A home-grown coffee shop and café brand is preparing to shutter yet another one of its locations as it zeros in on a bigger space in the region’s western suburbs.
Urban Farmhouse Market & Cafe is closing its store in the Linden Row Inn at 100 E. Franklin St. by April 24, said Kathleen Richardson, who owns the chain.
Until its permanent closure, the store will operate with reduced hours — closing at 3 p.m. daily.
“Right now we are focused on growth, but we have to be smart about how we go about doing it,” Richardson said. “It’s never an easy decision to close a location, but given the direction we are taking, it just made sense for us to close our store in Linden Row.”
Linden Row Inn’s closure follows the company’s decision in early March to shutter its Rocketts Landing location at 4821 Old Main St.
Upon Linden Row Inn’s closure, the chain will have three locations in operation – in Midlothian, Shockoe Slip and Scott’s Addition.
Urban Farmhouse first established its Linden Row outpost about two years ago. In addition to the 1,300-square-foot cafe, the company’s catering brand – Farmhouse Functions – also has been based at the downtown location.
With the closing of the Linden Row Inn location, Richardson said Urban Farmhouse can now focus on its next target territory: the suburbs.
Richardson said the company, which she launched in Shockoe Slip in 2010, will soon be announcing a new location in western Henrico County – one that will be large enough to accommodate a cafe and prep area for its Farmhouse Functions division.
“We know there is great demand for our concept in the suburbs, and in growing population centers,” she said. “So, we’re taking that advice and applying that to our growth model.”
While Richarson would not disclose specific locations in western Henrico County, she said the company is bullish on the Innsbrook area.
The company has enlisted broker Brian Bock with Taylor Long Properties Commercial Real Estate to help secure a new location.
“Establishing a new operation in the western suburbs does a couple of things,” Richardson said. “It puts us closer to new and existing customers because we now have more access to people living and working in that area. Secondly, it allows us to escape the combined higher state and city taxes as it pertains to our Farmhouse Function operation.”
Richmond’s meals tax, which is charged to every prepared food or beverage in the city, increased last summer from 6 percent to 7.5 percent.
With the state’s 5.3 percent tax on meals and Richmond’s 7.5 percent meals tax, diners now pay a combined 12.8 percent tax on all food and drinks prepared in the city. That’s compared to a 4 percent meals tax charged by Henrico County.
While the increased meals tax – one of the highest on the East Coast – is assessed to catering operations, restaurants and bars located in the city, it does not apply to caterers doing business in the city that are based outside of the city. It’s a loophole Richardson said she is drawn to with the move to Henrico.
“When someone comes to us for catering an event or a wedding, off the top, I’m out about 15 percent of potential earning revenue,” Richardson said. “It is a problem for us because we are seeing big growth in corporate catering. It’s one of the reasons why we’re looking out west.”
Now down to half the number of stores she had in 2016, Richardson said her company is looking to place more emphasis on customer service and technology as competition around her existing locations increases.
“We are still a 100 percent bootstrapped operation with no investors,” Richardson said. “That means we have to work even harder to make sure that we are offering the fresh foods our customers like, and doing it in a timely, professional manner.”
Urban Farmhouse is currently interviewing agencies to help revamp its website to accommodate new initiatives like its online ordering and loyalty programs, and to relaunch its online store, Richardson said. She added the company also is working on new to-go items that will be priced more competitively, and plans to reconfigure its stores to accommodate more market items, such as beer and wine, and other locally crafted items.
“We are known for our healthy foods and concepts, and that’s not going to change,” Richardson said. “But we’re not blind to see we have competitors, and we need to come up with newer and better options to compete and retain the customers we have.”
That also includes growing through delivery, using services such UberEats and GrubHub.
“We have seen tremendous growth through our third-party delivery services,” Richardson said. “It’s a very important part of our business.”
Once Urban Farmhouse selects a western outpost, Richardson said Farmhouse Functions will have the space it needs to serve as a nerve center for its catering for more corporate events. She added that Urban Farmhouse is looking to lease some of its spaces, like its Scott’s Addition outpost, for events.
“We get so many requests from businesses that want to lease out our spaces,” Richardson said. “So we’re trying to figure out how to capitalize on leasing out our spaces while also providing the catering.”
Richardson, a native Richmonder, admits that launching Urban Farmhouse has been a trial by fire experience, but one that has allowed her to grow as a business owner.
“I’m a bit of an idealist,” Richardson said. “What I’ve had to do is learn the hard way. As much as developers and landlords wanted us in certain areas, the reality is my business considerations must come first.”