To the Reader: 2014 Richmonder of the Year 

City debate over big economic development proposals dominated 2014. Has the Redskins training camp paid off? Where should a baseball stadium go? How many incentives should Richmond offer Stone Brewing Co. for its East Coast expansion in Fulton Hill?

Craft brew fans, developers and residents applauded the city’s decision to finance the construction of Stone’s $23 million brewery and eventually an $8 million riverfront restaurant. For others, the deal struck a sour note. Why, when the city seems to make it so difficult for some small businesses to function, does it give away so much for out-of-town saviors? Some longtime local restaurateurs expressed frustrations to City Hall.

“They kill us on the meals tax, they raised the water and sewer rates. Why don’t they do something to support existing businesses?” asked Jerry Cable of the Tobacco Company Restaurant. “Free parking, repair our streets, make them safe.”

The issue resonates at a time when Richmond’s food and drink accolades and innovation are reaching new heights.

The success made us take notice through the year, but also in looking back at the last three decades, which is how long Style has named a Richmonder of the Year. We thought about the food and drink entrepreneurs who hold on during tough times, help define the local culture and push into paths less traveled.

Cable took a risk with the Tobacco Company 37 years ago in Shockoe Slip, an area then known mostly for its empty, watermarked warehouses. The restaurants and clubs in Shockoe Bottom have held on during ups and downs — and now are home to where the mayor wants to place a new ballpark. In Jackson Ward, where you might not expect to find it, GwarBar opened last week, near the lauded restaurant and cocktail venture Rogue Gentlemen.

Similar stories are taking place in neighborhoods across the city. We share three of them in our cover story. But there are others, and more to come.

The Editors

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