Rising real estate costs force Norfolk restaurant to search for new location

NORFOLK, Va. – Driving along Colley Avenue, near the campus of Old Dominion University, it can be easy to miss Legrand Kitchen. But once hungry diners step inside, they’re greeted with an eclectic blend of fine food without the fuss.

“We spent a lot of time and effort making sure that anybody from all walks of life can come in here, not just the upper crust,” notes owner Stephen Marsh.

In the eight years since Marsh opened the restaurant, he’s expanded the space to seat about two dozen people, building a loyal following in the process. However, any hope of remaining in the location has been chopped. The space Marsh rents will be put up for sale, pricing him out of the neighborhood.

“We just can’t financially see paying that much and renovating and all that other stuff that goes with it,” Marsh tells News 3 anchor Blaine Stewart.

“The prospect of a brighter 2023 seems, well, somewhat dismal.”
Dr. Bob McNab, Department of Economics, Old Dominion University

The current red-hot real estate market is putting the squeeze on an industry that’s already been through a lot in recent years, including pandemic-related shutdowns and staffing shortages.

In October 2022, reports indicate 49% of all restaurants were behind on rent payments. Fewer people dining out and rising real estate costs are partly to blame for the delinquency. Dr. Bob McNab, chair of the economics department at Old Dominion University, says that trend is beginning to reverse.

“It’s a good news, bad news thing,” McNab explains. “If rents are coming down, they’re coming down because demand has fallen. And if demand has fallen, it’s most likely because we’re in a recession. So you might end up with cheaper rents, but fewer customers, because more people are out of work.”

At Legrand Kitchen, an online fundraiser has been set up to help cover the costs of a move to a nearby location, possibly in Norfolk’s Riverview area. As of this report, the effort has raised nearly half of the $40,000 Marsh says is needed to finance the move.

“We’ve been an integral part of this community for a long time now,” he says. “And we still continue, or still want to continue to be.”

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