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BLK RVA serves as year-round source for celebrating black history and culture in region

While Black History Month may be over, Richmond Region Tourism is reminding the community that the BLK RVA campaign serves as a resource to honor and celebrate Black culture and Black-owned businesses every day of the year. 

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While Black History Month may be over, Richmond Region Tourism is reminding the community that the BLK RVA campaign serves as a resource to honor and celebrate Black culture and Black-owned businesses every day of the year.

Richmond Region Tourism and a group of community-driven leaders launched BLK RVA in 2019 to develop unique ways to amplify local Black-owned businesses by increasing tourism, engaging regional residents and showcasing spaces that highlight Black excellence.

BLK RVA’s website includes an overview of attractions and historical sites that center the Black experience, as well as Black-owned tourism-related businesses and restaurants in the region.

Earlier this year, BLK RVA welcomed a new group of community leaders to its Advisory Board. The Board provides direction for the program, while helping to grow community involvement and building the BLK RVA brand.

Organizers are committed to launching four local marketing campaigns in 2021 that will spotlight each of BLK RVA’s main pillars: history, community, arts & entertainment, and food & drink.

The first campaign focused on Black history in the region launched last month and included BLK RVA trivia challenges, scavenger hunts at historic attractions, limited edition t-shirts designed by local artist J Ford and visual strategist Shannon Bass, and a section of the website dedicated to historic resources and video content from community leaders. The videos aim to connect viewers to the past, celebrate the present and look toward the future and will release over the coming weeks.

The first two profiles in the series feature Omilade Janine Bell, Elegba Folklore Society’s President and Artistic Director and Free Bangura, Founder & CEO of Untold RVA, Chair of the City of Richmond’s History and Culture Commission, and BLK RVA Advisory Team Co-Chair.

Ryano Graphics, a local communications and design firm, is leading planning and execution for the marketing campaigns.

“We’re creating authentic and thoughtful marketing campaigns that highlight and celebrate the Black experience,” said Tameka Jefferson, Richmond Region Tourism’s Community Relations Manager. “Black contributions to Richmond’s culture dates back centuries, and our restaurants, businesses and legacies continue to thrive in our region. We look forward to rolling out the videos and engaging residents and visitors with the BLK RVA campaign throughout 2021.”

In addition to 2021 marketing programming, BLK RVA is introducing initiatives that build capacity and expertise at Black-owned businesses. The organization has partnered with Capital One to create mentorship programs for Black-owned businesses. BLK RVA also recently hosted a Small, Women-owned, and Minority-owned Business (SWaM) certification training in partnership with VCU’s Department of Procurement, the Department of Small Business & Supplier Diversity, and the Metropolitan Business League. Part two and three of the SWaM certification training will be hosted in April and May.

“My small business has greatly improved with the resources and support from BLK RVA and the mentorship program with Capital One,” said Keshia Bell-Rainey, owner of Bodies N Motion, LLC.  “I have access to great mentors to help with marketing and ideas for creating revenue. I would definitely recommend this program to small Black-owned businesses.”

Organizers are also offering a training course March 15 to help caterers and food service professionals navigate procurement and corporate contracts. Two participating businesses will have a chance to win $2,000 supply stipends to support recovery efforts. Eligible participants must register by March 12 to attend the two-part course.

“By learning and growing from industry experts, local Black entrepreneurs will be able to arm themselves with the skills needed to recover, rebuild and thrive,” added Jefferson.

BLK RVA received national recognition last December when The New York Times featured Omilade Janine Bell and the Elegba Folklore Society in Five Kwanzaa Celebrations Around the Country.

In January, BLK RVA collaborated with Nomadness, an award-winning lifestyle brand that supports underrepresented demographics in mainstream travel, for two well-received panel sessions during the virtual Audacity DIGI 4 event that showcased Richmond. The “BLK RVA: Why Richmond needs to be on your radar!,” session featured videos highlighting BLK RVA and Richmond’s artistic landscape that continues to evolve in response to the social justice movement, comments from Enjoli Moon about the region and campaign, and remarks from Hamilton Glass about the Mending Walls mural project.

Richmonder Melody Short also participated in the panel discussion, “Keeping Small Businesses Alive” giving an overview of the Richmond Night Market and the Jackson Ward Collective.

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Trevor Dickerson is the co-founder and editor of RVAhub.com, lover of all things Richmond, and a master of karate and friendship for everyone.

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LEGO Group to bring $1 billion facility to Richmond area, creating 1,760 jobs

The LEGO Group today announced plans to invest more than US$1 billion to build a new factory in Chesterfield County, Virginia. Once completed, the 1.7 million square foot facility will employ more than 1,760 people.

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The LEGO Group today announced plans to invest more than US$1 billion to build a new factory in Chesterfield County, Virginia. Once completed, the 1.7 million square foot facility will employ more than 1,760 people.

The factory will be designed to operate as a carbon-neutral facility. 100 percent of its day-to-day energy needs will be matched by renewable energy generated by an onsite solar park. The site will also be designed to minimize energy consumption and the use of non-renewable resources.

“This is an exciting step for the LEGO Group, said Niels B. Christiansen, CEO of the LEGO Group. “More and more families are falling in love with LEGO building and we are looking forward to making LEGO bricks in the US, one of our largest markets. The location in Virginia allows us to build a solar park which supports our sustainability ambitions and provides easy links to country-wide transportation networks. We are also looking forward to creating fantastic employment opportunities for the people of Virginia.”

Construction will commence in fall 2022 with production projected to start in the second half of 2025. A temporary packaging site will open in an existing building nearby in early 2024 and create up to 500 jobs.

The Virginia factory will be the LEGO Group’s seventh factory globally and the second in the Americas. The company’s manufacturing site in Monterrey, Mexico primarily supplies the US market and will be expanded and upgraded to meet the growing demand for LEGO products.

Carsten Rasmussen, Chief Operations Officer, the LEGO Group said: “Our factories are located close to our biggest markets which shortens the distance our products have to travel. This allows us to rapidly respond to changing consumer demand and helps manage our carbon footprint. Our new factory in the US and expanded capacity at our existing site in Mexico means we will be able to best support long-term growth in the Americas. We are fortunate to find a location where we can begin construction quickly and create temporary capacity in under two years.”

The new factory in Virginia, like all LEGO facilities, will use state-of-the-art technology to mold, process, and pack LEGO products and ensure they meet the company’s rigorous safety and quality requirements.

“Our bricks are made to last for generations, so we need skilled employees trained to work with precision molding technology. We look forward to working with the Virginia Talent Accelerator program to help build a great team who are motivated by our mission to inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow,” said Rasmussen.

LEGO factories in Europe and China are also being expanded, and in December 2021, the Group announced plans to build a factory in Vietnam to support further growth in Asia.

The LEGO Group currently employs approximately 2,600 people in the US where it has been operating since the 1960s. Its US head office is in Enfield, CT, and operates 100 LEGO branded stores across the country.

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The Dairy Bar in Scott’s Addition closes after 76 years; Tang & Biscuit to take over with new concept

After over 76 years in business, The Dairy Bar has closed its doors in Scott’s Addition, but new life is planned for the space.

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Photo: The Dairy Bar

After over 76 years in business, The Dairy Bar has closed its doors in Scott’s Addition, but new life is planned for the space. The restaurant, which opened in 1946 as The Curles Neck Place (when owned by Curles Neck Dairy) and was renamed The Dairy Bar in the 1980s, was a mainstay in the constantly-changing neighborhood. It ultimately succumbed to the COVID-19 pandemic and inflation, according to a post by owner Corey Martin, who purchased the business from longtime owners Bill and Tricia Webb in 2020:

To our valued patrons:

It is with heavy heart that the Dairy Bar has shut down. It has been somewhat of a Richmond Landmark since 1946. COVID placed a heavy hit on the Dairy Bar and once reopening was allowed the decline in sales along with increase in wages as well as food costs proved to be all but impossible to show a profit for a business with such tight margins. Once we were made aware that the former Landlord had sold the property we were pleased to find that the new buyers were literally business people from Scotts Addition neighborhood [sic]. They worked with us to allow an amicable and smooth transition. We so appreciate having the opportunity of meeting so many wonderful and colorful people both the patrons as well as our dedicated employees

The new owner Martin was speaking of is Stanley Shield Partnership, which bought the building and adjacent properties totaling 1.5 acres earlier this year for $7 million, according to Richmond BizSense. While there are currently no known plans to redevelop the property, the firm has developed nearby mixed-use projects including The Scout on Myers Street.

Neighboring shuffleboard bar Tang & Biscuit, which opened in 2018, announced today it will be taking over the space and plans to create a breakfast and lunch spot with a “funky diner feel” called Biscuits & Gravy.

No word yet on when renovations will take place or when the space will open.

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Schwarzchild Jewelers moving from longtime home in Cary Court to new Carytown Exchange development

The jeweler has leased 5,500 square feet at Carytown Exchange located at 3550-3403 West Cary Street & 3403-3550 Ellwood Avenue.

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Schwarzschild Jewelers will be moving from their current location at Cary Court Shopping Center, commercial broker Thalhimer reported this week. The jeweler has leased 5,500 square feet at Carytown Exchange located at 3550-3403 West Cary Street & 3403-3550 Ellwood Avenue.

Schwarzschild Jewelers at Carytown Exchange will anchor the main building that faces Cary Street alongside J.P. Morgan Chase and other high-end retailers. The new custom-built location will have a modern yet elegant look and feel featuring state-of-the-art displays and amenities, Thalhimer said in a release.

The exterior of the building will keep with the eclectic nature of Carytown by showcasing an intense blue hue. The interior will highlight Schwarzschild’s commitment to customer service – showcasing boutiques from some of the world’s top jewelry and watch brands, a built-in entertainment bar, and an on-site jeweler and watchmaker for quick service. A grand opening will be held upon completion of construction scheduled for mid-2023. Schwarzschild Jewelers celebrates its 125th anniversary in 2023.

“Today, Carytown is one of the area’s most vibrant shopping areas in the City of Richmond,” said Kiley Schiffman Storrs, Director of Marketing for Schwarzschild Jewelers. “Schwarzschild has a tradition of innovation and culture geared towards providing the highest level of customer service to our clients, which includes positioning our stores in areas that are most convenient to our customers. Our new location puts us right where we want to be – in the center of one of the highest traffic areas, allowing us to provide the best experience possible.”

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