Two 2nd-hand clothing stores, a copy shop, bakery and more will soon join Boaz and Ruth‘s 2nd-hand furniture store and cafe in the heart of Highland Park’s commercial district- the intersection of Meadowbridge Rd. and Brookland Park Blvd.

Boaz and Ruth, a non-profit that offers job training opportunities for folks just out of prison, has done a remarkable job at finding successful business opportunities in a long-forsaken neighborhood. They’ve opened a furniture store, a cafe, a catering business, a moving business, as well as bought and renovated homes for employees to live in. And in all of these ventures, they’ve employed and trained folks who society has marginalized.

Now they’re doing even more for their Highland Park community: they’ve bought and renovated an abandoned firehouse across from their furniture store, of course using the building renovation as an opportunity to teach construction skills, and are offering the space to local merchants.

Style has the story, but inexplicably headlines it about the suburban Henrico neighborhood Lakeside, at least in the on-line edition (haven’t checked print yet.)

Don’t be fooled, this is definitely about the firehouse in Highland Park- I’ve been there and recognize the people and the pictures!

Boaz and Ruth is committed to the success of the new business owners, “As part of the program, the tenants agree to participate in business training, maintain a relationship with a mentor and join the Retail Merchants Association of Greater Richmond.” September 29th is the target opening date.  So great news for Highland Park and for our city!

This, to me, is an ideal form of community revitalization- it seeks to serve the current residents of the neighborhood, not to attract outsiders through development that’s financially out of reach for the neighbors.  It also shows that renovation and preservation of historic buildings as well as new shops opening don’t necessarily come at the expense of nearby low-income residents.

And as long as I’m promoting Boaz and Ruth here, I may as well advertise their upcoming awareness- and fund-raising walk on Oct. 6. Called “Long Walk to Freedom,” they’re highlighting the barriers released prisoners face to successful reintegration into society. From their website:

The walk, scheduled for Saturday October 6th, will begin at Richmond City jail. Local and state correctional and law enforcement officials and several formerly incarcerated men and women will frame the theme—release from jail or prison is only the beginning of a person’s walk to freedom. True freedom comes as a person reconnects with himself, with friends and family, and with society. Stations along the walk will represent the various barriers to and solutions for the ex-offender – housing, jobs, etc.

Walk begins at the Richmond City Jail (Oliver Hill Way) on Saturday, October 6. Walk ends at Freedom House’s Conrad Center across the street from the Jail. Time frame–8-12 a.m.

Target Walkers

Folks interested in restorative justice
Anyone who has known any one who has been incarcearated
Anyone who has been incarcerated

Potential Barriers and Solution Stations

– Housing
– Food
– Identification
– Self Esteem and Emotional Competency
– Addiction Recovery
– Transportation
– Employment
– Restoring family, self esteem, community