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In The Beginning: Lynn Allison & The Corner Pocket
When The Corner Pocket opened in New Town, it was the first and only business here. “We were in the middle of a big field,” says owner Lynn Allison. “The SunTrust building was up, but it wasn’t finished, so there was nothing here except big fields and a muddy road—it wasn’t even paved when we moved in.” The parking lot was paved, but the road was not. “They didn’t have streetlights, so they had stadium lights at the end of the street, we’d have to go crank them at night,” Lynn says. That was August of 2003—now, everyone who enters New Town on Courthouse Street (now paved) passes The Corner Pocket’s green-and-gold sign. But how many people know The Corner Pocket’s story before it came to New Town?
Lynn, raised in Richmond, first moved to Williamsburg to double major in History and Psychology at William and Mary. “History is what I loved,” says Lynn, “and I did the Psychology because…for a good portion of high school and college I thought I wanted to go into dance therapy, and I knew that would be a graduate degree.” And she’d get that graduate degree, eventually, but first she lived and worked in Williamsburg for a bit longer. “I worked at the Golden Horseshoe, the Williamsburg Inn, and I bartended at the Trellis,” says Lynn. Ten years passed before she left to get her MBA from the University of Texas in Austin, where she scored one of the coolest gigs a grad student can hope for: a job at Austin City Limits.
While Lynn was there, performers like Willie Nelson, Steve Earle, Merle Haggard, Fats Domino, Arlo Guthrie, and Chet Atkins would show up, rehearse for a week, and perform. Clearly, their coolness rubbed off on Lynn, because she came back to Richmond—MBA in hand—with an idea 35 years ahead of its time, at least on the East Coast. She wanted to open a microbrewery. “I had always loved beer and history, and I wanted to come to Richmond and renovate an old brewery there,” says Lynn. “But back then, nobody on the East Coast knew what I was talking about.” After a year of trying, she switched gears. “My uncle…had a company in Richmond that sold pool tables, [and] he knew that people were opening these pool rooms,” says Lynn. She was hesitant at first—she says she didn’t know anything about pool—but she thought the idea would work in Williamsburg, where she still had a townhouse. The plan was to get it up and running, then sell it after a few years.
The Corner Pocket turned 28 years old on June 12; the regulars followed when it moved from Williamsburg Crossing to New Town in 2003. “We’ve done lots of birthdays, wedding receptions, funeral receptions…we’ve done every kind of life passage there is,” says Lynn. “Baby showers, graduations, wakes…[We] experience lots of love and joy with the community.” Some people come for the food (the Blackened Salmon BLT is a particular recommendation), some for the pool tables, and some for the memories. “We have one couple whose first date was on Valentine’s Day, so now every Valentine’s Day they come back,” says Lynn, “and now they’re bringing their kids with them for their Valentine’s celebration.” The Corner Pocket has suffered from pandemic-related loss of business, as many others have, but Lynn hopes that it will continue as a community staple—a piece of New Town’s, and Williamsburg’s, history—long after she (eventually, finally) retires.
Brought to you by New Town Williamsburg--stay informed, stay safe, support local business. Kit Arbuckle reporting for the New Town Commercial Association (edition 20.10)
Engineering + Service = Us: Timothy Mills & TAM Consultants
These are not the engineers you’re thinking of. They are not the socially stunted academics of The Big Bang Theory; nor are they sarcastic, snide, and superior Dilbert from Scott Adams’ famed comic. These are the service-oriented, community-minded engineers of TAM Consultants. The firm’s founder, Timothy Mills, P.E., has been serving the Hampton Roads area for 30 years. “We’re licensed in North and South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania,” says Tim, “but the bulk of what we do is in southeast Virginia.”
What makes TAM Consultants different from the stereotypical engineer is inherent to their work: “We’re a fairly small company…so everybody who works for us has got to be clientfacing,” says Tim, “and be ready to sit in front of a client and explain complex, technical matters in a way that laypeople can understand.” And their clients range wildly, from private homeowners to city, county, state, and federal governments—fire stations, hospitals, and manufacturers. The scope of what they do for their clients also ranges wildly. “We provide engineering services, what we like to say, for the built environment,” says Tim. “We work on everything from helping somebody with a broken foundation to working on project teams with several contractors and owners developing four hundred or five hundred million-dollar hospital projects.”
TAM Consultants has (normally) operated from a second-floor office on the corner of New Town Avenue and Discovery Park Boulevard for 15 years; since the shutdown, Tim and his team have mostly been working from home. Because their work is so tied to the construction industry—an essential business—their work has changed only due to individual clients’ needs. Busch Gardens, for instance, has halted all their projects, but repair design for the James City County rec center goes on. “We’ve had a lot of meetings [with contractors] where we’re standing six feet apart, wearing a mask,” says Tim. Other current projects include the Cherry Point Marine Corps base in North Carolina, Dominion Energy in Richmond, various parking deck renovations, and Property Condition Assessments (the commercial property equivalent of a before-sale home inspection).
While Tim takes pride in the work he and his team does, and how they serve their clients and community, there is a second facet of TAM Consultants that he believes sets them apart. “I think TAM Consultants, as an organization, as a business, is good for our people,” says Tim, speaking of his staff. “It’s a good team. It’s a place for them to earn a living, support their family…my mission is really to support them and help them grow professionally, to allow them to thrive in life.” Tim speaks partly from experience—he moved to Williamsburg from his native New York to provide a better environment for his family back in 1990, and worked at three different consulting firms before opening his own in 2001. He continues to (literally) help build Hampton Roads into a place that attracts transplants from New York and California, while simultaneously investing in the community that makes it feel like home.
Brought to you by New Town Williamsburg—stay home, stay safe, support local business. Kit Arbuckle reporting for the New Town Commercial Association (edition 20.9)
Defined by Community
How does a Milwaukee native find her way to Williamsburg? As with many good stories, it involves a boy. “I was actually dating a guy who ended up getting a scholarship to William & Mary to get his MBA,” says Bridgit Kin-Charlton, who had just graduated from University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. “I really had no ties, I’ve always been a free spirit, love travel and so on.” The relationship with the boy didn’t last, but Bridgit’s relationship with Williamsburg did.
Bridgit worked as Kingsmill Resort’s fitness director for seven years, which inspired and motivated her to open her own business. “When I worked there…there was such a high, gold-level of standard, five-star standard of our expectations,” says Bridgit. “I went through so much customer service training, management training, I feel like I was really groomed well there.” And two of her clients at the time were Mike Youngblood and Leslynn Twiddy, of Twiddy Realty—when she consulted them in 2005, they introduced her to a nascent New Town.
Bridgit’s business, Bdefined, is a boutique fitness center; it has no open gym space, and no group exercise classes. Instead, as Bridgit says, “It’s exclusively personal training—you’re coming in specifically to meet with your trainer…it’s very customized, very personalized.” And while this means Bridgit and her staff don’t need as much room as a more traditional gym, spending Bdefined’s first ten years in the SunTrust building proved challenging in other ways. “Coming from Milwaukee, it was very common to have a fitness center in a high-rise building,” says Bridgit, “but I don’t think that, at the time, it was quite common around here.” People were a little nervous to poke their head in, or thought that Bdefined was corporate wellness for SunTrust. Despite the somewhat off-putting location, Bridgit and Bdefined quickly found their niche: women’s health and Baby Boomers.
This is not to say that Bdefined only takes on female clients aged 50 to 75—Bridgit reports that their clients’ age range stretch between 8 and 97, and thirty to forty percent of her clients are male—but younger clients generally start with Bdefined because of a parent or grandparent. “When I built my business, and put together my business model, it really did center itself around who is in Williamsburg, and what does the community need,” says Bridgit. She saw a large community of retired folks who understood and valued the importance of exercise: “they love to golf, they love to play tennis, they love to walk, they love to swim, it’s always been a very active community,” she says. With her current space on Center Street, right across from Sullivan Square—gutted and redesigned to Bridgit’s specifications—Bridgit and her team continue to serve the Williamsburg community with virtual and outdoor training sessions. If you’ve ever passed by Sullivan Square and seen groups of two and three exercising, you’ve probably seen Bdefined’s mission at work.
Brought to you by New Town Williamsburg—stay home, stay safe, support local business. Kit Arbuckle reporting for the New Town Commercial Association (edition 20.8)
Virginia’s Premiere Indoor Axe Throwing Lounge: Nikki Montero & Axe Republic
In a lot of ways, axe throwing is like bowling. Your group has its own lane, with an attendant to get you started; all the equipment is kept at the venue, so you only need arrive in the correct attire; league nights are on Wednesdays; and your time there is as much about food, drink, and company as it is about competitiveness. At least, that’s the case at Axe Republic, on the corner across from Buffalo Wild Wings. “A lot of the places that I researched, they were more bare bones axe throwing, so a very industrial feel,” says owner Nikki Montero. Many axe throwing venues can’t compare to Axe Republic’s menu of build-your-own hot dogs, loaded tater tots, pulled pork barbecue sliders, onion rings, french fries, and more. A partnership with Virginia Beer Company and a Richmond cidery doesn’t hurt, either.
But don’t be fooled—Nikki, a registered nurse and former military wife, has her priorities straight. “I made sure that safety is the number one priority in Axe Republic, and then fun,” she says, “and the way that I did that is I expanded my time from [the standard] hour to 75 minutes…and each lane has an axepert.” For the first 10-15 minutes, the axepert can train customers on the safety guidelines, and let them get comfortable throwing the axe while the axepert gives pointers on how to throw it correctly. “They’re always there, with you, to help you, and help you to get better,” says Nikki. Often, even if they’ve never thrown an axe before in their lives, customers will want to stay after the 75 minutes—and if Nikki has the time and space to accommodate them, she will.
Though Axe Republic only opened six months ago (October 25), Nikki already has stories. Last winter, a snowstorm came through and shut everything down. “Everybody was closing, and this one couple, this young couple,” says Nikki, “I think it was their seventh wedding anniversary…and they had some young children, and their parents were taking care of their kids for the first time, so it was this huge deal to be able to finally get out and celebrate.” But everywhere was closed, and Axe Republic was closing early as a precaution. “I said, ‘Oh I’m sorry, we’re getting ready to close,’ and you could just see the look on their face of disappointment.” Nikki and her staff ended up letting them in—they found out what the couple’s wedding song was, played it for them, dimmed the lights, and reportedly had a great time.
Nikki’s passion for being with people—and encouraging them to be with each other—has already had a positive impact in the months since Axe Republic opened. One way to support Axe Republic is through Parkway Printshop’s Here for Good campaign (parkwayprintshop.com/here-for-good), in which other New Town businesses are also participating. The best way, however, is to go throw an axe when it’s safe to do so. As Nikki says, “I know that the community’s…gonna be ready for something to release all this pent-up frustration that they have and get back to that place of laughing, and being with other people.”
Brought to you by New Town Williamsburg—stay home, stay safe, support local business. Kit Arbuckle reporting for the New Town Commercial Association (edition 20.7)
“I just turn on a dime and go”: Rosa Mann & The Ivy Trellis
Rosa Mann is no stranger to extraordinary circumstances. At three years old, she fled Cuba with her mother: “Like all good Cuban refugees, you go to Miami,” says Rosa, “And like a lot of Cuban refugees, you stay there until your family’s reunited.” Her older sisters had gone before, as part of Operation Peter Pan—her dad followed later. “We actually came March 12, and I remember because it’s the day I opened my store, too, and it’s my parents’ wedding anniversary.” Once reunited, Rosa’s family spent a year in New Jersey; by the time Rosa was five or six, they were in Virginia, and she’s lived in Virginia ever since.
The daughter of a professor (her mom) and an engineer (her dad), Rosa earned a degree in teaching. She had lots of different jobs before, inspired by her namesake and godmother, she decided to open her own shop: The Ivy Trellis. “My store was always going to be…a little boutique for children’s clothing,” Rosa says. “My daughter was about five when I opened the store, and I just happened to be redoing her bedroom right before I started ordering inventory, and I could not find anything I liked—I mean, nothing, no window treatments, no bedding, accessories.” She “turned on a dime,” and The Ivy Trellis went from being a children’s boutique to home décor. It opened in Farmville in 1994—but there were more turns to come.
Rosa had a store website as early as 2005; by 2010, she and her husband were avid sailors, driving hours every weekend to Deltaville (where the Rappahannock empties into the Chesapeake Bay) and back. “I just decided, gosh, I’d really like to have more time to do that…one day when we were coming home from Deltaville, I said, I think I’m gonna close the store, just do online for a while, and just go sailing.” So The Ivy Trellis was online only for eight years. Before long, though, Rosa started missing her people, “my Trellis girls, women that have been with me, literally, some for fifteen years.” This is where Williamsburg comes in — Rosa and her husband had bought a timeshare in the nineties, before The Ivy Trellis opened, and liked to visit once or twice a year. After spending a weekend with friends who had just bought a home in New Town, “we put the house on the market like, two days later,” says Rosa. “We don’t wait. Life’s too short. You make a decision, you go with it.”
And so The Ivy Trellis reopened as a brick-and-mortar store—first in Lightfoot Crossing in April 2018, and again in New Town in 2019. All told, Rosa and her store have been in business for twenty-six years. But once again, though she has her website (trellisgifts.com) to fall back on, Rosa misses her people. “I have always told all the girls that have worked for me that I want people to feel like when they come in here, they’re coming because we invited them and we’re hosting a little cocktail party in the back,” she says. The party’s on hold for now, but Rosa is optimistic, and waiting for the day it can (safely!) resume.
Brought to you by New Town Williamsburg—stay home, stay safe, support local business. Kit Arbuckle reporting for the New Town Commercial Association (edition 20.6)
Where Everybody Knows Your Name: Jacx & Eric Ramos, Michael Jeo, and Center Street Grill
Center Street Grill will celebrate its fifteenth birthday on November 1 this year, making it the same age as Jacx Ramos’ daughter. “We opened on November 1, 2005 because my mother-in-law was at that point alive and did not like the idea of opening on Halloween,” says Jacx (short for Jacqueline), speaking of the tiny-but-mighty Lolinda Ramos. “This happened and this started just because they [Lolinda and her son, Eric] enjoyed good things and they wanted to take care of people in the right way.”
When Jacx, her husband Eric, and their friend and co-owner Michael Jeo moved down from Washington, D.C., New Town was just taking its first hesitant steps forward. “Eric and I both lost our fathers,” says Jacx. “We wanted a place where we could start a family.” Their friend Anne Carroll Bull asked them to come down and help her run A. Carroll’s Bistro, “and that’s when we said, ‘Well, we’re not going to Roanoke [her hometown] and we’re not going to Hawaii [Eric’s home state], so let’s try this!’” Eric eventually bought space in the third structure ever built in New Town, and Center Street Grill’s familiar yellow sign has hung there ever since.
Jacx’s response to the question “What do you love most about the restaurant?” is immediate and wistful: the people. “We’ve worked in two restaurants in Williamsburg since we moved here, and a lot of our regulars came here from A. Carroll’s,” she says. And though she still has native Williamsburg customers who say it’s their first time in, Center Street Grill is characterized by its regulars and its personal touch (and the excellent food, of course). “We don’t work nine to five, we live with these people,” says Jacx. “If they’re having babies, you’re at the hospital; if they’re losing relatives, you’re at the funerals.” And that affectionate commitment goes both ways—Jacx has been getting texts from her laid-off staff asking when they can come back, and some “stupid and ridiculous” friends getting takeout have left $50 tips on a $200 check. “In 2009, when the recession hit, our bar kept us alive…because [customers] needed that human contact,” says Jacx. Now, with human contact entirely unsafe, the friends and regulars of Center Street Grill have stepped up to repay the hospitality.
This is not to say Center Street Grill—or any New Town business—is out of the woods. Jacx, Eric, and Michael have been running takeout with the help of the Ramos’ seventeen-year-old son, who became their pantry chef and started the delivery service for the restaurant when robbed of his final semester at Lafayette. However, Jacx is ultimately optimistic. “It’s just been the four of us, because there’s no money to pay anybody,” she says. “And it’s been great, it’s been like a family stepping up and getting together and doing what needs to be done.”
Brought to you by New Town Williamsburg—stay home, stay safe, support local business. Kit Arbuckle reporting for the New Town Commercial Association (edition 20.5)
This Is Home: Tina Crowe & Sweet Tea Williamsburg
“I was born in Williamsburg, I was raised in Williamsburg, and I never left,” says Tina Crowe, owner of the boutique Sweet Tea on Main Street. She remembers Williamsburg in the eighties, when Lafayette was the only high school around and the best word to describe the town was “rural”. Her dad owned a convenience store that she describes as a kind of family-run 7-11, which he later developed into a strip center. “Our entire family—that’s what we did,” says Tina, “that’s what we knew, that’s what was ingrained in me.” And so, before she was even born, foundations were built for her of hard work, small business, community, and Williamsburg. “I definitely miss some of the small-town charm from when I grew up,” says Tina, “but I also like not having to travel to Newport News or Richmond to shop or to get decent food.”
Looking to get back to the family business atmosphere after her divorce, Tina opened Life is Good Williamsburg in 2016. “I love Life is Good, I love their products,” says Tina. Unfortunately, trying to maintain an entire store of it proved to be very challenging, especially when half the customers who walked in didn’t know what Life is Good was. “You wouldn’t believe how many people [thought] it was an LG store,” says Tina—meaning LG the multinational electronics company, instead of an apparel and accessories retailer that donates 10% of its net profits to the Life is Good Kids Foundation. “A lot of the products that I currently carry in the shop, I carried when I was Life is Good,” says Tina—but she found that people weren’t coming in because they thought she only sold Life is Good products. Though the popularity of Life is Good has increased in Williamsburg since her opening, it simply wasn’t enough—so Tina rebranded as Sweet Tea.
Make no mistake, many of Sweet Tea’s offerings are the same products Tina carried when she was Life is Good—she wasn’t a franchise, after all—but her biggest addition, as a self-proclaimed dress junkie, was fashion. Most of her products, clothing included, “either give back to various organizations, or they’re somewhat local, and I try to stay primarily with that theme,” says Tina. “I try to find products that have stories behind them, and that’s important to me, because that’s how I started off with Life is Good.” Equally important to Tina is, as she learned early in life, to give back to her own community: Sweet Tea did a huge clothing drive for House of Mercy and FISH this past February, in which customers donated over 15,000 pieces of clothing. Tina credits her customer base for the success, but Sweet Tea’s role as a rallying point should not be underestimated.
During the current mandated storefront closure, Tina has taken to social media—Sweet Tea Williamsburg has Facebook and Instagram pages through which folks can purchase anything she has in the shop. In addition to contact-free curbside pickup and limited delivery, “I’ve also started doing things like care packages and shipping,” says Tina. But with Sweet Tea closed for a full month now, Tina has rediscovered what she loves most about the shop: her customers.
Brought to you by New Town Williamsburg—stay home, stay safe, support local business. Kit Arbuckle reporting for the New Town Commercial Association (edition 20.4)
Family Founded Fitness: Michelle Midnight & CrossFit 1607
“We met with the owner of Iron-Bound [Gym] and was like, ‘hey, we want to start our own business’…and he was like, ‘well, I hate CrossFit, but I really like you guys,’ so he rented us space within Iron-Bound and that’s how we started.” That’s how Michelle Midnight describes the founding of CrossFit 1607, which she co-owns with her husband, Matt, and Matt’s brother Garrett. The Midnights’ “box” (CrossFit jargon for “gym”) is approaching its eight-year anniversary, and it’s been at its current Casey Boulevard location for about half that time.
It was a natural progression for Matt and Garrett, both Williamsburg natives and earners of exercise and nutrition degrees from Virginia Tech. “Matt from the get-go…knew he always wanted to open his own gym,” says Michelle. He initially tried the physical therapy route, but disliked the medical model: “he wanted to actually work with the person to get them to the level of performance where they wanted, not just what the doctors or health insurance companies deemed as [dischargeable],” says Michelle. She pursued degrees in school psychology at William &Mary and UNC Chapel Hill, and entered that field full-time—but fitness has long been part of her life, too. Michelle taught group fitness part-time for at least ten years before CrossFit 1607’s founding.
So, why CrossFit? “Matt has a lot of injuries that he has to deal with, and running was really bothering him,” says Michelle. “We found CrossFit, and…for him, it was a way that he could work out that didn’t aggravate his injuries, and for me…I saw a lot more effective results doing these workouts than I had doing my group fitness stuff.” CrossFit itself is a methodology of working out that combines weighted movements, gymnastic movements—which are body weight exercises like sit-ups or push-ups—and cardio movements together, to create a highly effective form of exercise. “We are very much family-oriented gym, [and] we believe CrossFit is for everybody,” says Michelle. She’s not exaggerating; their kids’ classes start at preschool, and Matt works on strength and conditioning with middle- and high-school-aged club teams.
In fact, Matt’s work with individual athletes and teams is a part of CrossFit 1607 that Michelle wishes more people knew about. “I don’t think people realize that we also do other services other than CrossFit,” she says. “We do personal training, [and] we do the sports and conditioning side,” along with nutrition coaching and a retail area. They just had a kids’ hockey team in Newport News sign up for conditioning (conducted via Zoom). “We get a lot of our revenue from in-person services that we cannot offer right now,” says Michelle, so any use of the services they can provide online helps them out.
CrossFit 1607 is adapting in many of the ways other gyms are—live Zoom classes, on-demand video—but they are also putting their ideology in practice. This includes online trivia nights and kids’ classes free to the community through Zoom. “I personally each week either call or text every single member to see how they are, to see if they need anything,” says Michelle. “We call it—and it’s so cliché—but we call it our 1607 Family, and it truly is.”
Brought to you by New Town Williamsburg—stay home, stay safe, support local business. Kit Arbuckle reporting for the New Town Commercial Association (edition 20.3)
Bill Cogan and Cogan’s Deli & Sports Pub
The College of William and Mary recruited Bill Cogan, a native of suburban New York, to play lacrosse for them in the seventies. Bill says he “loved the town, worked in a number of restaurant positions,” and what started as a college job waiting tables at Chowning’s Tavern turned into three decades training, experience, and service in Williamsburg’s restaurants, including Le Yaca and Williamsburg Lodge. In August of 2011, Bill bought the Short Stop Market & Deli and started working for himself, and Cogan’s Deli & Sports Pub quickly became a neighborhood staple. Bill kept Short Stop’s sandwiches, but added a bar, four more TVs, and a pub menu of his own creation. Shirley Vermillion, an early customer and founder of the 2nd Sundays Art and Music Festival in Merchant Square, suggested Bill add live music. “I never thought that I would see five-piece bands playing in here because we’re so small, but it actually works,” says Bill. “Our most popular bands,” all of them local, “are Blind and Dirty, The Michael Clark Band, Skinner Box, DOG Street Boys.”
However, despite Cogan’s fun atmosphere, superior food quality, and community investment, COVID-19 safety measures hit them hard: “We’re hanging on by a thread,” says Bill. They’ve shortened their hours to 11:30 am-5:00 pm, because the happy hour business of last month has (for obvious reasons) dried up. “What broke my heart this year was cancelling St. Patrick’s Day,” says Bill. “March Madness was a big loss for us this year as well.” Sales figures are down to 10% of what they were doing last month. “I love my staff, and I want to keep giving them hours where I can,” Bill says, “but if something doesn’t change in the short term, we’re in trouble, just like everybody else.”
Cogan’s is currently open Monday through Saturday for carry-out and delivery. Delivery is free for New Town residents, who also get 15% off everything except alcoholic beverages. You can call in your order, or visit cogansdeli.com and click the “Order Online” option in the upper right corner. And there is a bit of good news—Cogan’s will deliver alcoholic beverages starting Friday, April 10. According to Bill, one thing that sets Cogan’s apart is their “huge variety of bottled beers, and I’ve been told by numerous people that it’s the coldest beer in town… we have a beer cave here where you can buy six-packs and twelve-packs and eighteen-packs.” They also sell wine and cocktails—no one is suggesting overindulgence, but perhaps keep Cogan’s in mind the next time you put drinks on the shopping list.
Brought to you by New Town Williamsburg—stay home, stay safe, support local business. Kit Arbuckle reporting for the New Town Commercial Association (edition 20.2)
Roxy By The Water: Amanda Wilbourne & Nautical Dog
“I was twenty years old and had no clue what I was doing,” says Amanda Wilbourne. She did, however, have a corgi named Roxy. She was Amanda Wilbourne’s first dog as an adult, and Amanda loved her. “I would always try to find my cute little pet stores and stuff for her,” says Amanda, “to buy stuff because I was so obsessed with her.” Until, one day, with retail experience and a supportive boyfriend (now husband) at her disposal, Amanda created her own.
Nautical Dog, Amanda’s pet supply store, originally opened in 2006 on the outskirts of Mattaponi, where Amanda’s parents lived at the time. Though Nautical Dog retains its origins in its name, it’s been a New Town business for over eleven years. “We just loved the area,” says Amanda, who grew up near Richmond. The store, which carries dog and cat products, specializes in pet nutrition at competitive prices. “I can sell anything and everything,” says Amanda, “but…if I wouldn’t give it to my own personal pets, it’s not sold in the store.” Customers get advice from Amanda and her staff tailored to their pets’ needs, at prices that are the same or lower than their corporate competitors. Ninety percent of their foods are sold at Minimum Advertised Price (MAP), the lowest amount it can be sold for anywhere. Nautical Dog also has a loyalty program for their food products (buy twelve and the thirteenth is free), and a rewards program for the whole store (one dollar spent = one point gained, with different 250-point and 500-point items available every month). Combined with their personalized customer service and their investment in the community—Nautical Dog can be relied upon whenever someone is in need of a raffle basket—Amanda’s business is undeniably unique.
Currently, Amanda and her five-woman team are taking orders by phone and delivering them curbside, right across Main Street from Barnes & Noble. “It’s been stressful,” says Amanda, who has two small children, multiple pets, and a half-built house in addition to the stresses incurred by the pandemic. “It’s hard. We’re adapting every day.” Nautical Dog and other pet stores are essential businesses, and not required to take the safety measures they’ve adopted, but Amanda stands by the choice to go curbside only. “We don’t want people to feel like they need to go online to purchase their stuff now—we’re still here, we’re still open, we’re still here to help.” Some new customers have come to Nautical Dog because they can’t find their brand, a brand that Amanda might not carry, but she’s willing to order it for them to keep everyone’s pets fed. In addition to meeting that basic need, the staff has been using what little downtime they have to continue their pet nutrition education with online training courses.
And Amanda’s advice for the pets at home? “Keep. Them. Busy!” She recommends toys that can hold treats, like the bestselling LickiMat, to stimulate them and keep them occupied. “A bored dog is a destructive dog,” says Amanda. Bored dogs also tend to be a little bit more anxious, for which she recommends CBD—for pets and their humans. It’s important to keep everyone a little less anxious these days.
Brought to you by New Town Williamsburg—stay home, stay safe, support local business. Kit Arbuckle reporting for the New Town Commercial Association (edition 20.1)