Hoskins did not respond to messages asking for comment about his departure and plans. Meanwhile, Barlow says she’s looking for a new head chef and scoping out properties for a relocation of The Empress later this year. She’s in the process of buying the restaurant’s current building, and she says that she’s considering other uses for the space. But she would like to be in a neighborhood with a higher concentration of restaurants. The Empress is doing well, she says, “But we want to do great.”
In other restaurant news, Positive Vibe Express closed shop at the Library of Virginia on April 13, after nearly two years, according to Garth Larcen, founder and director of the Positive Vibe Foundation, which has its main restaurant and training site in the Stratford Hills Shopping Center off Forest Hill Avenue. “They have a strategic plan for some big changes [that] include a large food-service operation,” he says.
Library of Virginia spokeswoman Janice Hathcock says she can’t address questions about the strategic plan, but she adds, “We’re in the process of contacting vendors to see if we can get food service in the library and hope to have something by this summer.”
Also closed in April was Stronghill Dining Co. on North Boulevard. A note posted on the restaurant’s Facebook page states, “Effective April 10, 2012, Stronghill Dining Co. has closed its doors. We'd like to thank all the customers, employees and neighbors for all their support in giving us the last 3 fantastic years. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.”
Owner Jessica Simmons, who also owns a series of tattoo and piercing shops, could not be reached for comment, but Rick Lyons, a friend and fellow restaurateur who recently opened Lunch on Summit Avenue, says he’s been consulting and managing the restaurant for about five months. “It had just run its course for her,” Lyons says. “It wasn’t her main focus. She has a lot of irons in the fire, and she’s trying to grow that business.”
He adds, “We do have some Richmond-area restaurateurs who have looked at the building, and we’re waiting for someone to buy the property and take over the space. Though there’s nothing definite yet, I think it will be another restaurant.”