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Premiere Costumes is hanging it up after 46 years in business in Carytown

The COVID-19 pandemic has claimed another longtime local Richmond business with the impending closure of the store, in business since 1974.

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From the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

Premiere Costumes, which has been a retail fixture in Carytown since 1974, is closing.

“It has been a fantastic part of the community. But for a lot of reasons, I just couldn’t make it work,” owner Chelee Lattimore said Wednesday about closing the costume shop.

“I’m really upset about this,” she said. “I don’t want to do this, but I have to do this. We were already having a hard time and the pandemic made it worse.”

Sales during October should have been one of the strongest months of the year for Premiere Costumes because consumers typically spend a lot on Halloween costumes. But sales fell about 50% last month compared with October 2019, Lattimore said.

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IHOP, Michaels, CAVA, and &Pizza among new retailers now open at Willow Lawn

A number of new restaurants and retailers have recently opened their doors at Willow Lawn.

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A number of new retailers and restaurants have recently opened their doors at Willow Lawn.

Pancake house IHOP opened March 5 in a 4,094 square-foot space between Alpha Comics and European Wax. 60 new positions were hired for the restaurant, which seats 150 customers inside and 32 on an outside patio.

The arts and crafts store Michaels opened at Willow Lawn on February 27. Michaels is in a 17,477 square-foot space near Gold’s Gym and Ross Dress for Less.

Other new additions at Willow Lawn include CAVA, which opened in January 2021, and &Pizza, which opened its first Richmond location at the shopping center in September 2020.

In addition to IHOP and Michaels, Willow Lawn features a variety of retail, dining, and services including Kroger, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Alpha Comics & Games, Lucky Road, and Pho 95 Hai Ky Mi Gia.

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United Way kicks off annual free tax prep service

The local nonprofit will offer both in-person and virtual tax preparation services in 2021.

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With an April 15 tax-filing deadline just 10 weeks away, United Way of Greater Richmond & Petersburg’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program officially began last week. The free tax preparation service is offered to area families with household incomes of less than $56,000.

In its 18th year of operation, United Way’s VITA program will utilize a combination of tax sites across Richmond, Goochland, Chesterfield, Henrico, and Charles City as well as online tax preparation services. Because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the in-person tax sites will operate by appointment only, and spaces may be limited. Sites will follow social distancing guidelines and require masks, and hours of operation are subject to change. An up-to-date list of locations and hours is available at https://www.yourunitedway.org/tax/sites/w.

For online preparation services, United Way will utilize a new secure web portal that allows participants to upload tax information, speak to IRS certified tax preparers and receive help filing taxes online – all for free. Those using the service will need to upload photos of their ID cards and tax documents and answer questions about their tax situation. The service requires filers to have access to the internet and a camera through a smartphone, tablet, or computer.

“With tax season upon us and financial uncertainty due to the pandemic still a reality for many in the region, it is more important than ever for households to be able to plan for what they might owe or have coming back to them,” said James Taylor, president and CEO of United Way of Greater Richmond & Petersburg. “Our Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program is an impactful service that we provide every year. This year’s blend of in-person and virtual options will allow us to meet this challenging moment and help thousands of local families work toward financial stability.”

In 2020, local United Way volunteers helped secure $2.8 million in tax refunds for 2,790 households in the area. Families who took advantage of the service received a total of $790,000 in EITC funds from the IRS. The average household income for customers was $23,652.

Find more information at https://www.yourunitedway.org/tax/.

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Richmond EDA approves grant to ChopChop to create rate reduction program

During its January 28, 2021 meeting, the Economic Development Authority of the City of Richmond approved awarding a $120,000 grant to local restaurant delivery company ChopChop.  The grant will allow the company to create the Richmond Rate Reduction Program. 

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During its January 28, 2021 meeting, the Economic Development Authority of the City of Richmond approved awarding a $120,000 grant to local restaurant delivery company ChopChop.  The grant will allow the company to create the Richmond Rate Reduction Program.

The Richmond Rate Reduction Program reduces delivery fees charged to local restaurants from 20% to 7% for a three-month period.  The company will also add 75-100 new restaurants, breweries, and distilleries to its delivery platform and create 150 new jobs (3-5 permanent employees and 145-148 contracted delivery jobs) during the three-month period.  The long-term objective is for ChopChop to keep its delivery fee charged to restaurants at 7 percent.

“My team and I are very excited for this opportunity to not only expand our offerings, but also allow restaurants to retain more profit when they need it most,” said ChopChop Owner and Operator Chris Chandler. “A 13 percent rate reduction will make a significant difference, especially now that meal delivery is so prevalent.”

“Richmonders have been supporting our restaurant industry diligently by ordering takeout and delivery since March,” said Mayor Stoney. “The next time you order through ChopChop, more of your bill will go directly to the restaurants you love, supporting employees and management alike.”

ChopChop currently has 120 employees on staff, 98 percent of which are contracted drivers who work 5 to 40 hours per week.  The company currently serves approximately 65 percent of the City of Richmond. The growth from this program will allow the company to serve the entire city.

“When the Small Business Support Grant Programs Cooperation Agreement was authorized, our goal was to help restaurants save on delivery costs,” said EDA Chairman John Molster, “The grant to ChopChop meets that goal and goes above and beyond to provide jobs and expand delivery capacity.”

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