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Goochland events venue Rassawek Vineyard plans to add a winery – Richmond BizSense

Goochland events venue Rassawek Vineyard plans to add a winery - Richmond BizSense

An aerial view of Rassawek Vineyard’s inaugural Autumn Festival in October. The Goochland County venue plans to bring the event back this year. (Photos courtesy of Rassawek Vineyard)

After adding converted rail cars-turned-short-term rentals on its grounds, a sprawling Goochland County events venue has plans to become the site of the region’s newest wine-making operation.

Rassawek Vineyard at 6276 River Road West, which has hosted Rassawek Spring Jubilee for more than a decade, wants to add a winery to its growing list of offerings.

The winery could open as early as 2023, though the venue is still working on most of the details of the project.

At least initially, the winery wouldn’t be open every day or to the general public. Instead, it would operate in coordination with other events at the property and be accessible to people who attend those events, Rassawek Event Planner Jessica Jessee said.

The winery would likely take up residence in one of the structures the venue’s owners have collected and moved to the property over the years. The square footage and seating capacity haven’t been determined yet.

“We are still deciding where on the property to have the main thrust of the winery project be,” Jessee said.

Owned by the Liesfeld family, Rassawek Vineyard already grows grapes on its property but it has yet to make wine onsite. Its grape crop is managed by Goochland-based Elk Island Winery, which last year helped produce a Rassawek-branded line of wines.

Beyond wine, Rassawek also plans to enclose an existing open-air wedding pavilion this year. The project will roughly double the space to 6,900 square feet. The venue has a wedding capacity of 150 to 200 seated guests.

“We are enclosing the space to expand our wedding season to year-round,” Jessee said. “This venue will be heated and cooled, which will allow for weddings during the summer and winter in addition to our spring and fall weddings we have lined up.”

She said the venue has fully booked its spring and fall wedding weekends for 2022.

Those moves come as the venue looks to take full advantage of a 2020 conditional-use permit to increase the range of programs and events it offers. One of the first such steps was the opening of five short-term rental properties on the grounds and the addition of a fall festival last year.

Rassawek Vineyard offers short-term rentals. Among them are modified train cars such as the one shown.

The Liesfeld property is 1,000 acres, of which 355 can be used for programming, per the 2020 CUP.

Rassawek’s five short-term rentals consist of two cabins and three train cars, which were opened to the public in June.

Among the retrofitted train car rentals is Rassawek’s Pullman car, which features a bedroom with two double beds, a four-person dining table, a full bathroom and a half bath. Jenny Liesfeld said Rassawek acquired the car after it had been renovated by its previous owner and it spurred the idea of renovating more train cars.

The venue also has a caboose, which has a full bathroom and four twin bunk beds, as well as a boxcar that features a queen-sized bed and kitchenette.

The Pullman and the caboose car were part of a private collection located at Lestor Manor in King William County and owned by Carroll Lee Walker. All the train cars were donations, Liesfeld said.

Jessee said the rentals have proven popular and plans are underway to open a sixth rental. The CUP allows the venue up to eight short-term rentals.

The short-term rentals were rented more than 50 times during the six months they were open in 2021, which Jessee said was above expectations.

The currently available rentals range in their nightly rates from $220 to $500. Renters have access to biking and fishing on the property, and the units either have full kitchens or have access to full kitchens.

This year will mark the first time Rassawek will hold both its big festival events in the same year. The Spring Jubilee hasn’t been held since 2019 due to the pandemic and is set to return in June.

The new Autumn Festival, which was held for the first time in October, will return in 2022. The fall festival is focused more on showcasing historic and contemporary trades like blacksmithing and welding, whereas the Spring Jubilee is focused on wine, food and arts and crafts.

The first autumn festival had 8,500 people attend, Jessee said. She added that the spring festival has attracted an average of 5,000 to 6,000 guests in past years.

Other ideas pitched for Rassawek, such as plans for an airstrip with which to hold air shows, and a zip-line course, are on the backburner for the time being. Plans to open the venue up to the general public on certain weekends is also under consideration.

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Citing cost, Mosaic abandons plan for events space near Scott’s Addition – Richmond BizSense

Citing cost, Mosaic abandons plan for events space near Scott’s Addition - Richmond BizSense

The Art Deco-style building just off West Broad at 3013 Cutshaw Ave. in the Museum District is back on the market. (Mike Platania photo)

In late 2019, the owners of Mosaic Catering + Events began their due diligence on 3013 Cutshaw Ave. near West Broad Street.

Their plan was to convert the 9,500-square-foot Art Deco-style warehouse into an event space complete with a rooftop so that Mosaic could finally host its own events. The company, which also has a restaurant of the same name in the River Road Shopping Center, has only catered events at other venues since its founding in 1996.

In late 2020 Mosaic purchased the building for $2.1 million, giving it control of both that building and its headquarters across the street at 3001 Cutshaw Ave.

Steven Niketas, who co-owns Mosaic with Laurette Garlitz and Mike Holland, said the quotes they initially received on the building’s renovation were just shy of $1 million. After holding off on any construction, Niketas said these days they’re being quoted nearly three times that.

“And it’s the same set of plans, man. It’s the same (project),” he said.

Those increased construction costs have prompted the group to reconsider its plans. Earlier this month, Mosaic put the building back on the market for sale for an undisclosed amount. Thalhimer’s Connie Jordan Nielsen has the listing.

Niketas said the prospect of doing the same project for three times the cost that they initially forecasted made them feel like they needed to at least see what type of interest the building would get.

A rendering of Mosaic’s planned renovation of the building at 3013 Cutshaw Ave. The company abandoned that plan and put the building up for sale. (BizSense file images)

“I hate to say it, but at some point, (developing the event space) might be more than we want to do at our age. Two years ago I wasn’t so gun-shy, I was ready to do just about anything to grow the business. But I guess just like everybody else, I’m not sure I have the stamina I used to after the last two years,” Niketas said.

“What is the real expense of trying to expand? Do I really need another location?” he said. “I’m sure a lot of people are having the same conversations, not just the catering business.”

The building sits on a quarter of an acre and was most recently assessed by the city at $1.8 million. Prior to Mosaic acquiring it, the building was owned by Stony Point Design/Build, a Charlottesville development firm that intended to bring residential density to the site.

Niketas said his group is dead set on selling the building, and that Mosaic would be willing to go outside its comfort zone to see a project through on the site. Throughout its 26 years in business, Niketas said Mosaic never had any outside equity, management or business partners of any type, but now they’re open to the idea of working with an outside firm on the Cutshaw project.

“At this point, because of the way things have been the last couple years, I’m literally open to any conversations with anybody because it’s going to take a lot of creativity for people to grow their businesses effectively. It’s just gotten to such a crazy place, you have to be open to more things,” Niketas said.

“Just because I don’t want to build an apartment building, doesn’t mean that I can’t be a partner with an equity guy who wants a piece of prime real estate in a hot part of town,” he said.

Niketas is now based in Charleston, South Carolina, where he runs a location of the Giavos family restaurant group’s Stella’s concept. He said the heat of the Richmond real estate market was demonstrated to him with the recent sale of 5609 Patterson Ave., a 7,900-square-foot retail and office building he owned with Mary Kathryn Perkinson of MAK Financial Group.

Mosaic will continue operating its headquarters down the street, as well as its restaurant in the River Road Shopping Center near U of R.

The building in the Near West End sold last month for $2.8 million, nearly twice its most recent assessed value of $1.5 million.

“That was a big deal. It was a big light bulb,” Niketas said. “I’d never in a million years imagined that Patterson would trade at what it did.”

The Patterson building’s new owner is Stony Point Wealth Management, a local firm that’s unrelated to the Charlottesville development firm that previously owned the Cutshaw property.

This year, Niketas said, Mosaic has been swamped with catering requests and that the restaurant has been busier than ever. However, they’ve had issues filling out their staff.

That issue also contributed to their apprehension about taking on the Cutshaw project: Without a bigger staff, Niketas said hosting events at the new venue would require them to pull back on off-premise events and the revenue those bring.

“The replacement sales thing is the most dangerous part of developing the new venue. We don’t want to replace X number of sales off-site with X number on-site,” Niketas said.

“It has to be new money, it has to be new sales. Otherwise I’m $3 million down the road in development (costs) and in the same spot. This has been a really difficult box to figure my way out of,” he said.

As Mosaic mulls its options, many of the buildings adjacent to them are set to come down. Local developer Steve Leibovic is preparing to raze nearly all the buildings on the block bound by Cutshaw Avenue, Wayne, Sheppard and Grace streets to make way for a mixed-use project.