A city breakfast spot has a new face helming its waffle irons.
521 Biscuits & Waffles, the four-year old restaurant at 521 E. Main St., has been sold to new ownership.
Fredericksburg native Damien Eure is the new proprietor after buying the business last month from married couple Aaron Bond and María José Mejía Ruiz for an undisclosed amount.
Bond and Mejía Ruiz opened 521 in 2018, offering an exclusively gluten-free menu — an approach Eure said he’ll be keeping.
“It’ll still be 100 percent gluten-free,” Eure said. “We’re going to keep the name and concept but change the menu. The core items I’m not touching at all.”
The primary menu change will be adding lunch options, something that’ll come with expanded hours for the shop.
“Right now, it’s not a lunch spot at all. Every time we went (around lunchtime), the doors were shut but there were people waiting to get the food. I said, ‘Dang, if you just open the doors,” Eure said.
521 Biscuits & Waffles is Eure’s first time owning a business, and he currently has a day job as a power plant operator in Fredericksburg that he’s keeping.
When he set out to find a food-and-beverage business to acquire, Eure said he was looking for a taqueria, something he was motivated to do after being stationed in California in the late 1990s while in the Navy.
“I saw some things in my travels that I wanted to transplant. Howard Schultz with Starbucks, he transported what he saw in Italy and brought it to the U.S.,” Eure said.
“I was looking for a taco shop. The (521) location was perfect for a California-style taco shop, but the product was great. I’m not gluten-free, but I tried it and it was better. I was really impressed. My whole model was changed.”
Bond and Mejía Ruiz were looking to sell 521 Biscuits & Waffles for a few reasons, including going through the wringer of the pandemic and their desire to have more time to raise their young kids.
“We were just finding that in order to offer the service we want to and make the adjustments we wanted to make, it’d take a lot more attention away from our family,” Bond said.
He added that he and Mejía Ruiz have both had full-time jobs while also running the restaurant. Bond works as an urban planner with the city, while Mejía Ruiz works for the VCU Massey Cancer Center.
Bond said 521’s customer base has evolved over the years in unexpected ways.
“We were definitely starting to gain more and more traffic from the downtown business community. We intended for that to be our main customer base,” Bond said.
“But we found we were actually getting more business from families all throughout the Richmond area and especially from people traveling to Richmond for anything from sports tourneys to shows. We were blessed with the connections we made throughout the city and the families that continued to give us their business,” he said.
After taking over the business in late April, Eure ran the shop for a few weeks but has since closed it temporarily to get better prepared and add to his staff of three.
“The first two weeks were eye-opening. The demand is absolutely there,” Eure said, adding that he’s planning to reopen the shop in the coming weeks.
Bond said he and Mejía Ruiz aren’t ruling out a possible return to the hospitality industry someday.
“I don’t think we’re taking it off our options, but for now, probably just focusing on our family and enjoying a little more free time,” he said. “We both work in the city, so we’ll be around. Hopefully, when the time’s right and idea is right, we’ll try our hand at another entrepreneurial project.”