Ethiopian eatery finds way to Glen Allen

Gojo Ethiopian Restaurant at 10188 W. Broad St. in the Lexington Commons Shopping Center in Glen Allen plans to open by mid-September. (J. Elias O'Neal)

Gojo Ethiopian Restaurant plans to open at 10188 W. Broad St. in the Lexington Commons Shopping Center by mid-September. (J. Elias O’Neal)

A local couple is ready to spice up West Broad Street.

Gojo Ethiopian Restaurant plans to open by mid-September in the Lexington Commons Shopping Center at 10188 W. Broad St. in Glen Allen, just east of Innsbrook.

The 1,200-square-foot, 40-seat restaurant will be owned and operated by Hawi Kejela and his wife Selam Belachew.

It’s the first restaurant venture for the couple, who are native Ethiopians and came to the U.S. 15 years ago.

Kejela said Belachew will operate the restaurant, while he works during the day full time at Richmond-based Proseal America. He said he would help on the operation side of things at Gojo on the weekends.

Owners Hawi Kejela (left) and wife Selam Velachew in front of the upcoming Gojo Ethiopian Restaurant in the Lexington Commons Shopping Center in Glen Allen. (J. Elias O'Neal)

Owners Hawi Kejela (left) and wife Selam Velachew in front of the upcoming Gojo Ethiopian Restaurant in the Lexington Commons Shopping Center in Glen Allen. (J. Elias O’Neal)

“She’s the boss,” Kejela joked while inside their new restaurant space. “She’ll take care of things during the day, and I’m here to support her during any downtime that I have.”

The cost of opening the restaurant is still being calculated, Kejela said.

“We’ve got electricians and plumbers coming in to do a lot of the work we can’t do,” Kejela said, adding that he and his wife will handle some painting, decorating and other cosmetic work.

Kejela said they saw an opening in Glen Allen for an Ethiopian eatery because of a lack of direct competition and plenty of room for growth.  

“As far as we know, there is no other Ethiopian restaurant in this area,” Kejela said. “We feel like this is a great place to open our restaurant, and offer something different to the people that live and work in this area.”

While there’s not much competition for Ethiopian cuisine in its vicinity, Gojo will have plenty of other restaurants to contend with, including some other new arrivals.

A couple of miles west, Matchbox American Kitchen + Spirits – a Washington, D.C.-based pizza restaurant – is taking shape in front of Short Pump Town Center.

Florida-based Metro Diner recently announced plans to open its first Virginia eatery in 3,500 square feet of space in the Short Pump Shoppes retail center at 11525 W. Broad St.

Richmond Restaurant Group plans to open West Coast Provisions and Daily Kitchen & Bar in Markel | Eagle Partners’ forthcoming GreenGate development farther west on Broad. Locally based Eat Restaurant Partners has also signed on for a yet-unnamed, upscale steak and sushi restaurant in GreenGate.

Gojo does have some Ethiopian competition elsewhere in Richmond. Across town in Church Hill, Nile Ethiopian Bistro & Café is preparing for the Sept. 6 grand opening of its new 800-square-foot restaurant at 306 N. 29th St. And Addis Ethiopian restaurant is on 17th Street in Shockoe Bottom.

Kejela and Belachew said while he’s pleased to see new restaurants opening in the area, Gojo will offer a dining experience that blends Ethiopian culture and dishes together.

“We plan to have three mesob tables in the restaurant that we’re having imported in from Ethiopia,” Kejela said. “They are woven, round wicker baskets that have a lid on them. When you remove the lid, there is a place in the center where the food is placed.”

Belachew added that on the weekends, Gojo will host a coffee ceremony – a ritualized form of making and serving coffee where the beans are roasted and crushed before being served.

“It’s a very true Ethiopian tradition because a lot of coffee comes from our country,” Kejela said. “The tradition would make for a great weekend experience for people on their way to church or looking to grab brunch.”

The couple calls the restaurant a tribute to their culture and a business they would like to pass down to their two young boys.

“This is something new for us,” Kejela said. “We want it to be successful, and we hope people will like what we have to offer.”

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly spelled Selam Belachew’s last name.

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