Scott Richardson: Founder of Village Tavern
Scott Richardson is the successful founder and CEO of the original Village Tavern located in Reynolda Village, Winston-Salem, NC, as well as the multiple locations that have opened since its successful start in 1984. What began as a fairly hesitant business decision has since grown into a franchise composed of 11 restaurants across the United States and the Philippines.
How it All Began
In the early 1980s, Scott Richardson, former co-owner of Ryan’s Restaurant and Newmarket Grille, was approached by Wake Forest University with a proposal that would later change his life. The university’s local market square, Reynolda Village, had recently surfaced as an upscale retail-shopping area, and Wake Forest wanted Richardson to share his entrepreneurial talents with Winston-Salem as a business owner there. Flattered by the offer, but discouraged by the fact Wake Forest had filled this vacancy three times prior with no success, Richardson sent board members on their way to look for somebody else. Just six months later, however, Wake Forest returned empty-handed and asked Richardson for his help once more.
Richardson was well-versed in entrepreneurship at this point in his life, having started restaurants of his own in the past, so he knew this project was going to take a great amount of work and perseverance for the business venture to be successful. Richardson responded to Wake Forest’s plea by drawing up a list of potential deal-breaking demands. For his business, he requested a premier location in the village that allowed passersby to see the restaurant from the adjacent Reynolda Road, as well as the request for a liquor menu. This was questionably boisterous for the affiliated university that held strong Baptist ties at the time. Not to mention, Richardson added on the request for a large sum of monetary donations toward necessary renovations. Contrary to Richardson’s expectations, Wake Forest agreed to everything.
Richardson was quickly presented a 15-year lease, but intimidated by the potential unrealisticness of those terms, Richardson and his then-business partner, William D. Spry Jr., agreed to sign a five-year lease instead. Neither partner was opposed to the thought of renewing their commitment, dependent on future success. Little did they know the tavern would surpass the originally proposed length of time and continue to thrive nearly 35 years later.
The Village Tavern
The one detail Wake Forest was a bit hesitant about was the name for the restaurant. Richardson was inspired to call his place the Village Tavern because of his love for the authentic, colonial terms of Williamsburg, VA. The university was likely deterred by a “tavern’s” reputation as solely a drinking location, but Richardson appealed to the university’s board of directors, illustrating how taverns were so much more than just a bar. To Richardson, taverns were a convenient meeting point to eat, socialize, and discuss the politics of the day; and as the decades-long reputation of the Village Tavern suggests, it’s evident who won that debate.
This was the start of what neither party could have ever imagined as being a strong, 35-year partnership. The quality in both his restaurant and its undeniable success, was no accident. Richardson had done his research, traveling across the world and exposing himself to some of the most amazing eateries. In fact, many of the items that remain on the menu today can be traced back to restaurants all across the midwest and eastern shoreline that stuck with Richardson before he finally returned to North Carolina. Richardson was never shy to ask his favorite chefs for these unforgettable recipes; this is seen with his crab cakes inspired by The Stocked Pot in Maryland, the tavern’s chicken grills which embody the flavor of Mick’s in Atlanta, and even his taco salad, which was inspired by a dissected Taco Bell creation.
Village Tavern Celebrates 30 Years of Success
Back in 2014, the tavern celebrated its 30th anniversary and sold specials at the original 1984 pricing for an equally special “throwback” experience. These highlighted options included: cheesesteaks for $5.25, taco salad for $4.50, and onion-mushroom burgers for $4.25. Simplicity was one of Richardson’s core values when first designing the Village Tavern. He aimed for the focus to be on the local restaurant’s “coldest beer” and “best cheeseburger you can get,” rather than any materialistic or overly glamorous details that may overshadow the most important part– the food. In fact, it wasn’t until the restaurant expanded to its first two new locations in Greensboro and Charlotte that Richardson even added formal entrees to his menu.
Richardson’s dreams for the Village Tavern are far from exhausted– with his already established 10 locations across the United States, and one in the Philippines, he hopes the franchise only continues to grow. Richardson has even made mention of taking advantage of the growing market in Asia, maybe Hong Kong, Seoul, or Tokyo. That being said, he sees areas for growth right here in North Carolina as well, maybe Raleigh.
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