Careers and Culture – Chris Runyon

Chris Runyon is a public relations and communications manager with the Better Business Bureau serving Western Virginia. He is a graduate of Patrick Henry High School and James Madison University. Chris resides in Roanoke City with his wife and new puppy.  We asked Chris some questions about what brought him back to the Roanoke Region, and a few of his favorite things about living here.

Where were you before you returned to the Roanoke Region? What was the catalyst for your return? 

For six years, I lived at 10,000 feet in a small town outside Breckenridge, Colorado. Most Colorado transplants speak ill of their hometowns; that was never my story. I’ve always liked where I grew up. But it wasn’t until I was at the annual GO Fest event during one of my visits home I began to experience a strong sense of community and excitement that Roanoke was on the cusp of something special. I wanted in early and ultimately moved back to be closer to my family, who still lives nearby. 

How do you think the Roanoke Region has shifted or transitioned in the last 10 years? 

Roanoke was built around the railroad, with Norfolk Southern playing a significant role in the surrounding area. It’s been neat to see Roanoke transition from “trains to brains” with the healthcare industry and strategic partnerships with local universities adding opportunities for our community. With more students and young professionals increasing the demand, small businesses answered by filling leases of long-term vacancies in downtown Roanoke. The revitalization of downtown Roanoke truly brought life back into this city. 

What do you think makes this region attractive from a livability perspective? 

The cost of living and access to outdoor recreation are two things that make this region incredibly attractive. I came to terms quickly that where I lived in Colorado wasn’t feasible to start a family and live comfortably. Colorado residents frequently say they’re richer in different ways. I’d say why choose? You can have both right here in the Greater Roanoke area.

Currently, what is your favorite food and beverage establishment in the region you think people should try? 

I support businesses that are investing in their backyard. Go check out Bloom Restaurant & Wine Bar and RND Coffee Lounge. Not only are they putting out some fantastic food and drinks, but they’re the change we want to see in our community. 

Any words of wisdom, advice, or encouragement to other “boomerangs” considering a move back to the region? 

Don’t wait. The secret is out. 

What do you think about the real estate market here and current revitalization projects in our communities? 

I love the way neighborhoods are becoming more micro-communities. Wasena’s main street revitalization project has trickled over to Old Southwest which is also squeezed by downtown’s revival. Just look at Day Avenue; every house is getting flipped. Downtown Vinton proper has seen incredible growth. Of course, any neighborhoods close to Roanoke Memorial or access to Greenways and Blueways will be the next opportunity for real estate investment. 

Home for the Holidays – Part 1: Thanksgiving Edition

Home for the Holidays- Part 1: Thanksgiving Edition

Below is your guide to the “Best of the Roanoke Region” over the Thanksgiving holiday. Share this with your college students, adult children, or anyone coming to visit this season – and show off everything your community has to offer.

Get2KnowNoke has hand-selected the trendiest cocktail lounges, the best outdoor adventures, the tastiest eats, breweries you may not have tried, cool new shops that just opened, and so much more. We tried to highlight everything new that your friends and family may not have tried, as well as all the old favorites.

Nov. 24

Plan your Friendsgiving at one of the region’s top restaurants or grab a craft cocktail to celebrate.

Nov. 25

Move your feet so others can eat! The Drumstick Dash is a Roanoke Turkey Day tradition.

Nov. 26

#OptOutside this Black Friday and take advantage of our 1000s of miles of trail and greenways.

Saturday, Nov. 27

Snag great deals and local gifts on Small Business Saturday.
Not in the mood to shop? We’ve gotcha covered with our brewery crawl.

“Now that you can remotely work from anywhere in the world – why would you not choose a place with beautiful mountains, great dining, arts and culture, breweries for days, a huge outdoor community; where your commute is non-existent and adventure is endless.”

-Taylor Johnson, Director of Talent Attraction

Wednesday, November 24 (Thanksgiving Eve)

Plan Your Friendsgiving: Grab dinner with hometown friends at one of the region’s trendy new spots and Star City favorites.  

Thanksgiving Eve Downtown Roanoke: One of the biggest social nights of the year! See old and new friends at any of Downtown Roanoke’s bars. Our list of favorites will be pouring late so you can catch up with old and new friends.

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Thursday, November 25 (Thanksgiving Day)

Get your dash on and earn your turkey by running or walking in this annual Roanoke tradition.

The Atlantic Union Bank Annual Drumstick Dash 5K: It’s not too late to sign up for Roanoke’s annual pre-meal run/walk. Move your feet so others can eat this holiday season! Sign up online or in-person on Thanksgiving morning.  

There are several restaurants open for brunch or lunch options after the race, if you’re not too busy cooking yourself. Check out the VisitVBR “Where to Eat on Thanksgiving” list to learn where you can go.

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Friday, November 26 (Black Friday)

#OptOutside on Black Friday: The movement started by outdoor retail company REI in 2015 is celebrated here in the Roanoke Valley, an outdoor wonderland. Instead of spending your day stressed out in crowded stores, enjoy a beautiful outing in the Blue Ridge Mountains .

PRO TIP: Bring a bag on your adventure to collect litter and keep our region beautiful.

  • Blue Ridge Parkway: Explore the beauty of the most visited park in the US at any of these local stops.  
    • Peaks of Otter: Take a leisurely stroll around Abbott Lake and enjoy the views from the base or challenge yourself to a hike up Sharp Top Mountain to 360 mountain views. 
    • Explore Park: Explore Park features hundreds of acres of trails, riverside views, and outdoor fun. Whether you want to get in a game of Disc Golf or take a bike through the 14 miles of trails, you are sure to get in some serious outdoor adventure. Finish the day at Twin Creeks brew pub.
    • Mill Mountain: Haven’t taken a visit to the city’s iconic star in a while? Take a trip up the Mill Mountain Greenway with a picnic at the star. With miles of hiking, mountain biking and running trails, the zoo and the botanical gardens – there is plenty to do for all ages.
  • Carvins Cove Natural Reserve: With 60 miles of trails for hiking and mountain biking, you are sure to find beautiful fall foliage at this outdoor hidden gem.  
  • Roanoke’s Regional Greenways: The greenways that lie within the City of Roanoke’s limits include Roanoke River Greenway, Garden City Greenway, Mill Mountain Greenway, Murray Run Greenway, Lick Run Greenway, and Tinker Creek Greenway.  
  • Jackson River Scenic Trail: Virginia’s newest and extremley scenic rails-to-trails project is just outside of downtown Covington. Easy access makes it popular for residents and visitors to walk, bike, or jog along the Jackson River in the beautiful Alleghany Highlands.

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Saturday, November 27 (Small Business Saturday)

Small Business Saturday #SBS: Shop ‘til you drop (or until you need a beer). Be a part of recognizing and contributing to our region’s entrepreneurs and small business owners. 

Support some of the area’s newest spots on this national holiday.  

  • Mast General Store: Offers a variety of goods, tasty treats, apparel and outdoor gear.   
  • The French Farmhouse: Modern farmhouse home décor, lighting, furniture, and holiday spirit.  
  • Gatewood Rose: Plant lovers rejoice! A market for plants, accessories and education to keep them alive!  
  • Roanoke Farmers Market Vendors: Connect and buy from the people growing locally sourced food and creating handmade pieces you can’t buy anywhere else! 
  • Crafteria: Find small batch food and handmade goods from 60+ craftspeople. Find anything from records, holistics, coffee, candles and more!   

Other regional favorites:

Star City Beer Tour: The Roanoke Region has 16 craft breweries to choose from but one cool little nook of town has three all within a few blocks. Head to the trendy West End to check out of Roanoke’s neighborhoods on the rise.

IPAs, Stouts, and Pale Ales – Oh My! Try them all at these West End Breweries

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Stay tuned! Our Home for the Holidays Part 2 will have a full calendar covering 21 days of planned events throughout December.

YP Q&A: Hannah Bernath

Hannah Bernath

What is it like to live, work, and play in the Roanoke Region of Virginia? See it through the eyes of some of the region’s young professionals in their own words.

Hannah Bernath works in the IT department at Delta Dental of Virginia. “I’ve been fortunate to have a variety of roles here which have allowed me to expand my skill set and grow my career,” she said of her job.

While Hannah grew up in the Roanoke Region, she left for a while for college and a few years post-graduation but moved back home in 2011.

Continue reading “YP Q&A: Hannah Bernath”

YP Q&A: Sydni Chernault

What is it like to live, work, and play in the Roanoke Region of Virginia? See it through the eyes of some of the region’s young professionals in their own words.

Sydni Chernault was born and raised in Fussa, Japan. She made the move to Virginia for college and after graduation, “the mountains kept me.” She recently bought her first home in the region and plans to stay long term.

She works as the production lead at Eddy Alexander, an advertising agency in downtown Roanoke. “I love that I’m able to use my creative mind for different projects every week at work,” she said of her job. “It really keeps me on my toes.”

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YP Q&A: Ubadah Sabbagh

Ubadah Sabbagh

What is it like to live, work, and play in the Roanoke Region of Virginia? See it through the eyes of some of the region’s young professionals in their own words.

Ubadah Sabbagh came to Roanoke four years ago from Syria as a Ph.D. student at Virginia Tech. His job is “essentially figuring out how we make sense of the visual world around us. As a neuroscientist, I study the connections between the eye and the brain to figure out how those two pieces of the visual system are wired up.”

He loves that aspect of his work, as well as being able to share it with the community through STEM outreach and giving talks around town.

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YP Q&A: Frank Boxley

What is it like to live, work, and play in the Roanoke Region of Virginia? See it through the eyes of some of the region’s young professionals in their own words.

Frank Boxley has lived in Roanoke – off and on – for his whole life and currently resides at the foot of Mill Mountain. He works in sales for Steel Dynamics, the third largest steel producer in the United States.

Did you know that Steel Dynamics, Roanoke Bar Division is an Electric Arc Furnace (EAF) steel mill, meaning it derives 98.2% of its finished product from recycled steel scrap? Plus, most of the scrap material (92%) used in the manufacturing process is sourced within a 200-mile radius of Roanoke, Virginia.

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YP Q&A: Jeff and Bethany Todd

jeff todd

What is it like to live, work, and play in the Roanoke Region of Virginia? See it through the eyes of some of the region’s young professionals in their own words.

Jeff and Bethany Todd recently bought Roanoke Mountain Adventures, which offers gear rentals and has an outdoor gear consignment shop. The full-service outfitter has guided and self-guided outdoor adventures for mountain biking, road cycling, paddleboarding (SUP), kayaking, tubing, and other activities.

Jeff and Bethany have been living and working in the Roanoke Region for a while.

Jeff is a lawyer turned baseball writer who works from home, so he likes to get off the computer and on his feet as soon as possible. He is the vice president of the Wasena Neighborhood Forum and recently joined the Mill Mountain Advisory Board.

Bethany is an educator by training and is doing coursework toward eventually becoming a school administrator while serving a second term as Wasena Elementary PTA president.

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YP Q&A: Jim Casey

jim casey

What is it like to live, work, and play in the Roanoke Region of Virginia? See it through the eyes of some of the region’s young professionals in their own words.

Jim Casey, 36, is an OBGYN working at Carilion Clinic and lives in the Raleigh Court neighborhood with his family (wife, Emily, and son, Will). The Caseys came to the Roanoke Region thanks to job opportunities three years ago. He even ran the Blue Ridge Marathon “on a whim” right before making the move because they were looking at a house the weekend of the event.

“I love the accessibility of the outdoors from work and home, and the small/big town feel together,” Jim said about the region. “There’s just enough size and quirk for everyone to find their groove.”

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YP Q&A: Katey McBurney

katey mcburney

What is it like to live, work, and play in the Roanoke Region of Virginia? See it through the eyes of some of the region’s young professionals in their own words.

Katey McBurney is a Roanoke native that moved back to the area after nine years of living in Washington, DC. Katey, husband Ryan, and their 2-year-old son moved back to the region in June with remote jobs because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Katey works as head of the client success program at a financial tech company, Asurity, and Ryan is director of digital marketing for Interactive Strategies. Both companies are based in Washington, DC.

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YP Q&A: Libba Cooper

libba cooper

What is it like to live, work, and play in the Roanoke Region of Virginia? See it through the eyes of some of the region’s young professionals in their own words.

Libba Cooper is the Events Coordinator for the Taubman Museum of Art, where she plans annual fundraisers and internal events for the Museum. “Working for a nonprofit I get to dabble in many different areas,” she said.

Libba grew up in Winston-Salem, NC, and fell in love with the region as a student at Roanoke College. Continue reading “YP Q&A: Libba Cooper”