Je Depew, late of Jumpin’ J’s Java, weighs in on the cumbersome experience of opening, running, and closing a small restaurant in Richmond in the Style Weekly BACK PAGE article The Aftertaste.
Je’s experience seems to be pretty par for the course and it is stories like these that have influenced my decision to not exercise my entrepreneurial inclinations in this city.
I just can’t afford to lose everything…..
Thanks for sharing your experience Je.
funny, je did it by the book, went to the city for every little thing (like she was supposed to) and now directly across the street from her shuttered ex-coffee shop, we have a new business that says it wants to be a “Jazz lounge” in a place that is only zoned for a restaurant. with NO building permits, NO signage permits, ithas been shut down by CAPPS for illegal afterhour parties…and the list goes on. guess they’ll do just fine.
Two letters in this week’s Style Weekly in response to the article: City Isnâ€™t at Fault for Restaurant Closing
Could not agree more with the sentiments from the two gentlemen that commented in the Style Weekly piece. There are hundreds of businesses that are thriving in the City of Richmond–all went through the same permitting process that J’s had to suffer through. I’m sure the closing was a painful experience but in the end, Je knows the real reason the business failed. She did mention that she needed about 15 more customers per day to make it. She took a huge risk but sorely misjudged the area.
I do agree with Bill in regard to the level of service at J’s. After quite a few stops and having the impression that the employees were being “put out” by offering service…it became easier to just pass the place by. Let’s hope that Que Pasa takes a few lessons from J’s and does not meet the same fate. That’s another tough location so the offering has to be on point.
Union Hill was certainly ready for what J’s had to offer. What I found we got, though, was inconsistency between what was offered and what was delivered. That inconsistency kill any sort of business.
I went into J’s a few times…wasn’t really my cup of tea (pun intended). The staff seemed friendly enough to me…
Je was excellent chef – the criticisms of her late establishment seems unwarranted to me. A few better reviews (two out of the three major reviews were not the greatest) and the restaurant would have been the next fad.
The location is fine. Here’s hoping the next tenant has better luck, because luck has a lot to do with it.
I think Je’s point was a bit more nuanced, in that she pretty much said that unless you are overly capitalized, it is difficult to make it through the maze of city regs. I personally thought that places like the Hill Cafe had pretty bad food, a smoky and noisy room and mediocre service, but still it remains (heck, it thrives). Why? my guess is they are part of a larger ownership group that has economies of scale in all areas, including dealing with the city. So, yeah, Je’s business was not perfect, I have yet to go to a perfect restaurant in Richmond, and some defy any logic as to why they are able to stay open: that said, I think Je’s point is about the high cost of regulatory entry in locally owned retail in the city. This high cost of regulatory entry has larger implications, pretty much assuring that the city will not create any wealth among its many, many prospective entrepreneurs who also happen to be poor, minority and under capitalized. These folks I guess will have to continue washing the dishes and waiting the tables for the more established places. While J’e might not be the perfect spokesperson for this phenomena (being white and middle class), her point is well taken: the city’s method of dealing with its small businesses is highly slanted towards the “already there”. You might say, “well, that’s how capitalism works.” But why not make it easier to create wealth through commercial endeavors among those who have not already made it. That is, unless you prefer chain stores and entrenched, concentrated poverty (and its associated ills). After all, that is what this system has wrought.
Je could have analyzed what went wrong, make adjustments to her business plan, and tried to make it work. She should still do that today to identify what needs to change to make it work – rather than laying all the blame on the city.
Instead, she stuck stubbornly to her vision and failed to make adjustments to suit the needs of the market.
Unlike the Field of Dreams, just because she built in, doesn’t mean “they will come”.
Undoubtedly, the regulations et al can make it difficult. But even if the regs were less cumbersome, the restaurant would never have succeeded ultimately unless it met a market need of the neighborhood. She should have realized this before she was three years in and had depleted savings – 15 more customers a day is a LOT.
I think her letter said she needed just 15 a day, not 15 more.
“All it would have taken is 15 more customers every day.”
I stand gently corrected regarding the 15 people.
Been in J’S. Couldn’t tell if it was a flea market or a cafe. Does anyone remember Blue Mountain Cafe & Coffee Bar located on Cary St. It was a nice place till the owner sold it some foreigners who had no idea as to run a business. If you remember Blue Mtn, do you think a cafe like that would suite the mkt at J’s.
I’ve been wondering for a long time what happened to Jumpin J’s. I haven’t seen the actual Style piece that describes the problem. I can tell you though it was one of my favorite places in Richmond. I guess once again, I was in the minority. It made me feel that I was California when I walked through the door. I ALWAYS found the atmosphere pleasant. The food was some of the best in Richmond. What it was was unique in being able to get a great meal relatively quickly for what I thought was not an outrageous price. Most other places I find here either serve horrible disgusting fast food that I wouldn’t serve a dog I didn’t like or else INCREDIBLY high priced fancy restaurants.
I miss Jumpin J’s a great deal.
I also miss Jumpin J’s. for the record.
@Kimberle – as a fellow scooterist, I’m concerned about this change in policy. I got a $40 ticket last semester parking at a bike rack outside of the Lyons building and since then have had my plate on Velcro. I religiously park at the rack outside of Hunton Hall and have been doing so since winter without issue. I also have an email from VCU Parking/Transportation saying that there is no policy with regard to scooters parking at bike racks, so I’m confused about this change. If this indeed is going to start happening, there needs to be designated scooter parking. The last thing I need is some big-ass SUV knocking my bike over into Main or Cary Street (or stealing it). I already nearly get hit when I’m driving. Who knows what will happen when the scooter is alone. What B.S.
Oh, and for those of you thinking this is too off-topic, I liked J’s, too.
I really liked J’s also, but there is a new place to fill your coffee needs(albeit a little farther away for many) if you are still lost. GlobeHopper at 21st and Main has great coffee, fantastic cappuccino, tasty snacks and a really cozy atmosphere. The owners, Erin and Jenn, couldn’t be any friendlier. And the outdoor seating area is really nice- part of it under the porch roof and the “exposed” part under trees. They mentioned that it stays a little cooler back there on hot days, and they even have little blankets to use on cool nights. Also, they have wireless is inside and out. Check it out if you haven’t already.
I’m glad this place is an addition to the neighborhood, but the coffee is a lot more expensive than Buzzy’s and the food is so so.
Bring down the coffee prices and fix the food and you got something.
Talkin’about Globehopper above.
We had two breakfast sandwiches, a coffee and a cappuccino for about $11. I thought that was pretty good. Plus, while Buzzy’s fresh roasted beans are the bomb, their food is disappointing.
I think that Globehopper’s coffee is head and shoulders above that of Buzzy’s – it’s french press. Globehopper’s food is better, too. Not to mention the environment they’ve created. Have you seen their patio? AWESOME!
Truly, though, no one can really compete with Gutenberg. I know their service leaves much to be desired, but their coffee and their food is still the tops in Richmond – for me, anyway.
what is the dog policy at Globehoppers…anyone know?
I hear they built the patio in large part to cater to dog walkers. Apparently the Health Department didn’t like the idea. I’ve heard both owners have dogs, love dogs, and that as long as they “aren’t aware” that there are doggies out back – dogs are welcome.
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *
Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.
This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.