Seasoned C’ville bakers opening cafe in new Forest Hill development

forest hill kleyman dodson Cropped scaled

The new three-story building is rising on a former Bank of America branch site. (Mike Platania photo)

Two veterans of the Charlottesville bakery scene have signed on as the first commercial tenants at a new development in Forest Hill.

Janet’s Cafe & Bakery is expected to open next year at 4701 Forest Hill Ave., where a three-story mixed-use building is currently taking shape on the site of a former Bank of America branch. 

Will Darsie and Janey Gioiosa are behind Janet’s, which will offer fresh baked bread and pastries as well as sandwiches, salads, coffee and other items. 

The duo met years ago at MarieBette, a Charlottesville bakery known for its pretzel croissants. Darsie was its longtime manager and co-owner of its second location, Petite MarieBette, and Gioiosa worked as a baker there after getting her start in the industry through culinary school. A few years ago Gioiosa stepped out on her own with Janey’s Bread, where she sells wood-fired sourdough bread at local farmers’ markets. 

janey gioiosa will darsie

Janey Gioiosa and Will Darsie (Courtesy Janet’s Cafe & Bakery)

Darsie said he approached Gioiosa last fall about going into business together with a Richmond bakery. 

“I was looking to move to Richmond and for a way to make that happen. I hit Janey up and she was into it immediately,” Darsie said. 

“It happened very quickly,” Gioiosa added. 

They eventually found the under-construction development on Forest Hill, which is a joint venture between Daniil Kleyman’s Evolve Development and Duke Dodson’s Dodson Development Group. 

Janet’s Cafe is taking about 2,000 of the project’s 8,000 square feet of commercial space. The building also will include 40 apartments above the ground-floor commercial area.

Darsie and Gioiosa said it’s too soon to reveal menu specifics, but that Janet’s will be primarily a breakfast and lunch spot. 

“There’s going to be bread, I know that much,” Gioiosa said, laughing. “And croissants, croissant sandwiches, and breakfast sandwiches. It’s going to have your classic stuff, and then some specialty lunch sandwiches, salads and chocolate chip cookies.”

“A neighborhood feel is what we’re going for,” Darsie said. 

Janet’s will operate with counter service and have seating for around 25. The cafe is named for an inside joke between the two about how Gioiosa’s first name auto-corrects to “Janet.”

forest hill bank of america drone

The new development will include 40 apartments plus commercial space. (Courtesy KBS)

Gioiosa and Darsie said they’re hoping to open Janet’s in spring 2025, a few months after the Q1 2025 timeframe that Kleyman said he anticipates the building’s residential units being ready for occupancy. 

Kleyman said they’ve been in talks with some other commercial tenants to join Janet’s at the development, but nothing’s been finalized. 

“We are looking for a dinner/cocktails concept to go into the corner space with the outdoor patio,” Kleyman said in an email. “For the rest of the commercial space we are open to ideas but are looking for uses that will be attractive to our residential tenants and the neighborhood in general.”

Dodson Commercial’s Clint Greene and Palmer Wilkins have the listing on the remaining 6,000 square feet. 

forest hill kleyman dodson Cropped scaled

The new three-story building is rising on a former Bank of America branch site. (Mike Platania photo)

Two veterans of the Charlottesville bakery scene have signed on as the first commercial tenants at a new development in Forest Hill.

Janet’s Cafe & Bakery is expected to open next year at 4701 Forest Hill Ave., where a three-story mixed-use building is currently taking shape on the site of a former Bank of America branch. 

Will Darsie and Janey Gioiosa are behind Janet’s, which will offer fresh baked bread and pastries as well as sandwiches, salads, coffee and other items. 

The duo met years ago at MarieBette, a Charlottesville bakery known for its pretzel croissants. Darsie was its longtime manager and co-owner of its second location, Petite MarieBette, and Gioiosa worked as a baker there after getting her start in the industry through culinary school. A few years ago Gioiosa stepped out on her own with Janey’s Bread, where she sells wood-fired sourdough bread at local farmers’ markets. 

janey gioiosa will darsie

Janey Gioiosa and Will Darsie (Courtesy Janet’s Cafe & Bakery)

Darsie said he approached Gioiosa last fall about going into business together with a Richmond bakery. 

“I was looking to move to Richmond and for a way to make that happen. I hit Janey up and she was into it immediately,” Darsie said. 

“It happened very quickly,” Gioiosa added. 

They eventually found the under-construction development on Forest Hill, which is a joint venture between Daniil Kleyman’s Evolve Development and Duke Dodson’s Dodson Development Group. 

Janet’s Cafe is taking about 2,000 of the project’s 8,000 square feet of commercial space. The building also will include 40 apartments above the ground-floor commercial area.

Darsie and Gioiosa said it’s too soon to reveal menu specifics, but that Janet’s will be primarily a breakfast and lunch spot. 

“There’s going to be bread, I know that much,” Gioiosa said, laughing. “And croissants, croissant sandwiches, and breakfast sandwiches. It’s going to have your classic stuff, and then some specialty lunch sandwiches, salads and chocolate chip cookies.”

“A neighborhood feel is what we’re going for,” Darsie said. 

Janet’s will operate with counter service and have seating for around 25. The cafe is named for an inside joke between the two about how Gioiosa’s first name auto-corrects to “Janet.”

forest hill bank of america drone

The new development will include 40 apartments plus commercial space. (Courtesy KBS)

Gioiosa and Darsie said they’re hoping to open Janet’s in spring 2025, a few months after the Q1 2025 timeframe that Kleyman said he anticipates the building’s residential units being ready for occupancy. 

Kleyman said they’ve been in talks with some other commercial tenants to join Janet’s at the development, but nothing’s been finalized. 

“We are looking for a dinner/cocktails concept to go into the corner space with the outdoor patio,” Kleyman said in an email. “For the rest of the commercial space we are open to ideas but are looking for uses that will be attractive to our residential tenants and the neighborhood in general.”

Dodson Commercial’s Clint Greene and Palmer Wilkins have the listing on the remaining 6,000 square feet. 

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Charles Frankenhoff
Charles Frankenhoff
1 month ago

This is really turning out to be a great project

Don O'Keefe
Don O'Keefe
1 month ago

As someone born and raised in the vicinity of this project, I am excited for it to contribute to the transformation of Forest Hill Ave. that said, placing the parking in front of the building was a significant mistake.

Tim Pfohl
Tim Pfohl
1 month ago
Reply to  Don O'Keefe

ordinarily I’d agree with you re: the parking, but the building setback and front parking are consistent with almost all the buildings in that commercial area, and with the setback of homes just east of it. just my 2 cents though …

Last edited 1 month ago by Tim Pfohl
David Humphrey
David Humphrey
1 month ago
Reply to  Tim Pfohl

As the older commercial buildings get redeveloped I think there is an opportunity to correct the autocentric design of the past as they did with The Standard. That development has worked very well.

Last edited 1 month ago by David Humphrey
Peter James
Peter James
1 month ago
Reply to  Don O'Keefe

100% agreed, Don. I was also born and raised not far from where this development is rising. Having grown up some 50-plus years ago on Forest Hill Avenue about a mile west in Granite, I’m thrilled to see how Westover Hills is transforming, evolving, and really gaining momentum. This project – and the one a little farther west on Forest Hill Ave. are tremendous steps forward for this part of town.

Last edited 1 month ago by Peter James
Charles Frankenhoff
Charles Frankenhoff
1 month ago
Reply to  Don O'Keefe

I agree with you on parking, but didn’t the neighbors and zoning force that decision?

No doubt parking in the back is much better for urban neighborhoods

Dan Warner
Dan Warner
1 month ago

This location has a great potential customer base. This may finally force some change at WPA down the street, which has been underwhelming for several years.

Peter James
Peter James
1 month ago

Just wanted to extend best wishes to Janey and Will on their new endeavor in Westover Hills. May you enjoy tremendous success in this venture.

Welcome to RVA!! 😃