The Collegian
Thursday, March 30, 2023

University of Henrico: Will the real Richmond please stand up?

"Hey, Adam, isn't it weird that some people go through four years at Richmond and never spend time in Churchill?"

"Yeah," he told me.

That was the extent of the conversation that spawned this very article. Just before walking into Captain's Buzzy's Beanery, one of the coolest coffee shops in Richmond, I realized how much I have enjoyed exploring this city. In addition to roasting its own coffee, baking its own food and freshly squeezing its own lemonade, this coffee shop lets people's dogs chill on the floor like they own the place.

With Citizen Cope as my background music, I plugged in my computer and started to write. In an odd sort of way, this place felt a lot more like home than anywhere else. Sure, my dorm room has gradually felt like home as various posters, pictures, Christmas lights and Tibetan prayer flags have been hung everywhere, but it can only go so far.

What a dorm lacks is the unique feel that many local restaurants and coffee shops offer. I am fairly certain that this feeling comes from the ordered chaos of places like Buzzy's. Indeed, the furniture must have been collected at garage sales over the years because there are sofas, dining-room tables, lamps and easy chairs. The best part is that none of them match. Forget the generic tables and chairs and remember what it's like to relax.

So comfortable in fact, that tons of people have learned to call this place a home away from home over the years. Most patrons do typical coffee-shop stuff like reading, writing and talking, but you get the distinct feeling that you are a more interesting person just for being there. Looking around, I see the guy with grey hair past his shoulders, I hear the foreign languages and I see the art on the wall.

Unfortunately, the East End location means that the University of Richmond is nestled more than 25 minutes away. Even still, supporting any local business makes a trip on Interstates 64 or 195 completely worth your time. I understand if you don't have a car or a friend that will let you borrow one, but not having the desire is not an option. Not exploring the city of Richmond is like never going to the James River. Those of you I saw there on Saturday know how refreshing the cool water can be. After spending so much time in the heat it feels great to get into the James. For me, after spending so much time on campus it feels great to get into the culture of Richmond.

During her speech at the president's inauguration, senior Andrea Willis advised students that the university "should be firmly planted in the city from which it takes its name."

I wanted to cheer when she said it because it is not every day you hear that we aren't in the city of Richmond ... just near it. We are in Henrico County.

In fact, Henrico County is currently sending a survey to its residents asking if they would rather have the name Henrico on their address line instead of Richmond. According to the survey, "This change is being sought to bring greater recognition to Henrico County's identity."

What is Henrico County's identity? I'm really not sure.

Though the East side of Richmond is not perfect, there is a great wealth of local expression and identity. One of the most historic areas of Richmond, Church Hill is the true old Richmond. This is where Patrick Henry gave his famous "Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death!" speech. Church Hill is where the largest American Civil War hospital was located. If you want history, this is the place to be. It has been a long road for the East End of Richmond and not always easy, but I have many close friends who live there and have fallen in love with it. Everything about Church Hill creates an area of town that many others and I have come to love.

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I initially considered not posting the name of the coffee shop, but I have a feeling most students won't take the time to find it. Take that as a challenge if you like, or simply concede the fact that you're not interested in anywhere that doesn't have the words "Short Pump" in front of it. If you are interested, the next time you get onto I-64, take it east -- you won't regret it.

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