Coworking finds its home in Richmond @804RVA

Over the past decade coworking spaces have been popping up in big cities across the nation and with the changes in the economy, these spaces have been successful in fostering new ideas and startup businesses.

Larkin Garbee

804RVA Founder Larkin Garbee Photo by: Phil Riggan,

In America the median income for independent workers is about $51 thousand, according to a 2012 government report by the State of Independence government report. This coworking movement has even made its way to the Richmond market. 804RVA is the area’s first and only official co-working space, which is fueled by creativity and techie innovation.

Coworking is a concept that was originally cultivated in the late 1990s from the term “jelly” in New York City by a group of freelancers and it has now evolved into a worldwide movement. The concept is to create a shared workspace for freelancers, consultants and other people who typically work from home. The idea is to develop a space where creativity and new ideas can grow and people can exchange designs while working productively and freely.

804RVA was founded October 2011 by local small business dynamo, Larkin Garbee. “I was just looking for a creative, collaborative office space and I hadn’t understood the coworking culture yet,” Garbee said. Wolf shirt days, creativity, collaboration and jelly pretty much sum up the co-working movement at RVA. 804RVA is located on the corner of Allen and Broad streets near the VCU campus.

Garbee’s personality and experience is the model that the 804RVA coworking structure was built around. “I have a passion for technology but I also represent a lot of other things for small businesses and marketing,” she said.


804RVA is an artistic, joint office area that is built in the showroom of Garbee’s other business, James River Tile. “I felt like it was a shame to have such a really gorgeous location that was being completely underutilized,” said Garbee. It wasn’t long before 804RVA was created.
“I think Larkin is really kind of the main reason most people are attracted to this and keep coming and that’s because she is a freaking fireball,” said Dorsey McFadden a digital marketing consultant and 804RVA coworker.

804RVA provides its members with varying levels of coworking zones including private offices, collaborative spaces, semi-private work areas and conference rooms. People come to 804RVA for a number of reasons including the value of working with others, for a sense of motivation, inspiration and unique networking opportunities. At 804RVA coworking gives people an opportunity to meet and interact with their peers in an environment that facilitates productivity and learning.

“To me and the next generation as a whole, we don’t want to just spend our time just passing out business cards. We want to learn, we want to get our hands on stuff and figure out how it works,” Garbee said. “Some coworking spaces are unique to having strictly just developers or just designers and I would say ours is truly a mix.”

Coworkers at 804RVA come from a variety of professional backgrounds such as web design, real estate, copy writing, web developing, marketing and researching.


804RVA is known for its culture because it is different from that of a traditional workplace culture, since there are no bosses there is no tension between supervisors and workers. “The culture changes day-to-day depending on who comes in,” said Dan Kanach, 804RVA coworker and owner of One Duck Creative, a small creative media company. “It is generally like-minded, driven people who want to be around other driven people.” Most 804 coworkers agree that 804RVA provides a fun environment where individuals are free to create and collaborate. “I couldn’t see myself working with other people if I wasn’t here,” Kasach said, who described himself as a bit of an introvert.

Matt Russo is another 804RVA coworker who has been a member almost since the beginning. Russo is a freelance graphic designer and is currently working developing projects for 804RVA. He says 804 is still trying to invent its culture. Currently people are working hands-on trying to make the space a more active community rather than a place used strictly for working. “Members are trying to make 804RVA a place where people interact together, work on projects together and go out together,” Russo said. 804RVA offers classes and organizes social events to strengthen the overall coworking community.

Brian Bassett is a software development principal at IBM and a coworker at 804RVA who chooses to work from 804RVA instead of his traditional office setting because he finds the environment to be more dynamic, exciting, interesting and collaborative. “It’s collaborative even though people work on their own projects, work for different businesses and have different goals,” Basset said.


Coworking is especially helpful to freelancers and remote workers because it provides those people with a sense of community and inspiration. “It creates a melting pot of creativity,” McFadden said, “not just design creative but techie too.” McFadden sees coworking spaces as motivational tools and she is driven by the office setting because it pushes her to be more accountable.

Coworking facilities like 804RVA operate based on memberships and provide members with better quality networking and stronger relationships. McFadden says small business people get the most out of these networking connections because it makes it easier access others and collaborate.

Coworking has helped some members break into new, cutting edge technology-based job markets. McFadden says coworking helps to hone professional skills and mold individual qualities and as a result of 804RVA she landed her first Pinterest account management job.

After talking with Garbee and Richmond’s coworkers the consensus is that people are tired of waiting on big companies to offer up jobs so they have taken matters into their own hands and created new jobs and projects through collaboration. People often turn to coworking spaces like 804RVA because of the lack of opportunities in traditional careers.

Some people agree with Dorsey McFadden and Dan Kanach and say coworking spaces serve a greater purpose as more transitional occupations. On the other hand others agree with Russo and Bassett and say these collaboration spaces have great potential to ultimately lead to better opportunities and new industries. As for Larkin Garbee, she says the future looks bright for coworking spaces in Richmond. As new ideas grow and evolve, she looks forward to playing host to more collaborative projects and classes in the future. She is currently planning on a larger scaled coworking space that will serve a larger community in the Greater Richmond Area by making things more accessible to non-members.


Avalon Restaurant & Bar — SOLD!

sign for Avalon

2619 West Main Street, Richmond, VA

There are very few restaurants that have the distinction of having been successfully run for 16+ years 20 years [editor’s note: confirmed after posting that the start year was 1993!], and even more rare is the restaurant that has done so with only one set of owners. Avalon Restaurant & Bar at 2619 West Main Street, in the Fan District, has done so under the care of owner Peter Harahan since he first renovated and opened it so many years ago.

Even as a well-established restaurant, Avalon has recently gained recognition by bringing in Chef Jen Mindell to add her well-known flair to the kitchen. Chef Mindell was recently recognized by the Richmond restaurant community as a 2013 Elby Nominee for “Rising Culinary Star”.

Walied Sanie and James Baldwin just completed the purchase of Avalon Restaurant & Bar

Walied Sanie and James Baldwin just completed the purchase of Avalon Restaurant & Bar

Congratulations to the new owners, Walied Sanie and James Baldwin (pictured), who took the reins from Peter Harahan effective late yesterday afternoon. The new owners are keeping the staff in place and will do some remodeling after getting settled into ownership. I look forward to seeing how their vision of the restaurant develops and the changes you will make happen over the years to come.

This particular restaurant holds a special place in my heart because not only have I been close friends with a number of the staff here over the years, but also it is the place where I met my wife several years ago. It means a lot to me to have been involved in this deal, and I appreciate that it will remain to be Avalon under the new ownership.

**Richard Holden and Nathan Hughes, both with Bandazian & Holden, Inc., brokered the sale of the business and coordinated the new lease with the owner of the building.

What’s going on with all of the restaurant closings lately?!

There has been a lot of attention given to the recent closings of restaurants in the Richmond area. There have been a lot lately, no doubt — here is a list of closings this year from that they are keeping up-to-date as things change. Some of these have been big surprises to the community at large, but it is important to keep in mind a  few things.

Not all businesses close (or are for sale) because of poor sales. There are a variety of reasons:

  • personal issues (divorce, wanting to spend more time with children, need to take care of an elderly parent, the owner has an illness)
  • the business strategy has changed (the owners no longer want to be in a particular area of town, the owners only want to operate where they own the building)
  • the owners are absentee and have other full-time jobs that are suffering because of the demands of owning a restaurant
  • the business is on track to make a profit but the owners have run out of operating capital
  • the owner is burned out, having spent the last XX number of years in the same location
  • the owners realize that the best time to sell is when business is booming — cash out while things are good and maximize the sales price
  • poor money management — sales might be great, but if you don’t manage your money well then you won’t stay open for long
  • the landlord isn’t willing to renew the lease — maybe they have a better offer from another prospective tenant
  • the owner isn’t changing, but they are changing the concept
I have seen all of these over the 8 years that I have been brokering restaurant deals and I am absolutely certain that I haven’t seen everything. There is always something new in this business, for good and bad.

There is also the counterbalancing effect of new restaurants opening up. Karri Peifer, Editor and Food Writer at, has been keeping track:

Almost one year ago, we posted a story about the transitioning of ownership of one Richmond restaurant legacy, Mulligan’s Sports Grille. The past month (Tuesday, October 9, 2012, to be exact) has unfortunately brought us the end to this story — covered here by CBS6 and here by The restaurant’s official statement from their website is posted here (click the photo to enlarge) –>

Another restaurant that has gotten a lot of press coverage for its closing is Cafe Diem, at the corner of Patterson Ave and N Sheppard St in the Museum District — and right beside our office at 604 N Sheppard St. Since our company is involved in the ownership and management of their building, and most of the commercial property in the area, the media turned to us for some insight.

NBC12 coverage of Cafe Diem closing (with video and a guest appearance from yours truly) coverage of Cafe Diem closing

Richmond Bizsense coverage of Cafe Diem closing

I think the press has done an excellent job with the coverage on this closing. It is often a touchy subject, not only for the restaurant owner(s) but the landlord, the restaurant employees, the loyal patrons, the restaurant vendors, and even the surrounding businesses.

In short, there are lots of reasons why restaurants close. Sure, times are tough all around and lots of people are cutting back on spending, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. If anything, if you enjoy a particular restaurant, be sure to visit it plenty and enjoy it while it’s here. It is fun to always look for the next big thing, but don’t forget about the old favorites either.  — By the way, there are LOTS of new restaurants coming soon. Keep an eye out here for announcements!

Shop Locally, Boost the Economy

Over the past few years we’ve heard people talking about the importance of shopping local. These programs have been springing up across the country, urging consumers to join the “Buy Local” movement.

So, what difference does it make when communities shop at local businesses?

Well, the truth is when consumers buy from local stores instead of big box stores, more of their money stays in the community.

“Those purchases are twice as efficient in terms of keeping the local economy alive,” says The New Economics Foundation researcher David Boyle, in this article in Time magazine.

This movement plays a big role by boosting the economy and generating more jobs in the community.

Although sometimes the costs may be slightly higher at locally owned businesses, there are many benefits, such as lower transportation costs, more eco-friendly communities and the opportunity to form growing relationships with local business owners.

Buying local also alerts the community about the gaps in the market, creating a stronger sense of entrepreneurship and pushing for new businesses to prosper in markets that hadn’t previously existed locally.

When spend your money in RVA it keeps our neighborhoods unique with prospering local businesses versus streets lined with big box retail chains.

Here in Richmond, there are a few organizations that are dedicated to encouraging consumers to buy local goods and services. The Greater Richmond Retail Merchants Association is well known for their Think. Shop. Buy. Local movement, a large scale movement that works to promote the economic benefits of buying local goods by working across Richmond and the surrounding counties.

Originally created as a project at VCU, ShopRVA is a smaller nonprofit made up of local businesses, organizations, and individuals who are joined together to promote the culture and individuality of RVA. ShopRVA was created in 2009 and works to make RVA more green, economically and environmentally. Their goal is to make Richmond businesses into a strong foundation for a thriving local economy.

 “ShopRVA is new and filled with so much potential, people should listen to what they have to offer,” said Micah West, a student who worked with ShopRVA at VCU’s 2012 Social Media Institute. “They support the great things we have in the Richmond area and they want to express the creativity and personality of Richmond.”

These organizations work to remind us what makes Richmond such a unique city and they highlight why RVA is a wonderful place to live, eat, work and shop. With local restaurants on nearly every block, small markets throughout the Fan, and unique stores and boutiques in neighborhoods like Carytown and Libbie & Grove it is easy to shop RVA.

VCU Economic Developments Foster More Than New Ideas in Richmond

We found this pretty interesting article on the other day about VCU’s latest technological and economic developments happening across the Richmond region. Over the past 15 years, the university has been pushing for technological advancements such as new medicines, new business partnerships and student work opportunities to create lasting relationships between local businesses and the university.

In the last year, VCU’s Technology Transfer office has helped kick start their economic development efforts. The office is a resource that helps connect students with an industry and works to transfer their ideas and inventions from the university to the local business community.

Some of VCU’s recent successes include:

  • A new FDA regulatory clearance for EViTAR, a catheter for drug and cell delivery.
  • Commercialization of EmergenOx, a device which provides medical-grade humidified oxygen in emergencies.
  • Licensing by Finis, Inc. for the marketing of SwiMP3, a waterproof recreational audio-device that transmits sound, using bone conduction.

Since VCU is a thriving creative community, the assistance of this program is essential because it provides students with resources and counseling to help get their ideas developed and sold into the Richmond marketplace.

Nicole Colomb, who has been hired to oversee VCU’s new push for economic development efforts, said forging closer ties with the business community will benefit the region by raising the university’s stature while creating jobs and attracting industry here.

(per the article in WorkIt, Richmond)

The Tech Transfer office has become a great resource for economic development across Richmond, as serves as a liaison between local businesses and VCU. As a resource for students to connect and create new ideas, the office generates innovations in the local economy.

So what do you think VCU’s Tech Transfer program can do for Richmond? A more creative marketplace, stronger regional economy, more entrepreneurship and more RVA based businesses and ideas.




VCU’s da Vinci Center helps Richmond become a top 5 for job creation



 During Rep. Eric Cantor’s  visit to Virginia Commonwealth University’s da Vinci Center for Innovation on Monday, he declared Virginia as an epicenter of job creation and entrepreneurship, according to an article on

A recent survey by Gallup showed Richmond, Va. in the top five metro areas for job creation out of the 50 largest United States Metropolitan areas. Richmond came in third behind Pittsburg, Pa. and Oklahoma City, Ok. as number one. More than 30% of employers are hiring and just over 14% are laying off workers.

Cantor, the R-7th and the House Majority Leader, toured the da Vinci Center-a collaboration of VCU’s School of the Arts, Business and Engineering-and was impressed with the presentations by two groups of students. “What I saw was a remarkable effort to bring the many assets of VCU together toward creativity and innovation,” he said.

The students are participating in a paid summer internship program, a program he also said encourages the want for students to create job opportunities that contribute to the markets growth in Richmond. Once the presentations were completed “Cantor asked how many of them are interested in becoming “job creators” later in life. Almost all of them raised their hands,” according to the article.

Each group is collaborating on real world projects for two Richmond businesses using their diverse backgrounds. One group is working on a project with The Martin Agency to make Tylenol dosing simpler and more accessible for parents. The other group is evaluating the Mary Frances Youth Center and coming up with ways to help the organization stay out of debt.

Future job innovators, like these VCU students, add to the growing list of Richmond jobs and job postings seen on websites like The job search website stated that “the Richmond, Va. job market is strong compared to the rest of the U.S.”  Job postings had a national decline of 32% while Richmond’s only had a 19% decline.

According to a The New York Times’ Economix blog post, surrounding Richmond cities, like Virginia Beach, have the highest proportion of employers laying off workers.

The da Vinci Center will continue to merge creativity, diversity and business minded students together  to help create innovative projects for job creation in the fall for the launch of its master’s program. Kenneth Kahn, the center’s director, said students will “come in with an idea and leave with a business.”

The Seven Hills of Richmond– Church Hill

Article from The Richmond Times Dispatch 1946

The Seven Hills of Richmond seem to have always been a controversial topic in RVA. Today, many people consider the Seven Hills to be a myth.

The truth is, the official Seven Hills were declared in a 1937 ordinance by the City of Richmond but the ordinance was never passed.

Since then, the confusion has only grown larger. In 1947 The Richmond Times Dispatch published an article that attempted to clear the air about the Seven Hills. The article said that there were various lists of Richmond’s original hills and the hills that were found in 1937 were not accepted by the City Council.

Although the Seven Hills were never made official, those neighborhoods have shaped the city’s history and are a part of what make RVA unique.

Church Hill is Richmond’s first neighborhood and home to most of RVA’s original 32 blocks. The Church Hill area is filled with Richmond’s oldest history from the red brick sidewalks and gas street lamps to the classical architectural styles.

St.John's Church 1865

St.John’s Church 1865– Library of Congress

The center of the historic district is  St. John’s Church, built in 1741, it’s where Church Hill gets its name.

St. John's Church 2012 St. John’s is the only Colonial structure in the area that remains intact.

During the 18th century Church Hill was the stomping ground for America’s early revolutionaries, like Patrick Henry. Who’s most well known for his “Give me Liberty or Give me Death” speech at St. John’s Church in 1775.

Richmond Va, Church Hill c. 1850s

A photo of Richmond from Church Hill in the 1850s —Valentine Museum

Classical Church Hill homeHome in Church Hill across from St. John's Church Hill homes near Libby Hill Park


*1742— Church Hill population reaches 250.

The history of Church Hill radiates from the streets since most of the area’s real estate was built before the Civil War.

The classic architecture is what makes Church Hill one of Richmond’s most unique neighborhoods.


Architectural styles on display throughout the neighborhood include: Greek Revival, Italianate, Federal, and Queen Anne. By the 19th century Church Hill was booming and the population in Richmond had reached 5,730.


People began moving to the area for job opportunities in local tobacco factories like the Pohlig Box Factory located on 25th street just blocks away from St. John’s Church. Tobacco factories and industrial buildings provided Church Hillians with jobs and boosted the local population…

[Read more…]

The Seven Hills of Richmond

Like Rome, Richmond, VA is a city that was built on seven hills. With all of the hills in Richmond, you may be wondering what are the “official” seven, where are they located and what makes these neighborhoods a great place to live in or own a business?

According to a 1937 ordinance by the City of Richmond, the seven official hills of RVA are:

  • Union Hill
  • Council Chamber Hill
  • French Garden Hill
  • Navy Hill
  • Gambles Hill
  • Shockoe Hill
  • Church  Hill

     Click on the map for an interactive view of the Seven Hills of Richmond

Here at RVAbusiness, we are going to explore Richmond’s neighborhoods, the “Seven Hills” and uncover what each neighborhood has to offer.  Stay tuned for more about the Seven Hills!

First Time Home-Buyer? There’s a Class for That.

Good news for any prospective home buyers who may be worried about their credit score and applying for a home mortgage loan – the Richmond Times Dispatch recently reported that new education classes are now available through Community Housing Partners of Richmond (CHP).  The cost? Completely free.

These “Real Estate 101” classes are taught by CHP Housing Counselor, Schirra Hayes, who aims to help those people who are thinking about purchasing a home and have no idea where to begin. The classes are designed to teach new prospective home buyers about the entire home-buying process – from start to finish – and how to stay on track as a responsible homeowner.

The classes are held every Tuesday and Thursday, 5:30 to 8:30 p.m, at Community Housing Partners office building, located at 100 W. Franklin Street.

According to Hayes, home buyers need to make sure their credit file is up to date and in shape, and in taking two sessions of his class, it would qualify first-time home owners for a Virginia Housing Development Authority (VHDA) mortgage application and many other programs.

“Lenders nowadays want to see a really good credit score to circumvent what happened in the mortgage crisis a few years ago,” said Hayes, with Community Housing Partners in Richmond.”

FYI, home buyers must attend both classes – Tuesday and Thursday) to receive a VHDA Home buyer Education Certification to qualify them for a home mortgage.

To learn more about the VHDA or register for a class, contact Hayes at (804) 343-7201, ext. 2035, or email him at

And, of course, if you ever have any questions about finding a home to buy, you can always call Bandazian & Holden at 804-358-5543.

RVA To Adopt Mass Transit by 2015

Good news, RVA!  After years of city-wide planning and discussions forums by various Richmond-based transportation groups like GRTC, VDOT and VHSR, mass transit is finally coming to Richmond.

Officially underway and expected to launch in 2015, GRTC will be implementing a “Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)” system from Willow Lawn to Rocketts Landing, with Main Street Station as a passenger drop-off/pick-up hub.

The first step towards bringing mass transit to Richmond, the idea of BRT is to have a large passenger bus run on a dedicated track lane that will bring large amounts of travelers to point-to-point destinations.

Ultimately, the BRT system will lay the foundation for an INTER-city passenger rail service, the “Light Rail,” to connect the whole Central VA region; from Norfolk to Petersburg to Fredericksburg to Washington, DC.

In a recent interview with Danny Plaugher, Executive Director for Virginians for High Speed Rail (VHSR), we discussed VHSR’s recent 16th Annual Meeting, “Connecting Virginia: How Regional Intercity and Light Rail are Changing Virginia.

“VHSR hosted the meeting, because we felt there is so much positive news happening right now, in terms of rail development throughout Virginia.  Norfolk launched a Light Rail system called “The Tide” in August 2011, and in less than a year has exceeded more than one million riders.  More than 50,000 riders used the Light Rail service this past weekend alone.

Richmond needs to take this same initiative.  As an organization, VHSR wants to highlight all of our successes, including Norfolk, and focus on utilizing these models in other VA cities such as Richmond.”

As for what VSHR’s 2012 plans mean for Richmond business, Plaugher reveals the City’s latest plans for mass transit, details of where BRT will run and answers some burning questions weighing on the mind of Richmond residents.

[Read more…]

Venture Richmond Forum Unveils New Developments in RVA

After years and years of work throughout the city, Downtown Richmond is finally getting the attention it deserves, thanks to a nearly $1 billion dollar makeover from the state.

This makeover was the highlight of discussion at Venture Richmond’s Annual Downtown Development Forum last Thursday, May 31st, as Richmond’s business leaders, developers and architects met to reveal their latest ideas for up and coming projects.

Proposed projects included the VCU School of Medicine building, the Virginia Biotechnology Park, a 150,000-square-foot addition for Health Diagnostic Laboratory Inc, as well as several apartment buildings in the Manchester and business districts.

Over $120 million is going into creating more residential spaces across the downtown area, according to, who says the recent heightened demand for apartments is a result of the drop in the Multifamily Vacancy Index (MVI).

Fyi, the MVI measures the multifamily housing industry’s perception of vacancies which has recently dropped to a level of 31, an all time low.

“Multifamily construction continues to be a bright spot in the overall housing market,” said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe, in a report by

Residential development across Richmond was a large part of the revitalization plans discussed at last Thursday’s forum.  For more information about how the State is funding these different projects, click here.

Another project in the works is by the Franklin Development Group, who is working to revitalize the Manchester District by building a 17-acre development at the Reynolds South Property.

“We’re a long way from closing,” said Franklin Development’s Manager, Thomas Wilkinson, who discussed the possibility of  over 300 apartments, office space and an upscale grocer at Thurday’s forum.

Although the project plans aren’t official yet, Wilkinson assures Richmond-ers  that the development will revitalize the Manchester district and appeal to the area’s increasipopulations on.  Checkouts Richmond BizSense’s coverage of the Reynolds Development for more info.

Millions of dollars from the City are being put into new construction on the VCU campuses, as well as some of Richmond’s most beloved landmarks, including the Main Street Station Clock Tower and 17th Street.

The idea behind Richmond’s makeover? To transform traditonal buildings and warehouses into modern, revitalized structures for public use.

Be sure to keep your eyes open, as these new developments pop up across the city!

Richmond Broadens Its Taste Buds at Broad Appetit

Did you know that (according to the National Restaurant Association) for every $1 spent in any of Virginia’s restaurants, 97 cents of that dollar goes back to helping build revenue for the Virginia economy?

Well, this coming Sunday, June 3rd will prove to be a HUGE boost for Richmond restaurants as well as the Virginia economy with the 5th Annual Broad Appetit Festival, happening downtown in Richmond’s Arts District.

 The highly anticipated festival, which runs from 11 AM – 6 PM, will stretch from the 100 to 300 blocks of West Broad Street and give Richmond natives, visitors, families, students and foodies alike a great sampling of the diverse, eclectic Richmond restaurant scene.

There will be over 60 local chefs, live music, youth activities and of course cuisine from popular restaurants like Bistro 27, Blowtoad, Comfort, Cous Cous, Olio and Six Burner.

Food prices will range from $3.00-$5.00 a plate as well as offer a variety of combos and mixed plates.

This will be the first time in festival history that Broad Appetit will feature exclusive Virginia beers and its first ever People’s Choice Awards, where festival attendees can vote for their favorite dishes.

To give back to the Richmond community, Broad Appetit is donating a percentage of proceeds from the festival to the Central Virginia Food Bank and Meals on Wheels.  Last year, a record crowd of over 30,000 gathered for last year’s festival, making Broad Appetit Richmond’s largest dining festival in Richmond’s history.

Broad Appetit  plays host to live music and events for all ages. It is the place where food and art intersect.

So, while you’re gearing up a hefty appetite for Broad Appetit on Sunday, take a walk around Richmond and experience the flavor that this eclectic city has to offer.

Which restaurant are you looking forward to trying out most at the festival?

Carytown Cupcakes Expands AND Crepes Come to Carytown

For all you dessert enthusiasts out there anticipating the next sweets shop to open up in Carytown, the time is almost here!  Among a bevy of bakeries, sweets and confectionery shops, Carytown will be adding to its list of sweets shops a bigger location for Carytown Cupcakes and a new dining spot for French cuisine: Carytown Creperie.

Carytown Cupakes, a Richmond tradition known for its decadent desserts, is opening its new location at 3111 West Cary Street, across from Can Can Brasserie.  A grand opening date for the new location is still up in the air, but owners Dawn & Albert Schick promise the new and improved cupcake boutique is coming soon with even better cupcake concoctions. (Meanwhile, the old location at 2820 West Cary Street is still open!)

After the big move, the former cupcake shop will be magically transformed into Carytown Creperie, a new crepe shop featuring the traditional French-inspired cuisine with a twist: fast, take-away crepes for on-the-go dining.

[Read more…]

Brown Greer Goes Waterfront on Rocketts Landing

Five years ago, Rocketts Landing – the rural neighborhood of Richmond bordering Downtown and Churchill along the James River – was desolate, barren and considered as just a watering hole by local fisherman. It was pretty much unheard of by the general public.

Two years ago, that all changed with The Boathouse at Rocketts Landing opening in 2010 and The Conch Republic soon after in 2011. The area was completely transformed into an attractive, scenic stretch of restaurants along the James and tourists, visitors, locals, couples, families and Richmond-ers flocked like seagulls.

Today, Rockett’s Landing is making an even bigger splash. One of the Richmond area’s biggest law firms, Brown Greer, is relocating its headquarters to the 38,000-square-foot Cedar Works Building along the riverfront on Dock Street.

Although the building still needs to be renovated, there are major factors in favor of moving to Rocketts, according to Principal Orran Brown: convenient parking, the location, and the long-term prospects of what Rocketts Landing could develop into.

Rocketts Landing Memorial Day 2012 event

Check out these recent articles in the Times-Dispatch and Richmond BizSense, which give a more detailed look into Brown Greer’s latest urban development.

In the mean time, be sure to visit Rocket’s Landing on Sunday, May 27th for Rocketts Red Glare.  The event will feature the Kings of Swingband and a fireworks display to benefit the Neighborhood Resource Center of Greater Fulton.

Blackfinn to sell downtown location to a local restaurant group

From a press release received this morning:

RICHMOND, VA (May 24, 2012) – BlackFinn American Saloon, located at 1001 Haxall Point, today announced its plans to sell the restaurant to a local ownership group. The restaurant will remain closed until a sale is completed and the new ownership group has finalized its rebranding of the current space.

BlackFinn has been the sole restaurant tenant of the mixed-use Riverside on the James development since it first opened its doors in 2006. The new tenant will benefit from the revitalization plans that are in place for the surrounding Canal Walk area.

“With the efforts to update and expand the current offerings in the area, we feel that this is a good time and opportunity for both seller and buyer,” said BlackFinn operating partner Ryan Golbitz. “It’s been six terrific years and we are grateful for the support and the business that our community has provided.”

Details of the new restaurant’s name and theme are expected to be announced closer to the reopening date, estimated around fall of 2012.

Anyone else know details? I’ll update if I hear anything.

Be sure to watch the local news outlets for more updates/information.

One Richmond bar scores big and creates a legacy

Twenty-five years ago, one business man invested heavily in the future he saw on Main Street

Just two decades ago, sports bars weren’t very common. This is a community story for locals and sports fans, about one of Richmond’s first sports bars, the changing city landscape around VCU and the retirement of one well-respected business owner.

One Richmond bar scores big and creates a legacy

While the city hosts numerous restaurants and acclaimed cuisine, we also have an often overlooked local sports bar–not a big chain–that’s worthy of a boisterous hurrah.

Mulligans Sport’s Grille first swung open its doors in 1990 to reveal about 20 televisions inside–none of them flat screens–all broadcasting sports games and commentary.

Think about that novelty. The playing field for sports bars used to be fairly empty of any competition.

Harken back to the early 90s, if you can. The daily routine was sans internet, cable television was not a household standard–and it certainly did not supply the multiple sports networks available now. There was an audible welcome from sports fans–to the extent that the dream of three men multiplied into six restaurants.

Mulligan’s first opened in Short Pump, before the area was the bustling “suburban downtown” that so many city dwellers love to hate. Now home to Capital Ale House, the space is 12,000 square feet.

The first store was so successful that by its second year, the bouncers came to work before the waitstaff.  They were needed to control the the crowds who would try to push inside when the waitresses arrived, as to stake early claim to the best seats in the house. The Wednesday concert series brought thousands to Innsbrook, and hundreds would just camp out at Mulligans, many taking in the concert from the comfort of the patio.

John Sweeney, along with the Hurley brothers, Mark and Matt, were experimental business owners. They tried off-the-wall things like “cook your own steak” night, where hot grills stood ready for the sports aficionado to meet tong to meet steak.

The investors ran with their game plan, opening a total of six locations. After the Innsbrook location came Mulligans in Mechanicsville, Sixth Street Market Place, Southside, the Fan and then Farmville.

[Read more…]

Starting a business in Richmond? You don’t want to miss this!

Being involved in helping start-ups in Richmond, we often get invitations to attend sessions put on by the Economic Development departments of the local governments. When we get them, I’ll make sure to post them here for your reference. The ones I’ve attended in the past have been extremely helpful and great brush ups on the resources that the localities provide for small business.

Here is the email from the City of Richmond that we received regarding the upcoming event:

As part of our  ongoing efforts to provide you with valuable information & resources, the City of Richmond Department of Economic and Community Development-Business First Richmond Program is pleased to announce another in our series of free educational seminars.

The City of Richmond Department of Economic & Community Development and the Virginia Department of Business Assistance will host the first in a two part series on establishing and  growing your business.   Part I in the series the” Entrepreneur Express Seminar” will address the basic concerns of establishing a business in Richmond.  The seminar will be held Wednesday, October 12, 2011 from 8:30 am to noon at the Police Training Academy, 1202 W. Graham Road, Richmond, Virginia 23220.  (See Entrepreneur Express Seminar Flyer for details)   Please share this information with your clients and colleagues.

To sign up (free!), you can either register online by clicking here, or call 804-371-0058.

Oh, and make sure to let me know if you’re going to be there! Leave a comment here or at least be sure to come up and say hello when  you see me there.

It’s true, RVA, Mint is coming to the Fan!

There was a rumor floating around for the past few weeks that Amy Cabaniss, the owner of Julep’s in Shockoe Bottom, was purchasing the building where Davis & Main operated a long-standing restaurant for decades. There was good reason for the rumor, because it was true!

Amy closed on the deal to purchase the real estate and the equipment at 2501 West Main Street this past Friday afternoon. Richard Holden, Principal Broker at Bandazian & Holden, represented Amy in the purchase.

It has been on the market for some time. Fan of the Fan reported back in June that the restaurant had closed, and I know that it had been for sale for some time before that. We are proud that Bandazian & Holden was part of making this sale happen, and even more proud that such a fine restaurateur will be the one taking over.

The new restaurant will be Mint New Casual Cuisine. From all of the great ideas that I’ve heard from Amy and from the reactions I’ve heard so far from the neighbors, the Fan District will be very happy to have her there!

Congratulations on the purchase, Amy! I can’t wait to try out the new place!

[blackbirdpie id=”117321754979999745″]

How much of an impact do VCU & UR have on Richmond?

Richmond isn’t a college town by any stretch of the imagination. During the breaks when all of the students go home, the campus gets quiet (mostly) — but the city is still buzzing with activity. In fact, a lot of the students live here full-time, even when class is out.

If you haven’t heard yet, VCU & UR’s basketball teams have both made it into the Sweet 16 and Richmond is getting a lot of national attention for this feat. (check out this article in the NY Times and this article on

All of this attention and excitement is wonderful, and has been a long time coming with the athletic programs at both schools gaining more and more traction. BUT the schools’ contributions to our fair city are quite a bit more involved than just succeeding at athletic competitions. Both schools have made quite a large economic and cultural impact over the years, and they continue to do so.

Mark Holmberg from CBS6 did a very interesting piece on how much Virginia Commonwealth University has done to improve the city and gives us a snapshot of VCU’s footprint here in Richmond:

VCU and its hospital and health system now have nearly 19 thousand employees.  It has become the largest employer in the metro Richmond with an annual payroll of $1.2 billion, and look at all the construction jobs and other support businesses for the 32,ooo students and all those employees- which equal a fourth of Richmond’s population.

VCU now owns 142 acres of Richmond, and has 203 buildings.

As for University of Richmond, it doesn’t have the massive scale that VCU does, but it has a great deal of influence and presence in the city as well. From the facts and figures portion of UR’s website:

  • 350-acre suburban campus located six miles from downtown Richmond
  • 379 full-time faculty [couldn’t locate a total for the entire staff]
  • 4,405 total university enrollment

And let’s not forget some of the other fine schools here in town that are also educating and providing economic development (and jobs!) — Virginia Union University, Randolph Macon College, and two Virginia Community Colleges (J. Sargeant Reynolds &  John Tyler) serving this area.

Redevelopment plans for Carytown get nod from Museum District

The redevelopment of the old Verizon building at 10 N. Nansemond Street has been hotly debated and contested. (see: the official site for the Carytown Place; Don’t Big Box Carytown‘s website; & this post and the accompanying comment thread on Caramelized Opinions for a good summary & feel of the debate)

The Museum District Association had originally ruled to oppose the redevelopment based on the original plans, but Friday they sent out a press release announcing the reversal of that position.  The gist of the situation can be summed up from this one paragraph in the press release:

The Board voted 13-1 in November to oppose the original SUP and subsequently provided the applicant with detailed requests for further changes to make it more amenable to the neighborhood. The applicant responded by altering the SUP to remove vehicular ingress/egress on Nansemond Street as well as reduce the number of available uses of the property to 10 uses. The applicant also agreed to limit the usable floor space of any one tenant to no more than 25,000 square feet, ensuring there would be multiple tenants in the building and ruling out a single, larger “big box” tenant.

The whole press release can be read here on the MDA’s website (right now it’s at the top, but it will shift down the page as new releases are issued).

What do you think? Are you satisfied with the MDA’s ruling, or are the changes in the plan not enough for you? In that case, what changes would be enough to get your support for the development?

Exciting times for a local revitalization organization

The Alliance to Conserve Old Richmond Neighborhoods (A.C.O.R.N.) has worked diligently for more than a decade to “promote the purchase and renovation of vacant and abandoned buildings in Richmond’s oldest neighborhoods.” This past Friday, ACORN announced some big news that will help them in that mission, and that’s exciting for all of Richmond. I’ll let their press release speak for itself:

The Alliance
to Conserve
Old Richmond Neighborhoods

Press Release
January 21, 2011

The Alliance to Conserve Old Richmond Neighborhood Joins Better Housing Coalition

The Alliance is pleased and excited to announce a new step in its evolution and a greater opportunity to improve lives in Richmond. As of January 31, 2011 The Alliance will be moving to become part of the Better Housing Coalition (BHC) family as its Center for Neighborhood Revitalization. The Center will expand BHC services for the Richmond community and continue to provide educational programs and urban revitalization tools for communities and residents.

The Alliance brings to BHC both experience and programs that benefit prospective homeowners in their desire to renovate and preserve older and historic properties; and this opportunity allows The Alliance to increase its capacity of programs and services, thereby continuing its mission of conserving and rebuilding Richmond’s neighborhoods.

The Alliance executive director, David Herring, will become the vice president of BHC’s Center for Neighborhood Revitalization.

The Alliance property director, Lane Pearson, will support BHC’s Center programs as revitalization strategy manager.

“Moving Richmond’s affordable housing climate forward often requires preserving its past,” said T.K. Somanath, president of BHC. “With the skills and knowledge The Alliance staff brings to the table, we can bolster our work to revitalize Richmond’s urban core featuring well designed, walkable developments that mix residential and commercial uses, integrating the places we live, work and shop.”

John McCann, chairman of BHC’s Board of Directors, said, “We also look forward to tapping the talents of Board members from The Alliance, who have provided unwavering support for The Alliance’s mission and outreach.”

The two organizations are delighted to be integrating programs of The Alliance into Better Housing Coalition in order to continue to strengthen Richmond communities now and for the future.





Business is getting better, Richmond

Business is booming!  Relatively speaking, at least, the economy is buzzing along.  Things certainly aren’t where they used to be, but they are getting better.  Running a small business is tough, no doubt about it — but it’s always tough.

One of the first questions I hear is “how is business” — and the answer lately has been that business is great!  The business I’m in (commercial real estate and business brokering) is busier than it has been in the past couple of years.  I can’t speak for the entire industry, but our small piece has been rolling along quite briskly.  The period between the 4th of July and Labor Day weekend is usually dead for us, except for the residential leasing, but this year defied past trends and was the busiest we’ve had in a long time.

As I’ve said in the past, I’m a small business.  I’m not Coca-Cola or Dow Chemical.  I don’t need the whole economy to be in a bubble to be doing well.  I just need to do well with and by my clients and customers to be rewarded.  Conversely, I don’t need the whole economy to be in recession for my business to be spiraling downward, either.

It’s not just our business at Bandazian & Holden that has been on the upswing lately.  I’ve been hearing from more and more friends that their businesses are doing the same thing, and that brings me great hope for everyone.

Don’t take my word for it, though.  The news outlets are tapping into the data and things are starting to spring back (or at least stop going down) all over:

From Nation’s Restaurant News: Atlanta’s restaurants seeing better days

Operators in the city pointed to an increase in private parties and convention business, which they expect to continue as the holiday season nears. And while diners remain value-conscious, some restaurateurs reported that increased drink and appetizer orders are giving check averages a boost.
From the Wall Street Journal:  Consumers Show Signs of Stirring
U.S. retail sales rose for a third consecutive month in September, posting a stronger-than-expected increase that should fend off fears of a double-dip recession but doesn’t signal a strong recovery.
And from right here in Richmond, in Richmond BizSense: Retail Slowdown Slowing Down?
For the second quarter, area sales totaled $2.59 billion compared to $2.64 billion in the second quarter of 2009.  The decrease of 1.89 percent is the smallest quarter to quarter change since BizSense began analyzing taxable sales data at the end of 2008—a sign that the slowdown may be flattening out.

Restaurants and bars are also doing a little bit better, growing sales by more than 6 percent in the second quarter. That is a big change from the 1 percent to 2 percent decrease reported for previous quarters.

What has changed?  I don’t know. Maybe people are tired of being scared and sitting on the sidelines, waiting for more bad news.  What I do know is that we got ourselves into this mess, and it’s up to us to dig our way out — everyone working on their small piece of the hole.  There is plenty of money to be made in good times and bad times, trick is that the people have to earn their money in the “bad times”.  Let’s keep making this work!

What do you think?  Have you seen business improving in your corner of the world?

Great dining + a great cause = Restaurant Week 2010

I love it when the restaurant community comes together for good times and to support a local non-profit.  Arguably, one of the biggest restaurant events of the year in Richmond is Restaurant Week.

Richmond Restaurant Week 2010 runs the last week in October, Monday the 25th through Sunday the 31st.

Here is a description of the event straight from the official Richmond Restaurant Week website:

Richmond Restaurant week is in its 9th year. Each year, 25+ local, independently-owned restaurants gather together to get behind a cause aligned with their interest: food. The restaurants each offer a 3-course menu for a set price, this year $25.10, and donate a portion, this year $2.10, of each meal purchased to benefit Meals on Wheels in conjunction with the Central Virginia Food Bank. We’ve seen great success in years past and have donated tens of thousands of dollars to feed the hungry in the Richmond area. Come out and try a new place or visit your favorite restaurant and support this great cause! and are both posting menus as they come in, and it doesn’t look like you’ll go wrong with any of the participating restaurants.  In fact, I haven’t been able to choose yet because everything looks so good.  At least I still have a couple of weeks to decide — but reservations should be made as early as possible because the schedules fill up fast!

Where are you going for Restaurant Week this year?  Returning to an old favorite?  Or trying out somewhere new? Please leave a comment to help guide folks that are experiencing Richmond Restaurant Week for the first time!

Richmond’s next frontier?

Style Weekly has an interesting article this week about a part of Richmond that has been largely ignored, Northside’s Brookland Park Boulevard.  There is a lot of great information in the article, so be sure to go here and read the whole thing, but I felt like this part in particular was a great summary of the past and present of this area:

Brookland Park Boulevard was a bustling commercial corridor in the 1950s and ’60s, with popular bakeries, restaurants, a theater and a nightclub. And today, despite the many vacant buildings, several businesses still do a thriving trade.

On Saturdays, the area’s many beauty and barber shops are packed. Soul food restaurant Sam’s Kitchen is doing well, Epps says, as is his brother’s newly opened restaurant, River City Seafood. The cheerful yellow Michaela’s Bakery, which opened in 2005, sells six-layer cakes and strawberry shortcakes wholesale. Owner Michael Hatcher wishes the city would think of some way to bring more customers in — something historic, he says, or a tourist attraction. Another longtime business owner, florist Sylvia Richardson, says loiterers are the biggest deterrent to business. She says she doesn’t feel comfortable even walking to the convenience store across the street.

The one thing on which the merchants agree is that Brookland Park Boulevard has potential. Car traffic is plentiful, because the boulevard connects the city’s North Side and East End, and the area is served by two bus lines. The street has some architectural gems, such as an old theater and an ornate bank building. Richmond Community High School, a school for the gifted, moved onto the boulevard in 2009. Young people are buying up houses in nearby neighborhoods.

Brookland Park Boulevard reminds me a lot of other Richmond gems like East Grace Street near the Carpenter Center and Manchester’s Hull Street.  A rich history, a questionable present, and a lot of enthusiasm and support to make the area a thriving community.

For another great write-up on the area, take a look at this very thorough post on This Decrepit Victorian from March 2010:  The Brookland Park Historic District.

What’s next for Brookland Park, I wonder?

Richmond wins!

Winner at the Delta County Fair, Colorado (LOC)

We're number one!

As I mentioned earlier this year in “Richmond loves its working moms“, I appreciate when the rest of the world acknowledges Richmond’s superiority in all ways. It seems there are lists for everything, and while I find it to be overkill most of the time — any list can justify itself as being relevant and highly insightful by the obvious addition of Richmond (or Virginia as a whole) to the top of its rankings.

Imagine my delight when I found a helpfully compiled list of Richmond’s awards on the Greater Richmond Partnership’s website (here) and a similar but not completely identical list on the City of Richmond’s website (here).

Browse the awards and bookmark the links for future reference.  Find a few that mean  the most to you and let everyone know how great Richmond is! (and feel free to rub it in to friends that live in cities that ranked below us…)

How important is biking and walking to you?

If you think biking and walking should be more prominent in Richmond City’s transportation planning, then I encourage you to get out to this and participate!

Received in my email this afternoon:

Department of Planning & Development Review

News Release

Wednesday, September 15, 2010
For Immediate Release

City to Hold Public Forum on Pedestrian Biking and Trails

Richmond, VA – The city of Richmond will hold a public forum on Monday, September 20, from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Carillon in Byrd Park. The forum is being held to encourage input from residents on ways to make biking and walking an integral part of the city’s transportation system.

In May 2010, Mayor Dwight C. Jones established a Pedestrian Bicycling and Trails Planning Commission to provide his administration with advice on ways to make the city more pedestrian friendly. The commission divided into work groups: Economic Development; Public Policy/Legislation; Infrastructure and Physical Design; Grants and Funding; Outreach, Education and Safety; and Metrics and Evaluation. The workgroups have studied the plans and strategies of the city of Richmond, other jurisdictions as well as those of other countries.

On Monday, four of the Commission’s work groups will present some of their recommendations for public consideration. They are: Public Policy/Legislation; Economic Development; Infrastructure and Physical Design; Outreach, Education and Safety.

Residents who are unable to attend the forum can provide input through a survey that will be posted after the public forum on the city’s website at

Contact: Tammy Hawley (804) 646-3110

Cleveland looks towards Richmond

It’s always interesting to hear what kind of impression Richmond leaves on someone visiting, and of course I especially enjoy it when that perspective reaffirms what I already love about the city.

Take a look at how a correspondent from views the River City: “Richmond: Southern charm with an edge” (thanks to @verystickyrice & @sharischaefer for tweeting about the article, or I would have totally missed it)

I think he captured the feel of Richmond very well, and the piece was well thought through.  Granted, it’s a certain piece of Richmond and there are plenty more aspects that weren’t covered, but hey…he was only visiting for short time!  It’s hard to get the full view even while you’re living here.

Feel free to leave comments here on RVA Business, but it might be better to leave comments on their site to keep the discussion going.

Come on back anytime, Stephen!

Don’t let them catch you dancing!

Everyone can now rest easy, dancing will no longer be tolerated in the City of Richmond! (Well, when I say “everyone can now rest easy”, I really mean everyone except for those pesky dancers.)  From what I hear, dancing brings about all sorts of immorality so I am relieved that we won’t have dirty dancers parading around making light of the city’s laws. (My research really is confined to movies from the first half of certain movies from the 80’s)

I’m actually a little confused because visitors or transplants to the city are always complaining about how there aren’t many dance clubs here anyways.

Style Weekly has plenty of information in this week’s edition here, including a Q&A follow up session with a representative from the Mayor’s office.

As a tribute to the new City ordinance, here’s a video of some scenes from the movie Footloose:

Actually, this ordinance is nothing new here in the Richmond metro area.  Chesterfield and Henrico have been issuing permits (or NOT issuing permits, depending on who you talk to) for a couple of years now.

Here are a few links about the stink from last year about Chesterfield and dance permits:

(thanks to Richmond Good Life’s time-capsule archives for those links!)

Henrico has the same type of ordinance and dance club permits, but I recently had a tenant that had to apply for one and it wasn’t a huge ordeal.

If you’ve run against any of these dance ordinances or know of how it’s handled in other areas, I’d love to hear about your experiences.  Leave a comment!

Poor, poor, strip club owner…

Sam Moore, owner of Velvet in Shockoe Bottom, has been getting a lot of press lately.  If you prescribe to the “any press is good press” motto, then Velvet has been getting way more attention than his Hummers and rooftop spotlights could ever give him.

Take the following articles in the RTD as examples:  Example #1 (2/26/08), Example #2 (2/27/08), Example #3 (2/28/08).  That’s a lot of coverage…  (edit:  AND there’s another article in this morning’s RTD, on the front page no less!) [new edit (7/31/10): most of those RTD links are dead now, but here are some from that same time-frame that are live — 2/25/08 & 2/24/08]

I don’t know Sam in any personal or business sense, so I don’t have any way to know if he deserves the bad rap he’s been getting lately.  It does, however, seem awfully suspicious that as soon as the news breaks that he is looking to open a Hooters-style restaurant in the old Julians building (2/13/08), his business in Shockoe Bottom is raided and everything hits the fan.

The overly anxious coverage of the charges against Sam Moore reminds me of the equally eager coverage of Nat Dance over the years of Nat Dance and Club 534 and Club Cotton.  (The latest example can be read here.)  Now I’m not saying this is a conspiracy by the newspaper, or even that the paper is in on it.  Rather, I think that there is a force behind it whose hand is bluntly obvious, even if the players involved aren’t.