Post originally written by Mike Platania at RichmondBizSense.com
With a new food hall open in Manchester and another in the works in a redeveloped Henrico mall, the trend will soon make its way to Scott’s Addition thanks to one of Richmond’s most prolific restaurant groups.
EAT Restaurant Partners, owner of more than a dozen local eateries such as Fat Dragon and Red Salt Chophouse, spent $3 million last week to purchase the Hutcheson & Co. building at 3013 W. Leigh St., which it is planning to convert into the neighborhood’s first food hall.
The 17,000-square-foot warehouse had previously been under contract to local development firm Capital Square for a similar food hall concept, but the company stepped away from the deal, a spokeswoman confirmed.
EAT President Chris Tsui said his group had been discussing being a tenant and operator of the food hall for Capital Square before stepping in as the buyer.
“(Capital Square) thought it’d be better that we own the property, and it made more economic sense for us to buy rather than rent it,” Tsui said. “We’ve wanted to do (a food hall) for several years, and they have so many new tenants they wanted some more amenities for them.”
Tsui’s referencing the more than 500 new apartments Capital Square is building in the neighborhood, including 200 in its three-building Scott’s Collection project nearby and 350 at the Otis, the city-block sized mixed-use project along Roseneath Road that’s recently begun inking commercial tenants.
EAT Restaurant Partners closed on the Hutcheson building on May 20, with Divaris’ Read Goode representing them in the deal. The city most recently assessed the property, which spans three parcels, at a combined $1.8 million.
For decades the building had been home to electrical hardware supplier Hutcheson & Co., but the firm has since relocated to Henrico.
Tsui said he’s not sure exactly how many vendor stalls the food hall will have but noted that some of EAT’s 13 concepts are likely to be present there.
“We’re still deciding what direction we want to go. I think we have several concepts that we can choose from in-house,” Tsui said.
“We’re planning some non-food stalls also — vendors that may want a stall, like someone who makes pottery or candles. I think there’ll be a lot of people floating through the food hall, it could be good exposure for someone who doesn’t have a storefront.”
Michael Pellis Architecture is the project’s architect and Patricia Holley of Design Therapy is its interior designer. Tsui said they’re hoping the food hall will be ready by 2024.
EAT has previously bought and developed the real estate it occupies, including Hot Chick’s building in Shockoe Bottom. Tsui said the company has investors in both its restaurants and real estate, and that it’s bringing in some additional capital for the food hall project.
It’s hard to remember a more highly-anticipated spring for diners than that of 2021, as the warmer weather coincided with wider COVID-19 vaccine access and a return to dining rooms all over the Richmond region.
Heaps of restaurant news followed: New concepts were announced, local restaurant groups expanded their footprints, and plenty of old restaurant spaces were given new life.
Enrico “Jo Jo” Armetta is the owner of Jo Jo’s Famous Pizza.
Others looked south, such as Enrico Armetta, who made the leap to add a Midlothian location of his longtime downtown pizzeria Jo Jo’s Famous Pizza. Brad Barzoloski also went to Chesterfield for a location of his Capitol Waffle Shop in the Shops at the Arboretum.
EAT Restaurant Partners continued to expand into Richmond’s surrounding counties in 2021, opening a second PBR location (this time in Hanover County) as well as preparing to open a Wong’s Tacos restaurant in the Winterfield Crossing mixed-use development in Midlothian.
Pop-ups — temporary concepts often operated within another restaurant on limited days of the week — saw a spike in popularity over the last year, and a few did well enough to land brick-and-mortar spots in 2021.
Among them was Buttermilk and Honey, a takeout-friendly fried chicken concept Lillie Pearl owners Kimberly Love-Lindsey and Mike Lindsey started last year and took full-time in Short Pump. The married couple also became the new operators of Pop’s Market downtown.
Soul Taco’s owners decided to make their Jewish and African fusion concept JewFro a permanent fixture of the local restaurant scene, opening in Shockoe Bottom after the concept had a run as a pop-up earlier in 2021.
A handful of food trucks also went the brick-and-mortar route.
The pandemic also accelerated the arrival of ghost kitchens, the delivery-only spots where restaurateurs can set up shop without having a front door for customers to come through.
ChefSuite is working to open a kitchen on West Broad near Staples Mill, while a bit further east on Broad Street, Cloud Kitchens, run by a former Uber CEO, bought some space adjacent to The Hofheimer building.
New chains and concepts
Some local restaurant industry veterans kicked off new concepts in 2021.
Sweetfrog founder Derek Cha got in on the hot chicken sandwich craze in May when he opened his first Hangry Joe’s Hot Chicken in Ashland. Cha also kicked off expansion of the concept in 2021, opening in Fairfax with plans for locations to open in Short Pump and near Regency in early 2022.
Relative to years past, 2021 was a quiet one for beer and craft beverage news, with only one new brewery opening in the area: Holy Mackerel in Prince George. The new year is looking to be busier, with at least four new breweries planned to open in 2022.
RICHMOND, Va. — To say Daquan and Nicole Woodberry have a lot of irons in the fire would be an understatement. The chef and entrepreneur power couple hopes to transform the way Richmond orders food with both the LoCo food delivery app and virtual restaurants.
“A virtual restaurant is essentially a restaurant within a restaurant. It thrives and operates solely off of delivery platforms,” Dequan, who goes by Chef DQ, explained. “So if you go on any of the delivery apps such as [his app] LoCo, Uber Eats, GrubHub and DoorDash. And you’re like, hey, I want fried chicken sandwiches, and you’re scrolling down and you’ll see [his new brand] Absurd Bird pop up. Well, you’ll be able to order. And that food will be made at [his restaurant] RVA Cafe and it’ll be delivered to you and you may or may not know is coming from RVA Cafe. So the big thing here is a lot of bigger chains and a lot of bigger corporations are getting into this. Maybe people have heard of Hootie’s Burger Bar, that’s a virtual restaurant from Hooters. But you walk into Hooters and they’re going to look at you like you’re crazy If you come ask them for a Hootie’s burger. They’re like, we don’t know what that is, the servers are sometimes unaware. So this is how the world is changing. And it was happening way before COVID. But you know, being honest, COVID accelerated that process pretty much five times over.”
Daquan, who served in the Marines, said he learned his work ethic from his father Maurice and was inspired to follow his dreams by his wife Nicole.
“When I say she saved my entire life she did. I was in a really dark space. I had just come out of the Marine Corps. I was actually injured. So I’m more than thankful, that God spared life on that end and I’m still able to function because I have friends that can’t,” Daquan said. “She really refreshed my life. She really came and poured life back into me and kind of encouraged me to go and find what I love to do. So that’s actually what led me to be a chef. She said do what you love. And, you know, she supported me the whole entire way.”
Several years and businesses later, Daquan admits it’s more than support.
“Now she’s the real boss of the whole business,” he said. “I just sit here and look pretty. She does everything else.”
After a round of renovations, the space is now equipped with a full bar, cocktail menu and over 100 types of wine. The restaurant is open for lunch, dinner and brunch on weekends.
Henley’s dinner menu includes dishes like Ahi tuna with mushroom and Thai noodles, seared duck breast, and handmade pasta with seafood. Its lunch menu is heavy on salads and sandwiches like its Asian shrimp po’ boy and forager’s salad. Entrees range from about $20 to $31, and lunch options are from $10 to $15.
The restaurant is open Tuesday through Sunday. Wright said he’s got a staff of about 12, some of whom used to work for him at Bistro 27.