June was a heady month for local restaurants, as pandemic restrictions lifted and pent-up demand for social gatherings and dining out fueled a surge of eager customers.
Two Short Pump restaurants – one a newcomer to the Metro Richmond scene, the other a veteran of several years – were among the establishments celebrating the June return to near-normalcy with showcase events.
Across from Short Pump Town Center, Clean Eatz officially cut the ribbon to its newest location June 23, two weeks after opening its doors to customers. The health food restaurant boasts both a cafe and a freezer full of grab-and-go-style meals, as well as offering weekly meal plans that can be ordered in bulk.
As guests at the grand opening sampled everything from flatbreads to salmon bowls and veggie wraps, owner Daniel Rizer described his introduction to the Clean Eatz concept. While living in the Raleigh, N.C., area, Rizer recalled, he and his wife were driving one day through a parking lot in Cary, hungry and in an hurry.
“We should get something healthy,” they agreed, but were about to default to one of their usual fast food destinations – until they stumbled across a Clean Eatz for the first time.
According to Rizer, they were both surprised and delighted to discover a cafe offering nutritious meals at a speed and price comparable to a burger chain’s. In other words, he said, “healthy options at a fast food price.”
Shedding the junk habit
By then, Rizer had spent 30 years in the corporate world, and was contemplating a career change or possible retirement. But as Clean Eatz became the couple’s regular destination and they ditched their burger-and-fries habit, Rizer noticed a difference in his physical well-being, and began to warm to the idea of owning a restaurant – something he’d previously avoided. In a small-business environment, he reasoned, he would not only have a direct impact on customers, but also be able to observe the benefit to them.
And with that, the move to Richmond to open a Clean Eatz franchise was on.
Even before the store’s opening publicity, customers were “stumbling” onto the Short Pump location, Rizer said – and liking what they found, just as he and his wife had. In the space of a few weeks, he noted, many locals have become regular visitors to the cafe to dine in or grab meals from the freezers, while others have subscribed to meal plans.
By day, Rizer added, the growing Short Pump area teems with construction workers, who tend to subsist on a steady diet of convenience and junk foods. Those workers particularly appreciate the variety of alternatives at Clean Eatz, he said. Considering that six new meals are added to the menu each week, there is enough variety that even regular patrons – not to mention the restaurant owners – should never have to settle for junk or high-fat fare again.
“No more fast food,” Rizer concluded emphatically.
Have a taste
Over at Burger Bach in West Broad Village, which opened its doors in 2013, the customer base has been around awhile – and an enthusiastic crowd was on hand June 10 to celebrate the recent easing of restrictions.
Billed as a tasting and designed to highlight suppliers and partnerships, the event featured samples of three varieties of Burger Bach chicken burgers, along with cocktails from Three Crosses Distillery and wine from Foley Family Wine Company.
The gastropub, which also has two other locations in the Richmond, touts its “New Zealand influence” and quality of ingredients; both its free-range lamb and pasture-raised, grass-fed beef are exclusively supplied by New Zealand farms. The original Burger Bach, which opened in Carytown in 2012, took its name from “bach” (pronounced ‘batch’), the New Zealand term for a “holiday home” where family and friends might gather on vacation.
Among the guests in attendance at the June 10 event was Bob Keiter, one of the owners of Burger Bach Partners, the parent company of the Burger Bach stores.
Like Dan Rizer of CleanEatz, Keiter had an eye-opening experience on his initial visit to the restaurant.
In early 2013, Burger Bach CEO Dan Brantingham, who had worked with Keiter on a previous venture, invited him to a casual “let’s catch up” lunch at the original Carytown location. After they’d eaten, Brantingham asked Keiter what he thought of his burger.
“It’s the best burger I’ve ever had,” Keither answered.
With that, Brantingham explained his involvement and his desire to get Keiter involved in developing future restaurants. In the eight years since, their investor group and staff have built four: in Short Pump, Midlothian, Charlottesville and Durham, N.C.
Guests at the Burger Bach event also heard from Lee Kuykendall of Farmer Focus, a small, farmer-created brand that supplies the restaurant’s organic, cage-free chicken from Shenandoah Valley.
Founded by sixth-generation family farmer Corwin Heatwole, Farmer Focus centers around the principle of humane and sustainable farming practices.
When Heatwole was three years old, his father built his first poultry house, and Heatwole grew up farming and tending to the flocks. After years raising chickens for other companies, and seeing the demands on his family as well as the toll it took on the birds, Heatwole established Farmer Focus as a way of fostering generational farming.
By partnering with independent family farms, the organization helps promote a humane approach, while at the same time empowering small farmers. Farmer Focus partners must be certified humane by outside parties, and tend to have smaller flocks than commercial farms. What’s more, every Farmer Focus product includes a four-letter ‘Farm I.D.’ on the package, so consumers can trace their chicken back to one of the 60 Shenandoah Valley families who raised it.
Kuykendall was joined by Jason Daugherty of Pleasant Hill Poultry in Lexington, who could be said to epitomize the humane approach to raising chickens. According to his Farmer Focus profile, Daugherty sleeps in the house with his flock on winter nights when temperatures plunge too low.
“It’s not that he doesn’t trust the equipment,” reads the bio. “He just isn’t willing to take the chance.”
Taking it to extremes? More like all-in-a-day’s-work for family farmers. As Daugherty’s profile puts it, “Jason may be a little crazy about his birds; but that kind of dedication makes him an extraordinary farmer.”
* * *
For details about Farmer Focus, including a list of local groceries stocking their products, visit FarmerFocus.com. For details about Clean Eatz visit CleanEatz.com; for details about Burger Bach, visit TheBurgerBach.com.
Thank you for reading!
If you enjoy our content, please consider a monetary contribution to help us keep our news free.