A pair of seasoned entrepreneurs in the wine industry are about to uncork a new venture in Jackson Ward.
Penny’s Wine Shop is expected to open this fall at 405 Brook Road, which is also home to Stoplight Gelato. The gelato shop has been closed for more than two years. It plans to reopen in the fall, and will share the space with the wine shop.
For Penny’s co-owners Kristen Gardner Beal and Lance Lemon, the upcoming shop is a return to the original vision of their other shared venture, Richwine, which launched in late 2020.
“For the past two years, Richwine has become known as a delivery service in the area. You order your wine online and we bring the wine to your front door,” Beal said. “We’re kind of like neighborhood wine fairies. For us that wasn’t the original plan when we set out to establish a wine company between the two of us. But it is what worked because of the pandemic and we are happy to serve folks via delivery.”
The plan is for Penny’s to feature a wine bar with seating for about 20 people, as well as a retail area. The shop has hired Manny Baiden of Manny Eats, a local caterer and personal chef, to create its tapas menu.
Beal said the bar will sell most wines at $8 to $9 a glass, and up to $14 for higher-end offerings. The tapas menu is expected to include things like charcuterie boards as well as oyster and steak offerings with Baiden’s own spin.
“Manny is from Ghana and a lot of his dishes have Ghanian influences. He cooks cuisines from all around the world. He’s a fantastic chef. We’ll be playing off that but also tapas that align to our classic wine set,” Beal said.
The name of the shop is a nod to St. Luke Penny Savings Bank, which was established nearby in the early 1900s by one of Richmond’s most famous black entrepreneurs, Maggie L. Walker.
“It is an ode to Jackson Ward, an ode to Richmond, an ode to the two of us being black business owners,” said Beal. “It’s important for us to play on the now but also to tie in pieces of history that continue to be reflected in Jackson Ward.”
Beal, who previously spent a decade working at Goldman Sachs, said the plan for Richwine is to continue to operate as an online seller after Penny’s opens. Richwine has moved out of Hatch Kitchen, a food-and-beverage business incubator near Manchester, in favor of the Brook Road property. Beal’s wine tour company VinGo is on the backburner, but she expects to relaunch the tours under the Richwine banner next year.
Stoplight turns green
Closed since the start of the pandemic, Stoplight Gelato is ready to reopen with a roommate, a plan the owners devised during the closure.
“When we closed for COVID, we took our time to rethink the business and what it meant for the neighborhood and how to operate in the new normal,” co-owner Mike Wilbert said. “Going through those business plan iterations, we thought dual concepts, one beverage-focused, would do well in our neighborhood.”
Wilbert said he knew of Richwine by reputation and thought Beal and Lemon would be a good fit for his vision for the space. Early this year, a mutual acquaintance connected them.
Wilbert owns the two-story building that houses Stoplight, and struck a deal to have Penny’s as his tenant.
“We renovated the cafe to showcase Penny’s wine concept, and Stoplight will continue to make and sell gelato in the space. We believe the neighborhood will welcome Penny’s new energy and the return of Stoplight’s gelato,” Wilbert said.
Wilbert bought the business and property in 2019 from Stoplight’s original owner Barbara Given, who opened the shop in 2016 as a tribute to her son after he died. Wilbert said Given is supportive of the new chapter for Stoplight.
“We speak with Barb regularly,” Wilbert said, “and she is excited for the next phase of Stoplight.”
The upcoming wine shop is taking shape more than a year after Stoplight sought a similar arrangement in which a startup seltzer company would have operated in the building. Those plans ultimately did not materialize.