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Strawberry Street Cafe building once again for sale for $1.4M; lease also available. Bathtub whereabouts unknown.

Strawberry Street Cafe building once again for sale for $1.4M; lease also available. Bathtub whereabouts unknown.

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The restaurant space at 421 N. Strawberry St. in the Fan District that was home to Strawberry Street Café for more than 40 years is back on the market and now available for sale or lease.

The sale price for the 3,500-square-foot building — which includes all the kitchen equipment and interior features, plus a 12-space off-street parking lot — is $1.4 million — slightly up from its 2018 sale price of $1.375 million. The building was renovated and the kitchen, plumbing and HVAC upgraded in 2019, according to the listing details from One South Commercial and agent Sandy Appelman. The lease price is $25.50 a square foot.

The building was publicly listed July 2, according to online brokerage websites — but the fate and use of the restaurant space has been in question since Scuffletown Garden, the restaurant that took over the iconic cafe’s space for five months in 2019 — closed at the end of that year. Octavio Camacho, who purchased the Strawberry Street building and restaurant in 2018, last summer announced a new restaurant where everything is $5 would fill the space; that deal appears to have fallen through. Camacho couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday.

But of course, for Richmond, all of this comes down to a bathtub. Specifically, the antique, $115, porcelain clawfoot bathtub that for more than 40 years held the ingredients for salad.

Let’s revisit the backstory.

Strawberry Street Café served up hot meals to generations of Richmonders. But it was the restaurant’s bathtub salad bar — that is, salad ingredients presented in bowls resting in an antique clawfoot bathtub — that propelled the restaurant to iconic status, especially once the bathtub salad bar was featured on TV’s “Jeopardy!” in the 1990s.

The 43-year-old restaurant was sold to new owners (the third in its history) along with its building in late 2018, then officially closed by the new owners in March 2019. Camacho was and is the sole owner of the building.

Scuffletown Garden, the restaurant named for an adjacent park, was co-owned by Camacho, an investor and businessman from Mexico who’d never previously been to Richmond — and Derek Salerno, a career Richmond restaurant bartender and manager who connected with the investor in 2018. Camacho had been looking for investment opportunities in the United States and had ties to Richmond, the local restaurant scene and eventually Salerno, by way of his American-born attorney whose son attended Virginia Commonwealth University.

Salerno ran the day-to day and after initially announcing plans to ditch the bathtub, opted instead to open the new restaurant with the bathtub repurposed as an outdoor planter at the entrance; Salerno received “close to death threats” for the bathtub’s indoor removal, he told The Times-Dispatch in 2019. And across Richmond, there were emails, phone calls, letters to the editor, whole social media threads and more all demanding the bathtub be saved.

In fact, despite positive reviews for Scuffletown Garden, the bulk of the conversation — for the full year, from the November 2018 announcement that the restaurant would be sold through the new restaurant’s run and closure in November 2019 — was dedicated to the fate of that bathtub salad bar.

The closure wasn’t because of the bathtub, though, Salerno told The Times-Dispatch in 2019 — it was the investor’s call. And the operators for the everything is $5 restaurant that Camacho announced last year promised a return of the bathtub, which last summer was in storage at a private residence in Henrico County.

The whereabouts of the bathtub today are unknown.

(804) 649-6321

Twitter: @KarriPeifer


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