Co-working space generates interest in River District

Posted by Danville River District News on July 31, 2017
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A pop-up event this week in the River District generated interest for a co-working space downtown, and owner Lenny Keesee hopes to sign a lease for the old Bobby Carlson studio on Main Street in September.
Between 40 and 45 people visited the pop-up space at 312 Main St. in Danville’s River District, and more than half of them requested sign-up packets by Friday morning.
“Several people told me that September would be better for them to sign leases,” Keesee said from behind the built-in desk in the old photographer’s studio. “That works out fine for us so we can make some changes.”
Co-working spaces are real offices built for entrepreneurs and freelance workers.
Keesee plans to add a full kitchen, move the conference room area downstairs, and add some partitions to the upstairs offices for a slightly more private area.
There is a similar option available in Ringgold through the Dan River Business Development Center, called Southside CoShare.
“I don’t have any problem with competition,” Executive Director Ralph Hogg told the Register & Bee on Friday. “I think there’s a need for that type of service, especially in the River District.”
Southside CoShare offers more support services than River District’s current plans, but does not have the “prime location” that River District Coworking’s downtown office offers. Southside also offers light industrial space for research, development and production of goods.
In addition to the co-working possibilities, Keesee is working on a hybrid membership for photographers to use the studio after business hours and during the weekends. He is also toying with the idea of renting the space out for parties and events. Both groups offer a variety of options for each person’s co-working needs.
“We’re optimistic,” Keesee said Friday morning. “If not here, maybe there’s another place that we need to be in.”
Keesee and Hogg define co-working as the use of a working environment by people who are self-employed or working for different employers.
“I feel like if he can’t make it successful, nobody will,” Hogg said with confidence. “It’s a necessity for Danville. I wish him well with that.”
Ceillie ​Simkiss reports for the Danville Register & Bee. Contact her at or (434) 791-7981.

Co-working space to ‘pop up’ in River District

Posted by Danville River District News on July 31, 2017
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After Lenny Keesee was told he could no longer work from home, he started looking into creating a co-working space in Danville with his wife, Lacey.
“It’s the bridge between folks running a business out of their home and going into your own dedicated office space,” Keesee said. “It allows entrepreneurs a tremendous amount of additional runway.
Keesee was with a company that allowed him to work out of his house until the company changed hands. He was given the option of moving to Charlotte, North Carolina, or leaving the company.
That’s what made him start looking into a co-working space as a compromise between working from home and working in an office.
He ended up leaving the company before he could pitch the idea, but he still wants to help others.
Co-working spaces are real offices built for entrepreneurs and freelance workers.
“They aren’t committing to a full lease and all the other expenses that go into your own office,” he said. “It’s all the entrepreneurs working together out of a shared environment, and helping each other out.”
Entrepreneurs can rent exactly the kind of space they need — whether it’s a seat at a conference table, a dedicated desk or their own office.
Working with Danville’s Economic Development Office and the Industrial Development Authority, the couple planned a pop-up event next week to gauge interest in the project.
The free pop-up event will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday-Thursday and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday in the former Bobby Carlson studio, 312 Main St, Suite 200 in Danville.
“We’re excited about this opportunity, Danville Economic Development Assistant Director Cori Teague Bobe said. “We feel that co-working spaces really add to the entrepreneurial spirit that’s developing within our community. This will give entrepreneurs space to gather and share ideas, and expand and market their companies throughout the region.
“A lot of older businesses have a stigma against working from home,” Keesee said. “We got some traction and some interest, so we figured we’d see if we could do it.”
They hope to have 15 to 20 people sign up to be founding members, at which point they will sign a lease that will suit the needs of their members. Keesee said he hopes to sign a lease at one of the IDA’s properties downtown.
“I think we’re getting close to finding our charter members,” Keesee said. “If we don’t, we’ll probably drop back and re-evaluate and see if we can do another pop-up event and see what we can do.
“We’ll have a conference table set up, a few small offices, etc all free of charge,” Keesee explained. “We want to show people in Danville what co-working is all about.”
Ceillie ​Simkiss reports for the Danville Register & Bee. Contact her at or (434) 791-7981.

River District Printing Ribbon Cutting

Posted by Danville River District News on July 27, 2017
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Taco-tequila bar, grocery store, brewpub coming to Craghead Street

Posted by Danville River District News on July 18, 2017
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A taco-tequila bar, a grocery store and a brewpub will be opening on Craghead Street’s 500 block, owner Rick Barker announced Monday.
Fresh, local ingredients and a choice of indoor and outdoor dining options will be part of each new business.
Stephan Parry, managing partner of the Parry Restaurant Group, plans to open a taco-tequila restaurant/bar this fall, featuring 10 6-inch taco options and more than 100 brands of tequila.
It will be located in the Hughes Building at 530 Craghead St.
The restaurant group has 13 restaurants throughout Virginia, including two other taco-tequila bars: El Jefe Taqueria Garaje in Lynchburg and Tuco’s Taqueria Garaje in Roanoke.
“We’re glad we attracted Steve to the River District,” Barker said. “He’s at the top of his game … with an ability to develop a menu to a local market; it’s very localized and offers quality food and atmosphere.”
The interior will be themed after the Mexican holiday, “Day of the Dead,” which honors the lives of family members who have died.
Plans call for seating for 54 diners inside, with additional seating for 66 outside.
“We’ll be able to use the outside dining most of the year,” Barker said. “We’ll have gas heaters and fire pits.”
Barker said they have tried to tie the opening of the new businesses — and the apartments above— to the completion of the sidewalk renovations the city is doing and the parking lots being built by the Industrial Development Authority.
A new market also plans open next door to the taco-tequila bar.
Steve DelGiorno — who owns the 616 Farm to Table restaurant on North Main Street as well as the Chatham Public House and Le Petite Rebelle in Chatham — will open the Craghead Market, featuring healthy, organic and minimally processed food options. Fresh baked goods, fresh flowers, staple grocery items, fresh produce and meats, beer, wine, dairy and frozen foods will be carried, as well as prepared foods and salads from a 14-foot salad bar.
Delivery to River District locations will be available.
“It will all about food,” DelGiorno said. “It will be a scaled-down version of Whole Foods or Weaver Street Market in Hillsboro, North Carolina.”
Bulk foods, such as different types of flours and granolas, will be available by the pound.
“It will have everything you need to go home and cook a great restaurant-quality meal,” DelGiorno said.
The third project announced Monday is a partnership between Barker and DelGiorno to open Preservation Ale and Smokehouse at 518 Craghead St. — the former Gibson’s Dry Prizery — in 2018.
The restaurant will serve up southern barbecue with some twists, incorporating Nashville-, Memphis- and Korean-style flavors, DelGiorno said.
An on-site brewery will have its own seating behind double doors leading from the restaurant, so people sampling the brews will be surrounded by the equipment making those brews, Barker said. The brewpub will offer rotating taps of lagers, ales and specialty beers.
“The building was slated for demolition, but we offered to buy it and restore it,” Barker said. “It’s the oldest tobacco prizery downtown.”
Renovations to the historic, 1871 building are set to begin this fall, including the addition of a courtyard for outside dining.
DelGiorno said he has been asked if Danville needs another brew pub, in addition to Ballad Brewing on Craghead Street and 2 Witches Winery and Brewing Company on Trade Street.
“We did a tremendous amount of research into this,” DelGiorno said. “The data says the more breweries clustered together, the more successful they become.”
Multiple breweries attract travelers in a two-hour drive time range around the cluster, he said.
“One won’t attract travelers, but if there are more, they become a destination,” DelGiorno said. “It’s like the food truck rodeo they had — 4,000 people came to that, a lot of them from out of town.”
Seven new high-end apartments over the Hughes and Venable buildings will also be ready shortly, Barker said. All have different layouts, with one or two bedrooms and baths, as well as a variety of finishing touches, like different cabinet styles in each of the kitchens.
Additional commercial spaces will be available.
Barker and DelGiorno have several projects in the works beyond this block of Craghead Street, including a partnership at the soon-to-be-completed Crema & Vine in the former gas station at 1009 Main St., and projects they are working on individually.
DelGiorno said the projects being done in the River District — by all of the development groups currently working on various buildings — will help revitalize the whole city.
“The more we transform the River District, the better Danville will be,” DelGiorno said.
Corrie Teague Bobe, assistant director of economic development for the city, said city officials are pleased with how the revitalization of the River District is coming along.
“We’re excited to see the 500 block of Craghead Street come back to life,” Bobe said. “These three businesses are unique and the concepts were requested from visitors to the River District — both from here and from other places — over the past few years.”
Denice Thibodeau reports for the Danville Register & Bee. Contact her at or (434) 791-7985.

New trolley bus route geared toward shopping, other activities in River District

Posted by Danville River District News on July 17, 2017
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A new trolley bus route is coming to Danville next month.
Starting Aug. 4, the service will be available 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. every Saturday and 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. the first Friday of each month.
The Mainline trolley bus route will run from Ballou Park to the River District (including the Danville Science Center/Community Market/Crossing at the Dan) to North Main Street at Moana Place.
It will include 40 stops along the route, said Danville Transportation Director Marc Adelman.
Fares will be $1 per ride with a half-fare discount for seniors and disabled people until noon on Saturdays, Adelman said. Children 12 and under accompanied by an adult will ride for free.
Signs will be at each stop displaying boarding times for that particular location, Adelman said. The trolley bus will hit each bus stop location every 45 minutes, he said.
The route’s schedule — based on responses from a survey — is geared toward shopping and other activities in the River District downtown, Adelman said.
“It helps provide shopping opportunities and recreational activities,” he said, adding that it could increase activity in the area around the Community Market.
The route will complement shopping and dining in the River District, he added.
“This is a common service provided by many transit systems across the country,” Adelman said.
It will also provide transportation in the North Main Street area including the North Theatre, 616 Farm to Table, and Moon River Thai.
Danville City Councilman James Buckner introduced the idea and a subcommittee was formed. Buckner — who chaired the subcommittee — credited its members for helping make the idea a reality. The members were Linwood Duncan, Earl Reynolds, Alexis Ehrhardt, Debbie Flinn and Ernecia Coles.
The route follows Danville’s old Mainline from years ago, Buckner said.
“It could really serve the community in so many different ways,” Buckner said.
The trolley bus will be one of two trolleys that the city has. They were renovated last year and one has been used as a spare for Danville’s fixed-route bus service and for special occasions for reserved rides for 10 or more people, Adelman said.
Bus trolley features include new flooring, vintage lights and a front destination sign.
Adelman said the new route may not cost the city anything, depending on ridership volume. The city will receive state and federal funding to subsidize the service’s operating cost, he said. Cost for operating it will be $30 per hour of operation.
The trolley buses each have a capacity of 26.
Other services coming next month include expanded bus service to Goodwill Industries and Centra Danville Medical Center on Aug. 1, and a new Averett Cougar Express bus route.
John Crane reports for the Danville Register & Bee. Contact him at or (434) 791-7987.