Monday, September 14, 2015
BY TREVOR METCALFE
Two national publications — the Princeton Review and U.S. News & World Report — recently ranked Averett University among the top colleges in the southeast United States.
“We chose Averett University and the other outstanding institutions on this list primarily for their excellent academics,” said Robert Franek, the Princeton Review’s senior vice president and publisher, in a news release. “We also gave careful consideration to what students enrolled at the schools reported to us about their campus experiences on our student survey for this project.”
Averett was one of only 140 colleges in 12 states to make the Princeton’s “Best in the Southeast” list for 2016. Fraenk said students were surveyed on 80 questions potential students might ask on a campus visit. Only schools that allow Princeton to survey their students are considered for the list. Students answer questions on topics like accessibility of their professors, the quality of their science lab facilities and other questions about themselves and fellow students.
“Only schools at which we see a strong level of satisfaction among their enrolled students — whom we consider their customers — make it to our final slate of regional ‘best’ college selections,” Franek said.
This is the third consecutive year Averett has appeared on the list. Other Virginia schools on the list include Bridgewater College, Christopher Newport University, the College of William and Mary and Hampton University, among others.
“The responses of our students on The Princeton Review’s survey are an affirmation that our innovative, student-centered approach is not only being embraced; it is helping our students flourish in school and in their careers,” said Averett President Tiffany Franks.
Averett also was again among the top 30 “Best Regional Colleges in the South” in the 2016 college rankings from U.S. News & World Report. Averett was also first out of 73 Virginia schools listed in the regional college category. Additionally, the magazine ranked Averett among the Best Colleges for Veterans in the South.
“Our goal at Averett is to be a premier student-centered university renowned for innovative teaching and experiential learning,” Franks said. “Our consistently impressive performance in the prestigious U.S. News & World Report rankings proves that we are well on our way to achieving our goal.”
The rankings are based on 16 different measures of academic quality. The rankings emphasize student outcomes like graduation and retention rates.
“Taking into account how well a school supports its students from freshman year through graduation is important,” said Brian Kelly, editor and chief content officer at U.S. News, in a news release. “To find the best fit, students should consider a range of factors, from financial aid offerings and location to campus size and majors.”
Metcalfe reports for the Danville Register & Bee.
BY DENICE THIBODEAU
One of the developers who rehabilitated the Pemberton Lofts on Bridge Street — and is wrapping up work on the Continental Lofts project on Craghead Street — has another mixed-use warehouse project lined up: turning the former Davis Warehouse at 600 Craghead St. into 56 one- and two-bedroom apartments, with the first floor planned for non-residential use.
Ross Fickenscher received approval from the planning commission on Tuesday for the project, though the approval included a note that he still needed to plan for off-street parking for tenants. Fickenscher said Wednesday he could not yet announce what the plan for parking is, but that it would be dealt with.
Fickenscher said the Continental Lofts residential floors will be done in the next two to three weeks (the retail space on the first floor is already occupied by Brewed Awakening) and he hopes to begin construction at 600 Craghead St. by the end of the year.
Like his other projects in the River District to date, this building will have high-end apartments with all-inclusive rent, meaning the cost for everything from trash pickup to Internet and utilities is included.
Another project Fickenscher is working on is 553 Lynn St., another former Davis Warehouse. That building is being planned as an office building with no residential spaces. Fickenscher has also acquired several vacant lots near the building, so parking should not be an issue.
Fickenscher has done historic building renovations in other areas, and said he hopes to continue successfully redeveloping historic buildings in the River District. The Pemberton Lofts filled quickly, he said, and the Continental Lofts have had people on a waiting list since early in the project.
Thibodeau reports for the Danville Register & Bee.
BY VICKY CRUZ
Images of Danville icons, landmarks and heroes decorate the walls of the River District Barbershop. Owner Von Wellington wants to let Dan River Region’s everyday heroes know they are welcome.
It’s a fitting sight for prolific photographer Wellington. Wellington is a common sight in the River District, whether he’s snapping photos at a new business opening or educating local youth on the artistry of photography.
River District Barbershop will open Sept. 18 on South Ridge Street.
“There will be all kinds of memorabilia in the store,” Wellington said, adding that his pictures of Dan River Region scenes will decorate the space, too.
Danville Community College and Averett University has shared images of its students and athletes to be hung on the walls. Portraits of city officials and first responders will be hung, too.
“It’s all about re-imagining and doing things for the River District. The concept came up because we wanted to dedicate something for the students,” he said.
Wellington hopes all the collectible items and area keepsakes will create the inspired and re-imaged atmosphere of an evolving Danville. He’ll offer special discounts for students of local high schools Tuesdays through Fridays, for seniors every Tuesday and for Averett, DCC and other area school students Wednesdays through Fridays.
“It’s all about empowering the students and engaging them in re-imaging this area,” he explained. “They can come all the time because it’s their shop.”
The shop will have a traditional vibe to it with six trained and certified barbers on its staff. A bookcase will provide reading material for visitors and a television will broadcast sports matches. Wellington is looking into adding an old-time shoe shine station, too.
Wellington has leased the entire 10,000 square foot building even though his River District Barbershop uses only a small segment of the space. Under his agreement with local entrepreneur William Gentry, Wellington will soon roll out multiple phases of construction to later establish an event space and auto spa.
The event center is expected to host a variety of events, like board meetings, weddings, recitals and more. Wellington hopes to support other businesses in the area, such as Piedmont Access to Health Services and Danville Regional Medical Center. Gentry’s restaurant Golden Leaf Bistro will provide all the catering for the space’s use.
The auto spa will provide interior working space in the building’s back garage area. The shop will be staffed with local youth, Wellington said.
Cruz reports for the Danville Register & Bee.
Two national new sources honored Galileo Magnet High School as both a top high school for low-income students and one of America’s most challenging high schools.
“I think it’s probably one of the most significant accomplishments we can have as a school district,” said District Superintendent Stanley Jones.
The first recognition came from Newsweek magazine, which ranked Galileo 365 in “Beating the Odds 2015: Top High Schools for Low-Income Students.” The publication also listed the school’s 98 percent graduation rate, a 93.8 percent rate of students who go on to college and a poverty rate of 53.8 percent.
Jones said the distinction was particularly significant because it dispels any notion that Galileo has a vastly different student base than other area schools.
“It sets the record straight that it is no difference in terms of demographical makeup,” Jones said.
The Washington Post also included Galileo in its list of “America’s Most Challenging High Schools.” The rankings are based on both the kinds of advanced classes available at the school and the percentage of students who qualify for free- and reduced-price school lunches.
Galileo principal Jay Lancaster credited the honors and success of the school to fantastic teachers and supportive parents. He said students are also engaged with teachers and their classes.
“I think they buy into what we’re trying to do here,” he said.
After graduating middle school, students can choose either to attend Galileo or go to George Washington High School. Lancaster said along with a few other requirements like reading lists, students know they can expect tough classes preparing for International Baccalaureate and Governor’s School programs before enrolling.
As Jake and Connie Eckman mixed, blended and chopped ingredients for the day’s menu at Jake’s on Main on Wednesday, they talked about their plans to retire — again.
“When we moved here, it was to semi-retire,” Connie said as she prepared the salad dressings made fresh daily at the restaurant. She laughed, and added, “That didn’t quite work out.”
But the day-to-day running of the restaurant takes far more time than suggested by their hours of operation — there’s hours of preparation time every day to line up all of the ingredients and freshly-made salad dressing and sauces that go into the meals. They shop for ingredients daily, partly to ensure freshness, but also because the restaurant has a very small kitchen that doesn’t have room for a walk-in cooler to stock extras, Jake said.
“We make everything from scratch; it’s very labor intensive,” Jake said.
They are going to try semi-retirement again; Jake’s was set to close at the end of the day Saturday.
“It’s bittersweet,” Connie said. “It’s been a lot of work, but there’s been a lot of gratification.”
After four years of running the restaurant, plus running their bed-and-breakfast, the II Georges Inn, they are simply ready to slow down, Connie said.
The restaurant survived River District renovations, though Connie admits at times it was extremely frustrating because the outdoor tables couldn’t be used, and people had a hard time figuring out how to get to the restaurant with roads closed and parking was an issue. Even now, Connie said, people using GPS coordinates to locate them often get sent to the street that no longer exists in front of the building.
But they did survive, and Connie credits loyal regulars and people determined to find the popular restaurant despite the challenges of River District renovations. Now the restaurant has its outdoor dining area back, overlooks the new fountain and still gets views of spectacular sunsets.
“The fountain is nice,” Connie said, then laughed. “I cursed it for a year, but I’m glad it’s there now. I think it really helps downtown.”
The Eckmans purchased the Broad Street building they remodeled to be the II Georges Inn in 2004, but didn’t move to Danville until 2007 and opened the inn a few months later.
Before opening Jake’s on Main, the couple offered occasional specials dinners for guests and the community — by reservation only.
“We’ll be able to do wine-tasting dinners again, with five, six, seven courses,” Connie said. “They’re fun — and they’re not every day.”
But her eyes fill when thinking about closing — even though it means they will be able to take vacations and focus on the II Georges Inn again.
“I’m going to cry that last day; a lot of blood, sweat and tears are in this place,” Connie said. “I’m going to miss it.”
But Connie is pleased with plans by the people who will be taking the restaurant over.
“We timed this good; someone good is going to take it over,” Connie said. “We’re going to support them; we’ll be down here all the time.”
Jake’s on Main will re-open as Me’s Burgers & Brews by the middle of September, according to Emily Tomlinson, who is taking over the restaurant in partnership with her mother, Kathy Cropp.
Tomlinson said the new restaurant will feature hamburgers with “surprising” ingredients and toppings — a concept she said is growing across the country.
“I wanted to bring it here,” Tomlinson said.
The theme of the restaurant will be literary, with burgers named after authors. The classic burger will be called the “Emyl Jenkins,” after a local author who died in 2010.
“She ran Evince magazine for years,” Tomlinson said. “I’m a writer; she was my mentor.”
After a couple of weeks of painting and getting ready, she will be ready to reveal the whole menu, but said it will have a few surprises in appetizers, entrees and desserts.
Everything will be fresh, with the menu changing seasonally to reflect what farm-fresh ingredients are available — and what customers like the best, Tomlinson said.
Tomlinson said she will keep her current job as the communications specialist at Averett University, while being at the restaurant nights and weekends. Cropp will handle accounting and other duties.
Preparation work will be handled by staff. Tomlinson said she hopes the current staff at Jake’s on Main remains and will be considered for more expanded duties overseeing some of the chores Connie and Jake currently do.
“The staff has been a huge help … they know where things are and how they work,” Tomlinson said.
The new owners plan to expand hours — staying open until 11 p.m. weeknights and midnight on weekends — and will consider expanding hours to include lunch service in the future.
“We want to get dinner down pat and do it really well first,” Tomlinson said.
The wide selection of craft beers served at Jake’s on Main will continue — and even expand.
“There are five taps now; we want to bring it up to 12 — but one will be a non-alcoholic root beer,” Tomlinson said.
She will have some help keeping the selection of craft beers up to par — her husband, Rod Tomlinson (also known as “the beer guy” at Vintages on the Dan) will lend a hand as he continues to work at Vintages on the Dan.
“We got him cards that say he’s our CBO — chief beer officer,” Tomlinson said.
The name of the restaurant includes one of Tomlinson’s nicknames: Me. A nephew couldn’t say “Emily” as he was learning to talk, so she became “Me” to the child and the nickname stuck.
Tomlinson laughed as she said the name lends itself to some fun uses at the restaurant.
“We won’t have Happy Hour — we’ll have Me Time.”
BY DENICE THIBODEAU
Thibodeau reports for the Danville Register & Bee.