The economy may be stuck in a funk, but plenty of Richmonders are finding ways to entice customers with new products or services, especially in these seven industries:
You don’t need to know the results of a recent study to know that Richmond is a city seeped in ink. Richmond has 14.5 shops per 100,000 people, coming in third in the nation. And it shows. The neon glow of the neighborhood tattoo parlor is a staple of most neighborhoods inside the city. And even stodgy Chesterfield County recently approved the county’s first tattoo parlor.
You know you live in a pet friendly city when restaurants have dog bowls outside for passing canines. And Richmond has most definitely gone to the dogs. One of the first to find this rapidly growing niche was Premier Pet Products which started making a special leash decades ago and continues hiring more employees as it expands its line of humane pet products. And then there’s Bully Sticks, a locally-based maker and distributor of dog treats. They’re also hiring. Plus there’s WholesalePets.com distributing inventory to thousands of pet boutiques around the country. And of course, Zoomer Gear selling motorcycle helmets online. Richmond also has eclectic assortment of retail stores, groomers, and daycares that cater to local pet owners as well.
Students are economic stimulus gold. As VCU expands, so has the need for student housing — and business is a booming. The medical school keeps Shockoe Bottom stocked with renters, and several major projects are underway with hundreds of units coming over the next year or two, mostly in renovated industrial buildings. On the other side of campus Gilbane is constructing a new mid-rise near the new VCU Brandcenter and School of Business building. Two new apartment buildings recently went up on Belvedere south of Main Street.
It seems you can’t go to a restaurant these days without the menu touting the proximity of its ingredients. And Richmonders are eating it up. Several farmers’ markets have cropped up in the last few years and each year get even bigger. They’ve even gone mobile, like Mark Lily’s Farm to Family market which travels around town in a converted school bus. Others like Dominion Harvest and Relay Foods have similar models delivering fresh local food. Still other entrepreneurs, like Backyard Farmer and United States of Food have businesses that are based on bringing customers the most local food possible — the kind you grow in your backyard garden.
Richmond is a sports town. Just try to drive through the Fan during the Monument 10K. There is a cottage industry here keeping all those gym rats lean and mean. From solo entrepreneurs who scream, “Give me 20 more pushups” in parks around town, to small, specialized gyms like Fitness Together and CrossFit, to the homegrown big gyms like American Family Fitness, working out is big business. As if that wasn’t enough Chesterfield-based SportsQuest is covering major acreage with artificial turf in the first phase of a proposed sports Mecca. Putting on events is a growth biz, too. SportsBackers has been adding at least one new event for the last few years, and the popularity of its races grows every year. Richmond has plenty for spectators as well such as the Richmond Kickers, River City Rollergirls women’s roller derby, two arena football teams. And don’t forget Flying Squirrels adding minor league baseball at the Diamond. Plus, the University of Richmond finally has an on-campus football stadium, and season ticket sales have doubled to 4,000 in three years.
It’s obscure, and let’s be honest, not as flashy or fun as an the latest electric car, but Richmond has a huge and growing presence of specialty insurance firms, which write policies for things like medical malpractice for doctors. The newest entrant is Kinsale, (You can read about it here). And earlier this decade one opened here called James River. Plus there are some of the industries big boys Colony, Max Specialty and of course, Markel, which has been expanding by buying companies around the world. And don’t forget Monument Sports, a local firm that sells policies all over the country on sporting facilities like soccer bubbles.
Richmond isn’t the drunkest city, thankfully, but booze is a growth industry. We already had Cirrus Vodka distilled on the Southside, and this summer Reservoir Whiskey opened. Plus there is Legend beer, which finally sells six-packs of bottles in local grocery stores. Don’t forget an explosion of wine bars as well. And of course, Governor McDonnell wants to privatize liquor sales, which means that there could be a lot more stores and cheaper prices.
Al Harris is a BizSense reporter. Please send news tips to [email protected]
It looks like Richmond has no industry or manufacturing. Is this reality or were firms like DuPont, Meade Westvaco and Altria left out because there’s no “growth” in these sectors? Are tattoos really considered industry? Student housing really an “industry”?
Mr Harris, the reporter, shows he has a sense of humor with this story about our little corner of the universe. Perhaps it is a corruption of the word ‘industries’ – yes the folks are ‘industrious’ in our area, with the latest fads. Moving money around, trying to make a dollar, providing the services… Someone who wants to actually wants to manufacture a product is at a huge disadvantage – the hurdles are just too high (and the list is just too long). Just import whatever is needed! Then change how the word ‘industry’ is defined to cover any type… Read more »