Batesville Market Has New Owner

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It was a quirky transaction, as commercial business sales go, but it perfectly suited Batesville. Using local news sources, word of mouth, and signs at the store, Batesville Market owners Alex Struminger, an IT consultant and entrepreneur; and Patricia Dougherty, a nurse practitioner at the Virginia Department of Health, have chosen Kristen Rabourdin as the buyer of their business. Their choice was based not on the price (it was fixed at $1), but on who is best suited to run the historic store that’s been the heart of Batesville since it opened in 1914. The two current owners have operated it since 2017.

Struminger and Dougherty sifted through hundreds of inquiries and sent an eight-page questionnaire to the most promising. They were looking for quite different information than a typical business plan or credit history could supply.

Struminger said that 77 brave souls filled out the essay questions, and that he and Dougherty filtered and scored the responses according to who showed the most promise of being successful in the long term.

In narrowing the field, they included applicants with good business experience and skills, applicants they believed would best serve the community, and those they thought would be best supported by the community. In the end, they came up with seven solid choices.

Then they scheduled phone interviews with the seven, coming up with four finalists who were selected to meet a panel of Batesville community members and business owners.

One finalist dropped out, and the remaining three finalists were invited to pitch their ideas to the panel, which also included several volunteer advisors from the Charlottesville business community, the Darden School of Business, and the Charlottesville Business Innovation Council.

Each candidate was given 15 minutes to address three key points, followed by 10 minutes of panel questions. Afterwards, the panel debated the presentations and made recommendations to the owners.

Struminger said it was difficult to pick from the short list of qualified candidates, but the strong support of the local community member panel helped drive Rabourdin’s selection as the new owner of the Batesville Market.

Rabourdin comes to Batesville with a long commitment to locally-based, sustainable and ethical food systems. She spent nearly 30 years concentrating on retail strategies, community engagement, marketing, and communications, including 16 years at Whole Foods in Charlottesville.

“She believes that food truly represents community, and the nourishment of spirit,” Struminger said, “and that breaking bread together is a way for neighbors to unite through the celebration of food.”

Rabourdin has also worked in underserved communities, focusing on shelter and hunger relief, including work programs for welfare mothers in Philadelphia, programs for imprisoned young people, impoverished inner city residents, and rural Appalachian children. She’s also helped communities create sustainable educational food programs and hands-on gardening programs at schools.  She has been part of Charlottesville’s Food Justice Network, with the goal of food access and food justice for all.

The new owner’s plans fit in with the direction that has been successful for the historic market, Struminger said. The owners have settled on a wide variety of local and specialty goods not available in box stores, including wine, farm products and other carefully-selected foods. They also enjoy a steady business from store-made deli items, fans of local musicians, and an inventory of staple general store-type items designed to make life easier for people in the rural community.

Struminger said there will be a transition period, with the store fully functional under Rabourdin’s leadership in mid-March.

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