February 11, 2020 News & Features » Cover Story

Favorite

The Smooch 

Our annual Valentine’s issue where we show love to some of our favorite people, places and things in Richmond.

click to enlarge Virginia Commonwealth University pharmacy student and Miss America Camille Schrier

Virginia Commonwealth University pharmacy student and Miss America Camille Schrier

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Angelica Garcia
Musician

That Angelica Garcia is at once a star performer and supporting player is a prime example of the positive egalitarian ethos of the Richmond music scene. Her single “Jícama,” from her upcoming album “Cha Cha Palace” [Spacebomb] may have made President Barack Obama’s best of 2019 playlist, but she is still backup singing in friend’s bands like Piranha Rama and the Mikrowaves, or during Natalie Prass’ Tiny Desk Concert.

“Richmond is something special,” she says. “Everyone is so down to help each other. ‘Can you play this show with me? Sing in my band?’ It is easy to take that for granted, but I don’t see that much in other places.”

Her blazing singing and lyrical talent fueled her major label debut, “Medicine for Birds” [Warner Bros]. “I got all the experience, doing things on national and international scale. But I am a very hands-on artist. I want creative control of my projects, including artwork and marketing,” she explains.

Based on packaging and promotional photos, going independent was like going from poetic monochrome to a Technicolor embrace of her Mexican and Salvadoran heritage and East Los Angeles roots. “Cha Cha Palace,” releasing at the end of the month but available early at her Gallery 5 show on Feb. 18, is a full-on realization of liberation, with help from her local musical family, especially producer, Mikrowaves leader and Bio Ritmo bassist Eddie Prendergast.

“She’s bringing something so incredibly new and adventurous to the scene, it’s not like anyone else,” says Calvin Brown, pianist, bandleader and Garcia’s roommate. “She is also generous with her time and talent. I love hearing her.”


 

click to enlarge SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist

Agents of Change

On Feb. 3, the Virginia Museum of History & Culture set about re-creating a famous photo of Virginia suffragists from the 1915 Equal Suffrage League of Virginia, using a group of present-day women and leaders. Together they posed in front of the Washington Equestrian Monument on Capitol Square, situated around a 1909 Rambler 44 Touring Car loaned by collector Reggie Nash. Participants included notable Richmond folks such as Christy Coleman, Regina Boone, Tiffany Jana, Viola Baskerville, Chelsea Higgs Wise and Aurora Higgs and many others from around the state. We applaud these leaders for all they do to bring about equality and social justice. And if you’re curious about the original photo they re-created, Virginia Commonwealth University’s Ray Bonis once researched it and found that the 1915 photo was taken to “publicize a suffrage ‘photo-play,’ or silent film called ‘Your Girl and Mine,’” which was scheduled to be shown at the Colonial Theater in Richmond — this according to a university news story from last year.


 

click to enlarge SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist

Michael Smith
Manager at Laura Lee’s, 3410 Semmes Ave.

If you’ve stepped foot in the South Side gem Laura Lees for good grubbin’ then you’ve likely met manager Michael Smith. When not running around tending to folks, the fuzzy-faced charmer is a fixture at the host stand greeting diners with an infectious burst of cheer. Smith sets the vibe for good times and conversations guaranteed to induce sidesplitting laughs. See for yourself at one of its upcoming events: Check out Galentine’s Day drag brunch on Feb. 13 or a tasting and seminar that’s part of the De Maison Spring Vigneronne tour (details forthcoming). Smith adds that he’s got several wine-focused media projects on the horizon. Stay tuned.


 

click to enlarge SCOTT ELMQUIST/FILE
  • Scott Elmquist/File

“Spider Mites of Jesus: the Dirt Woman Documentary”
Jerry Williams, film director

The late legend Donnie Corker, aka Dirt Woman, was respected by many and continually startling to all. He was featured all the way back in Style Weekly’s 1998 Smooch issue. Since a red lip imprint was the transvestite’s trademark, let’s smack one on the cheek Richmond producer and director Jerry Williams for “Spider Mites of Jesus: the Dirt Woman Documentary.” This essential, entertaining and emotional bio of the infamous Oregon Hill-based transvestite has been showing first run at the Bowtie Cinemas at Movieland. Expect film clips of the Richmond of yesteryear, Corker family photos and interviews with dozens who knew Corker.


 

click to enlarge SCOTT ELMQUIST/FILE
  • Scott Elmquist/File

The Hop Craft Pizza & Beer
1600 W. Cary St.  

Already known and adored for killer specialty pies like the next-level Margherita- inspired Golden Girl and shit-kickin’, hot chicken wonder, Music City Miracle, the Hop changed the face of pizza in Richmond when it opened in 2018. The blend of American and Sicilian techniques turns out just-right homespun dough that can be prepared in a variety of different crust options including grandma and Sicilian styles baked in cast-iron pans and lighter, hand-tossed options. A gluten-friendly crust can be subbed on most pies and is incredible. It recently debuted brunch and serve up things as varied as vegan scrambles and Tex-Mex brunch bowls. Bonus, it can deliver a craft six-pack with your slices. Take your pick from 300 kinds.


 

click to enlarge SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist

Charles D. Willis
Executive director of United Communities Against Crime

Charles Willis never rests. He never rests because homicides keep happening and families need help. Willis, the executive director of United Communities Against Crime, drops everything when one happens and rushes to the family’ side. Once he finds out the survivors’ wishes, he organizes the vigil, works as a media liaison and coordinates with local police and faith leaders. On the day of the vigil he pulls up in his van, unloads his sound system and leads the prayer vigil. Some vigils have only a handful of people, many others reach into the hundreds – but they’re always heart-wrenching. Having grown up in Mosby Court, Willis knows firsthand the toll that violence takes on communities. Long before he became the director of the group, Willis assisted community activist and victims advocate Alicia Rasin in organizing the vigils. After Rasin died in 2015, Willis became the go-to person for victims’ advocacy in Richmond. If anybody deserves a kind-hearted smooch, it’s him.


 

click to enlarge SCOTT ELMQUIST/FILE
  • Scott Elmquist/File

Katie and Ted Ukrop
Quirk Hotel

Will we ever stop giving smooches to the Ukrops? This Valentine’s Day we land one on the cheeks of husband and wife Katie and Ted Ukrop for creating Richmond’s newest export — a hotel. March 1, the lobby doors will open on the new Quirk Charlottesville, a 100-room boutique art hotel on Main Street. Like the 74-room flagship on Richmond’s West Broad Street, the new hostelry plays off of historic buildings, in this case two 19th-century houses, plus a rear addition. Also expect a contemporary art gallery (opening March 5), restaurant and rooftop bar with sweeping views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, of course.




click to enlarge "Sweeney Todd" - TOM TOPINKA
  • Tom Topinka
  • "Sweeney Todd"
Our Theater Scene

For our city our size, Richmond has a surprisingly large and vibrant theater scene. Each year, Richmond’s professional theater companies stage roughly 50 locally produced works, running the gamut from blowout musicals with a $1 million budget like “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” at Virginia Repertory Theatre to sparse but powerful stagings like TheatreLab’s “Sweeney Todd” last season.

Not to knock the touring Broadway shows that come to the Altria Theater, but with such a rich theater culture in Richmond, you’re doing yourself a disservice if you aren’t seeing shows produced by local companies. We’re a city chockful of theater artists, some of whom we’ve snagged from larger theater markets because the quality of life is better.


 

click to enlarge SCOTT ELMQUIST/FILE
  • Scott Elmquist/File

Jamil D. Jasey
Jack-of-all-trades and poet

Yes, Richmond’s art scene is growing but it still takes a lot of hustle to get noticed. And one person we’ve noticed who is not lacking in the hustle department is Jamil Jasey, poet, DJ, creator and co-host of the weekly open mic Thursday Night Live at Nutty Buttery, host of the open mic night at the Pitts BBQ (every Wednesday), co-creator with Angel Grooms of Richmond Independent Arts Festival (May 2020), creator of Twisted Culture Art Festival (October 2020), founder of artistic coalition Divine Souls, co-founder with Real True Poet of DJ collective, Elite Class Productions — and that’s just a few, whew.

“The main thing right now is Thursday night open mic for the last year. It’s very eclectic and diverse,” Jasey says. “The Twisted Culture fest grew out of my birthday celebration in 2018 — and we made it a 12-hour festival. We’re at a few locations now, featuring everything from bluegrass to rock, hip-hop, R&B, gospel. Poets performing, comedians, visual artists.”

Jamil stays on local media about his events and he says the performance outlets have expanded since he started. He believes the city could use “a true arts commission,” noting that he’d like to see performance art included.

So, what’s his own philosophy that keeps him hustling in the name of creativity?

“Always stay humble, be open to criticism, and never stop learning,” he says.


 

click to enlarge SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist

Reery Kaewmanee
Manager, Mom’s Siam in Carytown

Forget “Everybody Loves Raymond.” When it comes to Mom’s Siam Thai restaurant in Carytown, the show is called “Everybody Loves Reery” (pronounced Ree-Ree). You’ll find the longtime manager working hard behind the bar but always wearing a smile with a kind word for regulars and new customers alike. That’s why we love her — she embodies the best kind of restaurant service: knowledgeable, friendly and hard working. She goes by her nickname because her real name, Usaporn, only made Americans laugh when they saw it on the ABC manager list, she says.

Kaewmanee, 41, grew up in a little town Prachin Buri, about an hour and a half east of Bangkok, where much of her family still lives. Having studied biotechnology, she worked in Bangkok for a company that tested imports and exports before coming to the U.S. in 2005, learning English and wanting to work with people. She initially came to eat at the restaurant, met Mom (the owner), and was immediately hired to start the following Monday.

“I love Richmond, we have a lot of good restaurants, people here are very nice and friendly, so many outdoor activities,” Kaewmanee says. “There are a lot of Thai people in Richmond, but everyone busy and have to work. They usually don’t have a lot of free time.” What little free time Kaewmanee has, she’s using to take English and anatomy classes and is thinking about future work in a medical field.

“But even if I get another job, I want to be here at Mom’s forever,” she says.



click to enlarge smooch_fying_squirrels.jpg
The Richmond Flying Squirrels

We can’t tell you how to nab the Flying Squirrels to give ‘em a smooch, but let’s love them anyway. While Richmond officials tied themselves in knots over whether or not — and if so, how to finance and build a new downtown arena in Navy Hill — our Single A baseball team acted like the pros they are by returning once again to the concrete bunker on Arthur Ashe Boulevard affectionately known at the Diamond. The season opens on April 16 versus the Bowie Baysox. Meanwhile, wheels are now rolling to have a new ballpark, shared by Virginia Commonwealth University, ready in spring 2024 on an adjacent Hermitage Road site. 


 

click to enlarge SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist

Outpost Richmond
4813 Forest Hill Ave.  

Across the Nickel Bridge, you’ll find what originally landed on denizens of the area as a curious concept: a bike shop and food market. Five years later, it’s outfitting Richmonders from top to toe clip. It’s also one of the only spots for folks to snag healthy groceries in the area. Shelves are stocked with local favorites like Blanchard’s coffee and Montana Gold Bread and a robust beer selection with mix-and-match singles, making it the perfect stop before a jaunt down to the river or Maymont. Outpost is also an unsuspecting hot spot for gifts. Some of the lesser-known wares include kitchen accouterments, local maker gifts and cards, cookbooks, and fresh flowers. You’re welcome. 


 

click to enlarge SCOTT ELMQUIST/FILE
  • Scott Elmquist/File

Todd Schall-Vess
Former manager of the Byrd Theatre

If you have any sense about you at all, you probably recognize the Byrd Theatre as one of the greatest, most breathtaking landmarks in Richmond. It’s had tough times over the years, and some feel like the Byrd might have actually closed its doors had it not been for the blood, sweat and tears of its former manager, Todd Schall-Vess, who was unceremoniously fired right around the December holidays without warning. Schall-Vess admitted he could be opinionated and rub people the wrong way, which seems to be what happened with the Byrd Theatre Foundation board, but few doubted his sincerity and commitment to the theater, which was like a home for him. For all his hard work, all the events he emceed while touting the glorious Byrd, we salute him with a farewell smooch.


 

click to enlarge Fuzzy Cactus co-owners Michael Cipollone and his wife, Patty Conway, Drew Schlegel and bar manager Paul Kirk stand inside their new restaurant and venue with the ’70s basement bar vibe at 221 W. Brookland Park Blvd. - SCOTT ELMQUIST/FILE
  • Scott Elmquist/File
  • Fuzzy Cactus co-owners Michael Cipollone and his wife, Patty Conway, Drew Schlegel and bar manager Paul Kirk stand inside their new restaurant and venue with the ’70s basement bar vibe at 221 W. Brookland Park Blvd.

Fuzzy Cactus
221 W. Brookland Park Blvd.

When Strange Matter closed, a part of Richmond punk history seemed to be ending and underground music fans were not pleased. Then around six months ago, Fuzzy Cactus, the new restaurant and retro-vibed venue on Brookland Park Boulevard, started picking up some of the slack with cool touring shows and local bands, solid food and cocktails, booked by local musician Michael Cipollone from the band Cruzer.

While former Strange Matter booker Mark Osborne is still actively booking shows at Wonderland (mostly metal and punk), and Poor Boys RVA has college indie stuff, Fuzzy Cactus offers a different vibe with eclectic rock and punk – you might see a girl rock group from New Zealand on a Wednesday, for example.

“I couldn’t fill those shoes [Strange Matter],” Cipollone says, “but it’s cool to have different places for bands to play and those pockets are kind of defined now.”

He adds that things are going well, Saturday nights at Fuzzy can be busy almost to capacity. “It’s always busy,” Cipollone says. “As far as booking, our name is out there more than it was six months ago. Better acts are trying to come through, we’re getting requests from larger booking agents.”

He adds that recent write-ups in Imbibe magazine, which brought more folks in for drinks, and at Travel.com have helped. “Any little blurb, we see an uptick in people,” he says. “We also try to stay on top of our social media [check its Facebook page].”

Hailing from Cincinnati, Cipollone has interesting and eclectic connections in the music business, as does his wife, Patty Conway, who has toured in high-profile bands.

For Valentine’s Day on Friday, Fuzzy Cactus will hold a ’60s sock-hop style party (wear your best dancing socks!) complete with the high school punch bowl, DJs Aaron Bushman and Eliza Childress, and ’60s girl group the Shangri-Lords.


 

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Adam Eubank and Lindsey Spurrier
Hair stylist and musician-rocker couple

Big smooch to this fab couple who many folks in the local music scene know: Adam Eubank, preferred hairstylist to local rockers and his bride-to-be, badass frontwoman and karaoke queen, Lindsey Spurrier (Hot Dolphin, the Shangri-Lords) are getting married in Las Vegas this April by an Elvis impersonator.

Eubank is known for his haircutting skills at JAK Salon at 400 N. Robinson St. and also donates his time to help with local causes, including more than a decade of volunteer styling for the models for Virginia Commonwealth University’s Fashion Week and helping with the World Pediatric Project fundraiser at Main Street Station. He credits his mentor Ken Langston, who got JAK Salon involved with the volunteer opportunities.

“We joke that Adam is the actual mayor of Richmond because everyone knows him, wherever we go,” Lindsey says as her little dog Miley yowls her approval.

So how did this creative pair make their love connection?

“I went and saw her band, Hot Dolphin, and she’s such a great singer, I kind of fell in love with her onstage, “ Eubank says. “This summer, we’ll have been together four years.” Spurrier respects her fiancé’s creative abilities, too.

“Adam is an artist in every sense: with hair, music, painting. And he gets to be creative every day,” Lindsay says.

“Which is good, because now we have a dog daughter to support.”

You can also catch Lindsey’s band, the Shangri-Lords, which plays ’60s girl-group-style songs, at Fuzzy Cactus this Friday for Valentine’s Day.


 

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Richmond Animal Care and Control and #TeamTommie
1600 Chamberlayne Ave. No. 4806

Whether you’ve happened upon a stray that you have no idea what to do with, reported an animal in a sketchy situation or adopted a cleverly named fur baby, you know these are good folks. Last year, they made headlines while tending to Tommie the pit bull, who succumbed to injuries sustained after a horrific attack. They recently pre-sold more than 600 #TeamTommie license plates and raised over $100,000 to help animal shelters across Virginia in honor of the late pup. In addition to the more high-profile work, they maintain several social media pages that highlight things as varied as possum myths and heartwarming adoption stories. Sloppy kisses are in order.


 

click to enlarge SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist

Osita Ireogbu and Eva Colen
The moms on Mayor Stoney’s senior policy advising team

Eva Colen and Osita Iroegbu are the fresh-faced-moms of the Levar Stoney administration’s senior policy advising team, both with children younger than 3.

Colen is senior policy advisor for youth initiatives and has focused efforts on “out of school time” working with community organizations and philanthropic partners to make sure every Richmond Public School elementary and middle schooler has access to a quality afterschool program.

“I’m most proud of the work our team has done to strengthen our relationship with Richmond Public Schools, universalize access to full-service afterschool programs at all RPS elementary and middle schools, and lay the groundwork for the new Office of Children and Families,” Colen says.

In Stoney’s third annual state of the city speech in late January he announced that as of that week, the latter goal had been accomplished with “access to a quality afterschool program, either on-site or nearby.”

Iroegbu is senior policy advisor for community engagement and has worked diligently to organize stakeholders to help formulate the city’s Eviction Diversion Program and Eviction Task Force. She has also been active in helping assemble the Shockoe Alliance and raise awareness on maternal and infant health disparities in communities of color through initiatives such as Black Breastfeeding Week, which Stoney proclaimed in August 2018.


 

click to enlarge SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist

Pete Leblanc
Producer and Programming Director, the Dark Room at the Hof

Everything is very busy. Up-and-coming producer Peter Leblanc was working in the Hof kitchen when he realized the potential in the unused space that people traipsed past on their way to the popular rooftop bar. He organized the first event in spring 2018.

“There was no stage or sound system then,” he says. “The walls were white, there was a folding table in the corner and the drink choices were shots or canned beer.”

A little less than two years later, it is one of the most distinctive venues in town, a jewellike space with a full bar, great acoustics, every-crayon-in-the-box lighting and a rotating schedule featuring jazz, country, hip-hop and spoken word.

Leblanc’s is involved on every level, from booking the bands to collecting cash at the door, adjusting the sound balance and standing on a chair to reposition a light. And, as if seven nights a week were not enough, he’s branched out to booking Poor Boy’s venerable performance space re-branded as the Voodoo Room, with a Wednesday Jazz Series and some higher profile Saturday night events, all under his personal BariPete brand. The name refers to baritone sax, his main performing instrument after graduating with a degree in jazz studies from the Hartt School of music in Connecticut.

While playing for three years on cruise ships, his parents moved to Ashland. He came south originally to catch up with his belongings.

“It is so different from other places I’ve lived. The scene is so supportive, everyone goes to each other’s gigs,” Leblanc says, “and there is so much history here.”e’s adding to that history now, eight days a week.


 

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Camille Schrier
Miss America

Camille Schrier is breaking a lot of stereotypes at 24 years old.

The Virginia Commonwealth University pharmacy student and Richmond-certified administrator of naloxone — the opioid overdose reversal medication — recently won the title of Miss America with a bang of colorful foam as she performed a science experiment for the talent portion of the competition.

Now, the Pennsylvania transplant will tour the country for more than 300 days this year advocating a platform of drug-safety, body positivity and the power of femininity in science, technology, engineering and mathematics as she takes the year off from her doctoral studies. She says she used to drive every day on Interstate 95 for 20 minutes to get to school.

“Now I’m in a different place almost every day,” Schrier explains over the phone while on tour away from her home near Stony Point Fashion Park. “I’m a very self-proclaimed home-body, so quite honestly it’s been a very different thing for me to adapt to — I’m very routine-oriented. I like knowing my schedule, I like knowing where I’m going to be and doing the same thing kind of every day.”

She says the experience of zipping up and down the coasts has pushed her out of her comfort zone, but that she’s grateful for the “once in a lifetime opportunity.”

“I’d never want to travel this much for my entire life,” Schrier says.

Schrier graduated with honors from Virginia Tech with degrees in biochemistry and systems biology in 2018 before beginning her doctorate in pharmacy at VCU last year. She also lives with Ehlers Danlos syndrome, an inherited disorder affecting connective tissues such as the skin, joints and blood vessels. with which she was diagnosed at 11. Three years later, Schrier began competing in pageants as a creative outlet for her science-interested side.

“People sometimes don’t think you can be glamorous and be a scientist, too,” Schrier says. “Well, I like makeup but I also like chemicals, so why do you have to choose? … It’s more than just gender, it’s about representing femininity in science, too.”

Schrier knows about body image issues having previously battled an eating disorder yet she chose to compete in Miss America 2020 because of the competition’s redirection from physical appearance, and elimination of the swimsuit competition, to the social impact where she could focus on her Mind Your Meds platform.

Nonetheless, the interview portion of the competition was still scary, she says.

“What a lot of people don’t necessarily understand that we have a 10-minute, in-person interview with a panel of judges before we go on stage that night when you see it on TV,” she explains. “It’s stressful and especially in an interview for something like Miss America it’s sometimes very political, so you really have to know yourself and have your opinions.”

The interview was the most challenging but rewarding aspect of preparing for the competition, in part because it’s a trial run for real life: “for your career, for all the things you’re going to do in the future.”

Schrier says she became interested in science at an early age, often accompanying her mom — a nurse — to the pharmacy and learning about frequency of doses and what is in each medication. After completion of her pharmacy degree, Schrier says she’d like to work in the pharmaceutical industry in a business development role.

“Seeing the way clinical knowledge could be applied to pharmaceutical business was really appealing to me, and that’s why I wanted to go to pharmacy school,” she says. “Now VCU has been the most supportive part of being Miss America — so, gosh am I excited to come back.”


 

click to enlarge SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist

Soul ‘n Vinegar at VCU’s ICA

Previously, catching up with Michelle Parrish to give the restaurateur and caterer a smooch required a trip to 2833 R St. on Church Hill. But recently, the proprietor of Soul ‘n Vinegar has spread her love and talent for freshly prepared wraps, salads and sandwiches to the Abby Moore Café at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Institute for Contemporary Art. Kudos to Parrish and the culinary curators at the ICA for melding a locally owned small business, healthful dining options and insightful and compelling new art with the architecturally thrilling spaces of the Steven Holl Architects-designed cultural destination at West Broad and Belvidere.


 

click to enlarge SARAH KING
  • Sarah King

City’s Pothole Team

A total of 10 city employees in the Department of Public Works are responsible for a significant chunk of what Mayor Levar Stoney considers the “blocking and tackling” of city governance — filling the potholes.

Following a $16.2 million investment last year in the state of the streets, the dedicated team of less than a dozen people filled 34,000 potholes. Since 2017, the city workers have filled 84,000 potholes to compliment more than 355 lane miles of repaving, 4,700 repaired alleys and 30 miles of new sidewalks. Thank you for your service.


 

click to enlarge Pho Tay Do - ASH DANIEL/FILE
  • Ash Daniel/FIle
  • Pho Tay Do

Little Vietnam on Horsepen

OK, OK, so it doesn’t have an official name, and isn’t strictly Vietnamese in its offerings. But travel to Horsepen Road just south of Broad Street and you’ll find a group of postwar houses that now serve as eateries and markets.

At Pho Tay Do, the odd wooden cutouts of buxom ladies — including the movie poster image from “Erin Brockovich” — are as much of a draw as the pho. The walk-up Catina Bahn Mi offers several tasty takes on the Vietnamese sandwich: Our favorite is the No. 12, a mix of shredded and grilled pork. And, if you’re looking for Asian delights to take home, Tan A is one of the largest international markets around.

Other dining experiences include Full Kee, one of the region’s few dim sum houses, and the aptly named eateries Original Mexican Restaurant, Queen Tea New Orleans Seafood and Lebanese Bakery. If you’re itching for a Bourdain-esque adventure, Little Vietnam has you covered.

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