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Meet Your Neighbor: Rebecca Kidder of Federal & Black

Meet Your Neighbor: Rebecca Kidder of Federal & Black

Written by Beth Rasin | Photos by Callie Broaddus

Walking into Middleburg’s new home and gift shop, Federal & Black, is a treat for your senses. Smell the sweet, musky woodsmoke candle burning as you step through the door; notice the patina on the shop’s vintage fixtures against the deep, carbonized wall color. Hear some classic blues and a little rock ‘n’ roll playing in the background; taste small-batch cardamom and Madagascar vanilla-soaked cocktail cherries or black lava salted caramels, and feel the soft, luxe Merino lambswool throws made in a mill that dates back to 1837 in Yorkshire, England.

“It’s about providing an experience to visitors,” says owner Rebecca Kidder. She adds, “The shop really represents my roots.” 

Those roots trace back to the Virginia countryside and extend to Europe, specifically Germany, where she and her family lived next to Grunewald, West Berlin’s largest forest. That influence translates in the shop with an “elegant country living” motif contrasted by “the grittiness and edge of New York City,” where she also has family.

“I like to think I have a unique perspective,” Kidder says. “I’ve always been drawn to the early American style, growing up in Virginia, casual country living mixed with European country, contrasted with a bit of edginess.”

Many of the shop fixtures have a hard finish — think rustic barn wood, weathered zinc buckets, antique warehouse pendant lights. “They’re hard surfaces; the wall trim color, carbonized, is hard, so I balance with softer, feminine goods like baby lambswool throws, pretty hand-blocked throw pillows, [that are] casual, not fussy, that complement this area really beautifully.”

Ever since she was a girl, Kidder has dreamed of opening a shop. She credits her mother, Bernadette Kidder, with teaching her the value of quality products. That influence, plus experience managing a 4,000-square foot, high-end shop in North Carolina where she started an interior design program and went on buying trips with the owner, prepared her to open her own space.

“I have a lot of branding and marketing experience,” Kidder says. “I was fortunate to pick up a lot of skills that perfectly prepared me for doing this.”

She debuted the first version of Federal & Black at the end of 2019 as an online shop — fortuitous in the soon-to-come pandemic. Then she had the opportunity to open with Chartreuse & Co., an antique mall in a converted barn outside Frederick, Maryland. But the Middleburg boutique is the full realization of her dream.I feel incredibly blessed that I can do so and do it in town. I kept feeling this nudge to explore the idea of opening a shop in town,” she explains.

When she discovered a small spot on South Madison Street, between Washington Fine Properties and Posh Pixies, she knew it was an answer to her prayers.

“It just felt right,” she says. 

As she prepared to open in time for the summer sidewalk sale in August, the shop became a family project. Her brother painted the walls. One of her sisters assisted in cutting fabric leaves for an autumn pop-up. Her husband does the bookkeeping and helps source items; another sister helps price the items. Her nephews collected the oyster shells on display, and her niece works behind the counter. Then there are her parents, who live in Middleburg and can often be found in the shop talking to visitors.

“This is very personal to us; it’s building relationships and getting to know the people who walk into the shop,” says Kidder, who lives in Arlington but plans to move to Middleburg. “I want visitors to feel welcomed and hope they’ll leave feeling a bit inspired. The tagline is: ‘Be inspired. Be delighted.’”

She sources products from décor and gift shows, online and in-person auctions, and from people who reach out and call her. You’ll find anything from 100% soy wax candles with intoxicating scents to handpicked, one-of-a-kind antiques, like a vintage science beaker or classical herbarium pages waiting to be framed and hung in a family room. A gift section offers charcuterie staples like heirloom quality, hand-worked pewter cheese knives and spreaders, delicious bacon and apple jam, and cheese storage bags. 

“Our bread and butter has always been our gift section,” Kidder notes. “I love helping customers find just the right gift for a friend or a treasure for their home.”

Rebecca says she’s received a warm welcome from the town and other shop owners. 

“I feel incredibly, incredibly thankful to be able to do this. I love helping people find things for their home, getting to know my customers, being in a place that welcomes people,” she says. “I have two really comfortable chairs, so if people want to sit down and chat for a little while they can. Success is people walking out saying, ‘I feel inspired and welcome. It’s a warm, happy place in here.’” ML

Published in the September 2023 issue of Middleburg Life.

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