After being lured back into the food business when he realized accounting wasn’t for him, a former employee of one of the city’s largest restaurant groups is stepping out on his own on Cary Street.
Evan Byrne is preparing to launch a half-restaurant, half-retail venture at 1600-1604 W. Cary St.
Dubbed The Hop Craft Pizza & Beer, the 2,000-square-foot space will have a pizza restaurant on one side and a beer store on the other.
The Hop has been more than two years in the making for Byrne, a Charlottesville native and VCU accounting grad who has worked in the restaurant industry since age 18.
After moving to Richmond in 2010, he landed a job with the Richmond Restaurant Group, which owns several restaurants across the region, including Hard Shell, the Daily Kitchen & Bar and Pearl Raw Bar.
He worked for the company while completing his accounting degree at VCU in 2013 and stayed on with the group while working his first office job. His love for restaurants couldn’t be denied – prompting him to fully give up his desk job for the city’s growing hospitality industry.
“It was pretty maddening and quite boring,” Byrne, 37, said of his accounting job. “It wasn’t for me.”
He worked his way up to general manager of Hard Shell before leaving last year to pursue The Hop, and currently works dinner shifts as a server at Buckhead’s Chop House in the West End to allow him to work on the Hop during the day.
“I wanted to slow things down so I could really concentrate on The Hop and make it a solid concept,” Byrne said.
He and an unnamed partner are targeting a Jan. 1, 2018 opening for the spot.
The property, which previously housed a gym, is owned by the Wilton Cos. Broker Robert Heim with Bandazian & Co. represented The Hop in its lease.
Perretz & Young Architects have been tapped to redesign and engineer the space, while Dominion Construction Partners will oversee the buildout.
Byrne did not disclose the investment they’re putting into the space. He said the location was ideal given its access to residences in the Fan, and corridors that will allow The Hop to capitalize on delivery destinations, such as VCU and the West End.
“It’s a very centralized location that is convenient to a number of places across the city,” Byrne said. “The space also lends itself to this type of concept, so it was just a great match for us all around.”
Byrne said the restaurant plans to serve specialty and build-your-own pizzas, calzones, sandwiches, salads and desserts for dine-in, carryout and delivery. It also will have beer on tap.
“The goal is to make sure to stay as local as we can,” Byrne said. “We want to prepare the best pizza made with fresh ingredients, we love the local beer scene here, and we want The Hop to reflect that.”
On the retail side, Byrne said, “We’re going to carry as many local and national craft beers as we can … We’ll have a few wine selections as well, and we hope to install a single tap where we can showcase a new beer for tasting.”
The Hop is mulling several distributors, including Brown and Loveland, to help keep the store’s shelves stocked and the taps flowing. Byrne said it also plans to work with smaller distributors that carry a wide selection from smaller brewers.
“Offering local brews is important, but we also want to carry that on to a few national craft brews like Firestone (Walker Brewing Co.) and Founders,” he said. “We want this to be a place for people that love good beer and food.”