Jonathan Belcher, VCEDA executive director/general counsel, second from right, presents a ceremonial seed capital matching grant check to Blake Ray, Coaltown Taps, LLC owner, left; and Bobbie Ray, Coaltown Taps, LLC manager, second from left. At right is Pam Warden, Tazewell County economic development manager.

RICHLANDS, VA (FEBRUARY 20, 2020) — When Blake Ray talks about his new business, Coaltown Taps, LLC in downtown Richlands, he envisions a place where people can come together to talk about the events of the day or the week and enjoy a craft brew and a gourmet burger. The new business when it opens in late spring 2020 will offer lunch and dinner from a mobile food truck parked in the courtyard area, a lounge area with couches and armchairs, tables and craft beers from across Virginia. Coaltown Taps, LLC, is a recent recipient of a Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority (VCEDA) $10,000 Seed Capital Matching Grant.

Located at 108 Fairfax Avenue in Richlands, Coaltown Taps LLC is housed in a 100-year-old home that once served Richlands as the location of the Agatha Inn. It also housed the National Sportsman’s Shop at one time and was the property owned by the president of the Clinch Valley Coal and Iron Company.

“Assisting the start-up of new businesses in creating jobs in our coalfield area counties is what the VCEDA Seed Capital Matching Grant program is set up to do,” said Jonathan Belcher, VCEDA executive director/general counsel. “Coaltown Taps projects creating four full-time jobs and five part-time jobs within two years of the new business opening.”

Ray noted that in addition to offering normal business hours during the week of 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday through Thursday; and 11 a.m. to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, quarterly events will be offered. Twelve televisions will allow those who want to catch a game the opportunity to do so. Sunday afternoon music events and trivia nights will round out some of the planned activities. A kids’ corner is also planned, giving younger visitors a place to call their own. A family environment is the planned vibe for the restaurant which Ray’s mother, Bobbie Ray, will manage.

“Coaltown Taps is not a bar,” Ray said. “It’s a restaurant with craft beer from all across Virginia. It’s a community collaborative house.”

The food truck which will provide food for the restaurant has been ordered and when it gets up and running, Ray said menu items will be named after local places and people – the Ernie Hicks Hot Dog and the Brickyard Burger will be among the items Coaltown Taps patrons will find on the menu.

A small conference room, the Agatha Room – a nod to the building’s history – will be available for the community to use for small meetings or private gatherings.

“We really want to highlight the heart of the town,” Ray said.

Ray noted that in opening Coaltown Taps, LLC, he wants to give back to the community and encourage pedestrian traffic in the historic downtown area of Richlands. Two fundraisers a year will be held to benefit selected non-profits. Plans call for a coaches’ corner to be hosted on a regular basis to which area coaches will be invited to come and talk about the game and the progress of their team to keep locals who support athletics engaged in their hometown team. Live music events and open mike nights will also be a staple of the new business.

“There’s a saying that music doesn’t start in Madison Square Garden — it starts in places like this,” Ray said.

A loyalty program will be set up giving those taking part in it the ability to move from red hat, to black hat to white hat – a nod to the coal history of the area. A mug club will also be offered for which members will receive a t-shirt and have a personalized mug with their name on it at Coaltown Taps.

Renovations of the Fairfax Avenue space are underway utilizing Tazewell County contractors, Ray said, adding, “the VCEDA grant really helped us as we encountered some unexpected structural issues when renovation began. We were able to use the VCEDA grant funds to help with the renovation.”

Ray worked with Margie Douglass, director of the Small Business Development Center at Southwest Virginia Community College. The Tazewell County Industrial Development Authority provided a letter of support for the project as well. Ray noted the Town of Richlands was also supportive of the project. He added he had also participated in and was one of the winners in the Tazewell County Business Challenge offered in cooperation with Tazewell County and Virginia Community Capital. Ray is currently partnering with Southwest Virginia Community College and workforce development to get staffing needs lined out for the new business when it opens in late spring.

For more information about Coaltown Taps, LLC, interested persons may call 276.971.4328 or visit the business Facebook page.

About Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority and Southwest Virginia’s e-Region: The Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority, created by the Virginia General Assembly in 1988 to enhance and diversify the region’s economy and help create jobs, markets Southwest Virginia’s e-Region and its focus on electronic information technology, energy, education, emerging technologies, and entrepreneurship. VCEDA is a unique economic development organization that manages funds for economic development projects from a percentage of the coal and natural gas severance taxes paid by coal and natural gas companies that operate in the region. Located in southwestern Virginia, the region includes Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Tazewell, and Wise counties and the City of Norton. www.vaceda.org  or www.e-Region.org.

About the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority Seed Capital Matching Grant Fund: VCEDA region for-profit businesses one year and under with less than 10 full-time employees are eligible to apply for dollar-for-dollar matching grants up to $10,000 from the VCEDA Seed Capital Matching Fund. Applicants work with the Small Business Development Centers at Mountain Empire and Southwest Virginia community colleges to prepare the applications to VCEDA that include detailed business and financial plans. Businesses must be located in or plan to operate in the VCEDA region in southwestern Virginia that includes Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Tazewell, and Wise counties and the City of Norton.