Arts & Events » Music

Bagels for Nanci



We finally know who's taking over all that graffiti.

Bagel Czar, an independent bagel shop, will open for business sometime after mid-October in the building that once housed music venue Nanci Raygun.

The Raygun's DJ booth, stage and bar will stay, but there are no immediate plans to host live music, owner Missy Wernstrom says, because she first needs to hire staff, finalize permits and finish renovations.

Wernstrom, who moved here from Charlottesville, says Bagel Czar will offer a good bagel, cup of coffee, sandwich and side in a laid-back atmosphere decorated with nonmilitant propaganda art. It will also provide counter service and indoor seating.

Although Wernstrom never attended any shows at the Raygun, she's carrying on the DIY spirit by taking on the task of running an independent business in a spot many feared would fall prey to Virginia Commonwealth University.

"I love working with college kids," Wern-strom says. "I want this to be a local destination -- people hanging out, eating a bagel."

While final plans for the décor and menu are not finished, Wernstrom is aware of the sentimental value of many items in the club and is considering what to keep.

During renovations, she found remnants of a balloon fight from one of the final shows. The music venue was so hot that water balloons were used too cool off customers and employees.

The Raygun's former tenants said at the time that the venue needed repairs to the roof and air conditioning, which they said went unaddressed by their landlord, Frank Chan (owner of China Panda).

Chan says he gave the former tenants an opportunity and they didn't take it, but that Wernstrom is "fixing it up to be nice with new paint and new bathrooms."

Wernstrom says the roof is new, the air conditioning works, and relations between Chan and her are good. She says she couldn't believe the property was still available to lease nearly a year after the Raygun closed.

Before there was music at 929 W. Grace St., a local grocery, R.L. Christian, had bottled and labeled its own whiskey at the location. The tradition of music began in 1970, when the Black Door opened as a night club. The pattern of owners creating new menus and adding another layer of graffiti to the walls continued through multiple owners including 929 and Twisters.

Until now, there was hope that the place would carry on with a new name and a new layer of graffiti. But with the band stickers and bleachers gone, the hope for the punk rock and hard-core days of the venue are finally over.

Danny Ingram, show promoter and former Raygun employee, still hopes the new owner will stick to the traditional history of the building — just maybe not as crazy and "without the big-haired punk rockers and graffiti artists."

In the last year, bands and band promoters have sought out unusual spots for music, venues such as clothing stores, art galleries, restaurants and (much to the dismay of many residents) houses in Oregon Hill, he says.

But when bands play restaurants, Ingram says, from a business perspective the restaurants can pick up a different customer base and get advertising all over town.

Larry Floyd, singer of Heroes Die, says the only venues left in Richmond are too small or too big. And there aren't a lot of all-age venues unless bands play a house show or warehouse.

Floyd says a lot of cities thrive having different clubs for different musical styles, but Richmond is too eclectic to make that work.

Heroes Die, for example, is a thrashy, hard-core mix of music and does well in lineups with punk and metal bands. But without a venue to house all those genres, it's getting more difficult for bands to have shows that draw a larger and diverse crowd.

Patrick Ball, former soundman of the Raygun and a freelance audio engineer, says segregation of music styles has always been around, but that 929 W. Grace St. had always been the exception.

"Without a stable place to play," Ingram says, "it creates confusion [for fans] and you end up traveling all around town." S

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