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Bakery gets backed up … New medical school may bring osteopathy here … Firehouse Theater Project begins to remodel … Veggie chili not a hit with homeless.

Street Talk

Bakery Rises for Holiday Blitz

Last Thursday a barrage of mostly older women, aglow in Christmas sweaters, descended upon the Mixing Bowl Pastry Shoppe to pick up holiday orders. And what they carried out in armfuls — cookies, cakes, pies, edible wreaths, gingerbread houses — was the joy of cooking, hassle-free.

Few knew the treats were especially hard to come by this year.

The Mixing Bowl bakery has cooked up Sally Lunn bread, wedding cakes and buttery sweets in Richmond for 75 years.

But this season the tiny shop at 4120 W. Broad St. looked more like a frantic version of Santa's workshop than ever. Just before the holidays, three of the business' workers left the business, out of a staff of a baker's dozen. Naturally, says owner Chris Glover, this put a pinch on production.

"We've pretty much been running 24-7," says Glover, emerging from the kitchen powdered in flour. "We do tons and tons of cookies. We can't even keep up."

The pace became so harried that bread orders had to be cut off. And the Mixing Bowl provides Sally Lunn breads and desserts for many area businesses.

"They've definitely been double-timing," says Jamie Doswell, owner of Jamie Doswell Catering at Lafayette Foodland.

Each week Doswell orders dozens of rolls from the bakery. But instead of his usual Sally Lunn bread — each batch of the special recipe takes an hour and a half to make — Doswell says Glover had to offer him White House rolls, which take less time to bake. Doswell didn't mind. After all, he says, "I always say we're not saving lives; we're serving food."

Inside the bakery, sugar cookies shaped like bells and stars dangle from pine garlands. Bags of homemade Christmas cookies stack the baker's rack. Cakes of snowmen and Santas line the case. A gingerbread house drips with frosting and gumdrops.

Up front everything is tidy. Back in the kitchen it's something close to chaos. Gingerbread houses are everywhere, waiting to be adorned. Glover and his crew have three days to finish 45 of them. It's an exceptionally busy holiday season, he says, adding: "Our ovens never turn off."

Last week Mixing Bowl workers delivered 1,200 reindeer cupcakes to the Marriott downtown. And the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts has kept them busy, too, with holiday parties. "It's nothing for them to call and order 500 cupcakes and 50 pounds of cookies," Glover says.

"That wouldn't be anything to Ukrop's," Glover says. "But when you're tiny like us, it's an awful lot." — Brandon Walters

School May Bring Osteopathy Here

What's the buzz in Richmond about the new Edward Via Virginia College of Osteopathic Medicine about to be built in Blacksburg? Well, for starters, people are trying to figure out what "osteopathic" means.

Osteopathy is actually simple in concept: It uses standard medical procedures, but has an emphasis on touch, including spinal manipulation and detailed communication between doctor and patient. This combination, say the field's fans, helps the doctors of osteopathy — DOs — analyze the condition of the whole body.

In some states, 50 percent of family physicians are DOs, says Dixie Tooke-Rawlins, the dean of the new college. Not in Virginia. Restrictive medical guidelines once made it difficult for them to practice here; today, insurance companies and HMOs discourage the half-hour visits DOs prefer, says Peter Gent, a Richmond DO.

Currently, only about 20 of the 500 DOs actively practicing in Virginia work in Richmond, says Maria Harris, executive director of the Richmond-based Virginia Osteopathic Medicine Association. Many are MDs, as well, she says, so people may not even know if their physician has an osteopathic background.

Gent estimates he's seen 20,000 to 30,000 patients since 1979 — and the interest here is growing "most definitely," he says. "That's a result of people moving to Richmond from other states, where the osteopathic population is higher."

He says he's optimistic that the new medical college, which will accept its first students in the fall of 2003, may eventually bring more osteopathic doctors — or at least awareness of their philosophy — to town.

Often people believe that doctors of osteopathic medicine are "not full-fledged doctors, or that they are chiropractors," Harris says. Actually, DOs receive much the same education as MDs, she explains, but aim in practice to treat all of the body's systems, not just its symptoms.

Tooke-Rawlins says that so far other Virginia medical colleges have been "very cordial," and she foresees little competition. First of all, the osteopathic school is privately funded, although it's collaborating with Virginia Tech to share land and faculty. Secondly, she says, there are plenty of students to go around: At osteopathic schools nationwide, about 17 or 18 students are turned away for every one accepted.

Admissions officials at MCV don't think the new school will have any noticeable effect on enrollment, says Joe Kuttenkuler of MCV public relations.

Gent's wife, Marian, says she recently met two college graduates who were so determined to go to an osteopathic medical school that if they were turned down, they planned to try again next year instead of going to a standard medical school. So there's a definite need for the new college, she says. "I just hope they can make this work." — Melissa Scott Sinclair

Pass the Tofu, Homeless Say

Like fruitcake, tofu is a gift that keeps on giving, workers at the homeless-services provider Freedom House have discovered.

The Wednesday before Christmas, volunteers from Twin Oaks (the income-sharing community in Louisa profiled in last week's Style) dropped off several gallons of vegetarian chili at 302 E. Canal St., where the Freedom House's kitchen feeds the homeless three meals per day.

The chili was no surprise, because Twin Oaks always brings it on the third Wednesday of the month, says Corey O'Hern, meal program director for Freedom House. But along with the vegetarian dish arrived 25 pounds of tofu, a gift someone gave to the commune — which makes its own tofu and didn't need any extra.

Clients of Freedom House, on the other hand, aren't so fond of anything made with soybean curd. Their thinking is "we get grants and money and all that, so we should have some meat in it," O'Hern says. "They get mad. What they don't understand is that most of our food is donated."

So O'Hern passed the tubs of tofu to local activist group Food Not Bombs, which serves meals in Monroe Park every Sunday. There, it would find happier diners, he figured: "[Homeless people] go over to the park and they love it. Potato soup, tofu, they love it."

Chef Artis Kelly, busy making pasta salad in the kitchen for Friday's lunch, contends he could have easily made something tasty out of the tofu: "I'd probably take it and melt it down in a sauce and serve it over pasta," he says reflectively. It would have to have been well-disguised, he concedes.

Despite the tofu phobia, however, the veggie chili usually gets eaten. "If you don't tell the people upstairs, they don't know," O'Hern says. "We don't say it's vegetarian anymore. Even when you tell them, they don't believe it sometimes, because the vegetable protein looks like meat." — M.S.S.

Firehouse Theater Begins Remodeling

The curtain has temporarily fallen on the Firehouse Theater Project as the group prepares for the premiere of its newly remodeled space.

This winter, Firehouse patrons should be greeted with more seating, a better view, and a dynamic stage when they attend Richmond's "off-Broadway, on Broad Street" productions at the Firehouse.

The $35,000 remodeling project calls for the removal of support columns, the cleaning of lead-based paint from the ceiling, the addition of more seating, and improvements to the stage area.

"For such a small organization, it is quite a Herculean effort," says Harry Kollatz Jr., the president of the theater's board of directors. "Through the generous support of our community — this is their money at work."

Contractors will soon begin digging up the footings of four support columns that span the interior of the theater space. The columns' removal will provide room for 40 additional seats. Additional beam supports will be added to ensure stability of the ceiling.

Lead-based paint will be removed from the ceiling's tin tiles to meet building codes. A fresh coat of black paint will give a total "blackout" when the lights go down during shows. And the stage will be raised and cut into sections to allow more creativity and mobility for theater sets.

Since 1994 the FTP has occupied the building at 1609 W. Broad St., which the city of Richmond had used as a firehouse for more than 80 years. The area has seen recent revitalization including renovation and new construction by Virginia Commonwealth University and Lowe's Home Improvement.

"When we began, this section of Broad Street had an unsavory reputation," Kollatz says. "But by being here and sticking it out, it's turned into our biggest boon. Right behind us there's the Fan district, and there's also the Museum district and Jackson Ward. Many times, people discover us simply by walking down the street."

There are plans to remodel each part of the firehouse, including the construction of a scene shop in the back parking lot and the conversion of several upstairs rooms into conference, rehearsal and preparation areas. — Donna C. Gregory

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