WHY YOU KNOW HER: Everyone knows “Barb,” as she’s affectionately referred to by friends, family and Stoplight Gelato Cafe’s ever-growing loyal customer base. The quaint but bustling shop in Jackson Ward — a former feed and grain store — was opened by Given earlier this year in honor of her late son, Bryce Given, who died of cancer on Easter morning in 2015 before the shop was finished. After his death, Given pressed on for more than a year, thanks to countless volunteers who helped make her son’s dream come to life. The shop gets its name from the working stoplight that hangs from the ceiling, something that Bryce bought before he died. Now it welcomes everyone who stops by.
WHAT’S NEW: Even at age 81, Given never stops — except for hugs, which she gives freely. On a blustery cold morning this month, she stood at the counter in the kitchen, carefully stirring melted chocolate until it was smooth. The shop is testing a few new menu items, namely hot chocolate and hot chocolate lattes, she said. She’s also adding Belgium waffles with Vermont maple syrup, crispy pizzas, and homemade biscuits — both regular and gluten-free — for sandwiches.
With Lola, her service dog, never far way, Given shuffles through the swinging doors from the kitchen into the cafe and points out holiday gelato flavors — candy cane, snickerdoodle and even mulled Sangria. Since its opening, the shop has created more than 100 flavors of gelatos and sorbettos. It also serves breakfast and lunch.
Bryce would have loved this. And now, Given said, her daughter will, too. To her delight, Given learned recently that her daughter, who lives in Delaware, is moving to Richmond to be closer to her — and to help out at the shop.
People, after all — those close to her and new friends she meets every day — are what keep her going. Some customers, she said, visit three times a week.
“What tickles me so much,” she said, is when folks “hang out.” She recalled an evening when a group of four came in for sandwiches, stayed for gelatos, and then stayed another half-hour just to chat.
“The people seem so happy,” she said. “I’m so grateful to the many loyal customers.”