Travis Croxton and his cousin, Ryan, were about four hours away from Richmond when they heard the news. They’d stopped at a Zaxby’s on the way back from Charleston, South Carolina, where the cousins are building a new restaurant, when Croxton got a phone call asking if he’d heard that Rappahannock, his restaurant on East Grace Street, was on fire.
“I’ll never eat at a Zaxby’s again,” Croxton says.
It was around 3:30 p.m., and the two watched from their phones while firefighters fought the blaze. An element in the venting system of the hood over the stove in the kitchen had overheated and caught fire. Smoke began billowing out.
“Everyone got out super quick,” Croxton says. “People didn’t initially see anything when we were telling them to leave.”
It turned out to be less serious than it appeared when Croxton got the phone call. The damage was limited to the hood itself and the wall behind it. There was standing water throughout the restaurant after the Fire Department was done, but the Croxtons were able to remove it as soon as they arrived in Richmond around 7:30 that Sunday evening.
Croxton is quick to note that the kitchen staff had nothing to do with the fire — it was the result of an equipment malfunction. Insurance inspectors from the various companies that hold policies for the hood’s vendor, the business that cleans it monthly — and several others — will determine the exact cause of the fire.
The next morning, Mayor Levar Stoney phoned to see if the city could help. It was a fortuitous call. Next door, Rapp Session — Rappahannock’s baby sibling — was untouched by the fire. But because the two restaurants are under the umbrella of the same company, the oyster bar was prohibited from opening until Rappahannock was repaired and cleared by inspectors. Stoney and the city were able to disentangle the two, and now Rapp Session is open for business.
“We’re covering all of our [hourly and salaried Rappahannock] employees, 100 percent,” Croxton says. “We’ll be able to use [them] to catch up on all the projects we’ve been meaning to do.”
He says he's also trying to work out a way to help tipped employees.
Still, it’s going to be one to two months before the restaurant can open — but not because of fire damage. The insurance companies will have to figure out which one is responsible, and that process won’t happen quickly. Otherwise, Croxton says, Rappahannock could have opened within a week of the fire.
And with another project out of town, he says this isn’t exactly what he and Ryan envisioned doing for the next month or so. “Now we’re wondering which will open first,” he says: “Richmond or Charleston?”