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Happy Trails to Texas-Wisconsin Border Cafe

Farewell Texas-Wisconsin

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Happy Trails to Texas-Wisconsin Border Cafe
St. Andrew's Houses Idle, But For How Long?
"Fargo" Brothers Direct Martin Ad
Urban Legend Makes Local Rounds

Happy Trails to Texas-Wisconsin Border Cafe

For 17 years, the Texas-Wisconsin Border Cafe made the bizarre, unlikely combination of Lone Star spiciness and heartland dairy goodness into a sublime, satisfying reality.

But the Border has seen its last roundup.

"It was time," says Joe Seipel, one of the Border's owners. Last week, he and his partner sold the Border to Johnny Giavos, owner of Sidewalk Cafe and four other local restaurants.

The last day of business was Sunday, March 14, Seipel says.

"It's a very complicated thing," says Seipel. But he says that one factor in the sale was the death two years ago of Jim Bradford who, along with Donna Van Winkle and Seipel, was one of the founding partners.

"We've had a great experience while we were there," Seipel says.

Although he's clearly saddened by selling the place he operated for almost 20 years, Seipel calls the sale "a bittersweet moment."

"The thing that makes the sale more comfortable is it looks like most of the staff is staying," Seipel says. He adds that he feels good about leaving the place in Giavos' hands and says that Giavos intends to keep much of the unique decor and feeling of the Border in place.

Giavos plans to call the new place the Border Chop House and Bar and offer steaks and veal, lamb and pork chops. Chef and partner Dave Bender comes to the new venture with cooking stints at Melito's, Grafiti Grille and Europa under his belt. He got his start, interestingly enough, 12 years ago at Texas-Wisconsin.

Seipel says it will be difficult to part ways with the original place where everybody knows your name. "It's been an incredible time," Seipel says. "[There are] multitudes of memories we'll take with us." — MARK STROH

St. Andrew's Houses Idle, But For How Long?

Melissa Burgess is concerned about the house she used to live in.

Her house was one of 17 Oregon Hill properties owned by the St. Andrew's Association, in accordance with the will of philanthropist Grace Arents, which set aside the houses as low-income housing for the working class residents of Oregon Hill.

Her concern was heightened lately, when one of the houses on the 900 block of Idlewood Avenue burned on Feb. 25.

Burgess and the other residents were evicted by the association in 1997, and since then, Burgess, who was the president of the Grace Arents Tenants Association, has heard nothing from the St. Andrew's Association.

"They wanted us out, and that was that. So now [the houses] are just sitting there, absolutely falling apart," Burgess says.

But help may be on the way for Arents' legacy. Sort of.

Randy Totten, the president of the St. Andrew's Association, says the Richmond Better Housing Coalition is in the process of getting financial assistance from the Virginia Housing Development Authority to renovate the houses north of the Downtown Expressway. But as for the south-side houses, Totten says there are "no plans right this second."

"How things fare on the north side will affect the south side," Totten says.

Burgess is afraid the work may come too late.

"I think houses should have people in them," Burgess says. "When houses stand empty, they deteriorate faster for some reason." — M.S.

"Fargo" Brothers Direct Martin Ad

Joel and Ethan Coen, the brothers who directed "Fargo," "Raising Arizona" and other films, have built their careers on creating quirky, memorable characters.

What movie buff could ever forget H. I. McDonough, Marge Gunderson or the ALLTEL guy?

Well, O.K., the ALLTEL guy isn't in a movie, but he is in a series of nine television commercials directed by the Coen brothers for local advertising giant The Martin Agency.

"It was a big thrill," says Chris Jacobs, the Martin copywriter who wrote the ads, in which "the ALLTEL guy" explains the company's services to an array of Coenesque characters, including a clown and a man who talks through a face drawn on his hand.

Jacobs says the free-lancer the agency hired to produce the ads shopped their concept around to a number of directors, including the Coens and "Waiting for Guffman" director Christopher Guest. Both were excited about the spots, but Jacobs says the decision to go with the Coens was easy. "It's hard to pass up the Coens," he says. "We needed directors who could build weird characters."

Jacobs spent about two weeks in California at the end of January working with the Coens. He says the brothers are "quiet and low-key ... [with] great judgment in terms of talent."

The work went so well that even though they originally scheduled to produce three or four spots, they ended up with nine, which are airing now nationwide. — M.S.

Urban Legend Makes Local Rounds

It was a dire warning, forwarded last week by e-mail.

It came from a friend of a friend, who heard it from a reliable 911 operator.

At Virginia Center Commons Mall, a girl finished shopping and returned to her car, which had a flat tire. An attractive man carrying a briefcase appeared, helped the girl change the tire and asked for a ride to his car, on the far side of the mall.

The girl thought that was strange and refused. The man got angry, so the girl sped away. Later, she found that the man left his briefcase in her trunk during the tire change. When she opened it, she found that it contained a knife, a gun, tranquilizers and restraining devices.

A Style Weekly employee heard the same story at the same time, but it took place at Cloverleaf Mall.

The woman who answered the phone at Virginia Commons' office had heard the rumor but assured us it was just a rumor. Cloverleaf had never heard it at all.

The story is a variation of a well-known urban legend, says Barbara Mikkelson, an urban legends aficionado, who has operated an urban legend Web site, www.snopes.com, for about six years.

Mikkelson says the "stranger with a briefcase" is a variation on a myth that predates the Civil War, of an old lady hitchhiker. The hitchhiker turns out to be a maniac killer dressed like an old lady, who leaves behind a bag with a bloody ax inside.

The legend has evolved to more accurately reflect the fears of society, Mikkelson says.

"Hitchhiking is badly out of favor," Mikkelson says, so the shift to a shopping mall makes more sense.

"We set them where we think they would fit," Mikkelson says. That explains the mall, and the fact that in the retelling, it's usually a specific, local mall.

And the shift from a man dressed as an old lady to a well-dressed stranger shows "a better understanding of how serial killers operate," Mikkelson says. "It could be a well-dressed man with a briefcase. It could be anybody."

It could be. But it's not. It's just an urban legend.

Or is it? —

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