Business Briefs: January 2021

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The Ivy Road House is now open for take-out. The restaurant is at the intersection of Routes 240 and 250, just east of Crozet. Photo: Malcolm Andrews.

Ivy Road House Opened for Take-Out New Year’s Day

The long-awaited Ivy Road House opened Jan. 1 for online and telephone take-out orders. Stuart Rifkin, part owner of the restaurant, said indoor dining will come in a few weeks, in a very spread-out dining room. For now, the Road House is awaiting its ABC license.

Jonathan Drolshagen, Ivy Road House Manager. Once approved for inside dining, tables will be spread out in the expansive space. Photo: Malcolm Andrews.

The construction, stalled for years, is almost complete. Chef Christian Kelly designed the menu, the onsite chef is Malek Sudol, and the manager is Jonathan Drolshagan, all veterans of the Charlottesville restaurant scene, as is William McKechnie, another partner.

Carry-out orders are presently available Wednesday through Sunday from 5 to 9 p.m. Order at 434-205-4009 or online at ivyroadhouse.com, where you’ll also find a menu.

Blue Bird Books Rolls around Crozet

In the very worst part of the pandemic, with the weather frigid and four children learning at home, Flannery Buchanan decided the time was right to start a new business.

Flannery Buchanan of Bluebird Books at Crozet Mudhouse. Buchanan is the proprietor of Bluebird Bookstop, a mobile bookstore that will park in various Crozet locations. Photo: Malcolm Andrews.

For one thing, “I was really sad when Over the Moon closed,” Buchanan said. “And I knew my own dream of someday running a bookstore wasn’t really practical.” Like many pandemic-era entrepreneurs, Buchanan turned her thoughts to a mobile operation, one that could safely travel where clients shopped and lived, and where she could conduct business in the open air. 

Her first thought was some kind of delivery van, like a used FedEx truck, but she quickly found that wouldn’t fit her requirements: “The margin of profit is so low with book selling that the overhead has to be very low, too,” she said. She stumbled across a vintage trailer for sale last summer. “It occurred to me that the nostalgia would add to the charm.”

She already had the name of her business, inspired by her connection with bluebirds.  For years she’s treasured a little glass bluebird that meant a lot to her when she was struggling through her degree in library science at James Madison University. “To me, bluebirds are a symbol of happiness,” she said. “I like to envision myself as spreading joy with my business.”

Bluebird Bookstop, a mobile book seller, will soon be parking in selected locations in and around Crozet. Submitted photo.

There was no question that the 1966 Banner trailer would be painted blue, and it needed other renovations as well. Buchanan searched for a contractor, and she considers hiring John Garland, Jr. for the job an extremely lucky choice. Until the mobile operation is ready, Blue Bird Books has been popping up inside at the Mudhouse, and delivering book orders to porches of people taking advantage of the free delivery service. Blue Bird Books also offers a monthly subscription service and a small number of gently-used books. Buchanan foresees a future plan of setting up at wineries and breweries. “Anywhere the crowds are.”

Buchanan, who worked as a librarian before taking off to raise her children, tries to keep a selection of books that are current and popular. Through her children, she’s become very familiar with books for children and young adults. “I’ve read the YA books I sell, and so have they,” she said.

Buchanan came to Crozet with her family after years of living in Chicago. She’d grown up in Northern Virginia and gone to JMU, so Virginia seemed like a good choice. Her husband, Garland, can work anywhere, she said. “I didn’t want to go back to Northern Virginia. It’s just too crazy.” They chose Crozet for its good schools and proximity to the airport. It was a good choice, she said, and she feels more strongly about it since opening Blue Bird Books. “People have been so supportive. I think most of them really like the idea of a local alternative to Amazon.”

A Star is Born: TONY on Board Jacksonville City Bus

Last month, Crozet’s Perrone Robotics delivered a city bus like no other to the Jacksonville Transit Authority. There’s a whole alphabet of initials to describe it, but to spell it out, the bus, an “EV Star,” is all-electric, zero-emission, fully accessible, fully autonomous, and American-made. It complies with all federal motor vehicle safety standards, has been tested at Penn State’s rigorous bus testing center, can navigate public highways and reaches speeds of 65 miles per hour. 

“That’s a lot of boxes to check,” said Paul Perrone, the company’s founder and CEO. “It’s the world’s first.” Unlike other companies pioneering luxury vehicles powered by artificial intelligence, he’s always had his eye on the difficult, expensive, hyper-local “last mile” served by public transportation. The vehicle serving Jacksonville is GreenPower Motor Company’s EV Star, outfitted with TONY (“To Navigate You”) Perrone Robotic’s autonomous vehicle retrofit kit.

The EV Star, a fully autonomous and accessible city bus, begins the new year in Jacksonville, Florida, courtesy of Crozet’s Perrone Robotics. Submitted photo.

The project came about when Perrone and Nat Ford of the Jacksonville Transportation Authority recognized their mutual interests. “Jacksonville has a dynamic, well-thought-out public transportation plan,” Perrone said. “People watch them for innovation, and will be watching this.” Before shipping the bus to Florida, Crozet staff tested the EV Star, a snazzy white bus with clean lines and a fanciful Jacksonville skyline, around Crozet. 

And there’s another one, Perrone said. “We’re going to exhibit it in road shows.” There are other projects in the works: a shuttle for the Army and a tractor trailer for a Fortune 100 Company. “I can’t say which one, but if you’re anywhere near our site, it’s hard to miss.”

Like other companies, Perrone Robotics has had ups and downs during the pandemic, but the innovative city bus is a major step forward. Raising venture capital has also been a challenge, but the company has managed, including a recent effort underway via a crowd investment company. With continued success, Perrone hopes to increase his staff and continue in the company’s present site on The Square. “We’d really like to stay in Crozet,” he said. 

Crozet Celebrates with Traditional Christmas Trees

Despite early warnings about a national Christmas tree shortage, Crozet’s Boy Scouts did a great business in 2020 and in a much shorter time than usual. Rob Moore, who coordinated the effort this year, said there were several reasons for this. More people came by earlier, Moore said: “…after the year we’ve had so far, we really weren’t surprised that the first couple of weeks were busy. It seemed everyone was very eager to get into the holiday spirit this year.” The forecasted shortage probably played a part in this, too, prompting everyone to purchase earlier, he said. The shortage seemed like a reality for a while, said Gary Conley, but a last-minute shipment brought the numbers up to last year’s levels. 

Business was brisk from the very start of the Boy Scouts’ Christmas Tree sales this season. Photo: Malcolm Andrews.

Despite the cold weather, the long hours and the prickly branches, Moore said he and the Boy Scouts enjoy this part of their year’s activities: “Being a part of the Christmas tree stand and being a part of that magic quickly reminds us all what a special place Crozet really is.”

Over at Ivy Nursery, Diana Sedgwick said that in the four years they’ve been selling fresh trees, they’ve always sold out. “There are never enough.” But the surprise was how fast they sold, she said. “There were days when our trees were sold as soon as they were delivered.” The brisk sales started early, with more than usual picked up at the beginning of December. Like Moore, she believes the pandemic created an atmosphere where people really looked forward to decorating.

Biz Bits

Local Virginia Air customers became concerned about continued service from this internet provider, a Strasburg-based company that serves rural localities in Virginia and West Virginia. “We’re still offering service in Albemarle County,” said Adam Knapp of the company’s wireless solutions department. “The name was changed to Livestream after one of the partners left.” As of the Gazette’s deadline, Albemarle County was not listed on the company’s website as one of the areas covered. Knapp said anyone with questions is invited to call him directly: 540-328-9876. 

Crozet Insurance, located in Crozet’s Blue Goose building since the 1930s, is moving to the space held by the former Southern States in the Crozet Shopping Center, between Crozet Pizza and Sam’s Hot Dogs. Crozet Insurance owner Nancy Fleischman said that renovations are currently underway at the space. The move will allow them to be less crowded and to have the ability to expand. 

Fleischman took over the business in 1987, and it has since expanded to include a staff of four, all of whom are bilingual in Spanish. Crozet Insurance is an independent agency. The new address is 5790 B Three Notch’d Road.  

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