Libbie and Grove: Ice Cream and Controversy

Libbie and Grove. Its grocery store, Libbie Market, has some of the best known sandwiches in town. Its ice cream shop, Boyers, has countless pictures of Collegiate students on its wall of fame. The neighborhood anchored by the intersection of Libbie and Grove Avenues is even the home of our chief rivals, St. Catherine’s & St. Christophers. Because of its proximity to many different shops and restaurants, Libbie and Grove is becoming an increasingly popular “hang-out” spot for Collegiate students.

Any quality location for high school students to relax and unwind after a long week needs one thing: food. The Libbie and Grove area certainly has plenty of that. There are at least seven distinct dining options, including Libbie Market, the Continental Westhampton, Palani Drive, The Blue Goat, Cafe Caturra, Stuffy’s Subs, and Jack Brown’s Beer and Burger Joint. Libbie Market is of such fame that it has even been the subject of a senior speech or two here at Collegiate. In addition to the wide array of dining options, Libbie and Grove is also home to great places to grab dessert, like Sweet Frog, and, it is home to quite possibly the most popular ice cream destination in all of Richmond: Boyers. Boyers opened in 2008 and has become a popular spot for team get-togethers and group study sessions, as there is ample room in the building, since it is also home to a University of Richmond sponsored study space. For students, the best part of Libbie and Grove varies. Matt Kollmansperger (‘18) says what he enjoys most about Libbie and Grove is  “the social aspect, everytime I go there I see someone I know.” For Carson White (‘17) the best part of Libbie and Grove is that it is “really fun and convenient being able to walk there, and all the food is pretty good.”

Photo Credit:BOB BROWN/TIMES-DISPATCH

Photo credit: BOB BROWN/TIMES-DISPATCH

However, the neighborhood is not just a street full of restaurants. It is also home to various retailers, such as Peter Blair, a clothing store, Pearls Cupcakes, a bakery, and Gearharts Chocolates, a high-end chocolatier. All these small businesses thrive next to the national chains, such as Starbucks and 7-11. This coexistence has managed to create a flourishing economy for all involved, and allows Libbie and Grove to continue being a viable location to operate a store.

Personally, I enjoy visiting Libbie Market and Boyers for the delicious food and large eating spaces that are offered there. It is easy to spend an hour exploring the shops before sitting down for a delicious meal. However, despite the sizeable amounts of business and crowds of consumers that Libbie and Grove always attracts, the area is facing a redevelopment effort that many believe will cause harm to the character of the area and drastically change the makeup of the neighborhood.

Earlier this year, the famed Westhampton Theater, which had been open for almost 80 years, shut down operations after the owners sold the space. The building was sold to a development group who have big plans for the space. The plan, dubbed “Westhampton on Grove,” plans to turn the Westhampton space into offices, retail outlets, and luxury condominiums. However, this plan was met with fierce resistance from the residents in nearby neighborhoods. A quick drive around these surrounding neighborhoods will yield countless yard signs with an identical message: “Save Libbie and Grove.” The part of the plan that citizens are taking issue with is a zoning exception that the developmental company is seeking for their building. This exception would increase the maximum allowed height for the building from 28 feet, the standard in the area, to up to 39 feet, an 11 foot increase. This increase is key to the continuation of the project. The effort to stop the development of Westhampton, organized by the residents of the area, “distributed 200 signs and collected nearly 600 signatures” from those who are opposed to the redevelopment. Yet it was ultimately for naught as the exception was granted, and the project is moving forward. However, many do not view this new building as a negative. In an editorial published in the Richmond Times Dispatch, the editorial board states “We don’t want the Westhampton to close but we doubt the redevelopment would undermine the character of a cherished district.” While there will be strong feelings on both sides as to the future of Libbie and Grove, I am just looking forward to my next cone of Boyers ice cream.

Featured image: GREGORY J. GILLIGAN/TIMES-DISPATCH

About the author

Will Woods is a senior at Collegiate.