A three- car interactive train, an ocean-themed play area and an art room are draws at the Children’s Museum of Richmond-Short Pump.Photo by Isaac Harrell.
To step inside the sensory wonderland known as the Children's Museum of Richmond-Short Pump, visitors must walk under towering books, the first of many zany and giggly details in this vivid 15,500-square-foot space attracting families with twinkle-eyed youngsters in hordes.
Boys and girls can romp in a castle containing a tunnel and a slide, or dig in sand under palm trees near a pirate's ship. For many of them, the star attraction is a three-car train chugging along bright tracks past an assortment of stuffed safari animals. It's an interactive ride, too, thanks to buttons that little passengers jab to let loose a cacophony of growls, roars and bird calls. The popular train, designed with animals riding the front, back and top of the cars, distinguishes this museum from its Richmond hub.
CMoR-Short Pump, which opened in the spring of 2010, is located in the upscale and walkable West Broad Village, increasingly home to second locations for popular businesses like LaDifférence, The Halligan Bar and Grill and ACAC.
Other changes at CMoR-Short Pump, located at 2200 Old Brick Road, include its hours. The doors open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. all year, as opposed to the central museum's shorter hours during the school year. A new service for members run by teachers, "Stay and Learn," allows parents and caregivers to drop off their children for three hours while they shop or run errands. It's pay as you go, so no contracts or advance notices are needed. The cost is $25 for one child and $20 for each additional sibling.
For Lana Lance and her three children, ages 2, 3 and 5, visiting the museum these days means a shorter drive from their western Henrico County home. "For me, it's a convenient location. You can come for a hour, and you don't have to drive downtown."
Membership jumped 22 percent in the first year the museum's new location was open; now about 36 percent of the members are from Short Pump ZIP codes, says Michelle Rosman, director of community and media relations. The steady stream of new members increases revenue and helps cover fixed costs at both locations, freeing up more donated funds for scholarship visits for needy children. In the last fiscal year, the museum had a 34 percent increase in scholarship dollars and a 20 percent increase in children served by scholarships compared to the previous year, Rosman says.
"Our board of trustees approved a branching strategy so we could better fulfill the museum's mission while serving significantly more children and families," says Karen Coltrane, director and CEO. "We've been thrilled with the number of people who regularly visit our Short Pump branch."
A third museum location will open in Chesterfield County in 2012.
A couple of blocks away looms another wonderland, this one for adults who are contemporary-furniture aficionados. In February, LaDifférence expanded its presence from Shockoe Bottom in Richmond to a second location in a 7,000-square-foot store at 2436 Old Brick Road. Bringing its renowned trademark smorgasbord of modern design to the Short Pump made sense, says co-owner Andy Thornton.
For the customers who weren't coming downtown, LaDifférence's western branch provides the convenience of a closer store, he said. Also, the store serves as a teaser for people who "see the extent of what we've got and ask if we have more. We say yes! Six times as much downtown."
Business is getting better, Thornton says. "We think that the long-term viability of West Broad Village is good. There is a bit of a challenge at this point because folks know where Whole Foods is, but they don't necessarily understand there is a whole road that runs parallel to Broad Street back there. A year from now, it's going to be strong. I believe in the model, I believe the West Broad Village is an attractive destination, but it's still a challenge until they get more stores out there."
The Halligan Bar and Grill, a downtown barbecue restaurant, will add a second location in Short Pump, bringing the same firefighter motif to a bigger space. Scheduled to open in 2012, the new eatery will include outdoor seating. Also opening next year is a second Richmond-area location of ACAC Fitness and Wellness Centers, which has a facility in Midlothian.
But the Far West End isn't for everyone. It's Hip to be Round, the maternity boutique, closed its West Broad Village store and the original Carytown site last year. Under new ownership, the shop returned to its Cary Street roots in May. Owner Christa Donahue, who says she can't provide insight into the Short Pump closing since she wasn't involved with the store at that time, says she is thrilled with the Cary Court location. There's parking, a perk for pregnant women, and the open floor plan has allowed her to expand postpartum and nursing fashions. She has no plans to open a second location.