Mish Mish Exterior

The outside of Mish Mish, an art and architecture supply store located in downtown Blacksburg, March 31, 2019.

Brick and mortar store Mish Mish has announced it will close up shop permanently later this summer. An icon for many businesses and essential for many Virginia Tech students, Mish Mish has served the Blacksburg community for 49 years.

Mish Mish owner Steve Miller is saddened by its closing, mentioning he has been “doing this for so long, it’s kind of like a child,” since it had opened in 1970. The beginning of the store itself has close ties with Virginia Tech.

The idea behind Mish Mish emerged in 1969 from Miller and three other friends studying at Virginia Tech’s College of Architecture and Urban Studies their junior year.

The memorable name “Mish Mish” even has a meaning.

“Our partners wanted to use Apricot Enterprises as the business name and we were using that as we were dealing with companies,” Miller said.

As their dream transformed into a real storefront, the team searched for a better name, which was ultimately Mish Mish, the Arabic word for apricot.

For a number of years, Miller has been solely running Mish Mish. Demanding hours and laborious tasks required to keep any store in business not only has taken Miller’s time, but has also impacted his health.

This past year, Miller had to be hospitalized for a subdural hematoma due to his age, keeping him away for two months. Administrative processes in Mish Mish became insufficient during his leave, as employees would reorder the same or similar merchandise with Miller gone.

Moreover, he is planning on retiring after the store closes. Miller will be turning 70 this May and joked that his wife and him will “ride off into the sunset” after they lay Mish Mish to rest.

Additionally, decreasing sales and steep rent has also been factored. Competitors like Amazon and online sales in general have taken business away from Mish Mish. Rent for Mish Mish is $8,000 a month according to Miller and is expected to climb.

Mish Mish has been a patron for students, local artists and simply people with an itch for art.

Chris Pritchett, a design foundations and printmaking instructor in the School of Architecture + Design, emphasizes the store has been a staple for architecture students since he was a student at Virginia Tech almost 20 years ago.

Wood, specialty pens and other high-quality materials sold by Mish Mish have provided architecture students with required needs within a close walking distance.

The store has even given students the luxury to discover new materials typically unthought of and add a sense of spontaneity to many projects. Deidre Regan, a visiting instructor to all first-year students in the School of Architecture + Design, worries that with Mish Mish gone, it will “limit creativity.”

Jennifer Hand, a former Mish Mish employee and now faculty member in the Studio Art Department of Virginia Tech, worries about this too, mentioning that a lot of her art has been a result of just wandering around Mish Mish and seeing things she didn’t know existed.

Zac Kim, a transfer student majoring in creative technologies, explained, “(you) have to develop a skill” to know what and what not to buy. With a physical storefront, analyzing tangible products versus a computer screen significantly helps students evaluate what to buy.

Other creative technologies majors, like junior Ross Walter, similarly stress it is “good to feel it, see it, and use it” in person when buying materials and worry this experience will diminish after the closing of Mish Mish.

“Someone will have to re-invent what we have done,” Miller said.

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