S@mple owner talks about closing his restaurant

After only eight months, one of RVA’s most eclectic and interesting restaurant has closed. The owner dishes on why that happened, and what he’ll do next.

Eight months after S@mple opened, owner Adam Bell has closed its doors. “I made the final decision last week,” said the 27-year-old in a phone interview. The reason was simple: “We weren’t seeing the volume we needed to sustain.”

Taking over the space on 1 N. Morris Street, mere blocks from VCU, Bell envisioned S@mple as a rare conflation of the culinary and tech-savvy: patrons could dine on small plates like fish tacos, scallops, and duck, all while fiddling with rented laptops and iPads. Instead of hyping the new and exciting things that S@mple aimed to do, Bell now wrestles with the carousel of “what ifs” in his mind.

“Maybe our price points were a little too high,” he speculated. Perhaps the menu was a “little elevated and confusing for some.” Others have asserted that the location wasn’t ideal. However, Bell has no interest in pointing fingers. “There’s no blame in the closing,” he said.

He equated owning a restaurant to being a fireman: always on call, always dealing with something. “The life of a restaurant owner is a difficult one,” said Bell, who also owns the nearby repair shop @lbtech.

In January, S@mple opened under Bell and partner Harold Lewis. By February, Lewis was out, leaving Bell as sole owner and manager of the 70-seat restaurant. Whereas other restaurants have two or three people to split the many restuarant tasks, Bell was on his own. “It was a heck of a lot for me to do myself.”

Bell said that business through the spring was good enough to fund additional management, but after VCU let out for the summer in May, there was “not enough income to justify hiring a manager.”

With S@mple closed, Bell will return to @lbtech to oversee a rebranding process to usher in the company’s five-year anniversary. He said he doubts he will ever manage a restaurant again.

While disappointed in S@mple’s closing, he’s not angry, and appreciated the responses he’s received from the community, which he termed “very positive.” He’s grateful for that, he said, because he began and maintained S@mple as a positive business. “I tried to end it that way.”

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Nathan Cushing

Nathan Cushing is a writer, journalist, and RVANews Editor.

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