New start-up’s mission: Doing good all the time

Slated to open this fall, the Urban Farmhouse Market and Café hopes to use local, organic foods as a vehicle for changing Richmond.

The recession is changing the way businesses are operating these days. Many are doing everything they can to survive the current economy. As a result, “doing good” may not be on the minds of some businesses as they seek to improve their bottom lines. But, for a few businesses, being directly involved in social change is the only way they want to go and grow.

That is how one start-up sees it as they go about opening their doors for the first time this fall. Kathleen Richardson, a marketing professional who has worked for Starbucks and Panera Bread, returned to her hometown of Richmond to open the Urban Farmhouse Market and Café with hopes to enrich the community by preparing and delivering organic foods.

“Going about the daily operation of our business and doing good will be one in the same for the Urban Farmhouse,” comments Richardson.

With the fast food chains covering the landscape on city streets, Urban Farmhouse, located in historic Shockoe Slip, will provide healthier food options in a casual setting.

For this new start-up, its organic menu and fast service is only the starting point for how it plans to make social change happen in the greater Richmond community.

With the vast number of overweight Americans and the widespread health issues that are troubling our society, the Urban Farmhouse will aim to change its customer’s views on food. With great excitement Richardson describes how her company’s educational events will provoke social change in the way citizens of Richmond buy their food and how they eat, hopefully creating a model for a healthier lifestyle. Guest speakers will address a wide variety of topics on why eating and buying local organic foods is not only healthy, but also beneficial to the economy.

Richardson has worked on the start-up for nearly two years after spending her entire career in the food industry. She once worried that the Urban Farmhouse would not open with the socially conscious mission she planned. Several banks turned her down repeatedly as she searched for funding opportunities, but she kept believing her concept could work. Shortly thereafter she was introduced to French Consulting who has been responsible for investing in many historic real estate projects in Richmond. Owner Justin French foresaw how his partnership with the Urban Farmhouse would exercise social responsibility as they worked to renovate the café’s location on the corner of East Cary and One Shockoe Plaza (1217 E. Cary Street, to be exact).

Social entrepreneurs like Richardson do not see business opportunities as a way to measure what they can gain, but instead as an opportunity to solve social problems.

“Urban Farmhouse wants to lead by example, showing other businesses that bringing about social change is good for the business community, good for the people of Richmond, and best for the local economy,” notes Richardson.

She is right. If businesses take an interest in community improvement, everybody wins; the local citizens are healthier and more educated on the things that they buy, and businesses will have requests from their consumers for more sustainable products and services that could result in job creation. A public that is healthy, educated, and employed will go a long way to improving the recession.

Through the development of Urban Farmhouse, Richardson has learned that the key to making social change is to find strategic partnerships that are also investing in the local community. The start-up plans to grow slowly in order to foster relationships with the local farmers and suppliers in the Mid-Atlantic region. This will also enable Richardson and her team to measure profits as they add more locations throughout Greater Richmond.

“Buying local and organic foods has increased greatly in the last few years in Richmond, but we hope that it can become more mainstream for all citizens to enjoy.”

Richardson openly admits that the Urban Farmhouse is not only about food; it is about how the café’s brand is able to make a difference in the lives of people that choose to eat there. If you’re a business owner or just an open-minded citizen who applauds the mission the Urban Farmhouse has put forth, Richardson hopes you’ll also ask yourself, “What am I doing to making Richmond a better place?”

Recession or not, there are several causes that deserve attention from talented individuals. Urban Farmhouse says they are trying to make organic foods mainstream, but perhaps what they are really doing is showing how doing good all the time can be the center piece of one’s life and business.

For more on the Urban Farmhouse, stop by their website at

  • error

    Report an error

John ONeill

John O’Neill is an adjunct VCU professor and President of Thinkhaus, a socially conscious graphic design company. He was recently featured as one of Style Weekly’s Top 40 Under 40.

Notice: Comments that are not conducive to an interesting and thoughtful conversation may be removed at the editor’s discretion.

  1. Christina on said:

    If the Urban Farmhouse really wants to promote a socially conscience lifestyle, they need to make this apparent in their marketing. Using an image of a chicken (or any other animal) as their logo does not mesh with their philosophy. Eating meat is not healthy nor sustainable, and eating poultry is not a more healthy option over other red meat. Free range or not.

  2. Charles on said:

    chrisnta: maybe they are attempting to user a familiar icon of a farm, the chicken. it’s assumed this chicken is alive and well – what we don’t see is a roasted chicken breast / wing. or any kinda anthropomorphic image of a happy chicken.

    i agree that many may not see it this way and another logo might of been more appropriate and maybe even a head of lettuce or a garden-esq type drawing

  3. @ Christina : I believe the chicken (actually, rooster) logo is intended to represent the “farmhouse” aspect of the concept. That said, they may very well be serving meat, and you raise some good points, but saying they shouldn’t use a rooster as a logo device for a farmhouse restaurant seems a bit silly.

  4. Oliver on said:

    Christina – How can you honestly say that eating meat is not healthy?! Especially when referencing an article about a upstart retail business.

  5. Christina on said:

    Sorry, yes, I should have said Rooster. I know it’s “just a logo” but as someone who’s in marketing, a logo should be streamlined with your mission. It’s what represents you and if it’s a good logo, it’s what is often thought of more so than the product at times. This venture sounds great and I wish them the best. While the thought was probably one of the ‘farm’, there are many other images that could be chosen instead and with their interesting business name, there are some creative options there. As a vegetarian, the one that’s shown here is bothersome and unfriendly, which discourages me to shop/dine there.

    And yes, a meat free diet is much more healthy and is proven as such. (Protein can be obtained from a variety of healthy sources and ones that are better for you.) A meat free lifestyle is a conscience one that demands less of our natural resources which causes less of an impact on the environment, it does not support corporate agribusiness, but obviously supports animal rights. For example, next time you eat a stake, consider that it takes 1500 gallons of water to create a 1lb piece of meat. The most important action that anyone who is truly concerned about the environment can do is to stop eating meat as well as fish and dairy.

  6. Christina:
    There is more than one way to work TOWARD a more just and sustainable world. VWAs (Vegans with Attitude) don’t help much with anger, violence, and self-righteousness. You may be more highly evolved than we mere mortals, and you may be 100% right in the long run. A more effective way to deliver your message may be Truth with Compassion.
    I know some wonderful school children in South Richmond who could use some help with getting three nutritious meals a day and could benefit from your health and well being, vis a vis improving their reading skills. I’d love for you to get involved with helping them.
    It might help put the rooster logo in perspective.

  7. I applaud Urban Farmhouse for putting social change on the forefront of their agenda. It is an honorable mission especially in the current economic climate. The logo is fine because as we know a great many people are still meat eaters and I do not think that organic farmers only sell vegetables, a great many market free range chickens, beef and goats raise free of growth hormones and steroids that many large factories do. The organic movement is diverse and they are definitely free to maneuver into this market as they see fit in order reach the core demographic they seek to cultivate. It would do well for those of us non-meaters or meat -eaters to support them in their cause to foster a healthier society…one bite at a time.

  8. Shockoe on said:

    When is it opening? I’m loving all these fluff pieces (i love organic food!), but come on- give us some real information that I didn’t already read in Richmond Magazine.

    A better story- Urban Farmhouse’s expected opening keeps getting pushed back. Here’s why…

  9. No official opening date as of yet. As soon as we know, we’ll pass it along.

  10. How about posting the menu or at least sample menu items on the website?

  11. Christina

    I understand your concern. As a socially conscious graphic design professional I believe that designers and marketers do have to be mindful of how the imagery that we develop for our clients may be perceived by the public. We have the duty to not only serve our clients but to assure that the public is not offended by what we design, but rather is educated on the important issues of our day.

    I believe the designer did a wonderful job illustrating the true nature of the benefits of buying local organic foods.

  12. The thing that leaves me scratching my head is how this concept fits into the overall climate of Shockoe Slip. Relish was down there, sticking out like a sore thumb while providing excellent natural food selections, and they eventually went under. Will people interested in local/organic wade into the aristrocrats’ watering hole playground for ethical eats? Or will Urban Farmhouse cash in on the marketing hype of the eco/green/locavore feeding frenzy? Despite my cynicism, I’m eager to have a peek at the place.

    BTW: Whenever I blog/tweet about a restaurant’s forcasted opening date, it’s delayed repeatedly. Be glad this writer didn’t jinx the Urban Farmhouse.

    Now, t

  13. mattwhite on said:


  14. Jeff E. on said:

    I think Relish’s problem was location. Compared to other Slip restaurants, they weren’t in an area heavily traveled by office workers which I’m assuming they were trying to appeal to. They had no street presence either. Sounds like this place is in a far more prominent location and I definitely believe in their mission statement. Too bad Christina set a negative tone on this discussion from the get go. Being socially conscience isn’t limited to vegetarians and vegans anymore. Look at farmers like Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms. His methods are quite sustainable.

  15. Jason and Jeff

    After speaking with Kathleen Richardson and learning about her marketing expertise and the research that went into the development of the cafe I have no doubt that she has a better chance of achieving success.

    One of the things that will be in Urban Farmhouse’s favor is its
    “Chipotle Mexican Grill” like format for serving its food. I can easily
    see it becoming a hot spot for lunch for the people that work in the downtown/Shockoe Slip area.

    I hope that other organic restaurants and cafes will follow. America has a big health problem on its hands. A lot of it deals with the way people eat.

  16. Melissa on said:

    I work downtown and would love to have a place like this to eat. I don’t like to eat mass-produced meat, so my choices are limited (though I love Cafe Ole, JoJo’s pizza, the Christopher’s carts, and the veg sub at Quizno’s). This place sounds ideal.

    I’m hoping there will be some organic versions of mass-appeal foods, and some cheap options, to appeal to all of my coworkers. But mostly I’m excited to have a place serving what I want to eat! Keep us posted on the opening.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with an asterisk (*).

Or report an error instead