With its new, modern renovations, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts was a perfect backdrop to “Heritage”, the VCU Department of Fashion Design and Merchandising’s annual juried fashion show. Tickets to the show sold out in six hours, and it was no surprise why.
The runway continued from the middle of the first floor, and up the stairs to the balcony. The dusk lighting through the building’s gigantic windows added a dramatic effect for the models as they walked out to the runway.
There were 100 garments in this year’s show, split into nine scenes inspired by historical perspectives. The scenes ranged from the elegant influence of 1920s Chanel, the simplicity of the 1970s, and classic military-inspired menswear, among others. One of the scenes, “Art in New Directions”, even gave a preview of the future of fashion.
Prior to the event, a panel of ten fashion professionals judged garments competing in the show. Each collection was paired with modern music, adding a nice mixture of the present with the past.
“Heritage is about expressing our love for the past,” said fashion department chair Karen Videtic. She received a well-deserved standing ovation at the end of this year’s show, which will be her last as chair. Next year, Videtic will return to what she says is her first love, teaching
It started as a party a couple of years ago. Friends came over for pizza cooked in a small, outdoor wood oven. Eventually, Victoria and Joe Deroche held Pizza Club monthly. “I had been making the dough and sauce as a base, and our friends would bring the ingredients,” Victoria Deroche says. Since last June, Pizza Club membership has been extended to all of Richmond with Pizza Tonight, a business that provides fresh ingredients for gourmet pizza at home.
Inspired by the interactive cooking methods of the club, the kits allow customers to choose what goes on their pizza. For $10, you can buy a pizza packet, containing two balls of dough, “magic sprinkles” — a blend of spices — and a choice of sauce that caters to vegans, vegetarians and carnivores alike. Individual dough packets sell for $2.50.
The kits are available at J. Emerson, River City Cellars, Belmont Butchery, Ellwood Thompson’s Local Market and Once Upon a Vine-South as well as the South of the James Market on Saturdays, the Byrd House Market on Tuesdays and South-er of the James Market on Wednesday evenings, and on West Broad Street downtown during First Fridays. They can also be ordered online from Fall Line Farms and Relay Foods.
In addition to the kits, hot pizzas are available from a portable wood-fired oven at the farmers markets. And Saturday evening (June 25), Victoria Deroche says she’ll be at Ellwood-Thompson’s from 5 to 7 p.m. making pizzas ($7 or $8 for a 10-inch pie) inspired by Richmond-based Sausage Craft.
Here’s what’s on the menu: a chorizo pizza with avocado, cilantro and Mexican crema; a lamb sausage with Pizza Tonight’s spicy Sicilian pesto, mint and feta cheese; and Della Nonna sausage with sweet sautéed red onions and mozzarella.
Other popular varieties that are often available from the mobile oven are the “fig and pig,” made with fig preserves, prosciutto and Gorgonzola crumbles and for breakfast, the B.A.M. — bacon, apple and maple.
To produce the components for the kits, Victoria works out of the kitchen at Nate’s Taco Truck Stop on Second Street downtown.
“It’s been incredible,” she says. “It’s so great when people come up and say ‘I heard about you in the newspaper,’ and then they buy the kits, and come back the next week to tell me what they tried with it.”
The internet has conveniently allowed businesses to establish themselves and become fully functioning in less than a month. Blogging communities and social media sites can spread word of your company like wildfire, leaving an online consignment shop like Pickpocket, owned by Richmond newcomer Lauren Grant, the potential to succeed without ever setting foot outside her Fan apartment — that is, except for multiple weekly trip to the post office. Grant moved here in March after working for four years as a fashion merchandiser at Anthropologie‘s headquarters in Philadelphia. Left with an enormous wardrobe, she was ready to downsize.
“I accumulated a lot of nice stuff over the years, and I gave a lot of it away to my siblings, and cousins,” Grant said. “I didn’t want to sell it to consignment shops; I wanted to give it away first-hand.”
Living with a professional photographer also proved to be helpful.
“I used to work in fashion and help style photo shoots,” Grant said. “My roommate, Karen Seifert, does weddings around town and photobooths at parties, and when I moved in with her she was looking for a new project.”
The women put together a photo shoot with about fifty different outfits, and after the name came to her in a dream, Pickpocket was launched into the Tumblr community. Although there are plenty of online marketplaces for independent merchants, such as Etsy orBigCartel, Grant said she didn’t really give much thought to any other site.
“I feel like Etsy is exclusive for hand-made and vintage, and I didn’t have either,” Grant explained. “It’s fooling people if I do that, and I didn’t want to infringe.” Tumblr’s microblogging platform was so user-friendly that it only took two weeks after the first photo shoot for Pickpocket to fully launch. According to Grant, the website was up one day after the shoot, and even though she didn’t advertise people still began to follow it because of tags on the blog.
“Tumblr is already infused in so many people’s lives,” Grant said. “You can just follow it, and I can keep reminding people ‘here’s a new outfit.’” Aside from sit-down sessions over the photos with her roommate, Grant impressively handles all of Pickpocket by herself, including other social media outlets she’s incorporated into the business.
“I wouldn’t have a store if it wasn’t for social media, because everyone is finding out through their friends, Tumblr, Facebook, and Twitter,” Grant claimed. She admits owning a store online has been “awesomely easy”, considering this is her side-job right now. Between multiple weekly trips to the post office, and about six to seven hours a week dedicated to Pickpocket, she also works full-time as an account agent at an advertising firm.
The first interested buyer to email the shop has priority. They have 24 hours to pay through a Paypal account; otherwise it will go to the next interested customer after one day.
So far, Pickpocket’s had two photo shoots consisting of almost 100outfits pieced together, 90% of which is Grant’s own wardrobe. The other items are from friends and the models, who rock the garments with realistic body types; the consignment shop currently offers sizes ranging from about 2 to 8, and extra-small to large.
“We think of sizes in numbers,” Grant added. “But there are only so many sizes, and there are thousands of body types.”
Also for sale, are accessories and shoes ranging from sizes 5.5 to 10, which allows Pickpocket to have “outfit deals”, where you can purchase multiple pieces at a discounted price.
But what happens to Pickpocket when Grant runs out of clothes? She’s not worried about that just yet, confidently exclaiming (with extra emphasis) that she has a LOT of clothes. Grant says she gets that question a lot, and what often comes to mind is a concept similar to personal shopper, but becoming a personal seller instead.
“Friends, clients, and a lot of people have nice things that they don’t just want to give away, or sell to consignment shops where they’re only going to get a tiny profit,” Grant said. “All people need is the time to sell things, and I can provide that for them.”
Aftershocks continue to rattle Goochland County months after a major rift between leaders of the county’s popular not-for-profit farmers market sent a shockwave through the county’s local food and farming communities. The leadership of the Center for Rural Culture — operators of the Goochland Farmer’s Market — continue to assail their former executive director, Lisa Dearden.
The CRC’s treasurer, Keith Flannagan, told The Goochland Gazette this week that Dearden’s insinuations that money had been stolen from the organization had been proven wrong by Keiter Stephens, an independent forensic-accounting firm brought in to clean up the mess.
Now Dearden is firing back.
Dearden created the initial public rift in December and January with an e-mail in which she alleged a $33,000 discrepancy between her reckoning of the organization’s accounts and the treasurer’s November report to the board. She insisted on the release of the CRC’s records, an independent audit and the resignation of the treasurer, president and past president.
She says that at the time, she never accused anyone at the CRC of stealing, only of poor management and lax controls that could have created legal exposure for herself and the board.
“When I went public with this, I said there were financial irregularities,” Dearden says. “I never accused anyone of stealing money or accused anyone of stealing — I said I had not been granted access to the books after repeated requests.”
Her biggest concern, she says, was that “some of the irregularities may go against the IRS [nonprofit reporting] requirements. That’s what I was concerned about.”
In a statement released on Valentine’s Day, the CRC board said that none of the center’s money is missing. “In the wake of Ms. Dearden’s resignation, the CRC has had its finances reviewed and brought current by its regular accountant,” the release stated. “The financial reviews are complete.” The statement continued, “Further, Keiter Stephens has informed us that when Ms. Dearden met with them, she failed to produce her ‘personal ledger’ or any other form of documentation to support her allegations.”
But again, Dearden says, the board missed the point. She says their acknowledgement in the same statement that the CRC’s accounts needed to be “brought current” serves as confirmation that they were not current at the time she raised her concerns.
“When at the end of the year I found $13,000 sitting in a PayPal account that had been sitting there for quite some time and the accountant had never reconciled, I did some digging and I found about $30,000 that hadn’t been reconciled,” she says, noting that nothing had been improperly removed from the PayPal account, only that it was money that the CRC’s leadership didn’t know it had. “The organization was making decisions based on information the treasurer had given them in a cash-flow sheet, which was not correct.
“It was irregular accounting, and there were discrepancies,” she says.
Since the dustup, Dearden has started a new farmers market, hoping to continue to provide the community with sustainable agriculture and food. My Manakin Market, set to open for the season in May, is located at 68 Broad Street Road, just west of Short Pump.
As for the Goochland Farmers Market, manager Jane Connor has confirmed plans for it to continue this year, on the property of Grace Episcopal Church, at 2955 River Road West.
“We’re trying to figure things out one day at a time,” says Connor. “We have every intention to move forward with it, we’re just a little behind.”
CRC president Kate Sarfaty could not be reached for additional comment, despite multiple attempts.
But some members of the CRC have said they’ve been left in the dark about what’s going on in their agricultural community; yet they’ve also managed to become closer at the same time.
Paula Fensom, owner of the PatchWork Farms co-op in Louisa County, became involved with the CRC through some educational classes she’d taken. Fensom, who comes from a background of working with nonprofits, says she respects Dearden for how she ran the organization, and that she is frustrated by what she calls a lack of management since Dearden’s departure.
“Lisa was very well in her right as an executive director and as a whistle-blower to ask those questions,” says Fensom. “Some people are offended that she’s brought these questions out, but she did all the right steps.”
Fensom and other members of the CRC have made multiple attempts to contact the board throughout the situation, requesting answers to their questions and expressing concern about the future of the organization and its farmers market.
“You’re a nonprofit organization,” she says. “Regardless of whether you think you’re being attacked or not, as a member of the board you have to step up to the plate and answer the question and address the situation.”
Fensom claims that despite several requests, she hasn’t been provided with the CRC’s bylaws, legal tax documents or meeting minutes. “Meeting minutes are records of law; they are on record for a reason,” she says. “Whatever meeting minutes are on file, if you would divulge those to the members we’d have more clarity.”
The Center for Rural Culture’s Facebook page has been taken over by members like Fensom, posting photos of fond memories at the Goochland Farmers Market and informing the community of what they know to assure that everyone is equally aware. While the center’s board of directors has addressed the financial issues, public meetings were arranged by members to discuss other concerns.
“All these people who have made comments on the Facebook page, which have never got a response back, have been such upfront comments, so respectful,” says Fensom.
Perhaps the most hopeful of all in this split are the vendors. Although most of the vendors from the Goochland Farmers Market signed on with Dearden’s new market — she says that so far she has lined up more than 30 vendors — many are not choosing sides.
“The county is big enough to support two markets,” says Max Abrams, co-owner of Grayhaven Winery, which has been with the Goochland Farmers Market for several years. “The new one opens up a new group of people in Short Pump and the West End who wouldn’t travel all the way out to Goochland.”
Grayhaven plans to be a part of both markets, which will be about 13 miles apart. “I think the area can still support more farmers markets,” says Abrams. “I don’t think we’re at a place yet where we can detract from that.”
Ginger Marks of Furbelow Farms is another vendor hoping for a positive outcome from the additional market.
“It kind of worked out for everybody because we’re going to have two great markets in Goochland,” says Marks. “We wish both the best; they are two different markets in different areas. It’s all about sustainability and supporting your local farm.”
The Center for Rural Culture’s board of directors announced today that the center will not operate the Goochland Farmers Market this year.
The decision follows the departure in January of former CRC executive director Lisa Dearden, who is preparing to open a new farmers market, called My Manakin Market, near Short Pump on May 7. (Click here to read an earlier report on the split.) The Goochland Farmers Market had been located at Grace Episcopal Church on River Road West. The center’s board released a statement saying that it believes that “the county cannot support two markets and that diluting the customer base is unfair to our vendors.” Competition from other Richmond area markets and the rising cost of gas were also taken into consideration, according to the statement.
Although Dearden says she thinks the CRC made a smart decision, she also believes that the county could have supported two markets.
“The Goochland Farmers Market could have done just fine,” she says. “They would have needed to make some changes to be more competitive and because they’re a nonprofit. They needed something to bring in more customers and have them spend more money.”
While the market attracted about the same number of customers last year as the year before, people spent less, she says. “I think people really liked to go to the Goochland Farmers Market because it was a genuine experience,” Dearden says of the rural atmosphere. However, “gas prices are a lot higher; I would definitely think that would be a factor” in the board’s decision.
Although the Goochland Farmers Market will not open, the CRC hopes to continue providing the community with locally produced food through the center’s Local Roots Food Co-op, according to the board’s statement. The CRC will also plant another community garden to benefit the Goochland Food Bank.
Jane Conner, the CRC’s co-op manager, and center treasurer Keith Flannagan could not immediately be reached for additional comment.
CRC member Paula Fensom says the board’s decision was what many of the center’s members had been strongly suggesting.
“I think once they smooth everything over and find out where it needs to be going, they can learn and go from there,” she says.
Contemporary Indian restaurant Lehja will be among the participants in the Varli Food Festivalon Thursday (April 7) in New York City. The event, which takes place at the Altman Building at 135 W. 18th St. in Manhattan, is a celebration of Indian cuisine and culture, according to its host, Varli Magazine. The publication dedicated to Indian cuisine selected 30 restaurants on the basis of the quality of food, and uniqueness of concept. Most of the restaurants are based in New York, with a few from New Jersey and Connecticut. Lehja is the only one from Virginia (and from outside the Northeast region).
Lehja’s general manager, Sandeep “Sunny” Baweja, says the Short Pump restaurant was chosen to participate in the festival because of its modern twist on traditional cuisine.
“We will be showcasing Fishermen Style Prawns and Chaat,” says Baweja, “two of our signature dishes.”
The Varli Food Festival has also chosen Lehja’s Mel Oza as one of the featured chefs. Each will prepare a cooking demonstration for the festival.
“It’s going to be a huge, mega Indian event,” says Baweja. “It’s amazing because you are getting recognition for your restaurant on a national level.”
This is the first year for the festival, which is sold out, according to the event’s website. A portion of the ticket sales ($10 per $100 ticket), and all the proceeds from the silent auction, will benefit the Food Bank for New York City.
Judi Williams has been dreaming of running her own farmers market since 2005. During the past six years, Williams has been involved with other markets, working as a vendor for Indonesian coffee and researching what the community needs.
This year marks the first season for the Chesterfield Farmers Market, which Williams says will be a community resource as well as a place to buy food and other items.
“I think it’s going to be the market in the area,” she says. (Click here to see Richmond magazine’s 2011 Farmers Market Guide.)
The market, located in the parking lot at Chesterfield Towne Center, will include locally grown or produced plants, fruit and vegetables, meats, breads, eggs, arts, crafts, and jewelry. But the market will also have a Community Circle, made up of three tents.
The first tent will be a book swap, where adults and children can bring in old books and leave with a new read. “We’re trying to encourage everybody to read,” Williams says.
The second tent, which she plans to add in May, will be an activities tent for children. Williams is working with teachers and others to provide volunteers for an educational and fun area for kids.
Finally, the community tent will provide useful and interesting information. A special service will be featured each week, such as fire safety, agricultural education or health tips from nutritionists and doctors. Some of the planned services also include blood-pressure readings and information on cancer. Williams says these special topics will better educate the community, and some of her own experiences have provided the market with contacts that can offer such services.
In 2009, Williams was diagnosed with lymphoma, a form of cancer that involves cells in the immune system. She has been successfully treated for it — she says her doctor told her he never uses the word “cured,” but the cancer is gone.
“I’m not thinking about that,” she says. “I have a market to run, and I have something to focus on. If it comes back, it comes back. I’m not worried about that, I’m worried about my vendors.”
The Chesterfield Farmers Market will limit its vendors to producers, meaning everything is homemade, homegrown or handcrafted. “We want to help the small person who is at home making soap, making jewelry in their home or in their kitchen because they can’t afford to own their own store,” Williams says. “I’m doing it for them.”
The market opens on April 1 and will operate every Friday through Dec. 2 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. For more information, visit chesterfieldfarmersmarket.blogspot.com.