RADFORD — Appropriately enough, it was International Bacon Day when florists Jeff Corbin and Curtis Graham said they fulfilled a dream they had shared for 25 years.
On Aug. 31, they opened The Tie Dyed Pig Diner & Bakery on Third Avenue. Since then they’ve been selling up to 200 pounds of their signature smoked pork and beef offerings, as well as a range of sandwiches and desserts, Corbin said.
Despite running Radford City Florist, managing a portfolio of rental properties and operating Pulaski Gardens & Greenhouse and its attached 22-acre farm, the longtime business partners often found themselves saying to each other, “If we had a diner, we’d do this, or that,” Corbin said.
Then about a year ago River City Grill closed, and they decided it was time to open their own restaurant. At 56, Corbin said he and Graham, 67, had to do it now, or not at all. And the downtown location was just right.
“We walked in and thought we could make it happen,” Graham said. “And I think we’ve pulled it off.”
This isn’t their first experience with the building. In fact, about a dozen years ago, Corbin and Graham owned it. They operated Radford Pottery there before selling the property.
“Now we’re renters,” Corbin said.
And he and Graham have used design skills honed over decades in the floral and plant nursery fields to remake the restaurant space. Today it’s a modern take on the Southern diner theme with ceiling lamps made from washtubs painted red to a gallery of pig-themed artwork.
“Red anything just makes you happy,” Corbin said.
And tie dye?
“It’s fun,” Corbin said. “Tie dye is also a movement. It’s comfortable; it’s casual; it’s laid back.”
But Tie Dyed Pig?
“We started talking about doing pork, and the pig came into play. And somehow the tie dye got into it,” Corbin said. “You put the two together, and you just start smiling — and it stays in your mind.”
The pig in a chef’s hat statue installed this week to star in customer selfies has drawn some attention.
“People are driving by acting like they have never seen a 7-foot pig before,” Corbin quipped on Facebook.
The food is down-home, from pimento cheese with or without jalapeno to biscuits and gravy. The corned beef and sauerkraut used in the Reuben sandwich are made at the restaurant, and all the desserts and the bread rolls are baked on the premises.
Graham said he learned to bake at home with his mom in College Springs, Iowa, and this is his first time doing it professionally. Along with an assistant, he presides over the cakes, pies and pastries that fill the dessert case. He also makes bread rolls and said he plans to do sourdough breads eventually.
Corbin, a Culpeper native, has worked in the florist business for 40 years, but his restaurant alter ego is grill man and smoker king. He said he plans to experiment with cold-smoking salmon and cheeses for the diner, items he hopes will appeal to a weekend brunch crowd.
The restaurant also serves wine and mixed drinks, including a signature vodka cocktail called the pink pig.
The Tie Dyed Pig isn’t the only new addition to Third Avenue. Rise & Shine Botanicals and Cafe opened just up the street from the restaurant about a month ago.
A partnership between Virginia Tech hemp researcher Jabari Byrd, herbalist Jason Dilg and Thai This food truck owner Brian Lawson, the business offers locally produced CBD and hemp products, coffee and pastries and a selection of custom-made herbal remedies and tea blends.
Lawson also owns the Thai This Express restaurant and is the Democratic candidate for the District B seat on the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors. He’s running against Republican Sherri Blevins.
The two new businesses were a welcome addition to the city, which has for some time now been struggling to revitalize its downtown and wider economy.
“I just think a lot of good things are happening and people are ready for some changes. I think that Radford is trying to facilitate that,” economic development director Kim Repass said.
In addition to the new businesses, the city is funding a facade program dubbed POP, which stands for “Paint, Opitimize, Plant,” according to Repass. The city-funded program matches up to $2,000 of any project that spruces up a business’ exterior.
Repass said Sal’s Italian Restaurant and Pizzeria and El Charro Mexican Grill are the first to participate in the POP program.