From tending an olive farm along the French Riviera to competing in bodybuilding contests, the pursuits of Richmond’s businesspeople outside the workplace took our Downtime series to unexpected places in 2019.
The fourth year of our series found a financial administrator who coaches high-school football while maintaining his NFL free agent status , an attorney and shareholder of a downtown law firm who gets his hands dirty throwing clay, and a real estate agent and modern architecture buff who finds her happy place fishing from a kayak.
Those stories and others that entertained us this year are recapped below, serving to inspire and remind us all that there’s more to life than our respective daily grinds. Such stories will continue to be told in 2020, so if you or someone you know fits the bill with quirky pastimes or adventure-filled weekends, drop us a line at [email protected] For previous installments in the series, click here.
Gary LeClair – olive oil counselor
Before the longtime law firm he co-founded collapsed this year, the partial namesake of LeClairRyan shared a taste of his life’s work outside of law: tending a small olive farm he owns along the French Riviera, where he and his wife make their own extra virgin olive oil.
“I think it’s important in life to always have something you’re looking forward to and you’re excited about,” said LeClair, now an attorney at Williams Mullen. “This is a place where every mile I get closer to it, the pressures come off. I get excited, and I love it.”
Nigel Williams – financial free agent
The former Hokies defensive lineman and NFL free agent has split his time since graduation practicing with pro teams while maintaining his job as a portfolio and investment administrator at financial planning firm Agili. Drawn to the financial field while playing on the football field, the 6-foot-3, 295-pounder balked when he and his college teammates were advised to hire a planner or advisor to handle their money.
“I thought, why don’t I do that myself, instead of hiring somebody,” Williams said in the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl. “You hear all these horror stories of people playing 20 years in the NFL or NBA and they go broke in the next coming years. So, I figured, why not? The best person to trust is yourself.”
Beth Borum – artist in advertising
After a dozen years honing her advertising chops in Chicago, the associate creative director with local ad agency Elevation received a warm welcome back to town by her alma mater St. Catherine’s School, where the art she pursues outside of work was displayed as part of her graduating class’s 25th reunion.
“Painting for me is about a liberation and allowing anything to happen, and there are no rules whatsoever,” Borum told BizSense in March. “When that’s brought into the office, that can absolutely be a helpful perspective.”
Andrea Levine – kayak fisher
The chairwoman and co-founder of Modern Richmond and agent at One South Realty Group picked up an unexpected pastime when she and her husband built a house a decade ago on Virginia’s Northern Neck: fishing the waters along the Chesapeake Bay by kayak.
“Because of what I do for a living, this is like the other side of the universe,” Levine said in May. “This is what gives me relaxation and tranquility and juice and everything that I need to get back to what I do, because what I do is 24-7 and challenging and a lot of work.”
Brian Pitney – clay thrower
Soon after he got his law degree from the University of Richmond, the attorney and shareholder at Sands Anderson said he felt compelled to pick back up what he had dabbled with and left in high school art class: ceramics.
“When you’re working behind a desk a lot or you’re going to trial, something like that and getting out of that whole mindset, I think, is really important,” Pitney said in September. “It’s good to help put things in perspective.”
Harold Vega – men’s physique competitor
The 46-year-old owner of restaurant chain Chicken Fiesta got into competing several years ago, after a health scare led to doctor-ordered diet and exercise. Ever since, Vega has taken on the occasional challenge of slimming down and bulking up to get in competition shape – a feat all the more impressive given the temptations of his workplace.
“I love my food. I eat in here every single day. And when I come here on a different diet and I can’t eat nothing, just a grilled chicken breast with no side, no condiment, no nothing, it’s very tough,” Vega said. “Now, it’s integrated in my life. I have to go to the gym. I need to go to the gym.”