BY NATE STOREY
Richmond’s arts district was an eyesore of crumbling infrastructure and panhandling vagabonds when Ted and Katie Ukrop opened their Broad Street concept shop and art exhibition space, Quirk Gallery, in 2005. Ten years later, the neighborhood has become ground zero for the city’s creative movement, with recording studios, Southern-style gastropubs, indie-label fashion boutiques, and now, the new Quirk Hotel. “The gallery has always operated with that principle in mind: To bring attention back to Broad Street and re-establish this area as a major destination,” Katie says. Inside the façade of the erstwhile 1916 J.B. Mosby & Co. department store, the 74 rooms enunciate the building’s past as well as local talent with original pine floors and bed frames crafted from repurposed 100-year-old wood joists, offset by pink resin ice buckets. In the lobby, soaring segmental arches and a groin vault ceiling house artworks like Chris Milk’s life-size tin men cyclists and a massive instillation by Susie Granch called “Pile,” an assemblage of upcycled coffee cup lids, lipstick imprints and all, from nearby cafes. On a recent Sunday afternoon in the lobby, the Ukrop’s decade-long mission to bring some magic to Broad Street was on full display. The developer of an app called Coffitivity shuffled from the attached gallery space, to the barista counter that serves cult roaster Blanchard’s, to his laptop resting on a plush midcentury sofa. Brunch-goers tucked into toasted avocado hash at chef David Dunlap’s restaurant, Maple & Pine. Even Harry Potter (yes, Daniel Radcliffe) whisked himself into an elevator. “The local art scene gets richer every year with more imaginative and creative people moving to town who are making huge contributions to Richmond’s culture,” Katie says. “We’ve established some really strong connections with amazing artists and will continue to exhibit their work at the gallery; hopefully the hotel will given them a broader audience.” Case in point: the studio around the corner, where the hotel’s first artist-in-residence, paperist Leigh Suggs, is completing a six-month residency. Before she’s done, one of her pieces will join the property’s permanent collection.