Laura Habr walked along 19th Street between Mediterranean and Cypress avenues while she shepherded about 10 people on a twisting path from her restaurant, Croc’s 19th Street Bistro, to one destination after another.
They saw The Stockpot and French Twist, Found Objects and Chartreuse, Onietonie Co. Designs and Igor’s Customs Signs & Stripes. The group was getting an up-close-and-personal look at Virginia Beach’s ViBe Creative District in December as part of a monthly First Friday event to showcase the newly designated area.
The district, now with more than 40 small, locally-owned businesses, stays open late on those First Fridays and holds special events to show off their products, designs and menus to friends, family and new visitors.
Chartreuse, which has a creative lab that serves as an incubator for artists and designers, hosted a gift event in which artists had works ranging from baby clothes to decorations to furniture on sale. Commune provide treats.
The district’s next First Friday is New Year’s Day.
For Habr, a community leader of the district, it’s a dream come true to see the ViBe’s businesses flourishing.
“It truly is a grassroots movement,” she said. “When we started we only had like four businesses. Now we have over 40. That’s incredible economic growth. It’s exciting to see the support and momentum that the people here are showing.”
Many of the business, such as The Stockpot, which opened in late September, got their start at the Old Beach Farmers Market and grew popular enough to find their own place in the district.
Three Ships Coffee began on a pop-up basis in April 2013. It sold coffee at the farmers market and other events out of a 1970s-era RV, its “roastery.” Owners and creators Brad and Amy Ewing now have a permanent home for their business at 1703 Mediterranean Ave.
The City Council officially established the district on April 21. Because it is officially zoned as a creative district, venues that meet certain criteria can receive incentives and special provisions, such as the option to live, work and sell out of the same space.
Places such as Chartreuse offer up part of their business as creative labs or incubators for other artists as space in the district gets harder to find. Habr said she hopes property owners there follow the example of L.G. Shaw, the operations manager at Wave Riding Vehicles, who recently rezoned the company’s storage garage and rented it out to four businesses, including Three Ships Coffee.
The district’s boundaries stretch from the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art on Parks Avenue and 22nd Street to 17th Street and Virginia Beach Boulevard. The next step is defining those boundaries, Habr said.
“It definitely needs the aesthetics so you feel like you’ve arrived somewhere,” she said. The group began working on that plan at the First Friday in November by painting a mural along 18th Street and Mediterranean Avenue.
Aesthetics are just one of items on the ViBe’s checklist. Habr took pictures of her tour group walking to document the need for sidewalks in parts of the district to improve its accessibility to pedestrians.
Owners in the district meet at least monthly to discuss plans, projects, ideas and to get to know each other, Habr said.
For Java Surf Cafe & Espresso Bar and Onietonie Co. Designs, the relationship developed into a partnership. In November, Onietonie designed and developed a 24-piece display of surfboard art that now hangs on the walls of the café.
Events planned for the upcoming First Friday include coffee stops at Bad Ass Coffee and Three Ships Coffee, a free community pilates flash mob at at Flo Pilates Studio that will be filmed to promote the district, and brunch at Croc’s.
“The more people we have participating in (First Friday ViBE), the better for all,” said Anne Galante, an owner of The Stockpot.
Have a story idea or news tip? Contact schools reporter Kelly Kultys at Kelly@SouthsideDaily.com or 757-490-2750.
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