Partnership plans to build restaurant, brewery in Middlesex

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Print this page by Hope Katz Gibbs
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Gov. Ralph Northam approved grants to assist the Cooks Corner project.
Photo courtesy Governor of Virginia

Two Richmond-area businessmen, Travis Croxton of Rappahannock Oyster Co. and Jay Shah of Shamin Hotels, have developed a $2 million plan to build a restaurant and brewery in Middlesex County.

“We are the economic development portion of a larger revitalization effort that also includes affordable workforce housing [and] installing and upgrading water and sewer infrastructure for the county,” says Croxton, who owns 10 restaurants nationwide and an oyster farm in Middlesex.

Their revitalization project for the Cooks Corner area of Middlesex will turn the former Rappahannock Central Elementary School cafeteria into a commissary kitchen and event space. The partners will also relocate and renovate a historic African-American schoolhouse, formerly the St. Clare Walker High School, turning it into a brewery and restaurant.

The project is expected to create 20 jobs. In addition, Croxton and Shah have pledged to spend an estimated $600,000 on Virginia seafood, meat, produce and hops over three years.

Shah is a principal at Shamin Hotels, which operates 60 hotels in six states — including the Hilton Virginia Beach Oceanfront, DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Williamsburg and The Hilton Richmond Short Pump.

His involvement in the brewery business began in 2016 when he purchased a historic bank building in Richmond’s Scott’s Addition to create Statement Brewing Co.

But historic tax credits he expected to use in financing the project didn’t come through, effectively killing it and leaving him with $600,000 in brewing equipment. During that time he met Croxton, who later suggested they collaborate on the Middlesex project, known as Cooks Corner Partners LLC.

“Travis is well-known for his culinary experience as well as his savvy business sense, so while Middlesex is known to be a seasonal tourist market, we’ll be distributing the beer around the state and beyond, which we’ll be making from our 20-barrel operation,” says Shah. “This is a bit of a leap of faith, but I’m confident it’s a good investment and excited to help revitalize the Middlesex area. Plus, I’m thrilled I have a place to put all of that brewing equipment to good use.”

In March, Gov. Ralph Northam approved a $100,000 grant for the Cooks Corner project from the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development (AFID) Fund, with matching funds from Middlesex.

Northam also approved $2.25 million in Vibrant Community Initiative funding, and $480,000 in Industrial Revitalization Fund awards for the project.

A Community Impact Grant from the Virginia Housing Development Authority will provide $215,000 for the affordable housing units. VHDA will also provide loan financing totaling about $2.2 million for affordable housing. The U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development will provide loan and grant funding.

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