After spending two decades working in marketing around the country for food-industry giants such as McDonald's, Starbucks and Panera Bread, Richmond native Kathleen Richardson is back home — with her husband, Dale, and four children — looking to establish her own brand of fast-casual fare on a smaller scale.
In early December, she was putting the finishing touches on her new Shockoe Slip restaurant, the Urban Farmhouse Market & Café, at 1217 E. Cary St. As it happens, the café is next door to one of her first employers, the Martin Agency. Richardson, who attended Huguenot High School on the South Side, graduated in 1982 from Virginia Commonwealth University, where she double-majored in political science and mass communications.
With Starbucks, she headed marketing efforts from Maine to North Carolina, helping the company develop expansion strategies. Then Panera hired her as vice president of field marketing for operations throughout United States. Of Urban Farmhouse, she says, "I determined this would be an opportunity to develop a company and a brand that is the culmination of my experience so far." She'd like her business to grow in the next several years, branching out in other areas of Virginia and in Maryland, but she intends to keep it on a regional level.
Richardson envisioned a lean model for her eatery, serving sandwiches, salads and soups made with mainly organic ingredients. The food is prepared in front of customers, who order and pick up at the counter. "The idea is to bring everything out in the open … so you're almost in someone's kitchen," she says.
She sought local and regional producers, signing up the Flour Garden Bakery for her bread and arranging with Sideway Su to provide soups. Coffee is supplied by Williamsburg Coffee & Tea Co., and Nancy Louise is supplying sweet treats made with unbleached flour and raw sugar.
"I want to bring healthier food to people," Richardson says. "If we're taking care of ourselves, we're going to be a little better off going about our life's work."