Business news from the Fredericksburg region.
Pair expanding Fredericksburg presence
BY BILL FREEHLING
In poker parlance, Jake Crocker and Hayden Fisher have gone all-in on downtown Fredericksburg.
In November the business partners opened F.W. Sullivan’s Old Town Bar & Grille on William Street. This summer they plan to open two more eateries and bars: The Chimneys at 623 Caroline St. and Jorge’s Cantina at 106 George St.
Operating several restaurants within close proximity of each other is nothing new for Crocker and Fisher, who have other investors at their various ventures.
This week they opened the Uptown Market and Deli on Main Street in Richmond, having patterned it after Littlejohn’s New York Delicatessen in Charlottesville. On that same corner of Richmond’s Fan District the partners run two other restaurants: the original F.W. Sullivan’s location and Lady N’awlins Cajun Cafe.
The duo became restaurateurs through a roundabout route. Fisher is an attorney in Richmond, while Crocker’s professional background is in advertising and marketing. They met about six years ago through a Richmond-based organization called Opus that focuses on the performing arts.
Fisher and Crocker immediately clicked. They didn’t think Richmond restaurants and bars were doing a good job connecting with young professionals such as themselves. After talking about what they would do differently for a few years, they opened their first F.W. Sullivan’s in November 2009. Things started slowly, but they developed a following.
One of those customers was Jeff Dowdell, who worked as director of marketing and business recruitment for the Fredericksburg Regional Alliance before joining Rich McDaniel as a commercial broker with CB Richard Ellis locally. Dowdell, who has since taken a job in commercial real estate in Chicago, urged Crocker and Fisher to open a second F.W. Sullivan’s location in Fredericksburg.
Fisher and Crocker had considered expanding previously and had thought about Charlottesville or Norfolk. But Fredericksburg clicked for them. They liked the area’s growing population and saw a demand for more vibrant gathering places. They are both history buffs and especially liked downtown as a business location due to its ambience, walkability and train station. They spoke with Capital Ale House President Matt Simmons, who successfully expanded from Richmond to Fredericksburg.
Dowdell identified a spot for them at the former Fatty J’s space at 106 George St. They had intended to open F.W. Sullivan’s there in early 2011, but their plans were delayed because of an extended legal dispute with Fatty J’s. During that conflict they leased the space on William Street and opened F.W. Sullivan’s there.
Now the partners are working to open the Mexican-themed Jorge’s Cantina in the former Fatty J’s space. They hope to get it ready by the end of August.
The Chimneys will open sooner, possibly by the end of July. It will feature fine dining overseen by Garth Hansen, a former chef at the high-end Lemaire restaurant inside Richmond’s iconic Jefferson Hotel. They’ve named each room in the historic building after famous Colonial-era men with ties to Fredericksburg, including George Washington and James Monroe. They want it to be a destination and plan to market it heavily in Northern Virginia.
The partners aren’t done yet in Fredericksburg. They plan to launch TurnUp Taxi Service, which will feature cars powered by kitchen grease, and a live-music venue in the basement of the Jorge’s Cantina space. Fisher, a VMI graduate who went to law school at Washington and Lee, might expand his law office here. Crocker, who attended Radford University and has an MBA from Virginia Tech, does marketing and branding consulting and is starting to develop apps for smartphones.
Both have high hopes for Fredericksburg, where they rent a house on Princess Anne Street and spend much of their time. They have spoken with fellow Richmond entrepreneurs about the city, which could lead to more expansions here.
Bill Freehling: 540/374-5405