Henrico County VA
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Manager has appetite for service

Food may not be one of the first things you think about when you think of Richmond International Airport (RIC) in eastern Henrico County. But the food, coffee and brew being served at the airport, how they are served, and who’s serving them, is top of mind for Cain Bassett.

Bassett, a native of New Orleans, manages Delaware North Companies’ (DNC) food and beverage operations at RIC. He came to Richmond in 2005.

That was just as RIC was going through what Jon E. Mathiasen of the Capital Region Airport Commission calls, “an historic infrastructural expansion and modernization program.”

Plenty of parking and a bigger terminal are great additions to RIC, but the Commission also knew that taking care of people’s appetites was an important part of the multimillion dollar upgrade.

“The Commission wanted travelers to have a range of attractive options from known brands with an emphasis on customer service,” said Mathiasen, Commission, CEO and president.

Bassett and DNC, a hospitality management firm that operates concessions at airports and sports and entertainment venues around the world, provided the huge culinary change the Commission wanted.

Bassett, 56, who lives in western Henrico, ended up in Virginia as a result of what some would consider bad luck.

“When Hurricane Katrina hit, it basically eliminated my job [at New Orleans International Airport.] We lost everything. Katrina is the reason why we’re here,” Bassett said. “What was important was that my family was intact. I never looked at us as being victims.”

DNC offered Bassett and his wife, Alesia, three relocation choices: Fort Lauderdale, Los Angeles or Richmond.

“Richmond has been an excellent move,” Bassett said.

‘The people business’
Bassett’s nearly four decades of business experience started at a New Orleans restaurant that his parents owned. He started helping out there as soon as he was old enough to reach the table tops.

He admits he didn’t always love working at his parent’s place. As a teenager, he envied other teens who didn’t have to work over a hot kitchen grill on weekends. It took Bassett years to appreciate that those hours working for his parents helped him develop a strong work ethic.

When his parents died, he tried running the restaurant on his own. He soon figured out that he had a lot to learn about being a successful businessman.

In his early career, Bassett learned from a master. He spent many hours alongside Al Copeland, founder of Popeyes Famous Chicken. Bassett moved through the ranks learning the restaurant business (or as he prefers to call it, “the people business”) along the way.

He had just taken a job at the New Orleans airport when Katrina hit. Bassett and his wife have become empty-nesters as their four children and six grandchildren now live in Maryland and New Orleans.

These days, Bassett manages the 10 food and beverage facilities that DNC owns or operates at RIC. Applebee’s is the largest. Because it is outside the airport’s security gates, it serves travelers as well as people waiting to pick up family, friends or business associates.

The newest restaurant is the Club Level Grill on Concourse B. Basset and DNC worked with the Commission to open the restaurant and bar, which has a sports theme, last January.

Bassett supervises about 115 employees ages 15 to 74. He credits Copeland and Mathiasen, along with his parents, for playing roles in shaping him as a businessman. He’s determined to share that business knowledge with others.

Tough but compassionate
John Ball, a 1997 Highland Springs High School graduate, has worked for DNC for 15 years. He started as a dishwasher and has moved up to his current position as food and beverage manager. He and Bassett have developed a strong relationship.

“He’s more like a father figure and a boss for me,” Ball said. “If I’m wrong, he’s says, ‘Hey, John you’re wrong,’ and if I’m right, he let’s me know I’m right. I get both sides.”

Ball and Pamela Hamby, a former waitress who now manages Applebee’s while attending J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College, agree that Bassett can be a tough boss.

How tough is he? He once fired one of his sons for underperforming on the job.

“[Cain] is strong when he needs to be and he gets his point across, but he’s also compassionate about your needs as an employee,” said Hamby, a Tappahannock native.

Bassett will tell you that this business is not for everyone. However, for some it can be a great career and a source for important life lessons.

Bassett often teaches those lessons to young people in the Richmond area. He speaks at Henrico County high schools and volunteers with Junior Achievement of Central Virginia, teaching first graders as well as high school students.

“By sharing his personal and professional experiences and skills with students, Cain [Bassett] is helping students see the connection between what they are learning in school and what they will need to succeed in work and life,” said Daphne Swanson, president of Junior Achievement of Central Virginia.

Bassett jokes that he teaches young people so they’ll know how to earn money and be able to pay into the Social Security fund that will help cover the cost of his eventual retirement. But as you watch him interact with his young employees, you can see that he relishes his mentoring role.

When you ask him what he enjoys the most about his job, he says, it’s helping people.

“[I enjoy] taking an individual with minimum skills and developing those skills, helping them become a productive part of society. I can tell you stories of people who started out as hourly cashiers and are now running million dollar restaurants. I take pride in playing a small part of that development,” he said.

Then Bassett adds that he’s simply completing the circle that started when his parents taught him “the people business.”
Community

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Former Sandston resident Mildred Taylor celebrated her 106th birthday Aug. 9. Taylor, who now lives in Powhatan, is still a member of Sandston Baptist Church. She was visited the day after her birthday by several members of the church, who played for her a recording of the entire church membership singing happy birthday to her during worship. > Read more.

YMCA breaks ground for aquatic center

YMCA officials gathered last week to break ground on the new Tommy J. West Aquatic Center at the Shady Grove Family YMCA on Nuckols Road. The center, which will featured 7,600 square feet of competitive and recreational space, including water slides, play areas for children and warmer water for those with physical limitations, is the fourth phase of a $4 million expansion at the facility. West was president and CEO of Capital Interior Contractors and a founding member of the Central Virginia Region of the Virginia Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors. > Read more.

Rotary donates to ‘Bright Beginnings’

The Sandston Rotary Club recently donated $1,000 to the Sandston YMCA for its Bright Beginnings program, which helps provide children in need with school supplies for the new school year. > Read more.

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Entertainment

Journey to mediocrity

‘The Hundred-Foot Journey’ fails to capitalize on tasty concept
The Hundred-Foot Journey is a curious little Romeo and Juliet of a film. A family, forced out of their native India, begins a trek across Europe.

The family’s sole mode of transportation sputters and dies in a sleepy little French town, but the town’s food culture is high, and that’s a perfect place for a family of restaurateurs to settle down. There’s only one problem – the family’s rustic “Maison Mumbai” is right across the street (a hundred feet away, if the title didn’t clue you in) from a prestigious French bistro with a Michelin star, run with an iron fist by the dreaded Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren, pictured).

It’s here that a particular Romeo and Juliet story begins to develop, with Hassan (Manish Dayal) on the Indian side and Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon) on the French side. > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


Enjoy the final days of summer with comedian Guy Torry, the Sam’s Club National BBQ Tour or mystery writer Mary Miley Theobald at Twin Hickory Library. Another great way to welcome the beginning of fall is to check out the UR Spider Football season opener with man’s best friend. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

Bottoms up

Short Pump brewery offers more than just beer
I am still (happily) thinking about my entire experience at Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery last week. Knowing nothing about this new brewery out of Denver, I was leery of brew-pub in the heart of Short Pump Town Center – this is not what I’d usually think of as a perfect fit, and yet, it was.

The restaurant and craft brewery opened in early June and features 10 beers made by female brewmaster Becky Hammond (pictured). This is the restaurant’s second location in Virginia; the first is in Arlington. Behind glass walls, customers watched the beer brewing in massive steel barrels. For our up-and-coming beer region, it makes sense that Short Pump would jump on board.

As I walked up to the back of the mall near the comedy club, I was taken aback by what I saw: at the top of the stairs was an overflowing restaurant with outdoor seating, large umbrellas and dangling outdoor lights. > Read more.

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