More Than a Store: Moxie Mercantile

Plaza Midwood’s Moxie Mercantile is equal parts retail destination, neighborhood gathering spot, and family affair.

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When Michelle and Clifton Castelloe moved to Plaza Midwood 13 years ago, she wanted to open a shop and call it Moxie. But a pesky inner voice told her it was too risky.

In the years since, Castelloe has had a career and four daughters. She’s also been an estate sale junkie who admits to “a slight obsession” with vintage glassware, needlework, and art. She’s hoarded them for more than a decade, just waiting for the right venue in which to sell them.

Last January, she discovered Betty Mims might be ready to close her Bride’s House of Originals boutique that had been a Midwood fixture since 1982. But, Michelle said, “Ms. Betty was emotionally attached to her house. She didn’t want to see it torn down.”

It took months of convincing, but Mims decided the Castelloes were the right stewards for the 1925 cottage on Commonwealth Avenue, just across from Common Market. The house, which hadn’t been updated since Mims bought it, is now an airy, sophisticated space that Michelle calls “approachable.”

Inside Moxie is a curated selection of locally handmade and fair trade gifts, housewares, and accessories. “I’m super-selective about what I carry,” Castelloe says. “I have to covet it.”

What’s not to covet? The rugged, but elegant, jewelry from Into the Woods Through Zoeland, made by the Castelloes’ Midwood neighbor, Zoe Rives, is utterly boho-chic. And then there are the one-of-a-kind things—an old, framed cross-stitch sampler, a primitive still-life, quirky stemware.

“I love unexpected reuse,” Michelle says. For instance, she had Nectar, the Midwood flower shop, plant succulents inside a pair of vintage leather baby booties. Nectar sometimes sells flowers on Moxie’s front porch; hosting pop-up shops is part of Michelle’s vision of creating a sense of community.

At Moxie, you’ve got to buy it when you see it. The unique bauble or art you love may not be here on your next visit. (Don’t go looking for those baby booties-turned-planters. I bought them.)

Michelle has the support of her husband, who manages Moxie’s social media and works there a couple of days a week, and her dad, Barry DeGrappo, an estate-sale-loving retiree who helped renovate the space and sells his upcycled sterling and silver-plate jewelry there.

On a recent visit, DeGrappo saw me eyeing a leather tote by Colson Keane—another local artisan—and said with a wink, “Your purse looks a little ragged. I think you need a new one—that one.”

Moxie’s the kind of place where even a first-time visitor feels at home. Michelle Castelloe nurtures the space like it’s family. And in a way, it is. She said, “This is really my fifth baby.”

Moxie is located at 2008 Commonwealth Ave. Its opening hours are on the website, but this is the kind of spot where the welcome extends after hours. “If you can’t get here by closing time, just call us,” Michelle says. “We’ll stay open if we can.”

Photography by Justin Driscoll