVan. In addition to offering unique pieces, customers can expect a range of specialty items that are handpicked locally to internationally. Each piece is carefully chosen—it is near and dear to Tommi’s heart for her customers to learn the story behind products or designers. Prices range between $4 for a greeting card up to $100-plus for a handbag, depending on the day’s inventory or season.
“My hope is for my customer to come in and find something they can’t help but pick up or leave without, whether it be a handmade greeting card or a fair trade hand-woven bag from Thailand,” Tommi says.
You can find ContraVan throughout Virginia Beach—on the weekends at the farmer’s market, First Fridays in the ViBe District, Wareing’s Gym’s back lot or The HUB ... for now. Tommi eventually hopes to expand into a storefront or multiple trucks. If you happen to miss the van, items are also available for purchase on their website.
While shopping for ContraVan is certainly a fun part of the job, Tommi truly finds joy in assisting her customers. “It may sound silly, but having a customer feel confident and beautiful in an outfit you helped them put together is a wonderful feeling.”