We’re just going to come out and say it: Saison is a great restaurant and a special place. When our friends and family come to town, we take them there. From craft cocktails to rotating seasonal menus, it is one of the most impactful recent additions to the Richmond culinary community. Building off their success and recognizing an immediate opportunity, the fine folks behind Saison just opened up a neighboring market – conveniently called Saison Market – that specializes in craft beer, wine, amari, delicious lunch and dinner. Taking the idea of a neighborhood market a step further, the space is outfitted with unique wares – or “oddities” – from the visionaries at The Odd Couple Shop. Saison Market has been open just under a month, but has seen enormous support from the locals of Jackson Ward.
We talked with James Kohler, Manager of Saison Market, and Andrew Carnwath and Jen Garcia of The Odd Couple Shop about their partnership and the type of community that develops when new businesses find homes in up-and-coming neighborhoods.
James, why did Saison decide to open a market alongside of the restaurant? What makes Saison Market unique in comparison to other markets in the area?
James: It has always been a dream of Jay and Adam (Jay Bayer and Adam Hall, Owners of Saison) to have a bottle shop. We drew a lot of inspiration for the space from Cochon and Cochon Butcher in New Orleans. The biggest thing that sets the market apart is the strength of the brand that we’ve created at the restaurant. We immediately had an identity and people knew what to expect from day one.
Jackson Ward has grown a lot in the past few years with new business and younger generations moving into the area. How would you say Saison has contributed to the growth of Jackson Ward?
James: Our goal has always been to help Jackson Ward become more of a walking neighborhood, to help bridge the gap from the Arts District, Near Downtown and Jackson Ward. We stay open late, closing at 2 am. With the market now open at 8 am, seven days per week, we’ve established ourselves as something unique to the neighborhood. In addition to that level of service, we employ a little over half of the staff at the market with people from the neighborhood, which is really important to us.
In turn, how would you say the neighborhood has influenced the growth of the restaurant and market?
James: We have people ask us for things they’d like to see everyday, and we honestly want to meet as many of those needs as we can. It’s also opened us up to a ton of great people running businesses here in the area, like our friend Jason Lefton from Big Secret who we’ve collaborated with a ton. We also have a “Vinyl Night” every Tuesday at the restaurant with the guys from Steady Sounds on Broad St.
Andrew and Jen, you seem to be “early adopters” when it comes to establishing business in neighborhoods with a lot of potential growth. Is this something you consider when approaching new locations?
Jen: We definitely do consider the area that a business is in. We feel like the up-and-coming neighborhoods have so much energy. Local businesses and residents really help to support each other in these areas. We also try to keep our products affordable so that the local residents moving in will be excited that we’re near by.
We’ve partnered with The Odd Couple in the past for our regional pop-up shops and can’t say enough words about the business and their amazing oddities. What benefits has Saison Market seen from incorporating The Odd Couple’s goods into the market?
James: For starters, their taste and ability to feel out a space and find things that not only fit their brand, but ours as well, has been amazing. It’s great to be able to make our space feel and look better, and also give our friends an outlet to sell their wares.
Andrew and Jen, you seem to have your hands in a good amount of projects in the area. What are you most excited about right now?
Andrew: We are most excited about the Saison Market right now. It was so much fun to work with a new business and see it being built from the ground up. Jay, Adam, and James were great to work with, and they really trusted us when it came to matching our products with their aesthetic. We’re also super excited about some upcoming projects that are in the the works with Shockoe Denim.
You all also have a warehouse location in Richmond’s Historic Church Hill, another up-and-coming neighborhood in the city. What has the response been like to your warehouse sales? How would you say Odd Couple is positively influencing Church Hill?
Jen: We have had a wonderful response to the warehouse sales. Era Vintage, Sharpman, and Brik-A-Brakman have really expanded our customer base, so it’s a lot fun to see so many people at the sales. It’s not uncommon for people to stop by and chat for an hour or so with some coffee, donuts, or even a spiked cider. The sales have really become a nice local gathering. We were super lucky to have a couple of new vendors this past month as well, and hope to expand the vendor list in the future. The more, the merrier!
How have you noticed the landscape of Richmond’s entrepreneurial community changing in recent years?
Andrew: We have been so humbled and appreciative of all the support that we have received from Richmond’s local businesses. There is no way that we would have been able to get this far if it wasn’t for Black Iris, Ledbury, Shockoe Denim, Saison, and others. Working with Ledbury allowed us to meet James, who invited us to be a part of the Saison Market. One relationship has led to another and everyone involved has always been so positive towards us.
James, what are your hopes for the market? Do you all intend to integrate Saison into other areas of Richmond, or is Jackson Ward part of Saison’s character?
James: My personal hopes for the market are to continue to grow and become the go-to neighborhood spot and specialty destination for our beer and wine selection. Beyond that, we want to start a cocktail education program and beer and wine classes. Oh, and fingers crossed, we’re going to add a frozen drink machine because I think Jackson Ward is ready for Negroni slushies.
From our perspective, we couldn’t be more thrilled to see two local businesses teaming up to bring us a one-stop shop for chorizo pate sandwiches, nitro cold brew coffee on draught, and vintage decanters. More importantly, seeing these historic neighborhoods revitalized with new energy and entrepreneurial life is incredibly encouraging for the landscape of the Richmond community.
We’d love to hear small business support from you all, our friends across the nation. What up-and-coming businesses and neighborhoods are making an impact where you live? Please feel free to share them in our comments section.
Also on a similar but side note, we just released The Ledbury Launch Fund last week. Do you know an entrepreneur producing consumer goods that could use 25k in startup funding? Learn more about our Ledbury Launch Fund which will award one deserving consumer goods entrepreneur with $25,000 in startup capital and offer mentorship from our Co-Founders Paul Trible and Paul Watson.