Dave and Julie Hassen wanted to create a restaurant that blended the old and the new, that offered excellent food in an unpretentious setting, and that joined revitalization efforts along the Historic Broad Street Art Corridor.

So while still working full time as IT program managers in the financial services industry, the two set about opening The Belvidere at Broad.

Recognizing the need for more restaurants to attract people to Richmond’s First Fridays Art Walk, they had felt drawn to the restaurant industry. “We were looking for opportunities to get involved with revitalization efforts happening along the Historic Broad Street Art Corridor,” says Julie Hassen. “We recently moved to Jackson Ward and fell in love with the area.”

They know the area and understand the requirements for a restaurant to “make it” here — both are Richmond natives, graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University, work in Richmond and enjoy dining at Fan restaurants. With The Belvidere at Broad, they were inspired to create a restaurant that catered to current trends while appearing to have been around a long time.

The Hassens began renovating the building they had purchased several years ago — a shell that had not seen water, sewer, gas or electrical service for at least 15 years. “The space and the name needed to feel like it had been there forever. The atmosphere had to be warm, cozy, and inviting,” says Dave Hassen.

During the renovations, the Hassens signed up for the University of Richmond’s Culinary Arts Program. They wanted to learn more about the business and about food preparation and presentation, and to immerse themselves in the industry before opening their own place.

They found in the program a good foundation for starting in the restaurant business. And they also discovered instructors who wanted their students to have fun. “[Dave and I] tend to work a lot, so whenever we can work, learn, and have fun doing it, we know we have stepped into the right place,” says Julie Hassen.

After celebrating their first year in business, the Hassens feel lucky to have had a successful year, despite tough economic times. The restaurant’s menu accommodates dietary needs and ensures a top-end selection of products. Julie Hassen explains, “We focus on organic, all natural, and gluten free items.”

They attribute their success to creating a mission statement backed by a solid team and strong financial plan, setting achievable goals and finding opportunities to enhance every aspect of the mission statement, and giving and receiving more than a hundred percent from themselves and their team.

They’ve faced challenges, without a doubt. They found the first six months of business the most difficult as they struggled to find a sustainable balance between working full time and owning a restaurant. They struck that balance by surrounding themselves with a strong team, which enabled them to shift from hands-on management to ownership.

The Hassens agree that working full time and opening a new business is challenging, especially during a recession. But the experience has so many rewards. “Aside from having that first beer off the draft, finishing the building renovations were the most rewarding part,” says Dave Hassen.

Photo by Chris Ijams, CSI Studio LLC