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February 5, 2007
New Museum Already Spawning Businesses

Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin

Monday, February 5, 2007

By JEFF WRIGHT - Bulletin Staff Writer


A recent economic impact analysis said the new $26.1 million Virginia Museum of Natural History is expected to have a huge economic impact on Martinsville and the surrounding area, and already two new museum-related businesses have been announced.

New Moon Cafe, which will be located inside the museum and run by Martinsville resident Debbie Lazaro and Susan Palmer of Ridgeway, is slated to be up and running for the March 31 museum grand opening.

The other business, Black Tie Valet, was created when VMNH Security Manager Tim King, of Martinsville, learned that a valet service was not available in the area, a service that could be needed at the museum's grand opening gala.

The cafe, although not a part of the Starbucks franchise, will sell Starbucks products along with sandwiches and pastries. One of the draws to the space, said Lazaro, is that it will be accessible to community members and visitors without having to pay the admission to the museum.

"We are really hoping that it just becomes a popular place, another activity that becomes an asset to the community, something that people can go to for leisure time," Lazaro said, adding that she hopes the cafe will become a popular spot for local workers to stop by for their morning coffee or for lunch.

Lazaro said that she and Palmer had been looking for a space around Martinsville to run their business for a while, before they became aware the museum was looking for someone to start such a business there through a Bulletin article last summer. After submitting a proposal for what they could offer the museum, there were a series of interviews with museum personnel.

"In the end they liked our enthusiasm for the project," Lazaro said.

The cafe, which will rent the space from the museum, is responsible for purchasing all of the equipment needed to make the coffee and sandwiches, but the museum has provided tables, chairs and decorations for the area, Lazaro said.

While museum officials began planning for the March 30 black-tie gala, which will introduce the new facility to local and state politicians, local leaders, general supporters of the museum and officials from VMNH partner, the National Geological Museum of China, they realized that there was something missing.

Event planners wanted supporters to have access to a valet service for the gala, but there were no local companies which could provide such a service.

"From the start it seemed like it was a bit challenging," King said of his effort to start a valet service, but the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp. and museum staff have been helpful and supportive, he added.

Although King said his business is still in the planning stages, he expects it to be fully operational for the gala.

King, who has been in the security business for 17 years, said he hopes that the gala will be a springboard for his business, which he hopes to expand in the future. Black Tie Valet is going to start by offering its service to the museum and then hopefully branch out to area hotels and country clubs, he said.

An economic impact analysis conducted recently by the Atlanta-based company, Market Street Services, predicted that about 100 museum and spin-off jobs will be created as a result of VMNH operations, amounting to $3.8 million in salary and wages and $6.6 million in annual business revenue.

Museum officials expect the new facility, which will open its doors to the public with its March 31 grand opening, to draw about 70,000 visitors in its first year.New-Museum.jpg