Bad Charlottesville News

I’ve lived in Charlottesville Virginia now for about 8 years and one of the great things I love about it is the Corner community. I have a bar I like, there is a good music at the Satellite Ballroom where I plan on seeing They Might Be Giants this month. We’ve got lots of local businesses and restaurants where you feel like you’re experiencing something unique and your money goes to local people you know and like.

Then you hear crappy news like 4 local businesses are going to get shut down to put in a national chain store like a CVS and it’s like a punch in the gut. In this case, the Corner is losing Plan9 (our local record store), Higher Grounds (the non-Starbucks coffee joint), the Satellite Ballroom (the last remaining music venue on the corner), and Just Curry (the best meal you can get in under a minute not to mention the source of my favorite local ad).


This just breaks my heart. 4 local businesses gone, and probably a couple more after CVS drives out the local competition. I realize this is just capitalism at work. The landlord will surely enjoy a regular check from a national corporation rather than rely on 4 locals whose business may fluctuate with the economy. But still, just the complete absence of consideration of what this will do to the community, to these local business owners, and just for the culture of the Corner is so disappointing. After all, what do we get out of this move? Another convenience store to join the 3 others on the corner (which likely will also sink)? Another CVS to join the half-dozen others scattered about town? And what do we lose? We’re losing what I think is the best music venue in town in terms of cost, variety (everything from local to national bands), and location (the only one on the corner), a great independent music store with wifi access and coffee shop that’s fun to hang out in, and an awesome little restaurant. I wish the landowners involved would think a little more about what impact their decisions have on the community rather than just their individual self-interest as naive as that sounds.

Worse yet, since it is the Corner our local news magazines the C-Ville and the Hook will likely ignore it since they rarely pay attention to what happens in the Corner/student district. I hope they decide to slum it for a while, come down here, and start reporting on this disaster because once businesses like this leave, they’re gone forever. Otherwise one day I’ll return to Charlottesville and the culture that once made it so interesting will be gone. If we don’t stand up for our local businesses our little community will one day consist of nothing but Starbucks and Applebee’s. I’ve lived in towns like that before, it sucks, trust me.


  1. That truly sucks – Plan9 has been a C’ville institution for many years, and I have many fond memories of Higher Grounds.

    [I can’t imagine that C-Ville will not pay attention, though, unless they’ve hugely changed since I left. Wait – that’s 8 years. Ye gods.]

  2. I used to live in Charlottesville many moons ago. Sooooo bummed to hear this.

  3. minimalist

    Holy crap, that’s terrible. I was just in C’ville for the President’s Day weekend and Plan 9 was… not up to its former glory. It was obviously hurting from MP3 download services, but the Satellite Ballroom seemed to be going strong.

    Now I wish I had gone to that electronic music mini-fest at the Satellite. Dammit.

    Bad enough that Higher Grounds got booted out of its original full-sized storefront space by that frickin’ Starbucks (also drove out another local java joint if I recall correctly). So your assessment of what that CVS will do is right on the money.

    What next, a Dunkin’ Donuts in place of the Bodo’s? Travesty.

  4. This makes me sad. Maybe it is time to move away from my favorite little ‘Ville after all. On a bright note though, B & I just signed up with a CSA for 22 weeks of local fresh produce!

  5. Another Anonymous Poster


    Is this just rumor now, or is it for sure? I’ve seen nothing in the local press or on the local blogs about it.

    And what about Littlejohn’s and Michael’s?

    I find this very curious. The city of Charlottesville fought CVS tooth and nail and prevented them from putting in a store in an abandoned building at the corner of Ridge and Main due to its prominence as an entrance corridor. Isn’t University Avenue also part of that corridor?

  6. Anonymous

    AAP: This is not a rumor. This is breaking news and you are hearing about it now on this blog. The Littlejohn’s and Michael’s Bistro spaces are owned by John Crafaik, not College Inn. I am certain that John, a UVA grad, would never do something like this. It is greed, pure and simple, with no respect for tradition and local character. It makes me sick to my stomach, much like the feeling I’ve had after a meal at College Inn.

  7. Mark,
    Your favorite ad is is a headless woman with plantains headed up her crotch? Odd, it sorta put me off my lunch. BUT – you are right that this is really tragic news and a real blow to Charlottesville, which will be losing several quality local establishments for something unnecessary and absolutely mediocre.

    Can we talk them out of it?

  8. Yes pobre. I know what this girl’s head looks like though so maybe I don’t see it the same way.

    It is not rumor, it is real, I’ve got good sources.

  9. droscar

    Is the other Plan 9 still in Seminole Square? I’ve been out of town for 3.5 years.

    Every time I go in the one in Harrisonburg it’s like a tomb.

  10. Oh la la – now you’ve got me guessing…

    They Might Be Giants at S.B. this month??? Perhaps we should take a little road trip back up to the ‘Ville, to say goodbye to these fine establishments…

  11. I’ve got an extra 2 tickets (and can always swing more space).

    Also AAP, CVS wanted to knock down that building and put up a new space. In this case they’re just taking over an existing space, the stakes are different.

  12. Kerry Maxwell

    To add insult to injury, CVS has a history of closing stores and leaving them vacant.

  13. Hey, I’ve got the perfect cure for your Charlottesville blues.

    Move to Blacksburg.


  14. Something similar happened in my town (Arlington Heights, Illinois). In our case, it wasn’t just a landlord selling the property, but the city condemning it. They enacted the principle of Eminent Domain to declare the district “blighted” (which, except for an abandoned gas station on the corner, it’s anything but), and planned to sell it to Target. The saving grace there was that the business owners in the area sued the city over it. They didn’t win, but it took so long that Target decided it wasn’t worth the hassle and backed out of the deal. There’s still a possibility another buyer could come forward, but it doesn’t look likely at this point.

  15. That’s terrible. Not capitalism or national chains or CVS, generally, but particularly
    these four businesses
    for a CVS
    on the Corner
    is terrible.

    Mostly, the Satellite Ballroom thing is bothering me. I went to a load of concerts at Starr Hill but didn’t make it to Satellite Ballroom until my fourth year. I figured it was alright that they were shutting down the Music Hall portion of Starr Hill since the plan was to have Satellite Ballroom remodeled and pick up the slack.

    Now what?

  16. Mark H,

    We wrote about this six months ago….

    “Considering Craig’s recent commitment, combined with all the nearby development and talk of big chain retailers moving in, Vassalos’ Anderson Brothers building might seem to be the perfect location for a large retail store.”

    Dave McNair
    The Hook

  17. Dave, I beg to differ. Your article writes:

    Currently, sources say that Plan 9 holds a multi-year lease on the space that includes a sublease to the Satellite Ballroom. If any big retail chain is sniffing around the space, Vassalos insists no such changes are in the works. In addition, his Corner Parking Lot would seem to be ripe for a more intensive use of the space, such as a new parking deck. But again, Vassalos says he has no such plans.

    That’s a little different than CVS is moving in and displacing not restaurants so much as the last real music venue for people under 50 in town. In fact, it sounds to me like the exact opposite of what was in the Hook.

  18. Dave McNair


    I wasn’t trying to prove a point, just letting you know we were aware of the possibility of coming changes to the Corner a while ago and wrote about it…in fact, I believe we were the first to raise the issue of a big retail store possibly taking over the Plan 9 and Satelite building… and you can expect more about it if it is indeed true.


  19. Anonymous

    The C-ville has a story online now about the Corner rumors. Sounds like it is not a done deal after all. Hopefully something can be worked out that will be satisfactory to all parties involved.

  20. anonymous

    this is awful! all too often these days, perfectly good places that have roots in history, (or are just really cool) have to give in to new overprocessed, all too common chain stores. it really is a shame, and i wish this wouldnt happen as much as it does. this city, let alone this country, doesnt need another CVS, why dont they send them to places that truly need them.

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