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


A large store is about to be vacant in Carytown, hopefully soon to be inhabited by something exciting and interesting.

Today’s TD reports that Richmond Piano is abandoning the city for Western Henrico, thus leaving their large (approx. 6,000 sf?) building open for someone else to move into:

Look for Richmond Piano to move from Carytown, where it has been for more than 25 years, to western Henrico County.Owner Douglas Wurz said he bought the Ethan Allen furniture store building at 10300 W. Broad St. Ethan Allen plans to relocate that store to one that is under construction in the Towne Center West shopping center, just west of Short Pump Town Center mall.

Wurz hopes to be in his new digs later this fall.

The 12,000-square-foot building he bought is twice as big as his existing store at 3133 W. Cary St. “I love Carytown, but my customers want the teaching program and this will enable me to expand the teaching program,” Wurz said.

“We’ve been here a long time and I hate to leave the area, but this was an opportunity for us and we thought that the West End was where our type of customer was going out to shop,” he said.

While I hate to see businesses leave the city for the suburbs, a business- like a piano shop- that doesn’t attract casual pedestrian traffic perhaps doesn’t need to be in Carytown- one of the few truly pedestrian-friendly shopping areas in Richmond. I mean, who’s going to be strolling along Cary St. and buy a piano on a whim? It’s a destination shop.

So here’s hoping something new comes along soon!

So downtown Richmond won’t get a Hilton in the old Miller & Rhoads building, as promised. We’ll get a Hilton Garden Inn- a scaled-back, lesser cousin to the upscale “full-service” Hilton.

We’re assured, however, that this won’t be a suburban-style development in the middle of downtown. Ron Silverman, senior vice president of HRI Properties, says the hotel will include 25,000 square feet of retail space on the first floor, facing Broad Street.

“It bears no resemblance to a roadside Hilton Garden Inn,” he insists. “It’s apples and pumpkins.” Via Style.

In other Hilton-development news from Style, “The general contractor overseeing the Miller & Rhoads hotel project downtown has fired minority contractor Al Bowers Jr., who’s blaming Mayor L. Douglas Wilder for his dismissal.”

This is the same Al Bowers, Jr., who earlier in the year said, “We have a complete void of black leadership in the city of Richmond…I can tell you one thing: We need a change in leadership.”

Hmmm, is downtown redevelopment a hostage of political considerations?  Say it isn’t so!

Among other things, you can get info for your blog, maybe even break news before the corporate media does.

Buttermilk & Molasses reports on conversations he’s had in his neighborhood with several new business owners.

Read his blog for info on “two new restaurants, a flower shop, an ice cream shop and a dog park” coming soon to Northside.  You’ll find all sorts of detailed info about a new restaurant, Kitchen 64 -the chef will be Stella from the old Stella’s in the fan, to open soon on North Boulevard.  The owner also has plans to turn the Nacho Mama’s take-out spot up there into an ice cream shop.

As promised, some Carytown news for your Monday evening: Boaz & Ruth, a local non-profit store will be opening a location for 3 months at 3445 W. Cary St (across from the McDonald’s) in the old Martha’s Mixtures building.

Boaz & Ruth provides job training for folks just released from prison. It started out training people in furniture restoration and in running a retail store. It has since expanded with other business ventures, including a moving company, house restoration, catering, and a cafe. The used and antique furniture store now has 2 locations, the original in Highland Park (3030 Meadowbridge Rd.) and one at 3rd & Main St. downtown.

Why are they opening a third location for only 3 months in Carytown?

Martha Rollins, the Martha in Martha’s Mixtures, used her expertise in running an antique furniture store to start Boaz and Ruth; she recently decided to close Martha’s Mixtures and focus her energy on Boaz and Ruth. The building in Carytown is for sale (may have already sold, actually?), but until the real estate deal is finished, Martha decided to use the space as another location for Boaz & Ruth’s furniture business.

There’s a confusing conglomeration of signs out front (but none telling the hours!), but don’t be intimidated. The nice people at the store told me they’re open 10-5, Monday – Saturday.

So go get some inexpensive used or antique furniture and help out a good cause while it lasts – in Carytown at least. Then after that, be sure to check out their other 2 stores.

Have you ever wished you, the average, non-millionaire type person, could choose which stores open in town? Well now you can! Or you can try, anyway.

West of Shockoe alerted Richmond to a “location request form” for Trader Joe’s grocery store where you ask them to open a store wherever you want. Trader Joe’s, for those that don’t know, is only the best grocery store ever. They sell mostly natural and organic and imported foods at really good prices. And every store has a plastic lobster.

I’m not optimistic that they’ll move to town; I can’t imagine that with loyal Ukrops and Ellwood Thompson’s customers this would be an easy market for them.

And even if they come here, my bet is they’ll locate in West End suburban strip mall hell (sorry West Enders, but I grew up there, I know whereof I speak) . But I’ve put in my request for a TJ’s in the city limits.

Today, apparently, is store-closing-news day. interviews Owen Suter, III who reveals that they’re consolidating their operations and closing their Carytown store- currently located on Ellwood across from the Belmont library branch. Their manufacturing and showroom will now both be located at 4408 W. Broad- within the city limits.