Cross-pollination: C’ville to RVA and back

Charlottesville-born Champion Brewing opened a Richmond location in 2017. Photo: Ash Daniel Charlottesville-born Champion Brewing opened a Richmond location in 2017. Photo: Ash Daniel

Is love in the air? It appears so–at least between the cities of Richmond and Charlottesville, as witnessed by the number of businesses that have decided to open locations in both cities. Charlottesville, with its beautiful setting and college town vibe, has long made lists of best places to live and work. And in the past few years, Richmond has experienced a renaissance of sorts, with praise seemingly pouring in weekly for its long-underrated, still burgeoning arts, dining, and entrepreneurial scene. So it’s not surprising that a mutual admiration society has developed between the two cities.

Hardywood Park Craft Brewery and Sugar Shack donuts, both born in the River City, added Charlottesville locations on West Main Street–Hardywood in February 2017 and Sugar Shack in June 2018 (bringing with it sister business Luther Burger not long after).

Also coming to Charlottesville in early 2020: Quirk Hotel, which first debuted in Richmond in 2015. Why are they interested in C’ville? “First and foremost, the numbers indicate that Charlottesville is a stronger hospitality market than Richmond,” says Quirk Hotel co-owner Ted Ukrop. “Second, UVA is a major and sustainable economic and cultural engine. Having said that, there are also plenty of innovative companies, organizations, and people that align with Quirk’s brand.” The proximity to Hooville–just an hour away–also made a second Quirk location appealing, Ukrop adds.

Meanwhile, Richmond has already experienced an influx of Charlottesville-based businesses, like Roots Natural Kitchen (opened July 2018 in the VCU area), Three Notch’d Brewing Company (opened in 2016 in Scott’s Addition as the RVA Collab House), and Citizen Burger Bar (also opened in 2016, in Carytown). The city’s developing reputation as a supportive, destination craft beer scene was a big draw for Hunter Smith, who founded Champion Brewing in Charlottesville and opened a Richmond location in January 2017 on Grace Street downtown.

“The two cities and their respective governments operate quite differently, which was informative from a business perspective, and has helped me to evaluate additional locations,” says Smith. “I appreciate [chef] Jason Alley from Pasture and Comfort for introducing me to the beautiful former bank space we’re now lucky enough to occupy.”

Up next? Starr Hill Brewery, which is opening Starr Hill Beer Hall & Rooftop in Richmond’s Scott’s Addition this summer. Also coming soon: Common House, the “contemporary social club” that opened in C’ville in 2017, will make the RVA’s Arts District its home sometime in 2019. You’ll be able to find the newest Common House at 305 W. Broad St., just steps away from the original Quirk Hotel.

“Richmond feels like it’s in the midst of a cultural revolution that we are anxious to participate in,” says Common House co-founder Derek Sieg. “The food is world-class, the art scene is electric, and the energy in the entrepreneur community rivals that of any city its size.” While Sieg says his team has been looking at other creative markets in the Southeast in anticipation of growth, the proximity to Charlottesville helped clinch the second location.

“We have a lot of Richmond-based members who use Common House as a landing spot when they’re in Charlottesville, and vice versa, so we see this cross-pollination firsthand and look forward to being a fruit of that pollination ourselves,” he says.