We love this town: All roads lead to Charlottesville

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We love this town: All roads lead to Charlottesville

Charlottesville got its hooks in me at a relatively early age. During my high school years I visited frequently, after my grade school best friend relocated here from the wild hills of West Virginia, where we shared our hippie youth.
As the child of a folk singer, I was happily bounced around the East Coast as my father played the game of a touring artist signed to RCA in the early 1970s. Eventually the road “became an impossible way of life” (to quote Robbie Robertson), and we settled like settlers on a remote mountain farm in Monroe County, West Virginia.

There my family took on the “newcomers” label and joined the back-to-the-land movement. After years without running water or electricity, my parents, and most of the hippies, gave up on the dream and migrated back to their cities of birth. This landed me in Lowell, Massachusetts for the formative high school years.

While huddling in the freezing temps under the Lowell High clock tower (also the centerpiece of Kerouac’s Maggie Cassidy), I longed for my Southern days and missed the familiar comfort of a hard but slow pronunciation of the letter “r.” School and summer breaks were spent taking trips south of the Mason-Dixon line, many of them to Charlottesville to visit my old pals.

When college loomed, I developed a longing for the West Coast and gathered up some brave friends to hostel surf across the country in a 1977 Mercury Monarch. We landed in San Francisco, and I stayed through college and into an early career in the live entertainment world. As the one family member without musical talent, I gravitated to the business side and wound up at the world-famous founding father of concert promotion, Bill Graham Presents. I also did a few years’ work in ticketing and at the music publication BAM Magazine. Through the West Coast years, I frequently returned to Charlottesville—even if it was only to stock up on decent wine and gourmet groceries before heading into the backwoods that was once my childhood home.

The gourmet groceries were an omen that was not revealed until I met my husband. A culinary grad who wanted to explore and experience all that the gastronomy of San Francisco had to offer, Michael and I became the perfect team for a night on the town. I had the hottest tickets and he knew the hottest restaurants, and our world was full of oysters.

This decadent lifestyle moved us from San Francisco to Napa Valley, Virginia Beach, and New York, and our careers took on a new theme. While Michael worked through the kitchen ranks, my passion for food and wine evolved with time spent living in Napa Valley and working in the wine industry. I handled 14 restaurant clients as a publicist in New York and also contributed to a weekly food column.

When the time came to raise a family, we pondered the map. I wanted a scenic, temperate place with great schools, and he wanted a food scene on the rise and no earthquakes. Charlottesville was the perfect choice (we didn’t yet know about the earthquakes) and we relocated here in 2004. A C’ville resident at last, I put down roots immediately by using my second child as an anchor baby, so the “newcomer” label need not be applied.

As a young parent with lots of live event experience, I was fortunate that a beautiful small town like Charlottesville had such a thriving art and music scene, not to mention the culinary trends that were starting to emerge. I landed a gig with another world-famous music mogul, Coran Capshaw, and spent four years with Starr Hill Presents, followed by 18 wonderful months at The Paramount Theater. When the budget axe fell, fate took another turn and I made a graceful transition (courtesy of my esteemed editor-in-chief) to Arts Editor at C-VILLE Weekly, where I now have the job I’ve always (but never knew) I wanted.

In the meantime, my husband navigated the culinary landscape, working with some of the top restaurants in town, until he gained enough traction to open our own place, tavola, in 2009.

In the years since we’ve made Charlottesville our home, the community has proven to be all that we’d hoped for and more: a small city with big city attributes, smart, conscientious and contentious citizens, with enough traffic, crime, and earthquakes to keep us on our toes.

  • Amber Leigh Barrack

    I really enjoyed reading your post on Charlottesville. I am living in Virginia Beach now and am trying to relocate to a “green” area with lots of organic food options, farms, art, music and well, nature :) Ive considered Asheville, NC and even drove out there 3 different times in the past two years, all to realize that those steep. curvy mountain roads just outside of Asheville are not for me. I want to live in the HILLS more so than the mountains. I guess some would consider east coast mountains hills anyway (haha!). So, here I am still contemplating. Charlottesville area/Chapel Hill area. I am really leaning towards Charlottesville. Jobs are another thing. I have a home-based business and I have worked in the publishing industry for 3 years. I know graphic design, sales, crafting, etc…. and I have a teaching degree. Im hoping my options are not slim.

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