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Mama J’s restaurant is expanding in Jackson Ward

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Mama J’s soon will expand into the two-story property next door at 411 N. First St. (Kieran McQuilkin)

RICHMOND, Va. — A Jackson Ward restaurant known for its southern comfort dishes is ready to grow again.

Mama J’s is expanding into a two-story building at 411 N. First St. to make room for more kitchen space to accommodate its growing catering business and to-go operations.

The space is next door to Mama J’s main restaurant space, and the company bought the building nearly two years ago. The expansion will target the kitchen and prep areas, Mama J’s President Lester Johnson said, but it will not include the restaurant’s dining area.

Plans for the North First Street building call for the enclosure and conversion of a parking garage into a 1,600-square-foot kitchen, Johnson said. He said the eatery will move its to-go operations from the restaurant to the new space. The second floor of the building will be converted into company offices.

Both the restaurant and catering business currently share an 800-square-foot kitchen, Johnson said.

“We’re trying to grow our catering operations, and given the space that we’re in currently, that was becoming difficult to do when having to fill restaurant and to-go orders from the same kitchen,” Johnson said. “With the new kitchen, we’ll be able to move our catering operation into the new space … that will free up space to address demand with our other orders.”

Founded by Velma Johnson, Mama J’s has been a Jackson Ward mainstay since 2009 – expanding when needed to accommodate its growth, Johnson said.

Three years ago, the company converted the ground level of a building it owns at 101 E. Clay St. into an events venue, where it caters private parties.

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