Springtime ushers in warmth and hope as we step outside to enjoy sunshine and the company of others. Small businesses in Downtown Richmond have their doors open, awaiting your return, and are ready to serve you in a safe and responsible way. We hope you’ll remember and support them, too. They’re your friends and neighbors, and they’re the faces of your Downtown.
Robert Charles, Sr. joined the industry at age 13, trained through the ranks, and is the patriarch of Moizelle’s Cleaners & Launderers, a family-owned business at 410 N. 1st Street in Jackson Ward. He’s joined here by his daughters, Theresa Ramey (left) and Sandra Harvey-Taylor (right). During his 70+ years in the business he says, “I remember when the streets were so busy, there were as many as nine cleaners in Jackson Ward alone.” With more people working from home recently, Moizelle’s business has decreased; still, the team remains committed to Downtown and their beloved Jackson Ward community.
Thao Tran, and father and son duo, Ben and Dayal Baxani (pictured, left to right), are haberdashers at 707 Fine Clothing, originally established at 707 E. Broad Street. Now located at 310 E. Broad Street, this custom clothier and tailor has invested in downtown since 1978. As President, Dayal worked to keep the shop open throughout 2020, the team fostered even stronger relationships with their loyal customers, they began new “virtual fittings,” and added custom-made masks as part of their accessories line.
John, (center) is the Area General Manager at the Hilton Richmond Downtown, 501 E. Broad Street (pictured with Norma Delgadillo and Kevin Holland, Director and Asst. Director of Sales/Marketing, respectively.) While hotels locally, and nationwide, have faced severe challenges during COVID, business is starting to pick up and the team is ready to show their hospitality. When they aren’t too busy with the hotel operations, many are working in the community or focusing on their sustainable efforts at the property which continues upgrades to many rooms. “We all miss the busier days of our full hotel. We stayed very busy with our travelers and visitors to RVA, but we are ready for the rebound!” Cario said.
Chandra is CEO at Activation Capital, located at 800 E. Leigh Street, which engages and connects the many influential players in our innovation ecosystem, and strives to give startup founders access to the tools and resources they need to navigate the entrepreneurial process. These resources include the VA Bio+Tech Park campus focused on life sciences and advanced technology companies; the Riverflow Growth Fund, a seed fund; and the Ecosystem Direct Investment Fund (EDIF) which provides grants to ecosystem support organizations. In 2020, the life sciences industry was considered essential and downtown’s BioTech labs stayed open for research. New to Richmond, having relocated from Boston, Chandra says relocating during the pandemic brought silver linings. “I’ve been able to network virtually with people throughout Virginia even more than if I’d been driving to in-person appointments. And, I’ve definitely felt the southern hospitality,” she said. She’s excited about exploring the Downtown arts scene and enjoying more restaurants.
1708 Gallery, at 319 W. Broad Street is one of the nation’s oldest artist-run galleries. Emily, Executive Director (left) and her staff, Christine Lockerby and Park Myers, were intentional about their support of artists as the pandemic took hold. They cancelled spring and summer 2020 exhibitions and instead created “Space Grants” which offered private studio space for four artists. Virtual studio tours have been offered since last August, in addition to in-person tours with limited capacity for art fans. The gallery offered stipends and artist relief efforts in partnership with CultureWorks. Emily said, “I love my neighbors downtown. And, we are excited to bring back First Fridays in May! I’m heartened to imagine folks wandering in and out of gallery spaces, stores and restaurants.”
Eri and Khaiyom Khojaev (left) are dancers with the Richmond Ballet at 407 E. Canal Street. The Ballet staff and dancers performed a major pivot by incorporating social distancing into their daily training, performances, and youth programming. Ballet seamstresses added mask-making to their costuming. Choreography was rearranged; and, only dancers who were married or lived together could pair in order to minimize “touch points.” The Ballet has welcomed patrons downtown - one of few ballets in the nation to do so - offering live studio performances (with a virtual option).
As president of In Your Ear Studios at 1813 E. Broad Street, supporting musicians and artists is nothing new for Carlos (pictured, center) and his team, Paul Bruski and Andrea Buchheit. Since 2016, they’ve hosted a weekly live performance, “Shockoe Sessions Live!” which became virtual in 2020. Only local artists and original music are featured. This change supported artists whose live options for performing were no longer available during the pandemic. Shifting focus to streaming and other technologies has allowed In Your Ear to forge new business partnerships during COVID. “Founding ‘Shockoe Sessions Live!’ has been one of the most rewarding decisions we’ve ever made,” said Carlos. “SSL” collected virtual “tips” for artists raising more than $10,000.