New Businesses Debut at Difficult Time
No one would choose to launch a business during a pandemic, but that was the inescapable reality for two new business owners.
Sabor Latino opened just as other businesses were scrambling to switch from indoor dining to carry-out or delivery service. The shop, in the space on Rt. 250 vacated by Rocket Coffee, was always intended for mostly takeaway meals, with some tables on the patio outside, but as time goes by, there are plans for a few indoor tables and a bar area.
The upbeat roadside eatery is the project of two brothers, Melquiades Fragoso-Marroquin and Elias Sanchez-Fragoso. They also own the well-patronized Charlottesville food truck business by the same name. The small restaurant has a large selection of authentic Latino food: lunchtime favorites like tortas, tortillas, burritos, quesadillas and tacos, all made quickly with fresh ingredients. Customers choose fillings of steak, chicken, marinated pork, sausage, chicken or mixed meats, or order the platillos with the same choice of meats accompanied by the traditional beans and rice. There are plenty of other Latino favorites on the menu including torte Cubano, pozole and menudo.
Morning travellers can grab a familiar American breakfast with plates of bacon, eggs, hash browns or French toast, or make it more portable in a breakfast burrito. There are some American favorites at lunch, too, including hamburgers, fries and chicken wings.
Things have been steady, Sanchez-Fragoso said, but they’re looking forward to having a grand opening celebration once businesses are fully open.
Kristen Rabourdin, who took ownership of the Batesville Market in March, quickly realized she’d have to adapt her business plan if the venerable institution was to survive. Her plans were not static: she adjusted and refined as she saw how things were working. “This was a gathering place,” she said. “I had to change it to a place that was useful to the community when they couldn’t gather.”
First, she realized she’d have to put her inventory online, not only so that people could order for contact-free pick-up and delivery; but also for neighbors to come in person for bread, milk and eggs. “People were reluctant to venture out only to find shortages and empty shelves,” she said. “This way, they would know what was available before they came.” She also stocked items her customers requested, whether healthy alternatives or comfort food.
She found it was reassuring for local people to shop without plunging into a big crowd at a big store. “There are only a few people in here at a time, anyway,” she said. “They’ve all maintained a distance themselves. We haven’t had to enforce it.” Likewise, there are only a few people making the food, stocking the shelves and handling payments, all of them members of Kristen’s family.
Seeing the demand by local people for meals cooked by someone other than themselves, she began making meals and sides, with a special theme each week, like Greek or French Provincial, meals that could be ordered online and delivered to the nearby countryside as well as Crozet, or picked up on the porch or in the store. She also expanded deli items, making custom sandwiches for neighbors as well as the growing number of cyclists passing through Batesville.
The store is also the hub for picking up orders from local farmers and artisans. “This is an amazing community,” Rabourdin said. “We’re surrounded by people who want only the best for us.”
Find inventory, meal selection, information about products from local farmers, and order at www.batesvillemarket.com.
Freezes and frosts batter local vineyards
Some were hurt more than others, but just about everyone with a grapevine was hit badly by the freeze that struck the area in May, said George Hodson of Veritas Vineyards and the Monticello Wine Trail.
Hodson serves as president of the wine trail, which includes our local vineyards as well as others in the general Charlottesville area. This compounded the difficulties already challenging local vineyards: they’d experienced early warmth, which caused early buds. A couple of April frosts did a lot of damage and for many, including Veritas, the latest event was actually a freeze rather than a frost.
These issues made the 2020 spring the worst frost season of at least 20 years, Hodson said: “I say 20 years because that is as long as we have been doing it.” The Virginia wine industry had hoped that the later varietals, spared by the earlier frosts, would fare better, but by the May freeze most of the varietals had already emerged, Hodson said. “It’s really a function of your site.
“No one locally escaped the freeze,” Hodson said. “Some vineyards had blocks that were 100% impacted and others 50%, but ultimately no one got away without any.”
Wineries are now watching as their secondary fruit grows to see what kind of a harvest to expect. Meanwhile, most of the local wineries opened up May 15, although some are still waiting. Those that opened received an enthusiastic and thirsty crowd (see below): “Opening weekend was overwhelmingly positive, and I think that guests were very understanding of the Corona protocols and appreciated the time and effort each of the wineries put in to the opening procedures.”
Hodson said 2020 is a year that will be remembered for its difficulties, but he expects the local wine business to prevail over time. “Ultimately the wineries of the Monticello Wine Trail will do what we have always done, which is to collaborate and innovate and provide the best possible experience for our guests.”
Local businesses try a variety of approaches to Phase One Reopening
Please note that the below information is current as of the end of May. As this is published, Virginia is expected to move to the next phase of re-opening, so be sure to call first to establish hours and times which are, in many cases, dependent on the weather and state mandates. Masks are required for public places except when actually eating or drinking. If your business is changing, please notify [email protected]
Restaurants, wineries and breweries in Crozet and beyond who already had outside seating were in a position to expand services from take-out and delivery to patio dining, so long as they remained at 50% capacity. Others have increased and adjusted their take-out options, stepped up their cleaning routines, and installed physical barriers for the protection of staff and clients.
Those with patios are able to control the number of patrons by serving outside diners by reservation only, and by spacing tables at greater distances. Restoration Crozet, Wayland’s Crossing, Whistlestop Grill, Jalisco’s, Mi Rancho, and Sabor Latino have been serving customers outside since the start of Phase I. Sam’s Hot Dogs and Trey’s Restaurant has expanded its outdoor offerings by setting up tables in the parking spaces and will begin showing classic movies to patrons at the tables. Pap ‘n Zan’s at Clover Lawn has some outside seating, but information from them was not available at deadline. Greenwood Gourmet continues with carry-out. They’ve removed the tables close to the store, but invite people to eat at the picnic tables to the west side of the store. Groceries, meals and sandwiches can be ordered online for a contact-free experience.
At Green House Coffee, service is still contact-free, but clients can use the shady outside seating area to enjoy their carry-out food and coffee. Grit reopens June 5, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. with contact-free service. Call first and a server will set your coffee on an outside table. At deadline, it wasn’t determined if patrons would be invited to sit at the outside tables. No information was available about future plans for the Mudhouse.
The restaurants that offered delivery and pick-up services early in the pandemic restrictions continue to so, including Smoked, which just added regular service to Charlottesville as well as its local pick-up and delivery business.
Some restaurants with few options for outdoor seating have established new routines that protect the staff and public. Morsel Compass has set up a plexiglass barrier for payment and pickup and restricts both staff and patrons to three at a time. Colleen Alexander reports from Crozet Pizza that the site has been reorganized for easy cleaning and disinfection. Items that don’t travel well have been taken off the menu and replaced with more healthy items, including some wraps with fresh greens and vegetables in a Crozet pizza crust. Three phone lines have been added for easier ordering. Fardowners has expanded its previous pandemic hours and put its full menu online. Crozet Creamery has been scooping out pints to go on Wednesdays and Saturdays, with a minimum of three pints. Order in advance for pickup at Piedmont Place. Even without patio dining, restaurants with a vigorous carryout business are weathering the storm, including Sal’s Pizza, which reports that business has been good.
Under the new guidelines, fitness studios are permitted to have outdoor classes. ACAC has moved some classes outside in Charlottesville. Santosha is conducting classes outdoors in addition to their online classes. Carl Zovco of ZSP CrossFit has been leading class outdoors as well as maintaining digital service for his personal training and physical therapy students.
Those who have needed a haircut for a couple of months will be glad that Georgetown West, Modern Barbershop, Salon R, and Elemental Holistic Hair, Body and Living are now open, vigorously disinfected, and operating with certain restrictions to protect staff and customers. To avoid congestion, call first or, in the case of the barbershop, register and then wait on the porch or in your car. Certain services continue to be restricted. At deadline, no information was available from the Hair Cuttery.
Essential businesses, which include most of Crozet’s retail outlets—groceries, dry cleaners, nurseries, garden shops, hardware and building supply stores, variety stores and convenience stores—continue to operate with a range of strategies, often differing widely in their restrictions and requirements. It’s a good idea to call ahead if you have any questions about restrictions or safety measures.
Wineries begin to open to public
Wineries, which typically have plenty of outdoor space, have shown amazing ingenuity during the pandemic and have continued to sell and deliver bottles, as well as creating videos for their patrons. Some opened as soon as allowed in mid-May, others report great support for their wine pickup programs. Wineries request that you wear a mask if you go inside to use a public restroom.
White Hall Vineyards plans to open soon and is now offering pickups daily.
Septenary has produced videos featuring online tastings and tours. It’s now open for sales by the glass and bottle, and picnic packs are available for those who wish to picnic on the grounds.
King Family Vineyards has operated a successful wine pickup and delivery program, offered a peek at behind-the-scenes operation via video, and has a great idea for wine tastings. They’ll deliver a personal tasting on a tray to your seat. King Family has collaborated with l’etoile on a food and wine pairing and hosts different food trucks at the winery. The first polo match of the season is June 7, so reserve your space beginning June 1.
Glass House Winery has marked off spots around the grounds, some with tables and some suitable for tailgates. Patrons can drive up, order wine and find their spot. There are also limited spaces on deck or in the shade.
Grace Estate Winery has plenty of space for distancing and offers bottle sales for picnickers. Masks are required for all interactions with staff.
Stinson has produced online videos and offered complimentary peonies with Mother’s Day orders. At present, they are still supplying their patrons with pickup orders.
At Pollak, seats are available on the patio with a three-bottle minimum by reservation. Groups, limited to four or less, will be assigned a time block when they register.
Breweries are also cautiously opening up. At Starr Hill, the tap room is open with outside seating. There is limited space, so it’s a good idea to call first for reservations.
Pro Re Nata has plenty of space on its grounds, has created some covered spaces, had some successful live music events, and has the Hops Kitchen truck for food.
Landmark Crozet businesses close, change
Two Crozet businesses will be closing in the near future. Crozet Antiques in downtown Crozet will close at the end of July. Watch for notices of a closing sale on the sandwich board outside the shop.
Over the Moon Bookstore and Gallery will close June 15 after hosting a huge “going out of business” sale June 1 thru 7. To purchase a book during the sale, check the online inventory at www.overthemoonbookstore.com and call first at 434-823-1144 for a safe transaction at a distance. Be sure to wear a mask. Long-time customers can also authorize bookstore owner Anne DeVault to pick out a customized selection for you. Meanwhile, DeVault is still taking online special orders, honoring gift certificates, selling her beautiful, locally-made bookcases, and searching for sturdy, medium-sized boxes for shipping books.
Encore Kids Clothing and Resale is leaving its storefront after three years, but will continue to operate online. See beautiful displays of seasonal children’s clothes on its Facebook page, or email [email protected] for details.