Gilmore's Job Hunt; Man Injures Hapless Verizon Worker; Coffee Shop Returns, Creditors in Tow; Answered Prayers; Local Judge to Pick Best in Show 

Street Talk

Gilmore's Job Hunt

Former Gov. Jim Gilmore is going back into law. He just hasn't said where. Or when. Or with whom. Or at what pay.

Gilmore did not take questions from a reporter, but a spokesman for him at the New Majority Project PAC says: "He anticipates to make an announcement as to which law firm he will join in the near future." Gilmore has talked with "numerous" firms, the spokesman continues.

Well, naturally. Gilmore, after all, is a 1977 graduate of the University of Virginia law school and has been the state's attorney general.

But in a recession, a governor who doesn't have a built-in client base, and whose political stock is low, may have a more difficult time finding a job than his predecessors. According to scuttlebutt around town, Gilmore has asked for as much as $400,000.

At some of the larger Richmond law firms Gilmore's choices may be limited.

Any plans to hire him at Williams Mullen Clark & Dobbins? "Hmm … Not that I'm aware of at this very moment in time," says Amy Caputo, a spokeswoman for the firm. "Where'd you hear that?"

Hirschler Fleischer has a technology practice, a topic Gilmore championed as governor. Any hiring plans? Nope, says spokeswoman Penny Koch.

An obvious option is LeClair Ryan PC, where Gilmore worked for six months after he resigned as attorney general in mid-1997 to run for governor. But Gary LeClair isn't hiring any welcome bands yet. "Our policy is that we don't comment on employment matters related to prospective matters or otherwise," he says.

Christian & Barton has had "no discussions or anything with him at all," says managing partner J. Edward Betts, who also is president of the Virginia Bar Association. Would the firm be interested? "I really haven't thought about it," Betts replies.

What about McCandlish Holton, which recently lost a top attorney when Tim Kaine became lieutenant governor? Nope.

"We have not had discussions with him," says Tom McCandlish, firm chairman. "But if he's moving into Patricia Cornwell's house, he's moving into my neighborhood." (Gilmore and his family are leasing the house.)

McCandlish would be "receptive to talk," he says.

How about Hunton & Williams? Are there plans to bring on Gilmore? Spokesman Bart Alder says he hasn't heard of any.

Nothing happening at McGuire Woods Battle & Boothe, says William Allcott, a firm spokesman. "There are no discussions with the former governor about joining the firm," Allcott says. But, he adds helpfully, "As you know, Gov. Allen was here before he was elected to the Senate."

So wouldn't Gilmore be an asset? "I really can't get into that," Allcott says. And if Gilmore calls? "We're not going to not return the call," he says, "but we're not seeking to have him come here."

Final stop, Troutman Sanders Mays & Valentine. Anybody in discussions with Gilmore?

A spokesman does not return an answer by press time. Interesting. — Jason Roop

Man Injures Hapless Verizon Worker

It's nothing new. People come out of Fan bars at 2 a.m. and find their illegally parked cars gone, whisked off by the city's efficient towing service. The confusion, howling and cursing that follows is just another ritual of city life.

But recently, one enraged man got out of hand. At 12:33 a.m. on Jan. 24, police say, a 34-year-old man assaulted a 32-year-old electrician who was working on the Verizon switching station at 2601 Stuart Ave.

He mistakenly believed the electrician was responsible for towing his car, which had been parked in the wide alleyway lot across from the building, says Christie Collins, spokeswoman for the city police. "He punched the Verizon guy and even stomped his lower leg, breaking the bones in his leg," she says. Alcohol was involved in the incident, the police report notes.

When the tow-truck driver, a 28-year-old man, showed up, the electrician's assailant threatened him but didn't attack, Collins says. Chad Eric Strayer, 34, was later arrested in connection with the assault.

One Fan resident wrote to Verizon about the brouhaha, concerned about similar incidents occurring again. A company official sent a reply saying that Verizon's new parking lot, scheduled to be completed in April, will be fenced and secured by a card-access gate.

The city had already approved those plans back in November 2000, along with the company's proposal to expand the building, says Roger York Jr., the secretary to the Board of Zoning Appeals. "It had neighborhood support," York says, as residents wanted to prevent people parking illegally and "doing things in cars they ought not to be doing — whatever that might be."

Of course, the wide alleyway between Stuart and Hanover avenues can't be secured and remains a popular parking place for late-night revelers. Tow-truck drivers, watch out. — Melissa Scott Sinclair

Coffee Shop Returns, Creditors in Tow

Java Outpost, the coffeehouse on Cary Street that was running in the red, is being revived — and repainted.

"I did not do these colors, honey," says new co-owner Sondra Grisafi, surveying the vibrant scarlet and orange walls. She stands on the sidewalk in a Mamma 'Zu T-shirt and ponders the alternatives. A metallic green or brown, maybe? Any change to let people know the new Wicked Redhead Cafe ain't the same place that left a bad taste in some people's mouths.

Former owner Ray Hockleutner left town in December — "skipped," says Grisafi — leaving a sign on the door saying "Gone to South America." The word on Cary Street is that he's actually in California.

But the news of his departure wasn't all bad for Grisafi and her husband, Michael, both of whom are creditors of Hockleutner's. She doesn't want to say how much money they were owed, but acknowledges that "we acquired the business as a result of a debt owed us."

They have a lot of work to do before opening the shop at 2928 W. Cary St., Grisafi says. The coffee equipment is there already, but she has to do a little cleaning and redecorating to give the place a different atmosphere, she says. At the moment, "it really isn't upscale," she says. "It's sort of early-college."

Dennis Halloran, an employee (and former owner) of the neighboring Carytown Books, is thrilled to have a coffee shop next door again. "In our book signings," he says, "we are often requested to do readings. Problem is, we don't have the floor space to do it." He and the Grisafis are planning joint events.

The Wicked Redhead will open sometime this week, Grisafi says, with initial hours of 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. She plans to offer discounts for ticket-holders at the neighboring Byrd Theater. The cafe will offer the usual sandwiches and snacks, but the desserts — especially the "big, gorgeous, luscious chocolate things," she says — will make the Wicked Redhead unique. "We'll have a ball baking in here."

But before the first batch of brownies can come out of the oven, the walls have to change. "I have to cool it down, because the floors are red and yellow. … It's just entirely too jittery." Jitters in a coffee shop? Unthinkable. — Melissa Scott Sinclair

Answered Prayers

Three times a day, six days a week, Mimi Weaver prays for the city of Richmond.

Recently, she has been praying for something else — the opportunity to keep praying. And, she says, her prayers have been answered.

Weaver and others will be able to continue their prayers thanks to what they say are necessary renovations at Richmond Hill, an ecumenical retreat center in Church Hill. The work is scheduled to begin in May.

As development director of Richmond Hill, Weaver is the lead fund-raiser in this $7 million campaign that she says will keep the former monastery open.

"Our ministry is necessary to the city, and the renovations are necessary for us to continue," Weaver says.

The challenge, she says, is to revive the dilapidated facilities while preserving their history. Part of doing so is by reintroducing several of the property's treasures that, over time, have been replaced.

The removal of the 35-foot barrel-vaulted chapel ceiling will unveil seven large, glorious stained-glass windows, Weaver says.

A lighted cupola, dating from 1811, will be visible from downtown, South Side, the river and I-95. Richmond Hill intends it to be a "beacon of hope" for the city.

Other new additions to the Richmond Hill facilities will include a bookstore, art and exercise room, and a hermitage in the garden for individual retreats.

Last renovated 75 years ago, the antiquated electrical and plumbing systems will be replaced, and new public bathrooms will be installed. The worn kitchen, dormitory rooms and entrance will receive a face-lift.

The Sisters of Visitation opened the Monte Maria Monastery in 1866 and maintained it until 1987, when a group of 15 Christians from seven denominations purchased the property and created Richmond Hill, a Christian-based spiritual center devoted to the ministry of the metropolitan area.

Richmond Hill has raised more than $3 million already, most of which has been through foundation grants. This is enough to begin the renovations,.

Weaver says although the renovations are the result of need to stay open, she hopes the improved facilities will attract new visitors and new programs will be offered that bring together area residents.

Although Richmond Hill attracts people from various religious backgrounds, all its visitors share a concern for and love of the city, Weaver says. — Connie Donnelly

Local Judge to Pick Best in Show

At a very distinguished and young-looking 70, Everett Dean's dream is about to come true. This weekend Dean will head to New York City to be this year's sole judge for the Best in Show category at the 126th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

The famous two-day festival takes place Feb. 11 and 12 at the Madison Square Garden Center.

The Best in Show category is, naturally, saved for last. On Tuesday night the spotlight will flash on seven champion finalists of varying breeds selected over two days spent judging more than 2,500 entrants. Then it's up to Dean to choose which dog will take home the coveted prize.

Dean, a native of Savannah, Ga., who still speaks with a tinge of that grand Southern drawl, has judged champion dog shows coast-to-coast for 27 years. Today, judging keeps him so busy, he doesn't have time to own a dog himself. Still, champion canines are his passion. It's why he never expected the excitement that would come from one phone call.

The show's chairman called Dean around 8 p.m. not long ago, he says, and asked if Dean wanted to judge the contest.

Dean, the epitome of politeness and poise, was floored. "I said, 'Hang on a minute, I've got to get myself together,'" he recalls.

Trudy Bryan, one of Dean's closest friends, and a champion-dog lover too, is going to the show just to see Dean.

She trusts Dean's eye for pedigree firsthand. Years ago Dean told her she had a champion on her hands "if his teeth come in right," she recalls. Sure enough, Bryan's black cocker spaniel, Brook Hill Barrister, or, Toby, for short, became a prized show dog. "Everett's the one who planted the seed," she praises.

Dean says he's not nervous in the least about messing up his dream — judges for Best in Show are asked to do it only once.

Don't expect to learn how Dean picks his "Best in Show" or who is runnerup. "I'll never tell," he says. — Brandon Walters


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