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, Richmond.com

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.

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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.

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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.

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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 Richmond.com 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 Richmond.com, 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 Richmond.com. 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)

Richmond.com 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 workitrichmond.com 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.