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Shop owners in limbo as Carytown Publix ponders development plans

RICHMOND, Va. – As workers were busy dismantling the MARTIN’S Food Market in Carytown just a day after its closing, the businesses which have long operated in the surrounding buildings were busy wondering exactly what their fate is and when they would find out.

The grocery store is one of the ten bought by Publix, and while most are being renovated, former MARTIN’S employees said the Carytown one will be demolished. The Richmond Shopping Center has long stood at the top of the so-called “mile of style” and close to 20 shops are situated on the parcel.

For 18 years, Andrew Chasen has run an art gallery in one of the buildings right along Cary Street. He knows that change is coming.

Andrew Chasen

"We just know that it's coming so we have to move,” Chasen said.

Other business owners said they’ve been told they may have to move, but none have been given a time frame for when or details about which stores will stay.

Graham Brown, with RVA Wireless, said he was told by construction workers that the section where he works would be demolished but the real estate company won’t confirm any plans or set a specific date for when they have to leave.

“A group of guys came around with clipboards, and they pointed at our store and said, 'This is where the transformer is going to go,” Brown said.

Several owners and employees expressed that the deal benefited the real estate agent far more than them, and they were all looking for new spaces – many whom have been there over one, two and three decades.

On Wednesday construction workers were soil testing on-site for a reported multi-level parking deck that would take over Chasen’s art gallery.

Brown said he has nothing against Publix coming to Carytown, but points out that the shopping district started on small businesses, and now more than 20 may be forced out.

"Carytown is built on small businesses, all the local shops and everything,” Brown said. “Once these big businesses start coming in, the small businesses get hurt.”

Graham Brown

Several shop owners said the change isn’t necessarily bad for them, and likely good for Richmond.

“When you own a business, you are constantly looking for fresh and new ways to do things, and this is forcing us,” Chasen said.  “It’s change, and you have to expect change.  We don’t own these buildings, so therefore we are at the mercy of the landlord and what they want to do with the property.”

A Publix spokesperson said they are still “working through their plans.”

The real estate company that manages the shopping center sent a response:

“The owners of Richmond Shopping Centers and Regency Centers, a national shopping center developer, are actively working on plans for the property.  Richmond Shopping Center has served the Carytown community for more than 70 years and any future plans will contribute to the unique character of the neighborhood.  At this time, no final agreements have been made regarding the shopping center’s future.”