This article was co-authored with Eric Huffstutler.
Image taken from the Historic Richmond website.
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The Wills Grocery Store on the corner of N. 27th and E. Marshall is in the process of being leased and converted to Grisette, a southern French/American soul-food eatery that’s being touted as more of a neighborhood local. It will sit directly across the street from both Dutch & Co and WPA Bakery. Chef Donnie Glass and Andy McClure are the project developers. Both are very aware of the history of 401 N. 27th Street and have a commitment to do right by the building.
“This building has been occupied by countless ideas, concepts and businesses” and they’re correct, this building was originally a Grocery Store, then Dry Goods, then a Fish and Seafood Market, then Electronics Sales (Radios mainly), a Grocery Store (again), and then, a Laundromat from 1947 on. Built in 1815, 401 is the oldest standing commercial building in Richmond. (1) If you get a chance, be sure to check out this comprehensive article by Eric H on the building’s history.
Some images of 401 throughout the years:
Let’s get into it. Who are the developers?
Donnie and Andy operate a small business group that operates several other restaurants within historic buildings in Charlottesville, including The Virginian, Tavern and Grocery and Citizen Burger Bar.
What kind of restaurant are they proposing?
The restaurant they plan to open “will be modeled after one of the great traditions of Southern French cuisine- the humble Bouchon”.
As for our style of cuisine, we’re aiming at something you guys might really enjoy- southern French/American soul-food. So much of this restaurant comes down what we as owners and operators would like to eat- something simple, delicious, and affordable. We plan to have a nice wood-fired rotisserie for chickens and simple daily plates of Appalachian and Chesapeake driven food. We also would like our prices to be a bit lower than the rest of the neighborhood, making ourselves less of a “special occasion” restaurant, and more of a neighborhood local. While we pride ourselves on our professional work as cooks and service staff, we don’t take ourselves so seriously as to not keep true, relaxed hospitality at the forefront of our operation.
What is the timeline?
At this moment, the group is in the request and planning stages. They are currently in the permitting phase and looking at a Late Summer opening, for now. As the project develops, we’ll follow up.
What about parking?
The developers are only looking at seating for around 40 dining patrons and betting on the bus stop that is right in front of the building to bring in customers, as well as other alternative modes of transportation. Chef Glass says they are well aware of the crowded parking conditions and have been reaching out to other nearby businesses and locals to get a feel for how they’ll handle it.
One of the locals reported that a parking petition is in the works by a neighbor. We’ll have more on that if/when it becomes available and report on its progress.
What is a Certificate of Appropriateness?
When an owner of a local historic landmark or a resident within a historic district wants to make changes to the exterior of his or her property, a Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) is needed in addition to other permits that may apply. – CAR Submission Application
Here are the changes that the developers want to make:
- “We plan to mend her as we would our own home- pull the weeds, fix it if it’s broken and take a lot of pride in how she looks”
- Repairing and patching of the stucco that covers the original brick
- Repairing the doors and windows- in some cases match the historical design intent
- Molding and trim work of damaged portions
- Applying new neutral paint
- Minimal signage in the form of a “narrow protrusion”
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So here we have it folks, a relaxed new restaurant with a distinctly different vibe. This is an exciting new venture for Marshall St as it continues its boom with new eateries like the upcoming Alewife and further down the street, GRACE.