Behind-the-scenes at three local business makeovers
When it comes to interior design and style, there is often a lot of focus on our homes and personal spaces. But timely renovations and updates are just as important in the business world too. These improvements—whether they are large or small—can substantially improve the overall ambiance for employees and customers, leading to less turnover and, hopefully, an improved bottom line.
Here, we spotlight three recent business overhauls that show a dramatic transformation from start to finish.
Milano’s Enoteca & Italian Ristorante
Renovations Started: Late Spring 2021 | Renovations Completed: Aug. 2021
Local favorite Milano’s Enoteca & Italian Ristorante in Boonsboro is almost unrecognizable after a major renovation last year.
“The life cycle of a restaurant’s décor should change about every 10 years. For some it might be a few coats of paint and for others it goes a lot further, like we did,” says Chef Jason Arbusto.
Before the updates, the style inside the restaurant was dated—brown wood furniture, red carpet and yellow walls.
Arbusto and owner David Abdshah hired Sarah Girten of Sarah Girten Interior Design to oversee the renovations. They all sat down and sketched out their ideas, agreeing that a clean, modern look would carry the restaurant into the future.
“Our new aesthetic was aimed to be appealing to all ages. It is bold, but in a sophisticated and fun way. We also wanted it to be able to stand the test of time,” said Girten.
The red carpet was replaced with an eye-catching wood-grain laminate design. The front wall turned into a stunning focal point; it is now a vibrant blue and is used as a display for wine bottles.
Black metal partition screens, made locally, provide some privacy for patrons without feeling bulky. Murals and various patterns of wallpaper are scattered through the space.
“We really loved the idea of the décor being an experience. Each section has its own unique décor, which we did intentionally, so there is a different vibe depending on where you sit,” said Girten.
But probably the biggest change at Milano’s during this makeover was the addition of a new patio.
“Outdoor seating is huge for us; it’s the most popular when the weather permits,” said Arbusto.
When joining the restaurant in early 2021, Arbusto had updated the restaurant’s menu, keeping classic favorites while adding some new homemade dishes. After those changes, he says they “wanted an ambiance or vibe that matched the food we were serving.”
Now, he is confident that the two go hand in hand.
Lynchburg’s Finest Real Estate
Renovations Started: Feb. 2021. Renovations Completed: May 2021
Lynchburg’s Finest Real Estate has been located in Wyndhurst since 2015. While they love their location, the two-story building on Goldenrod Place was due for some updates.
“The layout felt uninviting, which is not at all who we are. We were definitely stuck in the late ’90s, early 2000s with the design,” said Betsy Ferguson, principal broker and owner. “By changing the entire floor plan of the main level we are able to physically show a warm welcome to each person that comes through our doors.”
Ferguson oversaw the project with general contractor Joel Olenik. She also designed the floor plan by hand and chose all interior elements and furnishings.
The first order of business was to remove the large, bull pen–style front desk that used to be located right inside the front door. In its place now is a wooden conference table surrounded by white, cloth-covered chairs. A large beaded chandelier overhead gives the space a warm glow.
Glass-enclosed offices line the back of the room, giving staff privacy while also keeping visitors in sight and allowing more natural light. The black partitions pop against light wood furniture, including bar stools and a counter work station. Matching cognac chairs offer more seating downstairs for agents.
“To keep our package affordable for our agents we chose not to use the traditional desk fee,” she explained. “What we quickly found out is that without assigned office spaces we eliminated the ability for someone to close a door and talk behind. It truly has set an open tone for the entire culture of our office and agent atmosphere.”
The makeover also included the downstairs powder room as well as the second floor, where they removed a wall. Now, Ferguson can host weekly training sessions for agents with ease.
“Our agents and clients love the bright, light and warm atmosphere. With no assigned offices there is a seat for everyone at the table, to grow, collaborate and belong,” she said.
Renovations Started: July 2019. Renovations Completed: Ongoing Through 2022
Lynchburg’s River Ridge Mall has been a regional shopping destination since it opened in 1980—but in the years leading up to the first wave of renovations in 2019, the mall had seen better days.
“The national landscape for malls has been ‘cloudy’ over the last decade. River Ridge, like many malls built in the ’70s and ’80s, was due for a facelift,” said Lauren Spencer, marketing manager for JLL, the mall’s management company.
River Ridge is owned by Liberty University; the multi-million dollar renovation project is a collective effort by LU’s executive leadership and their architects/contractors.
Just look up to find one of the most transformational elements of the mall’s interior redesign. Raised ceilings with both natural light and light sculptures give shoppers what Spencer describes as an “uplifted and invigorating shopping experience.”
The center court area was another spot that immediately saw major improvements, including a large format fireplace, amphitheater and restaurant-style dining at Iron & Ale Bistro. More recently, the Food Hall was remodeled with a contemporary design aesthetic and the addition of new eateries. Outside, “fresh-faced, large and inviting main entrances” were also updated.
“The rebranding of River Ridge invokes a modern-yet-timeless feel that provides first-to-market retailers with the urban-esque design they are accustomed to in larger cities,” said Spencer.
An indoor-outdoor shopping experience has been at the center of the overhaul at River Ridge. The East End redevelopment, featuring national retailers such as Dick’s Sporting Goods, was completed in late 2020. Currently, the West End is in its final phase of redevelopment and will offer the first restaurant—Papa Gallo—with indoor and outdoor accessibility as well as green spaces for family and community events.
As updates continue in 2022, Spencer says they are already seeing the hard work pay off: “Our retailers have seen a significant increase in their foot traffic, especially during the 2021 holiday season, where many retailers saw some of their highest numbers in sales compared to the past few years.”