To many, a decade represents ten years of time. To others, it marks a milestone – 87,600 hours of hard work, dedication, passion, and challenges.
Richmond Family Magazine’s publisher Margaret Thompson falls in the latter category. Ten years ago, she was working at a local marketing agency, MarketShare, interviewing writers and designers for freelance opportunities, when she met Scott and Karen Schwartzkopf. The husband and wife communications team, who are now RFM’s creative director and managing editor, had been
the creative force behind another magazine that had recently folded.
“Karen and Scott had worked together on a parenting publication that closed in 2008. They were passionate about the project, and it was obvious they were good at what they did. I remember reading that local magazine and thinking it was a great resource for families,” says Margaret, whose sons were one and three at the time. “I was disappointed when that magazine went away, just as I was starting to need it.”
After the meeting, Margaret kept thinking about the couple and the conversation. “My background is in marketing, and at the agency, we always found people who were very good at their particular discipline so we could get a quality product out the door for our clients,” she says. “I thought, Why couldn’t that product be a magazine?”
She followed up with the Schwartzkopfs, not to offer them work with the marketing agency, but to see if they would be interested in producing another local family lifestyle magazine. After lining up the creative team, discussing the idea with the marketing agency owner Tom Noakes, and researching potential printers, distributors, and media buyers, Margaret and Tom incorporated Family Publications, Inc. on August 1, 2009. RFM’s first issue rolled out in October 2009. The small team they assembled distributed 24,000 copies of what started out as a 36-page magazine.
“It was terrifying, and people thought I was crazy to put out a print publication in 2009 when everything was going digital,” she recalls. “But I believed then, and still believe now, that people want to see and touch the pages and not just read words on a screen.”
Another reason people might have wondered aloud about Margaret launching a parenting magazine had to do with the fact that she was a parent in the first place. She often joked about her and her husband’s path to parenthood.
“We really didn’t think we would have kids,” says Thompson with a chuckle. “I always thought we were content to be able to go where we wanted, when we wanted, without the constraints of having kids. We had it in our heads we were too happy with our lifestyle to make room for a child,” says Margaret.
That changed when a few of the couple’s friends started having kids. “We saw the sheer joy children brought to their lives, and we warmed up to the idea,” says Margaret. She was thirty-seven when she had her first son, Will, and two years later, Scott was born. “Once we had our first son, I half-joked, ‘Let’s hurry up and have another one to give him a playmate since we’ll be too old to play with him!’”
In its debut, RFM was well received by parents and non-parents alike, and over time, it gained traction. “People started picking it up and saw it was a great resource,” Margaret says. “I also made sure we were at as many community events as possible, so we could meet new families, improve recognition, and create new fans and readers. We needed to get the word out that this new, free magazine was for absolutely everyone,” she says.
Early on, Margaret recalls how just walking by the racks of free magazines at the grocery store was a thrill for her sons. “They would point to it and say, ‘Mommy, there’s your magazine!’ It has been so sweet to see how proud they are to say that RFM is our family’s magazine. But to this day, it feels much more like the team’s magazine, not just mine. It’s a collaborative effort, and I could never do it without Karen and Scott, who have given it 110% every day since the beginning in 2009.”
Karen and Scott, whose children were eight, ten, and twelve when RFM launched, share that sentiment. “Scott and I had worked together since 1998, but never on a project that required as much time and energy as RFM, or one that was so completely focused on family, parenting, and community,” says Karen. “It has always been a labor of love for us, and it’s been wonderful that our kids have been able to help out over the years.”
By the end of 2009, a few months after the RFM debut, it was clear to both Margaret and her boss, Tom, that it was time for her to devote all of her time to getting RFM off the ground. Tom’s parting gift for her ten years of service was signing his half of the magazine over to her, making her the sole owner. “Tom was such a mentor to me for so many years, and to this day, I can trace many of the ways I run RFM back to things I learned from him. I am forever indebted to Tom for giving me this start and believing that I could be a business owner, too.”
Over the last ten years, publishing a magazine has changed the life of Margaret’s family in many ways. “I think of all the things we have done, like attending exclusive media previews of area plays, as well as things like ICE! at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, or getting to meet the Harlem Globetrotters, which was such a thrill for us.”
Margaret also thinks about the people she has met through the magazine who impact Richmond through their work, as well as the many nonprofit organizations and events RFM has sponsored over the years. “We’ve been connecting with Richmond and with families and trying to make a difference in the city,” Margaret says. “And we’ve been telling fantastic stories.”
Until last month, when the family’s new puppy Charlie arrived, Margaret says she thought of the magazine as her third child. “I truly can’t imagine our lives without RFM. I would like to think that at this point, our readers all over Richmond can’t imagine being without it, either,” says Margaret. “I am fortunate to have a job that rarely feels like work. I can’t wait to see what the next ten years bring.”
RFM isn’t the only organization hitting the 10-year mark in 2019.
Check out these four RVA organizations joining the magazine in celebrating their decade anniversary.
Most Richmonders are familiar with Dominion Energy Center for the Performing Arts and Altria Theater, but not many have heard of the Richmond Performing Arts Alliance, the nonprofit behind the venues. “We struggle to get our name out there,” says Abbi Haggerty, RPAA’s executive director. “I don’t think a lot of the work we do is visible. It’s really behind the scenes.” The organization’s tenth anniversary celebration of the opening of Dominion Energy Center (originally Richmond CenterStage) in September helped RPAA get the word out. During the event, nine of eleven of RPAA’s resident companies – City Dance Theatre, Elegba Folklore Society, Latin Ballet of Virginia, Quill Theatre, Richmond Ballet, Richmond Symphony, SPARC, Virginia Opera, and Virginia Repertory Theatre – came together for a special performance to highlight education in the community and what’s happening in the arts, Haggerty says.
Since 2009, RPAA has served more than one million patrons and transformed the lives of thousands of students. The organization formally dates back to 2001 when a group of community leaders wanted to create a mechanism to help strengthen the performing arts. “They started making a plan for the arts center and also led the campaign to renovate the Carpenter Center and add on Dorothy Pauley Square where Thalhimers had been located,” says Haggerty.
The organization has launched a number of educational and community programs that include the BrightLights Education Initiatives, which brings programming into schools, community settings, and the arts venues of RPAA. BrightLights includes Greater Richmond Wolf Trap, an institute for early learning through the arts, Digital Arts Lab, and the Lights Up! Youth Series, which provides workshops and performances that help families explore the world of the arts.
RPAA also hosts Legends on Grace, a cabaret-type series featuring Richmond artists singing the works of the legends of yesteryear. “This year, we are expanding that series and adding matinees for each artist. They are also performing their show at Westminster Canterbury,” Haggerty says. “Last year, every show was sold out.”
For Haggerty, watching the children at RPAA’s educational events is a highlight. “It really is amazing to see people come into the Dominion Energy Center and watch the building come alive,” she says.
Todd “Parney” Parnell and the Richmond Flying Squirrels live by the mantra Have Fun – Go Nutz.
“Our secret sauce is that we emotionally connect to people,” says Parney, the team’s vice president and chief operating officer. “We have a platform in Richmond that many people don’t have. We want to use it in a positive way. We want to make people smile.”
This year, the team celebrated its tenth anniversary throughout the season, but counts hosting the Eastern League All-Star Week in July as one of the highlights. The All-Star Week featured special events, celebrities, a concert on Brown’s Island, and a country music jam with recording stars Big & Rich, followed by an Eastern League Celebrity Home Run Derby.
“All-Star Week brought in people from all over the country to celebrate,” says Parney. “It was my favorite moment for this year and in our Richmond history.”
When team management visited Richmond ten years ago, it was “love at first sight,” he recalls. “We had this thought process of what we wanted to accomplish. We didn’t want to be just a baseball team, but rather a 12-month entity. We wanted to be impactful every day. We wanted to be fun.”
The size of the Richmond market was attractive to the team, as was the success the Richmond Braves previously reached. “This was a much sought-after market,” Parnell says. “There were a lot of suitors.”
Looking back, he believes “we were the right people at the right time in the right place,” he says.
He credits the team’s success over the decade not only to faithful fans, but also to the support of corporate entities in town, neighborhood groups, and the steady growth of Scott’s Addition, The Diamond’s neighborhood.
The team has created numerous annual events such as Squirreloween, where families trick or treat at the ballpark on or around Halloween. “People come from neighborhoods where they don’t feel safe trick-or-treating,” Parney says.
In November, the Squirrels team up with Puritan Cleaners for its Coats for Kids campaign where people can bring coats to the ballpark to donate. “We are utilizing the ballpark for doing something good,” Parney says.
On Military Appreciation Night, the team hands out jerseys to the families of soldiers who have made the ultimate sacrifice. The team also hosts the Hot Stove Banquet in January that includes former players and major league stars. The dinner raises money for the Flying Squirrels Charities.
“One of the things that makes Richmond so special is that there is a special emotional moment every night. As an organization, we have an insatiable appetite for improving, doing anything we can to make a memory for a person,” Parney says.
Team mascots Nutzy and Nutasha, as well as Parney, can be seen throughout the year at special events. “We have to be part of as many people’s lives as we can,” Parney says. “It has to do with life, everyday life. We want to make positive memories for people.” The team has a lot to be proud of in its ten years, Parney says. “I feel very strongly that the best is yet to come.”
When doctors Mark Flanzenbaum and Jeff Bennett started KidMed ten years ago, it was a gamble, according to Flanzenbaum. “No one knew if it was going to work.”
At the time, the two were partners in a large ER group at St. Mary’s. “We spent our entire careers in the ER until we started KidMed. We both loved pediatric medicine, and we wanted to focus on it,” Flanzenbaum says, adding that KidMed was the first pediatric urgent care practice in Central Virginia and one of only a few around the country when it opened.
The idea for the pediatric-focused urgent care practice came about when Bennett, a father of two, and Flanzenbaum, a father of four, started noticing that parents took their kids to an adult acute care center where many doctors had limited pediatric training. “No one would take their grandparent to a pediatric office, but people take an infant to an adult practice,” Flanzenbaum says. “The illnesses kids get are so profoundly different than adult illnesses. If they don’t have the training in pediatrics, they will care for kids like an adult patient, and a lot of stuff can get missed.”
There should only be three options for parents, “a personal pediatrician for primary care, an acute care-dedicated pediatrics ER, or dedicated pediatric urgent care,” he adds. “We always recommend that patients follow up with their pediatrician when it’s appropriate.”
All of the physicians at KidMed are board-certified pediatricians and all nurse practitioners at the practice are board-certified in pediatrics or family medicine. “Our physician assistants all focus on pediatrics as well,” Flanzenbaum says. “Everything we do is evidence-based. We care about the quality of the work we do.”
The staff is dedicated to making a child’s experience comfortable and as free of anxiety as possible. Of course, there are those rare cases where nothing can lessen a child’s fear. Flanzenbaum remembers a child of about six who was brought into KidMed at the end of the shift. The child had a cut on his forehead and needed stitches.
“He crawled under the stretcher, and wouldn’t come out,” Flanzenbaum says. “One of the x-ray techs was helping me. We bargained with him for fifteen to twenty minutes before he came out. We started making a game out of it – moving the stretcher, but he stayed underneath. He finally got to the point that he was more comfortable because we used a topical anesthetic to make the procedure painless, and he came out. He got his stitches and left smiling and happy.”
KidMed takes care of everything from an illness to lacerations to orthopedic injuries. The payoff for the doctors? Seeing a kid smile. When kids are sick and having a bad day, sometimes all it takes to get a smile out of them is a sticker or a popsicle.
“You would have thought they were at Walt Disney World,” Flanzenbaum says. “It’s so heartfelt that this is what makes it all worthwhile. I always joke and say ‘I wish a sticker and popsicle would make me have a good day.’”
Mark Bowen begins gearing up for special events at Westchester Commons long before they are scheduled to take place. The lifestyle center is host to a variety of events, from the Westchester Concert Series to the Holiday Street Festival, complete with Santa and a tree lighting.
“We are creating entertainment attractions,” says Bowen, marketing and operations manager for the center, which is celebrating a decade this year. “Our concert series has grown every year, and last year, our Halloween Carnival Festival brought out over 2,000 people.”
This year, the center added Easter Palooza to its roster of events. “It was a grand success,” Bowen says.
Many of the events at the center have a charity component. For example, the center hosts the Midlothian Food Festival in October, put on by four Rotary clubs, as well as Richmond Animal League’s annual Woofstock adoption event in April. “From 2016 to 2018, we helped charities raise $755,000,” Bowen says. “We hope to surpass $1 million by the end of 2019.”
When the center was being developed in 2009, it wasn’t the best time “to start a retail establishment,” says Bowen. “We started small, and with a little bit of patience, it has grown to what it is today.”
Things took off for the center in 2014 when Greenberg Gibbons took over management. “We had eleven new merchants within the next eighteen months,” Bowen says. “It started to blossom.”
Bowen has seen a continual increase in restaurants and services such as doctors, dentists, and hairstylists. “We have 60-plus businesses, and it’s still growing. Now we have residential coming onboard in 2020, 236 high-end apartments,” Bowen says, adding that this kind of retail and residential mix is a worldwide trend.
Westchester Commons tries to give its customers a full shopping experience, including things they need and things they can enjoy. “We want to give people a reason to shop, dine, and play,” Bowen says. “We have everything you need and want and everything in between.”