How Richmond’s new gluten-free restaurant used a city program to launch

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RICHMOND, Va. — Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney cut the ribbon at 521 Biscuits & Waffles, a new gluten-free restaurant at 521 East Main Street in Richmond that opened in early May.

The restaurant, owned by Aaron Bond and his wife Maria Jose’ Mejia Ruiz, was the first small business approved for funding by the City of Richmond’s new Micro-Enterprise Loan Program.

Mayor Stoney expressed his excitement regarding the opening of new small businesses.

“Small businesses are essential to flourishing communities and growing a prosperous city,” Stoney said. “I’m extremely proud of the work our Office of Minority Business Development is doing to support and encourage entrepreneurial growth and development, and I look forward to seeing how this micro-loan program will help launch many other successful new businesses.”

Bond said he and his wife chose to open a gluten-free restaurant because his mother has Celiac Disease. Waffles and biscuits were a staple of his grandmothers’ breakfasts, and so he tweaked those recipes to make them accessible to people with gluten sensitivity.

“We want to be able to accommodate folks who usually can’t go out and have a meal without worrying and asking a lot of questions and making sure that a kitchen isn’t contaminated,” Bond said.

He said that at 521 Biscuits & Waffles, “those folks can just go out to eat with friends and not think about those concerns.”

“Our biggest mission starting this was to bring people together to the same table so we can learn from each other and just enjoy and live our best lives,” Bond said.

The Micro-Enterprise Loan Program was created for businesses with five or fewer employees including the owner or owners. The Micro-Enterprise Loan grants loans for businesses requiring financing between $2,500 and $50,000. The loan program is funded with federal dollars and is administered by the City of Richmond.

521 Biscuits & Waffles will operate Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m., and Saturday from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m.. The restaurant will not operate on Sunday. They will serve a variety of waffles and biscuits, as well as cooked apples, oven-roasted potatoes, and fresh-squeezed orange juice, according to the restaurant’s online menu.

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