Opening and managing a 30,000 square foot social club during a pandemic is no small feat. For Chauncey Jenkins, it was just another way to use his many connections in the community to ensure the vibe was an authentic one.
Offering two floors of co-working, Common House is a space for people to come together over food, drink and experiences in their restaurant and rooftop lounge, with ongoing programming a major focus. Jenkins made diversity, inclusion, and equity (DEI) the bedrock of everything else.
“After the George Floyd protests, it wasn’t enough to post on social media or put some words on the website, it was more about our foundation,” he says. “We brought in speakers, deejays and artists I had connections with through being in the food and beverage industry and as part of the art scene.” By mining local relationships and focusing on DEI, Jenkins forged Common House’s authenticity.
Leading the charge and challenging expectations comes naturally to Jenkins, also known to some Richmonders for his rap alter ego, Chance Fischer.
“I didn’t want to be part of a company who said they had these values but then when people came here, there was no one who looked like them,” he says. “My goal was to bridge gaps in the city by bringing in people who might not have joined otherwise.”
With Common House on solid ground, Jenkins has transitioned to other interests, such as the Veraison Project, an all-volunteer group working to make wine education accessible to a more diverse audience by providing career advice, mentorships and sponsorships to pursue sommelier certification.
“My personal goal is to get more people of color in the front of the house at restaurants,” he says. “And as we move on, look at ownership, who’s pouring and who’s drinking.” To that end, Jenkins is currently general manager at Brun, a cigar and whiskey lounge in the Fan (in the old Balliceaux spot) with all-Black ownership.
After growing up in Randolph and Carver, Jenkins attended Cornell University, which greatly expanded his perspective.
“Becoming part of all this shows the different roles in life you can take,” he says.