Cleveland.com writer Stephen Koff recently showed the good old RVA a little love in his article “Southern charm with an edge in Richmond, Va.”
In his tribute to the city, he highlights local favorites like Sticky Rice, the Camel, Monument Avenue, and the VMFA, and offers commentary on Richmond’s bike culture and its devotion to local businesses, paying particular attention to residents’ reaction to Ben & Jerry’s taking up residence on the same block as Bev’s in Carytown.
Consider the fate of Ben & Jerry’s, which put an ice cream parlor in Carytown — its second attempt — in 2007. Problem is, Cary Street already had Bev’s, a longtime and local gourmet ice creamery (with homemade flavors like cherry almond oatmeal, coconut, rum brittle gelato and pear sorbet). It didn’t help that Ben & Jerry’s opened on the same block as Bev’s; to locals, that was a direct assault.
And so habitues of Carytown double-downed on Bev’s, as if it was their civic duty to increase their ice cream consumption.
“One of my customers came in and said, ‘Ben & Jerry’s is coming. I’m going to go to Bev’s twice as much,’ ” recalled Tom Roukous, owner of Coppela’s, an Italian deli (strictly fresh, from homemade pesto to grated pecorino Romano), across Cary Street from Bev’s.
Ben & Jerry’s closed in March.
But more important than his shout outs to local businesses or analysis of the city’s quirks, Koff manages to capture what it is about Richmond that makes it so complicated yet great (with some help from local residents):
Reminders of its rebel-with-refinements history abound, including the lovely Monument Avenue, a boulevard of shade trees, beautiful old homes and, in the middle of the road, towering statues memorializing Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson and Jefferson Davis. The late Arthur Ashe, a Richmond son and the first black man to win at Wimbledon, is honored here, too, but his monument didn’t come without a little controversy.
Yet there is another side to Richmond that visitors often don’t see, even though they’re awfully close if they’re driving down Monument.
Richmond has a hip, urbane side.
“There are a lot of people here who don’t care about the Civil War,” says Aimee Joyaux, who heads educational programming at the Richmond Visual Arts Center, a 30,000-square-foot space on Main Street with galleries, artists studios and classrooms. “There are a lot of people who care a lot about the Civil War. But there are a lot of young people here, and a lot of creative synergy.”
Or, as Martin Reamy, a singer and artist working at Plan 9 Music, a choice record store on Cary Street, puts it: “It’s a country town, but it kicks ass.”
We happen to agree.
And thank you, Cleveland!