Café 1611: A County Staple

by Christy Nealey, Marketing and Technology Specialist, Department of Human Resources

If you ever find yourself in the Henrico County Western Government Center and in need of a quick bite to eat or a hot meal, Café 1611 is the place to go. Located on the second floor of the Administration building next to the Courthouse and Jail West, it is a little more than a County cafeteria. Thanks to Sharlene Ladd, Café 1611 is a staple.

Since beginning her role as Food Services Manager for the Department of General Services in 2005, Sharlene created a welcoming environment for employees to come, take a load off, and enjoy a sandwich or slice of pizza. “Sharlene was a very caring and kind person. She did a great job and was always there to help you in any way,” recounts Shirley Edwards, Administrative Assistant for the Department of Information Technology and frequent café patron. For over 14 years, Sharlene ran the well-oiled machine with a smile on her face until her untimely passing in April of 2019.

The café closed that mournful day, and, in her absence, Michelle Chambers stepped up until a new manager could be hired. “Michelle is a wonderful, dedicated and true team player.  It takes a special person to fill that role as a Café Manager and she survived it.  Thanks to the Café 1611 staff we didn’t miss a breakfast or lunch,” says Shirley.

In October, Jason Smith was hired as the new Food Services Manager for the Department of General Services and came with years of experience as a Regional Culinary Director and industry involvement since he was 14 years old. He is excited to take his knowledge and build on the legacy that Sharlene created. He has big plans to take Café 1611 to the “next level” by getting more fresh and higher quality foods, new menu items, and putting in a smoothie bar. If you have been to the café in recent months, you may have noticed the increased grab and go options and the fresh proteins on the salad bar.  Julie Davis, Business Supervisor for the Department of General Services says she thought it was Wegmans. “Today, there’s duck on the salad bar, yesterday pesto chicken, artichoke hearts, Quinoa…All kinds of goodness!” “We love it!” exclaimed Regina Hill, Administrative Assistant for the Department of Planning.

 Jason’s ideas don’t end at just the food either. He intends to update the look of the Café with new order stations, fresh paint, TVs and upgraded food packaging. He also says that down the line he wants to add a delivery option for those times employees just can’t get away from their desks.

While it will take some time to implement all of his innovations, one thing is for sure: if you haven’t been to Café 1611, you are certainly missing out. As Shirley says, “Each day we’re excited to see what’s new.  Keep up the good work Café 1611 staff.”