An iconic piece of Church Hill real estate is for sale; the commercial space across the street is for rent.
Will this be a situation in which an individual or group will purchase one or both of the buildings in order to decide the best method to bring these out of hibernation … or will suggestion and criticism be the only offerings to the new owners of these older structures?
How old are they? And do they have any historic significance to the area?
Methinks the latter.
Previously owned by “Four Corners Charlie”.
Former home of the Happy Stop that was raided by the FBI for numerous reasons.
Looks like my point was missed once again. You had every right to oppose the “Happy Stop”, even if you tried to before they ever opened; my issue is the hypocrisy, calling the people opposed to the Echo Harbour high rises, NIMBYS.
Bob-I didn’t miss your point. You didn’t make a point. You stated something as fact that was wrong. That is not a point.
I havenâ€™t a clue who you are, but as you know of Happy Stop I assume you have lived on the Hill a long time-just as I have. However, as you have incorrectly stated my position on certain things, it’s time to correct you.
Thatâ€™s what the internet is about. Everyone gets to put forth anything they want as facts or opinion but with little to back it up. But since you repeated it again, allow me some latitude to provide you some clarification and correction about the former convenience store at 27th and Marshall Street.
Gather â€˜round neighborsâ€¦This a good story with a feel-good ending.
The early â€˜90â€™s. Ahhh, you gotta love itâ€¦â€¦We had the â€œCrack Cocaine Warsâ€ in the areas north of Broad. By 1993, Richmond had clawed our way to Number 6 (with a bullet?) for the highest murder rate in the US. Church Hill and the surrounding areas were in the mix. Who needed cable TV when you could look out your window and watch CSI, Cops and Americaâ€™s Most Wanted on a single block? Didnâ€™t get struck by a stray bullet? Lucky you. Close your door and the curtains. Good times. The people south of Broad wouldnâ€™t be caught dead north of Broad. Hell, the cops barely made it north of Broad either.
I believe â€œBobâ€ said I was against the opening of a store named Happy Stop. That is incorrect. For those that are new, the reference was to what was a convenience store located at 27th and Marshall. I was not one of those that fought the store opening. The building was zoned commercial and, by right, had the ability to open there. Many of my neighbors were against it opening. They did their thing, I did mine.
A number of neighbors did speak at (and write) the ABC hearing in an attempt to get restrictions placed on the sale of quarts and singles when Happy Stop applied for their ABC license. I spoke against their ABC license and attempted to get the sales of singles and quarts banned. This is something that is done all the time. It has even been recently done in our neighborhood. At the time, the North of Broad (NOBâ€™s) people received very little support and assistance from the South of Broad people in their struggle against slum lords and overall neighborhood improvement.
However, Happy Stop did receive support from some of the South of Broad folks. One longtime resident spoke passionately about how an ABC license would â€œbenefitâ€ the neighborhood and how these owners were generally â€œniceâ€ people. When that person’s pleadings were made public, they had their lawyer send nasty letters threatening to sue the struggling NOBâ€™s for slander and defamation. Apparently they weren’t aware ABC hearings were public record and when copies of the transcripts were sent to their attorney, not another word was heard.
Happy Stop got its ABC license and became a thriving business attracting people from all over the hood and the east coast. It was a huge draw. Happy Stop put a capital â€œC in Convenience. For the poor, it was very convenient as one could allegedly get almost 50 cents on the dollar when one traded food stamps in for booze and money. Most other places would only give you 25 cents on the dollar. Lines formed at the door for this benevolent proprietor-especially when the food stamps came in.
It was also a one stop shop for all your other needs that, ahem, might not be entirely â€œlegalâ€. â€œLegalâ€ was a mere technicality, though as these were almost legitimate entrepreneurs trying to find the American dream—-one â€œ45â€ at a time. (That would be as in Colt 45 AND a .45 caliber.)
Fast forward to maybe a year or two later, when from out the back of a plain, white box van jumped out six FBI agents in full SWAT gear and armed with M-16â€™s. They ran into the store and arrested the owner and his â€œfamilyâ€. Charged with RICO, (Racketeering, Influence and Corruption) these fine citizens were found to be part of a major I-95 supply line from Florida to NYC where they would trade guns/untaxed cigarettes and drugs for money. Who knew? That day, the FBI raided three stores in Church Hill run by this group. The NYC gun problem? Yep, these guys were involved. The owner squealed like a stuck pig, plead guilty and went to prison on a reduced sentence for being cooperative.
Thereâ€™s more to the story, but you get the idea. You canâ€™t make these kinds of stories up. Care to dispute this? Then pull up the court records and take a look at them.
So I believe this is the Happy Stop store â€œBobâ€ was referring to. Is that enough on this subject? â€œBobâ€ never stated where he stood on the subject. But as he has castigated me for my position on this store on two occasions, I assume he was for it. Where did you stand, â€œBob?
Where did I stand? See above where the a convenience store was an approved us “by right”.
So letâ€™s talk about the Church Hill neighborhood and how â€œprogressâ€ and maybe one of your neighbors has made your neighborhood a little safer and nicer to live.
When I moved into Church Hill, I was the â€œrichestâ€ guy on my block. The reason? I had a job, a car and my crack addicted neighbors didnâ€™t. The block was 75% vacant and unlivable. A two year old child wandering in the street at midnight? Normal. Didnâ€™t have to worry about it getting hit by a car, the South of Broaders would never go North on 27th. Call the cops. Let them take care of it, again.
The day my future wife moved into my house on 27th Street there was a murder across the street. Good times indeed. Yes folks, this was the 300 Block of North 27th. The same block as Happy Stop..
On another night, with my own little Nancy Reagan â€œpea shooterâ€, I held a drug dealer (with his semi-auto Tec-9) at bay until the cops finally came. (My third 911 call that night: â€œIs he out of bullets, yet?â€ â€œYes Maâ€™am, he is.â€¦but Iâ€™m not. Oh, and send an ambulance.â€) Two upstanding patrons from the Rendezvous (now the Hill CafÃ©) that came to my block to settle a drug deal gone bad. Apparently, one had borrowed money from the other to buy some cocaine and forgot to pay the other one back. In those hectic times before texting, it happened. No one died that day. Had I not been there, we could have scored our second and maybe third murder on the block. (BTW- my partner at Baskervill, Bruce Tyler and his wife, who used to live in Church Hill, bought the Rendezvous and turned it into the Hill CafÃ©. They did the neighborhood a huge favor. I might point out this was after Bruce was robbed at gunpoint South of Broad. Yep, they put their money where their mouth was to help the neighborhood. What have you done?)
The result was one drug dealer in jail with a bullet to the shoulder. The other took a few slugs to the gut and got a stylish, new colostomy bag. What was even funnier was the next day when the Detective interviewed me and had to ask me if I fired a shot. I think he almost peeâ€™d his pants when I explained my weapon selection and why I did what I did. (Iâ€™m a pretty good shot if I say so myself.) I testified at the trial. I was the Cityâ€™s star and only witness. How many of you would testify against a known drug dealer? He went to the slammer because of my testimony. Youâ€™re welcome.
That night my car took three bullets-none of them mine. The story of the gun fight itself? Now that, my friends, is a story over a couple of beers.
Then there was the time I caught a serial car thief red-handed breaking into the then City Attorneyâ€™s car on Libby Hill Park. Testified against him, too.
I feel bad I slept through the rape on Libby Terrace a couple of years ago. I had my window closed that night and missed it completely. Of course, I was ove half a block away, but it happened just a few feet away from some of you. Where was anyone to intervene?
A few blocks from here, some guy with white hair said something about â€œdefend to the deathâ€ someone elseâ€™s right to say things. I believe in that. I believe in property rights. I believe in good philosophical and factual debate. However, many in this eclectic neighborhood known as Church Hill doesnâ€™t have the stomach for differing points of view. As diverse as it is, you would think it would room for more than one opinion. It doesn’t.
Has this property sold, I see the for sale sign has come down. There are also what appears to be surveying markers around the property.
Does anyone know anything about this property’s progess or “lack there of”.
Libby Hill Resident
This post completely escaped me but thanks for the history lesson about 324 N 27th (Happy Stop).
For those interested, there appears to be no plans for that building at this time and Sandra Murray still owns it. The building opposite at 325 N 27th (the old 27th Street Inn) is being worked on but without much fanfare nor what their intent is. There are 3 apartments going up while they renovate a storefront towards the back facing Marshall and the main part which was last the “large load washers” for Charlie Johnson’s Laundromat is left “open” for an undisclosed business. That can open up a can of worms with zoning and parking as Walter York found out with 401 N 27th, so best they (East Marshall group and the people who own Capt Buzzys) decide now what will go in there!
One can only hope the old neon sign will be repurposed onto the building since it was attached in the 1930s.
Libby Hill Resident: I realize you are one of the “good guys” but the words you use in describing the man with the colostomy bag as “funny” are really offensive. I’ll have to take your word for it that you saved the man’s life. But, if you were really a “good guy”, you would have a bit more respect towards fellow human beings.
I see that the Raid happened in February 1994 and involved 8 people and 7 stores – all Middle Easterners involved. Stores included North 1st Street Deli; Northside Deli & Grocery; Family Supermarkets # 1 and # 2; Thirty Market; Happy Stop Food Market; Jefferson Deli & Food Market.
Yes, the blocks off N 27th have changed over the years and only getting better. But the corner stores will always struggle as they are throwback to the past when neighborhoods depended on them rather than being a mere convenience.
I was trying to find out more about the raid myself. Where did you find the information? Do you have a newspaper article or something you could share?
holy crap! now THAT is a story! rather, stories. it was like the wild west up here. good lord.
also, tiny…are you kidding? get over it.
I have been able to find abything about a big gun running raid in Richmond in 1994, but I am trying. I just remember those guys and was interested in the story.
Don’t buy everything you see just because it is on the internet.
I thought it was cigarettes being smuggled through those stores to New York, not guns. My memory could be foggy, though.
It is in the Times Dispatch Archives online – just do a search for “Happy Stop” with the quotes and filter for that year and you will find the article.
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