Ice cream shop taking over former Quirk gallery

Alex Zavaleta and Meryl Hillerson plan to open Charm School, an ice cream shop and bakery at 311 W. Broad St. (Michael Thompson)

Alex Zavaleta and Meryl Hillerson plan to open Charm School, an ice cream shop and bakery at 311 W. Broad St. (Jonathan Goldberg)

A baker and ice cream maker are the latest to make the leap onto an evolving downtown stretch of West Broad Street.

Alex Zavaleta and Meryl Hillerson plan to open Charm School, an ice cream shop and bakery at 311 W. Broad St. where Quirk Gallery used to be. The pair has leased the 3,000-square-foot space owned by the Ukrop family.

Charm School will serve up 16 flavors of ice cream and pastries, all made onsite. Bakery items will include cake, pies, cookies and tarts.

“Everything but our sprinkles will be made in-house,” Zavaleta said. “The baked goods are meant to complement the ice cream.”

Zavaleta is from Virginia and used to live in Richmond, before moving to California where he started making ice cream as a hobby and selling it at punk shows. He cranked up his ice cream business when he asked Hillerson, who had gone to pastry school, to join him in a new venture. The pair had met through mutual friends and recently completed Penn State University’s industrial ice cream program.

Charm School has leased the 3,000-square-foot space owned by the Ukrop family, where Quirk Gallery used to be. (Michael Thompson)

Charm School has leased the 3,000-square-foot space owned by the Ukrop family, where Quirk Gallery used to be. (Michael Thompson)

Zavaleta learned of Richmond’s increasingly fashionable culinary scene and persuaded Hillerson to join him in opening a shop here, moving back in March. They enlisted Justin Paley of Dodson Commercial to help them find the right space.

Zavaleta said things have changed since he lit out for the territory almost a decade ago.

“When I moved away in 2007 this part of Broad Street was quite different,” Zavaleta said. “Jackson Ward is growing, and we want to be part of that.”

Their search eventually led them to Christian Kiniry of Bank Street Advisors, who represented the Ukrops in the lease deal.

“It gives us plenty of space to do ice cream production and the baking,” Zavaleta said, adding the former gallery gives Charm School room to grow.

To convert the space and outfit it with a commercial kitchen, Zavaleta and Hillerson have an SBA loan through the Business Finance Group of Midlothian. Commonwealth Construction is building out the space, and Danny MacNelly of Architecturefirm is the architect for the job. Jonathan Goldberg of A for Adventure has done design work for Charm School.

The ice cream seller is joining a host of new businesses that have set up shop along West Broad Street in between the former Central National Bank building and the current construction site on North Belvidere Street where the Institute for Contemporary Art will open.

Charm School will serve up 16 flavors of ice cream and pastries, all made onsite.

Charm School will serve up 16 flavors of ice cream and pastries, all made onsite. (Chris Bavaria)

Charm School’s neighbors include Ledbury’s new store at 315 W. Broad St. and Quirk Hotel at 201 W. Broad St.

It won’t be the only place around the Jackson Ward area to snag some coffee and frozen desserts. Nutty Buttery is in the works a few blocks west in Carver, and Stoplight Gelato Café recently opened nearby at 405 Brook Road.

As for the origin of the Charm School name, Zavaleta said: “I always joked I never would have been admitted to charm school. Now I have my own and I can be principal.”

Coffee will be served using beans from Lamplighter Coffee Roasters, and the spread at Charm School will include vegan items.

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3 Comments on "Ice cream shop taking over former Quirk gallery"

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Sarah Janeczek
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I am very excited for Alex and Meryl as they get ready to open their shop. This is the culmination of years of dreaming, planning, and hard work. I have had the privilege of tasting some of their test batches of ice cream and Richmond is in for a treat!

Kory Mohr
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First thing I thought of when I read this article was if the pair had attended Penn State’s ice cream training. I used to enjoy visiting PSU’s creamery when I spent time at the campus. Perhaps they’ll have their own version of Peachy Paterno!

Derek Machado
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Keaney Beany! So excited about this shop. We had a client across the road from PSU and had ice cream there regularly. So great. Richmond get ready!

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