Illustration by Bob Scott
Remember the old Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups commercial? A guy is at the top of a brownstone stoop, eating a chocolate bar. At the bottom of the steps, a clueless kid is eating a whole jar of peanut butter. “Mmm. Peanut buttah,” the kid says. “Mmm, chocolate,” the bespectacled man declares before taking one ill-advised step onto a roller skate left on a step, which hurtles him down toward the unsuspecting child, whereupon his chocolate bar lands squarely in the peanut butter. They utter the now famous lines, “You got peanut butter on my chocolate!” ... “You got chocolate in my peanut buttah!” Then the classic tagline — “Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Two great tastes that taste great together.”
Since that beautiful marriage more than 40 years ago, people seemed determined to force things together to make something wonderful and yummy — even if they seem like they don’t belong together. French fries and a Wendy’s Frosty. Socks and sandals. Paul McCartney and Kanye West.
Now this kind of thinking is headed to Carytown in the form of Capital One Café — part bank, part coffeehouse, all head-scratching. But people in Boston, Los Angeles, Chicago and New York seem to love them, with their ample seating and meeting space, ATMs and limited banking services, free Wi-Fi and Peet’s coffee (half price if you’re a Capital One customer). It will be at the corner of Cary and Sheppard streets, taking over the space from Secco Wine Bar.
But is this really what Carytown needs? I say yes! While it may not be difficult to find a cup of coffee or an ATM in Carytown, Capital One is about to solve the pervasive problem that frustrates so, so many of us: where to withdraw cash while noshing on a scone. How many times in just the past month have you said to yourself, “I sure could go for a steaming cup of Peet’s coffee and a chance to explore new digital banking tools?”
Some people think this is all silliness or worse — a creeping, insidious corporate presence that will ruin Carytown’s homespun appeal once and for all. To this, I say, “Pshaw!” What we need is more, not less of this kind of synergistic, dynamic thinking!
But instead of opening new retail outlets in a shopping district already rich with a variety of goods and services, why not combine some corporate presence with some of our fine pre-existing local establishments?
For example: My last trip to the Verizon store took two hours, and I wasn’t even on a waiting list. Walked right in, got served immediately and suffered in that special ring of hell for two hours. But let’s imagine that Verizon might employ the same kind of innovative thinking that Capital One is bringing to Carytown. Why not open a Verizon store inside Cary Court’s Yoga Source? I can assure you that whole experience would have been much more pleasant if I had been deep breathing for an actual reason.
Verizon’s corporate pitch might say something like: “Verizon Yoga Source will provide Richmonders a space where they can upgrade their iPhones, choose a new service plan or purchase a virtual reality headset while calming their nervous systems and engaging in mindful flow.”
Similarly, wouldn’t it be a great idea to have a DMV location inside Plan 9? Imagine the sonic landscape you could explore all in the time it takes for the cashier to call out “T-86.”
The possibilities for creative pairings are endless. Bon Secours already has had success in its partnership with the Washington Redskins at its summer training facility in the city. Why not leverage that in Carytown at, say, the New York Deli? Bon Secours health representatives could be on hand with information about cardiovascular disease or gastroenterological services while you gobble up your sailor sandwich or three-meat omelet.
Change is difficult, especially in Richmond, but let’s embrace it! Let’s order coffee from bank tellers — or get loans from baristas — and not think about it too deeply.
Let’s not fret over losing Secco Wine Bar. They’ll do great in the old Buddy’s location. Besides, even though I loved it, I just felt like there was something missing about Secco in Carytown. Like a Nationwide office.