Popular Del Ray boutique gets new owner

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New owner Celeste Crutchfield (left) and original owner Darby Rush (right) in front of the popular Del Ray boutique on Mount Vernon Avenue.

By Alexa Epitropoulos | aepitropoulos@alextimes.com

The Del Ray boutique that started as the brainchild of longtime Alexandria residents Darby Rush and Neil Hall more than a decade ago is passing to new ownership.

Celeste Crutchfield, a resident of Del Ray, recently bought Kiskadee, a popular women’s apparel retailer known for its range of quirky styles in the heart of the neighborhood’s commercial row at 2205 Mount Vernon Ave.

Crutchfield was a customer and fan for years before she became interested in buying the store. She’s been such a devoted customer of Kiskadee that Rush can recall a time when Crutchfield trudged her way to the boutique during a snowstorm to buy Christmas presents.

When she developed an interest in running a shop for herself, Hall and Rush were among the first people she turned to as resources.

“I’ve lived in the neighborhood and would walk over since it’s so close to home,” Crutchfield said. “It’s always been a special spot.”

As it happened, Hall and Rush were getting ready to move on from Kiskadee. Virginia Beach native Rush is returning to her hometown within the next few years with her husband and Hall is relocating to Annapolis with her husband.

Though the duo knew their paths were diverging, they didn’t want to see Kiskadee shut down.

“Our lease was running out and we knew we didn’t want to close,” Rush said. “It was really a matter of timing.”

Crutchfield, an Air Force veteran and mom of two, swooped in just in time and, since January, has been working in the boutique daily to learn the ins and outs. Though the sale is final, Rush and Hall are still around to help Crutchfield through the changeover.

“People are still happy to come in here and it’s been a nice transition,” Crutchfield said. “I want people to get used to me and to be a good addition to the store.”

Leaving the store behind is difficult for Rush, who has spent 11 years building Kiskadee from “bar zero” and calls the boutique her baby. She recalls when she first stumbled on the building due to a chance run-in with its landlord, Scott Mitchell. She remembers walking down to the 7/11 on Mount Vernon Street to get lunch while she and Hall worked on Kiskadee’s buildout.

“Change can be hard, but it can also be positive,” Rush said. “Everyone has loved having the store here. My favorite times have been when someone has bought a gift for a friend or a family member, and then comes back to tell me how much that person loved it. It’s been rewarding.”

There’s also comfort in knowing that, though she’s leaving the store behind, Crutchfield is more than capable of leading the store in the coming years.

“Celeste is going to carry on our tradition,” Rush said.

As for Crutchfield, she’s excited to get started. Backed by her husband of 14 years, Paul, and her children, now 8 and 10, she’s ready to start a new career.

She said customers should expect consistency and a commitment to customer service.

“There won’t be any changes. Customers should expect the same level of service,” Crutchfield said.

Kiskadee may not be the last retail creation for Rush – but the next will likely not be in Alexandria.

“It’s bittersweet,” Rush said. “Maybe someday I’ll open another baby.”