Business returns to Broad Street following closures, disruptions

Business is booming along Broad Street in Richmond. It’s an area that was forced to close down during the pandemic and then was rocked by social unrest.
Published: Jul. 21, 2023 at 2:22 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 21, 2023 at 2:34 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Business is booming along Broad Street in Richmond. It’s an area that was forced to close down during the pandemic, and then was rocked by social unrest.

But in the years since, things are changing. The boards that once stood are coming down, and commerce is returning.

“Pretty much as soon as COVID was over, the construction started and it’s been about three years in the making now, so we are very excited to bring something new to Broad Street,” said Jonathan Smith, Ember Music Hall event manager.

Ember Music Hall is one of those new businesses, which just opened Wednesday. Managers say business is already good and they’re looking forward to even more.

“Really just felt wonderful to me as a Richmond native. This place was actually two vacant buildings that were completely stripped out to build this, so it really feels good,” said Cody Hott, general manager of Ember Music Hall.

They’re not alone. Plenty of new businesses are opening up in an area that suffered greatly from COVID-19 shutdowns and large protests centered along the strip.

“Working in the shop during the pandemic there was definitely a heavy decline at that time, and from now we’ve definitely seen an increase for sure,” said Trey Shiflett, Alchemy Coffee manager.

Shiflett says they’re serving up more and more cups of Joe with each passing month.

Under new ownership, Shiflett is hopeful they will tap into new ideas to continue to drive the bottom line.

“I think being in this location off Broad Street near VCU campus, to me, it’s the middle of Richmond, so it’s like we’re in the thick of it all. So it’s good to be a part of that and see that growth,” said Shiflett.

Richmond City Hall is also noticing the number of new businesses opening up shop.

Public works crews are also focusing attention on the area and making improvements by adding new sidewalks, 50 trash cans and 100 bike racks.

“The main thing we’re trying to is to enhance our economic development, and so as we look at Broad Street being our jewel in the city of Richmond, it gets a lot of vehicular traffic, but it also gets a great deal of pedestrian traffic,” said Bobby Vincent, Richmond Public Works director.

The city says the improvements here to Broad Street will be done by the end of this month.