Our Summer Symposium kicks off in Richmond, Virginia, tomorrow, June 20, and we'd like to introduce you to some of the wonderful people we'll celebrate over the course of the weekend. Since our new website isn't ready to show off just yet, we're sharing the interviews from our latest oral history project here. Every day leading up to the Summer Symposium, we'll feature two more stories from Women at Work in RVA.
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"Looking back, I didn’t know any better to be scared. I didn’t have a credit card. I don’t think I even had a car. I had no money. But I just worked every day, and it gave me an identity. And then early on, we got lots of accolades, so there’s a reason to hang in there. People like this. Okay, let’s keep going."
Ipanema Cafe, The Roosevelt, Garnett's & WPA Bakery
Kendra Feather moved to Richmond from rural Pennsylvania to attend college at Virginia Commonwealth University. She supported herself by waiting tables at Third Street Diner and Bidder's Suite. When Bidder's Suite went out of business, Kendra was presented the opportunity to buy the building and start a restaurant. At the age of 28, without a solid investor or even a car, she seized the moment. In 1998, she opened Ipanema Cafe, a vegetarian restaurant. Opportunity showed up on her doorstep again more than 10 years later. In 2009, she opened Garnett's, a cozy lunch place named after her grandmother in the Richmond neighborhood known as The Fan. Two years later, Kendra kept going. She partnered with chef Lee Gregory to open The Roosevelt in Church Hill. Just one year later and a few blocks away from The Roosevelt, she opened WPA Bakery (Well-made Pastry Alliance) with David Rohrer. In an industry than can tend to be a boy's club, Kendra's blazed her own trail. Each restaurant is a unique destination that she imagined and created without being anywhere near the kitchen.
"Passing it down, that’s where you want it to stay. Because the new people walk in, and they will have their ways of wanting to do things. But I think maybe if you sold it to somebody and went back a year later and bought potato salad, I bet you two cents it wouldn’t taste the same." ~Marcyne Jones
MARTHA CROWE JONES & MARCYNE JONES
Sally Bell's Kitchen
If there is one thing Richmonders can count on, it's the boxed lunch from Sally Bell's Kitchen. Sarah “Sallie” Cabell Jones met Elizabeth Lee Milton at the Richmond Exchange of Woman's Work in the early twentieth century. The Richmond Exchange, one of many such organizations found across the South, started in 1883. It allowed women to earn money selling goods, wares, and food in order to help them become self-sufficient. Sarah and Elizabeth opened Sally Bell's Kitchen (then called Sarah Lee Kitchen) in 1924 on Grace Street, directly across from its current location, at a time when it was exceptionally rare for women to have their own business. Elizabeth eventually left the business, and Sarah took over for the next several decades. In the 1960s, Marcyne Jones, who married Sarah Cabell Jones' son, Hunter, took over the business after mother-in-law retired. Like the recipes from Sarah Cabell's little green notebook—the potato salad, the mayonnaise, the icing for the cupcakes—the business has remained in the family. In 1985, Martha Crowe Jones, Marcyne's daughter-in-law, took the reins. Today, several of the women working in the kitchen have been with Sally Bell's for decades. And generations of customers continue to stand in line for their famous five-item boxed lunch.
*We also commissioned a short documentary film on Sally Bell's Kitchen, which will premier at the Summer Symposium. We'll share it online soon.