On July 22nd, Brookland Park Area Association hosted the 4th annual Brookland Park Boulevard Celebration. It was lit. If you didn’t make it, you really missed out so you better block off every Saturday in July just to make sure you don’t miss it again.The best part of the Brookland Park Boulevard Celebration is always the people. Northside has so many people involved in making an impact in our city and neighborhood. This year we talked to a few. But first, if you weren’t there yesterday maybe it was because of the OPPRESSIVE heat clocking in with a high of 101 degrees. If that is the case, then you probably did not encounter the inner conflict of the urge to greet your neighbors with a hug but not want to share that level of intimacy drenched in sweat. The emcee, the one and only Kelli Lemon (LIKE THE FRUIT!), created a solution: the Northside handshake. It is super simple and you probably have done it before, but it is imperative to know in this heat. Here it is: slap palms, slap back of hands, fist bump. Easy. Now keep your sweat to yourself and make the Northside handshake a thing. There was so much to do and see yesterday and we couldn’t talk to everyone and see everything… but we have some exciting highlights. Meet Hassan Fountain, resident of Noble Avenue. Fountain previously ran for city council and sought appointment to Richmond City School Board; however, he has found his niche helping our community of kids by promoting literacy through community libraries. Fountain for Youth has set up community libraries in Fairfield Court, Gilpin Court, Blackwell, Halifax County, and the REAL House. His next library to open will be at Essex Village with a grand opening event on August 17th from 3-4:15PM. Speakers at the grand opening include Kenya Gibson (3rd district school board candidate), Rich Babbitt (author), and Dr. Sarah Scarbrough (Program Director at Richmond Sheriff’s Office). At the celebration, developer LaMar Dixon of Dixon/Lee Development Group, opened the doors of one of my favorite buildings on Brookland Park Boulevard. 201 W Brookland Park Boulevard is the former site of American National Bank that later housed an insurance company and then sign shop. Dixon’s primary plan for the building is a co-working space and business accelerator with some residential space on the 2nd floor; however, at the back of the building, he wants to create a community space. Dixon said he wanted to open the doors to the public during the celebration because he wanted to get the community involved in the process and correct some misconceptions. The biggest misconception he wanted to tackle is the state of the interior. It is not in disrepair but is a shell ready for construction. He indicated the windows were boarded up because it is a historic property and he wanted to protect the integrity of the history while they prepare for construction. A constant problem on BPB has been graffiti and this building is no different; however, local residents tipped Dixon off that people were using the ladder at the back of the building so he plans to take it down shortly. Another misconception is that Dixon just rolled into Richmond; however, he has been here for four years. He is an alum of VUU and past-president of Richmond Crusade for Voters and really wants to create space in the building for the community. Dixon took the time to discuss the process with everyone who came inside. He explained the idea for the business accelerator came from Galvanize in Denver, Colorado. He worked with Storefront Community Design in RVA to draw the concepts for the space. Dixon has partnerships for the business accelerator with his alma mater VUU and Lighthouse Labs. By the end of 2015, they had designed the concept for the co-working and business accelerator space as well as three options for the community space. From there he has been working with Cornerstone Architects to continue the process of making his dream a reality. In late August, Dixon will be hosting three community meetings to get feedback on what the neighborhood would like to see out of a community space. He said the business accelerator and co-working space are non-negotiable as they are part of his grants; however, he wants to ensure the community space is something that truly serves the needs of the community. Details of those meetings are forthcoming. FINALLY Boogaloos is OPEN for business which means… there is beer, wine, and mixed drinks on the Boulevard! In December 2016, we talked to Anthony, owner of Nomad and Boogaloos, who indicated they were getting close but it has been a slow process. At the celebration, they were slinging drinks and had a small food menu including fried shrimp, hamburger sliders, and wings. I partook in the fried shrimp… the batter was heavenly. As someone sensitive to spice-y foods… the batter had just enough heat to make me question my life decisions and love every bite. The official grand opening is Tuesday July 25th. Their hours will be Tuesday-Thursday 4PM-10PM and Friday-Saturday 4PM-midnight.
We also dropped in on SAVAGE apparel which was founded online in 2009; however, their storefront is opening on Brookland Park Boulevard and they had the doors open for the community celebration. Owner, Todd Curran, gave me a quick behind the scenes tour. Curran started SAVAGE in Charleston, SC in his guest room but three years ago he moved to RVA with his wife because they loved the vibe and growth Richmond was experiencing. When he moved here, he stepped up and became the President of the Battery Park Civic Association. He is not currently the president; however, he is now the BCPA business liaison. SAVAGE has their own active apparel line but they also do customized apparel. While his custom apparel customers are primarily sports teams, he is able to make orders as small as $8 and wants to become the custom apparel manufacturer of choice in RVA. I spent some time with SAVAGE employees Nick and Scott who showed me the inner workings of t-shirt making. SAVAGE uses a process called sublimation where high hear (350 degrees!) opens the fabric and presses the ink into the shirt. Scott likened the process to tattooing. This means the ink is in the fabric of the shirt so it does not fade the same way screen printing does. They were making limited-sale $7 shirts depicting the storefront and brand new mural.
But what is this mural I speak of??? Curran wanted to celebrate the neighborhood with a mural on the side of his very visible building. He went to BPAA and BCPA community meetings to get the buy in of local neighbors and hear feedback on proposed designed. The artist of the mural is Tommy Fox who is from pretty much everywhere but met Curran in Charleston where he attended college and worked for SAVAGE apparel. Currently Fox lives in Kilmarnock and says he loves Virginia, especially the Bay. He has been an artist and painted for many years but he is new to the art of murals. Other murals he has done include one at a Charleston restaurant and a privately commissioned 30 foot space octopus. Next he is traveling to Oklahoma to paint a mural at a martial arts center. He said he worked on the SAVAGE mural all week and it took him about 45 hours. But the excitement didn’t stop there… someone tipped me off that Your Sandwich Shop and Sweet Shop is open. Whaaaat? More food on BPB??? Obviously I headed over there. Located at 108 W Brookland Park Boulevard, Your Sandwich Shop and Sweet Spot (YSSSS) was open for four years but they had to step away. Now they are back and are reintroducing themselves to the neighborhood with sandwiches and and abundance of sweets. The reintroduction began on June 1st and they have had all kinds of deals advertised on their Facebook page. It makes me so sad to think of all the food deals I have missed so far.
YSSSS hours are Mon-Thurs 8AM-9PM, Fri-Sat 8AM-11PM, and Sun 2PM-9PM. I was highly encouraged to come back to try their bean pie which, upon research, is a sweet custard pie made of mashed navy beans with sugar, eggs, milk, butter, and spices. According to google, it can be likened to a sweet potato pie. After dropping by YSSSS, I peered into another restaurant on BPB getting ready to open. Shrimps Seafood Restaurant! I do not have details on when they are opening or what their hours will be… but I am excited if only because of the neat window cling spelling Shrimp out of images of shrimp.
This is an exciting time for Brookland Park Boulevard with so many businesses opening but you can’t have fun at a restaurant if you don’t have fun neighbors. Thank you to everyone who came out and to BPAA (shout out to Willie Hilliard for all of his hard work) for organizing this event for the past four years.
There was so much happening on BPB yesterday, we would love to see your pictures! Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.