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Nearly a year ago, both the College Inn and Sheetz — avowed Corner staples for students and community members — closed down. With the City of Charlottesville yet to announce what will replace one of the two closures, Corner business owners have had ample time to reflect on the changing landscape of the iconic area.
Jeff Werner, historic preservation and design planner for the City of Charlottesville, said in an email to The Cavalier Daily that nothing has been announced to replace the Sheetz on the Corner that closed last June. The store was closed after the parent company that owned the location ended a national project of opening up café Sheetz around college campuses.
“[No rumors] yet about this building, but if there were, until I see an actual application it will remain the former Sheetz,” Werner said. “I was in grad school during the legendary ‘Bodo’s is coming to the Corner’ [rumor]. Yes, that one eventually proved true, but it was a very long ‘eventually.’”
As of this month, a banner has been put up outside the location announcing that Chipotle would be moving into the property where College Inn was located, which also closed in June.
In order to get a business approved to be on the Corner, it must pass the standards set forth within the City Code, including the Architectural Design Control District Area guidelines, which are put in place to maintain continuity among structures within the same city districts. The most recently approved building is the new Chipotle, which will move into the space the College Inn inhabited.
As all await the announcement of what will replace Sheetz, students and community members are debating what they hope replaces the food store, while businesses reflect on the stores that have opened and closed in the district.
Alec Lorenzoni, co-owner of Ragged Mountain Running and Walking Shop, has been running the athletic business since January 2020, along with his sister, Audrey Lorenzoni. The business, which has been run by the Lorenzoni family since its founding 40 years ago, moved into its Elliewood location in 2006.
“We love the vibrancy and youthful energy of the Corner, and have a very close connection to the University, as we've had over 1,000 employees in our 40 years, almost all of them U.Va. undergrads or grad students,” Lorenzoni said.
Lorenzoni and Mark Mincer, owner of sportswear company Mincer’s, share a storied history on the Corner — Mincer’s was founded in 1948 when Mark Mincer’s grandfather Robert Mincer opened the store. In 1954, Mincer’s moved to its current location at the corner of Elliewood and University Ave. and has existed there ever since, an experience that Mincer says his family is “very fortunate” for.
Both business owners remarked on the changing focus of the Corner, which they say used to be predominantly dominated by retail businesses but which is now primarily populated with food and entertainment establishments. Lorenzoni offered up ideas for additional retail stores to fill in any vacancies that arise, including a cycling shop to complement Ragged Mountain’s running focus.
“Maybe one of our already established, local cycling shops would be interested in a location directly across from U.Va.,” Lorenzoni said. “There's certainly a continued emphasis on alternative modes of transportation locally, with bikes and e-bikes being at the forefront of that, and there's certainly a large potential customer base with 20,000 plus students right across the street.”
However, some students would rather see additional food and dining options — like the incoming Chipotle — take over the location previously occupied by Sheetz.
Third-year Kinesiology student Shiori Benotakeia said that many consumers want another convenient food place that matches what Sheetz provided.
“I would like a Wawa or something similar to what was offered at Sheetz, like the 5 for 5 deal that was very popular amongst most U.Va. students,” Benotakeia said.
Students aren’t the only group of individuals with a stake in what replaces the Sheetz. Any student or community member who walks through the Corner likely takes note of individuals stationed on street corners or in front of businesses wearing bright yellow ambassador polo.
The University Police Department implemented a public safety-oriented ambassador program in 2015 to cover any area adjacent to Grounds containing student housing. Ambassador services are vast, including providing directions to community members and visitors, escorting students home and identifying police about potential criminal activity.
Ambassador supervisor Dave Mickelberry has been part of the program since January 2016. Mickelberry mainly patrols areas immediately off-grounds, including the Corner, providing an “extra set of eyes and ears.” Mickelberry and ambassador Scott Riscoe both expressed a desire to see another easily accessible and quick food option to replace the Sheetz that left last year.
“[I would like to see], honestly, something that is reasonably priced and easy to swing in and out of,” Riscoe said. “I know Sheetz was super popular amongst all our staff.”
Mickelberry echoed Riscoe’s particular appreciation for Sheetz, further demonstrating the ambassadors’ affinity for the grab-and-go food store.
“I do miss the old Sheetz on the Corner,” Mickelberry said. “Always nice to run in there for a quick and inexpensive lunch or dinner. I think I would like to see another small restaurant to come in to give a few more choices for food.”
What will take over the space is yet to be seen. According to Werner, the whole process depends on interested applicants reaching out — which begins an online application to the City of Charlottesville or by calling 434-970-3211.