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Lightning Strikes Libbie Retailers


The ensuing blaze devastated two well-known Richmond retail stores, Paper on the Avenue, which Jordan owns, and The Shoe Box, which is located next door and is owned by Roma Marshall. Both stores have been condemned by city building and fire inspectors and remain closed.

But now Jordan says she's decided against reopening her fine-stationery business at the site. She says the fire has cost her $100,000 in damages which includes lost inventory. And as with distraught retailers in Shockoe Bottom after Tropical Storm Gaston, it's unclear how much damage is covered by insurance.

Jordan is banking on an upside to the ordeal. Since the fire, she's been working independently on an appointment-only basis from an upstairs office at Monkeys, her Libbie neighbors across the street. It's a setup she plans to keep.

Instead of reinvesting in a retail shop, she'll relinquish her inventory and her few employees and focus her business on custom, personalized stationery such as wedding invitations and birth announcements — anything that can be special-ordered through catalogs, she says.

The Shoe Box's Marshall could not be reached by press time, but a woman who answered the phone at The Shoe Box in Virginia Beach, who declined to give her name, says that repairs to the Richmond store are under way. The Shoe Box also suffered losses to its inventory, she says, but couldn't confirm how much or pinpoint a date that the Libbie store will reopen.

The lightning strike marks the latest in a series of upheavals and transitions for shops on the avenues at Libbie and Grove. Of the few dozen retail stores and commercial offices, a handful already stood empty. Most visible is the site of the former Arcade on Grove, a shopping center assessed at $2.37 million.

Charlie Diradour, owner of The Diradour LLC, which owns and manages commercial properties, concedes that shops near the avenues took a hit from Stony Point Fashion Park and Short Pump Town Center when the malls opened three years ago. But he says the turnover at Grove and Libbie represents an opportunity for businesses, especially ones filling niche markets. And he points to the opening of a Starbucks in September at 5804 Grove, which Diradour owns, as a sign of things to come. S

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