Robert S. “Bobby” Ukrop and his son-in-law Scott Aronson are excited about next month’s planned opening of the Ukrop’s Market Hall.
But the two executives at Ukrop’s Homestyle Foods also say they are nervous about opening the food hall in the middle of a pandemic, which has created additional challenges.
Ukrop’s Market Hall is tentatively slated to open sometime during the first week of December, pending completion of the remodeling of the building and getting the necessary permits. Work on renovating the former Bon Air Baptist Church’s Village building at Horsepen Road and Patterson Avenue started in early June.
The food hall will offer much of the company’s full lineup of bakery goods — from its White House rolls, chocolate bar cakes, lemon chess pies to the popular rainbow cookies — as well as its prepared foods including London broil, chicken cobbler and meatloaf. It will make onsite and sell the Ukrop’s fried chicken and potato wedges — two items that Ukrop said are the top requests since his family sold its grocery business a decade ago.
Opening the food hall now means being able to quickly adapt and managing the expectations of customers, Ukrop and Aronson said.
For instance, Ukrop fears customers won’t find the bakery goods or prepared foods that they want or remember buying when the family operated the grocery chain. “Some things we just don’t make anymore,” said Ukrop, the company's chairman and CEO.
Plus, it may be hard, at least initially, to know what products to sell and how much of those food items to make. “We just don’t know what the demand will be,” he said.
Fewer tables will be available for customers to eat because of the need for social distancing.
The company is in the process of hiring the 32 full- and part-time workers to staff the food hall. Some of those already hired are former Ukrop’s grocery store employees, Ukrop said.
Come Dec. 1, Ukrop’s Homestyle Foods will launch a new website that will help facilitate home delivery of its food items throughout most of the Richmond region, said Aronson, the company's president. The company has been testing delivering its products to homes in certain ZIP codes, mostly in the West End, since May.
The company also plans to proceed with constructing a one-story, 15,000-square-foot medical office building. That structure, which should be completed late in 2021 or early 2022, would be built next to the food hall where two other buildings on the property were torn down this summer.