In many ways, the opening of Nutty Buttery — a new cafe, coffee shop and ice cream parlor in the Carver District — is emblematic of owner Charleen Baylor’s life come full circle.
Nutty Buttery had a soft opening in late May and is planning its grand opening in June, but the cafe has been in the works for years — officially, it’s been since Baylor signed a lease on the 701 W. Clay St. storefront in 2016; technically, it’s been since the former Bon Secours director took part in RVA Works’ 17-week business incubator program in 2015. But the roots — the passion for being part of a community hub — for Baylor, started long before that.
Baylor comes from a family of entrepreneurs and people deeply engaged in their community, which for her and her extended family was Ashland.
Baylor’s grandfather owned Lightfoot Bakery in Ashland and her great-aunt was a serial entrepreneur with The Quick Meal Coffee Shop, Al’s Tailor and Al’s Beauty School and Salon, all started by her and all located in Ashland.
“What I admired about what my family had created was a gathering place,” Baylor said. “In my grandfather’s bakery, there were no seats, but people would stay anyway.”
Baylor said customers would make cheese biscuits from her grandfather’s house-made biscuits, filled with extra-sharp cheddar cheese, cut straight from the wheel and stuffed inside. Down the road from the bakery, the beauty school was a long-established “gathering place for the community.”
Only a few weeks in, Nutty Buttery has already created something of the same for Carver, which is the neighborhood Baylor has called home for nearly 20 years. Officers in the Richmond Police Department mounted unit are already regulars who pop in for ice cream; their horses are partial to sherbet.
There’s something for everyone at Nutty Buttery, which is kind of the point. Variety brings in people, and people — community — are what Baylor wants.
“I love people. I always have,” she said.
The menu features sandwiches, such as burgers, grilled cheese and make-your-own panini or sandwich ($8-$12); entrees, including fish and chips and steak ($11-$18); hot dogs and chicken wings; entree salads; and breakfast fare ($3-$8). Ice cream is available by the scoop, and cookies and cake by the slice or quantity. Wine and beer are on the way, and there are daily specials, such as avocado toast and biscuits and gravy ($2-$4).
You can even find candy and nuts by the ounce.
“I’ve never met a nut I don’t like,” Baylor said. “And that includes people.”
Ample seating dots the dining room, with sofas and cozy chairs for people who want to lounge, tables for four that can be added together for those who want to sit, bar-height tables and seating for people who want that, and a kids corner for younger diners who want their own area. Patio seating is set up, and dog biscuits await any four-legged visitor that begs. A stage is nestled in the corner for live music; jazz on every fourth Sunday from 4 to 8 p.m. will launch soon. The art is local and will rotate. Nutty Buttery has already hosted a handful of fundraisers for various causes and will continue to do so.
“Community places are anchors,” Baylor said. “That’s what I wanted to create.”
Baylor was lucky to find a home for Nutty Buttery in Carver. She met the owner of the building at a meeting for the Carver Neighborhood Community Association, for which she served as vice president. They struck up a conversation and then a deal.
“I thought, ‘Nutty Buttery can go there right in my community’; I got so excited,” she said.
The location was part of the delay in getting Nutty Buttery open, though. The building had been vacant for so long that it had reverted to residential zoning. Baylor had to apply, pay and wait for the property to be rezoned commercial. Then Baylor gutted the space. Now she’s applying to extend the hours until 11 p.m. on weekends to accommodate live music. She’s also waiting for the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority to approve her license and the city of Richmond to OK her sidewalk cafe permit. In the meantime, Nutty Buttery still has nearly everything anyone could ever want, and it’s open for business.