Strawberry Street Café restaurant in the Fan District officially has a buyer. Two, in fact.
Business partners Derek Salerno and Aaron Sisk — two Richmond restaurant bar and beverage program managers — are buying the restaurant and the building at 421 N. Strawberry St. in the Fan District for its listing price of $1.375 million. The sale is expected to close on Monday.
They are buying the restaurant, which opened in 1976, from Ron Joseph, who took over as part owner in 1994 and as full owner in 2015. Joseph listed the restaurant and building for sale in September.
“It’s been a crazy, wild ride,” Salerno said. “It’s really exciting — and a little bit terrifying.”
Salerno is currently the beverage manager at Shagbark restaurant and has consulted and worked on bar programs for restaurants across town, including Comfort, Peter Chang and ZZQ. Sisk runs the bar program at ZZQ and previously worked at Peter Chang and Family Meal.
Salerno and Sisk have been friends for years through the restaurant industry.
“This opportunity came in the last few months when we had an investor,” Salerno said. “It was just going to be Aaron’s deal and I was going to do some consulting, but I decided to dive in.”
Salerno said the two aren’t planning any changes for the restaurant right away. Strawberry Street Café will close for a day and a half (after brunch service on Sunday and ideally reopen for lunch on Tuesday) and then continue on with its full staff through January.
“We’re not changing anything to start,” Salerno said. “And we’re going to do everything we can do to make sure we have a place for everyone.”
Salerno said they plan to use that time to get to know the employees better and to hear from regulars about what they’d like to see with the space.
“It’s a great neighborhood — if I lived here, this would be a great place to pop in every day,” he said.
That’s something they want to keep — even as the two barmen put their mark on the beverage program.
“They have a pretty good craft beer program,” Salerno said, but he wants to add some more cheap beers, plus classic cocktails and approachable, affordable wine.
“We don’t want to do a super ego-driven beverage program. We’d like a really good neighborhood bar,” he said.
The same is true for the men where the plan is to ultimately elevate the food while keeping the “American neighborhood restaurant” vibe.
The duo will start rolling out some changes in February. Salerno said the restaurant will shut down for a few weeks to do a kitchen redesign, make some interior tweaks and update the menu with the help of Brandon MacConnell, chef de cuisine at Shagbark, who will be consulting on the food.
Amrit Singh of Fultz & Singh Architects will be working on the interior renovations.
As for the bathtub — the one that houses the restaurant’s salad bar — it’s going to The Valentine museum.
Joseph said he’s thrilled with the sale and the new buyers and is especially happy that the current staff will be retained.
“We had lots of inquiries, but this particular buyer was the one,” he said.
Joseph added that he wanted to thank Richmond for the more than 40 years of support for Strawberry Street Café.