Mincer’s has been around the corner since 1954 and sells all styles of University of Virginia clothing. While owner Mark Mincer is battling brain cancer, his son Cal Mincer has taken over, continuing the store’s legacy and tradition into the fourth generation.
“I remember last Christmas Eve, a doctor said, ‘Do the kids look forward to Christmas?’ I said, ‘Well, I don’t know. They said 14 months, we’re not sure if it’s the last Christmas, or Will we have more Christmases,’” says Mark, a third-generation owner of the store. Mincer’s has been a Charlottesville institution since the 1940s, starting as a pipe shop owned by Mark’s grandfather, Robert Mincer. But after moving to the corner, Mincer’s shifted focus.
“Starting with the ACC Boys Basketball Tournament in 1976, T-shirts became popular. Then Ralph [Sampson] came along and took our varsity and basketball teams to heights they had never seen before,” Mark said. “UVA is our life and our family history. All we know or care about is UVA,” says Cal.
Virginia fans know they head to Mincer’s when they’re looking for gear. After graduating from the University of Virginia in 1985 and securing some job offers, Mark decided there was nothing better than starting a third generation. “There are so many people who support us and me, sometimes you wonder how this happened,” Mark said.
In October 2020, Mark went for a walk but couldn’t tie his shoes. He then sat down to dinner with his family, but couldn’t cut to the food. “I said, ‘There’s something wrong here. This isn’t working the way it’s supposed to,'” Mark said. “They said, ‘Well, maybe you’ve had a stroke.’ I said, ‘I don’t think I’ve had a stroke.'”
Mark went to Martha Jefferson Hospital, who immediately told him he hadn’t had a stroke. Doctors told him he had a huge tumor and needed surgery the next day. “I looked at the screen and said, ‘Do you have the right file? It’s Mark Mincer,'” Mark said.
He was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor called glioblastoma. Doctors say 50 percent of patients make it to 14 months, while the other 50 percent don’t. “So it’s 13.5 now,” Mark said. “So it looks like I might be successful.”
Mark said he had good days and bad days, mostly good days. Every day he either walks with countless tourists or plans future hikes. Just as Mark has been in the business since childhood, all four of his own children grew up near the store. Cal initially moved out of town to try out a new career after college, knowing that one day he would be next in line. That day came earlier than expected.
“And then in a conversation in November, I said, ‘It’s all done, I’m going to end the lease.’ “I signed a 30-year contract here, and I’m going to do it,” Carr said. “I’m just changing plan, now I have a new class. “After months of observing, asking, and learning, Cal took a crash course in learning the business of their time together.
“You don’t need my approval to do things,” Mark said. “If I’m in a plane crash, they can’t ask me anything.” “I just want to hear his thoughts on things that I can’t always hear,” Carr said.