George Allen takes a pay cut 

Street Talk

Allen takes pay cut to hit the roadMonroe case gets prime-time attentionPrice's Market Says GoodbyeSoak! Saturates New MarketsRobb walks fine line on constituent visits

Allen takes pay cut to hit the road

George Allen, who is starting to devote full-time attention to his Senate campaign, has taken a 50 percent pay cut from McGuire, Woods, Battle & Boothe, the mega law firm where the former governor works.

But before you weep for Allen and the sacrifices private citizens make for public service, consider this: Allen was making a reported $400,000 a year.

An official at the firm acknowledged that Allen had taken a pay cut, but declined to further discuss his salary.

— Warren Fiske

Monroe case gets prime-time attention

Beverly Monroe, who is serving time for the 1992 murder of socialite and fraudulent count Roger de la Burde, will be featured in yet another TV show, this time "Dateline NBC."

"She's a compelling character and the case is interesting," says associate producer Matt Carluccio.

Indeed. Ever since de la Burde was found dead from a gunshot wound in his home in March 1992, the case has generated headlines. First thought to be a suicide, Monroe eventually was tried and convicted of the murder and is serving a 22-year sentence in Pocahontas Correctional Center for Women. Monroe says she is innocent and her children have worked to get that message to anyone who will listen.

TNT featured the case on "Was Justice Denied?" last month, and her story has been told in national newspapers from the New York Times to the weekly tabloid Star.

"We're trying to do a traditional news piece," says Carluccio, who says the TNT take on the case lacked balance.

Former WWBT broadcaster Sara James is scheduled to anchor the hour-long show expected to air in October or November.

- Beth Laws

Price's Market Says Goodbye

Price's Market won't reopen after all.

The Fan grocery, which closed at the end of May after 20 years on Strawberry Street, has been squeezed out of a planned Main Street location as well, its owner says.

"I've always done business with a handshake and a promise, and this is the second time it's come back to bite me," says Bob Kocher Sr. "An honest person cannot succeed today without being ruthless."

He'll go to work for somebody else and won't consider opening another store "unless somebody gives me one."

"We got out with the love and respect of the community," he says. "I just can't do that gamble [thrice]."

Kocher, 56, says he signed a contract to buy the former Uptown Thrift building at 1630 West Main St. and moved most of his wares inside, "but we got screwed again." Kocher says the building's owner, who did not return calls for comment, found another buyer willing to pay more.

With the downtime and losses on groceries he had to sell at salvage, Kocher estimates he's lost nearly $100,000 since leaving Strawberry Street to make way for an upscale shop.

"There's nothing I'm going to miss more than the people in the Fan. But I'm not bitter," he says. "Who am I kidding? I'm as bitter as I can be."

Bright spot: Three longtime Price's employees, including Kocher's son, have applied to and been hired by Ukrop's. Kocher says Jim Ukrop "has helped us in a ton of ways. As far as I'm concerned, he is one of the last true gentlemen in the grocery business."

Rob Morano

Soak! Saturates New Markets

Veronica Brockwell misses her bubble blower. What's more, she misses her daily dose of Carytown. But if that's the drawback to expanding her bath and beauty store Soak! to an upscale address in Alexandria's Old Town and in Virginia Beach, withdrawal can burst her bubble every day.

Recently the 35-year old entrepreneur, who introduced her perky products to Richmond just two years ago, moved into her first corporate office at the Byrd Center on Laburnum Avenue. Funding through the Small Business Administration has enabled Brockwell also to equip the office that doubles as Soak's distribution center, with a lab where all Soak! brand goodies are now produced.

"It was just an outfit of me," laughs Brockwell. "From me making bath bombs to me ringing customers. Me, me, me." Now, Soak! has 15 employees ranging from a chemist to Heather Ryan, the store's director of cosmetics and buying.

"I didn't expect it to grow so quickly," tells Brockwell. But Brockwell is known for her celebrity client savvy, having enticed everyone from Christian Slater to Jay Mohr to find the fun in fizzy bath bombs. And she uses the high-profilers' visits, prompted largely by movies being filmed here, as a way to promote her products.

"You can have celebrities in your store all day long but if you don't tell people, you're missing out. It's given me the opportunity to grow," she says, "and created more revenue."

Soak! in Old Town is scheduled to open in October and Brockwell says a store is slated for a yet-to-be-determined spot in Virginia Beach in 2002. She's negotiating, too, for a space at the new Short Pump Town Center.

The August issue of "Self" is featuring Soak! in its issue that highlights the country's top beauty stops. "Basically what they're saying is if you're driving through Virginia you must stop here," says Brockwell.

Brandon Walters

Robb walks fine line on constituent visits

When U.S. Sen. Charles S. Robb visited Richmond last year to lay out his fiscal platform in a speech to local Kiwanis Club members, U.S. taxpayers picked up his travel tab.

Many Republican activists say the incident and others raise questions about whether Robb is using congressional perks to defray his campaign costs.

"If Chuck Robb is a true fiscal conservative, how can he justify running his campaign on taxpayers expense?" says Ed Matricardi, executive director of the state GOP.

The Robb camp has billed several other high-profile events to the taxpayers, including a June 17 speech where Robb laid out his health agenda to the Medical College of Virginia, and a June 24 news conference in Richmond at which Robb discussed his crime platform after touring an inner-city neighborhood with Mayor Timothy Kaine and several community leaders.

A spokesman for Robb defended billing the expenses to congressional accounts. "In each case, the senator was responding to speaking invitations from constituents groups," says Mo Elleithee, Robb's press secretary. "Meeting with constituents is part of a senator's job." Elleithee said Robb has always kept a busy schedule speaking to constituents. The events have always been listed on a schedule that has been provided to the media, he says. The difference this election year, Elleithee added, is that the press is actually covering some of the speeches.

Robb has kept his official speech text to policies and avoided mentioning Allen by name, although he occasionally makes cryptic references to his opponent. In news conferences after the speeches, however, he has been willing to take on GOP rival George Allen.

— Warren Fiske

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