Stoplight Gelato Café
405 Brook Road
In 2013, as he was renovating the old commercial building in Richmond’s historic Jackson Ward, Bryce Given had some unexpected paranormal experiences. He told Richmond BizSense that he was sitting near the front of the shop facing the rear of the building when he saw a white figure that repeatedly moved up the stairs and came back down. It eventually disappeared but it left Given wondering what he had just witnessed.
“The first time I saw it, I was checking all the street lights and car lights’ reflections and ruled all that out. It was just too bizarre.”
When he bought the hundred-year-old building to open a gelato café, he did not consider that one of the obstacles to opening the new business might come from the other side. However, he later noted that he had not had any further paranormal experiences and that perhaps the spirit approved of his work. “I haven’t seen him in a few months, so I think he approves of the renovations I’m doing.”
According to neighborhood lore, the building operated as “a horse depot” and the owner committed suicide in the 1930s as business declined due to the prevalence of automobiles. Perhaps, this is the spirit that was checking up on the building’s renovations?
A reporter for the local CBS affiliate, WTVR, looked into the building’s history and discovered that R. D. Harlow operated a grain and tack business here in the early 20th century. Perhaps this is the business owner who committed suicide? After his ownership, the building passed through a few different hands and operated as several businesses. Given believed that whatever was there approved of what he was doing with the building.
“I have a good feeling about the apparition—or spirit—that may be here.” He mused. “But now that the bricks are fixed, and everything is stable and solid again, I may not see him again.”
Discovering a spirit in the building was just one of the surprises on the years long journey that Given and his mother made while trying to open this gelato café. After buying the building in 2010, Bryce Given spent years working on the renovations before succumbing to cancer in 2015. Despite her grief, his mother, Barbara, oversaw completion of the renovations and the opening of the café in 2016. In early 2019, she sold the café to a young couple who have continued the business. If spirits are still active in the building, nothing has been noted, so I’m left thinking that perhaps the spirit may be appeased by the gelato.
- Holmberg, Mark. “A ghost in historic Jackson Ward?” 12 July 2013.
- O’Neal, J. Elias. “With new owners in place, Jackson Ward gelato shop has greenlight for reopening.” Richmond BizSense. 12 April 2019.
Robinson, Mark. “Café’s first visitor loves the new haunt.” Richmond BizSense. 25 June 2013.