Fredericksburg, Virginia is a Diverse City- made up of diverse businesses, diverse owners, and diverse stories. The importance of supporting Fredericksburg businesses extends beyond stimulating the local economy. When you support diverse small businesses by being a loyal customer, purchasing a gift card, leaving an online review, referring businesses to a friend, or engaging on social media, these efforts benefit the many different communities that make up our city.
FXBG Diverse City is a 5 month-long program from the Department of Economic Development and Tourism that aims to shed light on the owners and stories behind the Fredericksburg businesses that we love. Each week the department features a diverse Fredericksburg business on the Fredericksburg Economic Development and Tourism Facebook and Instagram pages while following monthly themes:
- February: Black-owned businesses (for Black History Month)
- March: Women-owned businesses (for Women’s History Month)
- April: Minority-owned businesses (for Celebrate Diversity Month)
- May: Small businesses (for National Small Business Month)
- June: LGBTQIA+ businesses (for Pride Month)
While each post falls into a theme, support for these businesses should reach beyond their recognized months. However you can, in ways big or small, support diverse Fredericksburg businesses throughout the year.
Extended versions of these posts along with additional resources on supporting these communities will be listed below throughout this program.
Black-Owned Businesses (February)
Using the resources above, Diverse City is featuring Black-owned small businesses in the City of Fredericksburg during Black History Month in February.
Get to know the owners behind the businesses we love in FXBG.
February 2, 2021 | Faded and Company | Antoine Carey
Just off a Jefferson Davis Highway service road is a barber shop tucked away in a Fredericksburg office building. The bell clangs as you walk in the door and you are immediately greeted by a warm group of barbers, barber shop students, and of course, the owner. If you playfully yell out, “Faded!” a chorus chimes back at you, “Faded!” This is Faded and Company, the barber shop created by Antoine Carey that services the community beyond just a haircut. We had the opportunity to interview him about his journey to being a barber, owning a small business in Fredericksburg, and the important role community service plays in his life.
Did you always want to be a barber, what is your story to how you ended up owning your own barber shop?
Antoine: Unlike most barbers, I never had the desire to be a barber. I never cut my little brother’s or cousin’s hair growing up. It wasn’t until my incarceration…… where during my incarceration where you had to be on a waiting list for your GED or a trade. I was blessed to be at Haynesville Correctional Center at the time, which they had electrical, they had brick masonry, and they had barbering. I’m definitely not fighting with any bricks and I’m definitely not going to play with any electrical so I got on the waiting list for the barber class. At the time that was the only place because everyone has to have a compliant haircut. Once in the class, I was like, “ok I’m actually kind of good at this.” Upon coming home, I was licensed so I was easily able to be gainfully employed and I loved the fact that there are no glass ceilings in the barber industry. Faded and Company, to me, has been the most rewarding thing that I have ever done.
Where did the name Faded and Co. come from?
Antoine: Urban guys, we get a fade, as opposed to straight hair guys may get a layered cut or tapered cut. So urban guys, we get a fade, and I wanted to add some type of prestigious look to it so on paper there comes the “and company.”
A lot goes into a name and it took a long time for me trying to decide what I wanted the shop to be. Once I settled on Faded, from that moment, the first time I got the SCC certificate in the mail and I actually seen Faded and Company on paper…. like, I’m married to this. Everything is Faded.
What does it mean for you to be a small business in Fredericksburg? How has the community influenced you?
Antoine: Fredericksburg has humbled me because I began my career here. I’m so blessed to be in a community that knows us for more than just a barbershop. The bible tells us, “to whom much is given, much is required” and we’ve been blessed tremendously. Every time that we are afforded an opportunity to be somewhere or be a part of something, we try to take advantage of those opportunities because each one of those has yielded their own blessing.
Where some may not look at a haircut as a major thing, we know that the haircut is the first thing as far as boosting morale and confidence and really being able to tie into self worth.
What is your favorite part about owning your own business?
Antoine: The favorite part for me about owning my own business is my potential. To be surrounded by such a great group of people who are doing great things, positive things, to be considered someone worthy of having an influence on other people whether by inspiration or motivation or possibility of things that could take place, to be afforded a lot of the opportunities. I literally do not know what the next email or door may open up for us and that’s a great position to be in. That potential is what is most rewarding to me.
How have you adapted since COVID?
Antoine: In order to protect the health and safety of the public, we already pride ourselves on vigorous safety infection control procedures anyway as being a licensed professional in this field. So COVID gave us a more intensive cleaning regime in terms of maintaining the cleanliness of the shop, but outside of that it has really been a humbling situation.
During this time, yes we were forced to shut down, but you’d be surprised if the clients that during this time still reached out, still wanted to pay for their haircut as if they were still getting their haircut. A lot of people showed a lot of care and consideration for us. It really shed light on how much a part of these families we really were.
Where do you see your business in the future?
Antoine: Moving forward, I would like to offer Faded and Company franchise opportunities. I would like to make a partnership with the Virginia Department of Corrections in order to offer the same opportunity that was afforded me while incarcerated- make that opportunity to guys that missed that opportunity due to smaller class sizes. Ideally I’d like to have a Faded and Company Academy close to any halfway houses, so guys can be afforded this opportunity. I would like to also be able to partner with the VA so we can be a VA approved facility so that we can accept veterans and I would like to see those that came through Faded and Company to go on and open up their own businesses so that they can employ others and offer the same opportunity even further.
February 6, 2021 | NIRAY | Ernisha Hall and Tracey Hall
Partners and co-owners Ernisha Hall and Tracey Hall began their graphic design career by simply doing favors for their friends and family. What started out as just a few baby shower and event invitations, quickly turned into NIRAY, a custom website and graphic design company. Combining their passions for design with their Master’s degrees in Business Administration, Ernisha and Tracey Hall expanded their clientele nationally, as well as began the Virginia Black Business Directory (VABBD). We had the opportunity to virtually interview Ernisha and Tracey about their journey to being business owners in Fredericksburg and creating the VABBD, an invaluable resource to help support Black-owned businesses.
When and how did your passion for website development and design begin? Who helped nurture your talents and skills that lead you to the professional you are today?
Ernisha and Tracey: Our passion for website development and graphic design started with family and friends asking Ernisha to design invitations for special events, to include a baby shower and an engagement party. As people began noticing the work Ernisha was producing, we began to see an increase in requests. From there, friends looking to launch their own businesses would request assistance with their branding which included the design of their websites. Through word of mouth, we continued to acquire more clients across the United States.
As far as who helped to nurture our talents, as a married couple we helped nurture each other’s talents and skills to get where we are today. We both have our Master’s in Business Administration, and so we are knowledgeable in understanding how to operate a business; however, we are self-taught when it comes to graphic design and website design. We dedicated time to learn and understand the varying Adobe software programs and website design platforms. We attribute what our skills are today to pushing one another to learn as much as we could to become a sustaining business in the industry.
How did you come to start NIRAY?
Ernisha and Tracey: NIRAY was officially started in 2018. Again, our support system encouraged us to launch our business. Initially, we were designing as a favor and it quickly flourished into more.
What do you enjoy most about the work you do and owning your own business?
Ernisha and Tracey: For the both of us, we enjoy working with business owners. Each business owner has a different story as to why they started their business, and you can see that story develop into their brand. Many come to us for branding consultations to get started from the conception of their business idea, while others consult with us because they need to rebrand and relaunch. We enjoy the journey with our clients and the empowerment it brings to business owners when they start to see their business flourish because they have invested in the potential of their products or services.
What does it mean to you to be a business in Fredericksburg, Virginia? How has being a member of this community influenced you?
Ernisha and Tracey: Being a business in Fredericksburg has been a journey. Initially, we found that it was difficult for businesses in the community to trust our work because they did not know who we were. It took a lot of networking to get to where we are today.
Explain the start of your non-profit organization, the VABBD, and the importance it serves in supporting black-owned businesses in Fredericksburg, as well as the state of Virginia.
Ernisha and Tracey: The VABBD was founded in 2020 prior to the pandemic. Again, Ernisha had an idea to build a repository of black businesses in the area so people looking to patronize black businesses could freely do-so without searching tirelessly. Ernisha phoned a friend who thought the idea was great, and the rest is history. The evolving theme of a strong support system is important to highlight because what started as a for-profit quickly transformed into a pending 501(3)(c) with a few different programs and initiatives to include: Fredericksburg Black Restaurant Week, Fredericksburg Food Truck Festival, The Virginia Black Business Directory Expo and coming soon The Virginia Black Restaurant Week. Each of these programs and initiatives were developed to highlight the region’s (Fredericksburg, Stafford, and Spotsylvania) black-owned businesses, but to connect the community to these businesses. The directory is for the state of Virginia; however, it is inclusive of DC and Maryland since we are the DMV area. We have grown exponentially over the year to now having more than 1100 black-owned businesses in our directory. We have a mobile app which you can download for free from the Google Play Store and Apple Store, or you can visit our website at: www.vablackbusinessdirectory.com. Last but certainly not least, we have a strong support system which we rely heavily on and are profoundly grateful for. Our Board of Directors includes Michelle Riddick of Riddick Entertainment & Events, Tortica Anderson of A Family Affair (AFA) Event Management, Vernon Green of GCubed, Inc., and Marlon & Nyesha Wilson of Algiers Diamond Productions.
February 9, 2021 | Jus Pop’N | Carolyn Gipson
Jus Pop’N sits on the bustling corner of William and Princess Anne Streets in downtown Fredericksburg. Owner Carolyn Gipson fills her popcorn shop with love, from the delectable scent that greets you at the door, to the specially-made popcorn flavors created by customer requests. For Carolyn, it’s more than just selling delicious popcorn, it’s about being a beacon of light and positivity in the community. We had the opportunity sample some popcorn flavors at Jus Pop’N and to interview Carolyn about her popcorn process, how she got started, and what she loves about Fredericksburg.
Have you always wanted to be a small business owner, how did you get into popcorn?
Carolyn: I never thought I’d be a business owner and about five years ago, my brother and sister in different states started the business, and so I said, “let me try something!” I started ordering their popcorn to sell at different events and once I started selling it, people started wanting more. So shipping became a big issue for me, so I said “you know what…. I need to do this on my own.” My brother and sister taught me over the phone and through email how to make popcorn and what equipment to get. I thought, “Hey I like this! It’s a passion!”
Was it their recipe that you used, did you adapt it?
Carolyn: Initially I started out with their recipes, but a lot of times, it’s in the water. Wherever you are in a different part of the country it tastes different or it tastes better. So I made a lot of mistakes going off what they told me to make, and I’m like, “oh this actually tastes good!” then we’d come up with a name for it. So it’s kind of a mixture of their recipes and a mixture of mistakes and then a mixture of people saying “I want to try stuff!” and then I see if I can find the seasoning for it, and I’ll try to make it for them.
Is there anything that surprised you about the process [of making popcorn]?
Carolyn: The overall process! You think that you go to the store, buy some caramel, dip the popcorn in it, and that’s it. Then you realize it’s a 45 minute to an hour process of cooking everything, making sure you don’t have salt in something that doesn’t need salt in it, butter in something that doesn’t need butter in it. It’s just the overall process. I like to cook, and so it was like, “Wow! I didn’t know it was so involved.” I didn’t know this is how popcorn was made, until I did it.
What do you enjoy most about owning JusPop’N?
Carolyn: The customers. The people that come back, the kids that say, “Mom I want to go to the popcorn shop and see the popcorn lady!” or when I’m in public it’s like, “oh that’s the popcorn lady!” When people recognize who you are, it’s not bad. It’s a good feeling that it’s always with a smile. So it’s the people and also the opportunity to be able to give people opportunities, because the four people that work for me are two teenage girls, it’s their first job ever, then I have a single mother who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to try to get out and do something and it’s flexible. I love being of service to people, I love helping people, and I love cooking. So it’s the love of everything- the people, the process, the product, and that’s what I love about it.
How has the Fredericksburg community influenced your business?
Carolyn: I’m from a little town in Iowa- Waterloo, Iowa. I remember our downtown looking like this, Fredericksburg. It was thriving and then it became where it wasn’t thriving as much, and then trying to revitalize it. So looking out how when I first came to Fredericksburg 20 years ago, it was always nice, but not as up and coming as it is. There’s more to see, more people want to come down and see it, and the more it gives me this “at home” feeling. I think that being here in Fredericksburg and downtown Fredericksburg, allows me to see people of different walks of life, and be able to just be like, “you know what, I’m a part of this growing thing!” because downtown Fredericksburg is going to be something soon. You know, it already is, but it’s growing and i’m glad I’m a part of it.
How have you adapted JusPop’N during COVID?
Carolyn: I opened in COVID and [this is] a comfort food. They don’t have to go out at a restaurant, they can take it home and sit with their family while their quarantined or not quarantined. I also deliver so it’s able to get it out to the people who can’t get here. I can’t wait to see what it will be like once this is all over. So it’s a fun avenue for people to come in, a bright spot, and when they come in it’s like a breath of fresh air.
Well, when you walk in here it smells so good!
Carolyn: I just tell people that’s my perfume! No one believes me!
What would you like to see from JusPop’N in the next couple years?
Carolyn: In the next couple years I want to be on this corner still showing the love for the community, still being part of the community. There’s not much expansion to do as far as physical, but to be able to bring more jobs, extend the hours, and have the chance to help other people and stay here and keep being a beacon for this community, right here, right on this corner, having a good time.
Ok so last question. VERY important. Which popcorn flavor is your favorite?
Carolyn: Every last one of them! You know what… if I had to… butter. The Movie Theater Butter is a great flavor. It offers the salty and I can add the cheese, like our Virginia Mix. That’s a big favorite of a lot of customers is the caramel, the cheddar, and the butter. You get all three, so that would be my favorite because you get a taste of everything. So the Virginia Mix is my favorite!
February 13, 2021 | Beverley’s Ribinator Food Truck | Tony and Vicky Beverley
Beverley’s Ribinator BBQ is a family affair. It began with Tony Beverley surprising his wife with a towable grill after he returned home from his station in Okinawa, Japan. Now, Beverley’s Ribinator has been serving the Fredericksburg region classically unique BBQ for over a decade. Their BBQ recipe combines all the classic flavors from historic BBQ cities across the country and makes something for everyone. The star of the show isn’t just their ribs or macaroni and cheese. It’s their daughter Mya, who just entered the 2nd grade, and greets customers at the food truck window. She even has her own special- Mya’s Mini Special- 2 wings, 2 ribs, & pulled pork! We had the opportunity to taste their delicious BBQ and to interview Tony and Vicky Beverley about what it means to own a food truck in the Fredericksburg region.
What’s the origin of Beverley’s Ribinator? Did it come from a passion for cooking?
Tony: My grandmother, she was a cook in a restaurant for many many years. She loved to cook, and as I grew up, I saw her cooking. When we were stationed in Okinawa, Japan, I was given orders to come back stateside. So, when I got here I called my wife and said, “Hey.… I want to get a grill.” Long story short, she thought I was just going to get a regular small grill but it was an actual towable grill that went behind a vehicle. I sent her the picture and she was like, “WHAT are you doing?!” I’m like, “Hey you know… I want to go into business, I want to do barbecuing!” Pretty much that 250 gallon fuel drum on two wheels is where we started from.
So you didn’t know he wanted to make a business out of it? You thought he was buying a George Foreman or something?
Vicky: I thought it was going to be something simple, you know I didn’t think it was going to be where it’s at today. It obviously got big!
What year did you start?
Tony: It started in late 2010. 2010 was when we got our flagship, the little 5 x 8 trailer we first had, but in 2007 or 2008 is when we got the towable one that she thought was going to be a regular grill!
Tony: Folks love BBQ! And we get asked the question, “do you do the North Carolina style, do you do the St. Louis style, do you do the Memphis style?” and to be honest with you, we do our own style. We buy different seasoning, we mix everything up to our tastes that we think would appease anyone that comes up to the window, and we just go from there. There’s no set region in the BBQ. In my opinion, I try to incorporate everybody into it.
How has the Fredericksburg community or region influenced your business?
Vicky: We’ve always traveled to the local counties: Spotsy, Fredericksburg, Stafford, Caroline County. It’s our normal pop-up. What has increased is neighborhoods. [They] have reached out to local food trucks and that’s how we have kept ourselves going, which helped a lot.
What is your favorite part about owning the Ribinator food truck?
Vicky: The hours! If we want to take a month off, cool! If we want to keep going everyday, cool! We’re our own boss.
Would you like to talk a bit about your military service?
Vicky: Well you [Tony] retired, I did 8 years [in the] Army. We met in Okinawa, Japan. I was Logistic and he was Signal, so the unit that I just happened to be assigned was Signal, so that’s how we met. It was like at first sight!
Tony: It was at first sight. You know that saying… you know when it’s that person.
What would you like to see for the food truck in the next 5 years?
Tony: Nothing against a brick and mortar, but with a brick and mortar, there’s going to be an influx of people that will want to come everyday. You have to be open if you’re a brick and mortar, no if ands or buts. With the food truck, if we want to open up, we open up. If we want to close down, we close down. We have the capability to move pretty much anywhere in the state of Virginia. For us, within the next 5-10 years, I think it’s still going to be the food truck that we have. Unless the man upstairs has a different plan upstairs with us, we have peace of mind with the food trailer.
Vicky: Not only that, but we’re family-owned, so we love to take breaks. Especially for our daughter because she’s in dance classes. We make sure we work around her schedule as well. We’re busy all around.
Tony: By being a family-owned business, she [their daughter] gets to see what goes on. She interacts with folks all the time! We work for her. Because when folks come to the window it’s, “Where’s Mya? Is Mya in there?” They just want to see Mya.
February 16, 2021 | Chalk N’More | Tracee Fisher
Chalk N’More has been serving the Fredericksburg community for over 10 years. More recently, it has known a new owner, Tracee Fisher, who teaches by day and operates the store at night with her husband, Roderick Fisher. With their dedication to equal education and supporting the local community, it is an understatement to say we are lucky to have Chalk N’More call Fredericksburg home. We had the opportunity to interview Tracee in Chalk N’More about the store’s products, services, and future plans.
You’ve been a teacher for many years, is that right? What drew you to the field of education?
Tracee: Absolutely, 18 years! I honestly have to say, and anyone who knows me would say, I love to talk. As a result of loving to talk and loving to be in charge, I kind of gravitated to teaching and education. Many don’t know that prior to becoming a teacher, I was actually in the military. And as a result of being in the military and growing up and ultimately wanting to be like my father in the military, that was my initial plan. But sometimes your plans don’t go as you think, and ultimately I met my husband and I became a student. When I started school after getting out of the military, I had to have a major. What better major than doing something that I love doing, which again is talking, being in charge, and helping others.
What made you decide to go the extra mile outside of teaching to start Chalk N’More? You bought this business in 2019?
Tracee: 2019, yes. To be perfectly honest with you, everyone here in this area has known about Chalk N’More. Chalk N’More has been a mainstay here for the last 12-15 years. I recall being military, my family and I were stationed here 15 years ago. As a teacher, I would go and do some shopping in Chalk N’More, it was the premiere store, and really the only one around. Fast forward to 2019, I go into the store back in April because it was my birthday, so my husband was meeting me for lunch. I go in, and the previous owner said, “We’re going to be closing, I’m going to be selling the store if I can find a buyer, you might want to get all that you can get!” My mind starts going because I am a busy body. I call my husband and told him, “Meet me at Chalk N’More, not where we were having lunch. My birthday can wait!” I explain it to him, and my husband is my biggest champion, he supports me and every idea I have. He is the type to look before he leaps, I’m just going to jump! My husband says, “Well, let me talk to the owner and see what’s going on.” I didn’t get into it because I’m a language arts and reading teacher, I don’t do math, so I didn’t get into that part. My husband comes back a few minutes later and says, “Well, Happy Birthday! You just got a store! I bought your store for you.”
What plans do you have for Chalk N’More? What does the next 5 years look like?
Tracee: Growth and expanding what Chalk N’More provides here in this area. Ultimately my goal is to not only be an educational supply store, but to be a tutoring center so that students that don’t have opportunities, and most importantly, minority students, students of multicultural backgrounds that sometimes go to the wayside when it comes to being their best. I want to be able to provide that so I know I need a bigger facility for that.
So you do sell a lot of education supplies here, but you also do some events, and right now because of the pandemic they’re virtual. One of those is a Live at 5, do you want to talk a little bit about that?
Tracee: [We’re] trying to keep ourselves active and in the minds of everyone. We started when we first opened up, I realized we had to do something. The pandemic hadn’t hit yet, but I wanted people to know where we were, know who we were and knew where to get what they needed. So I started my Live at 5s every Tuesday. Once the pandemic hit and we closed down for a bit, they turned into weekly readings for students. I was reading to my students on my Live at 5s, we would choose books to read, and then it ultimately really has become an opportunity for us to educate the community, the parents, the students. So each week we focus on different activities or products we have in the store so parents can come in, and shop, and pay a reasonable price for things. I tell our customers,” I’m trying to get you more bang for your buck.” I am very conscious of what we purchase and what we have in the store because I too, am a mother.
What is your favorite part about owning Chalk N’More?
Tracee: I never want people to think that Chalk N’More is just me. Like I said before, I wouldn’t be able to do this if it weren’t for my husband. My husband is right here now, so I would like him to answer this question. This is a team effort and I want people to know that.
Roderick: Probably the best part about owning Chalk N’More is having the ability to help others in the community. Leveraging our experience and our abilities to attain certain tools that can assist the parents and teachers with teaching our future leaders, it’s probably one of the most rewarding parts and what is most important to us. A lot of times you go into a business venture to make money. This is by far the lowest on the totem poll for us in terms of trying to become wealthy with this. It’s to give back to the community.
February 20, 2021 | Pimenta | Simone Simmonds
Partners Ray and Jaqueline Simmonds own Pimenta along with their daughter, Simone Simmonds, making it a true family affair. Their Jamaican restaurant on Caroline Street has been contributing to the unique downtown Fredericksburg food scene since 2018. We had the opportunity to talk with owner Simone Simmonds about their family’s cooking influences and what it’s like being a restaurant in the downtown Fredericksburg community.
Who’s idea was it to start Pimenta?
Simone: As a family, we both went into it all together. However, it originated primarily from my grandmother on my father’s side. She loved cooking, she would cook every Sunday practically. When she had passed away in 2015, obviously it left our family very devastated. My father grew to love cooking as well because he learned so much from his mother and we thought a good way to do that is to also share her cooking and his cooking with the community, which is Fredericksburg. We decided to take this path and open a restaurant. Ever since then, that’s been our story.
For people who have never tried Jamaican cuisine, how would you explain it to them?
Simone: I think a lot of people have this assumption that Jamaican cuisine is very spicy and full of jerk, and don’t get me wrong jerk is absolutely delicious, jerk chicken is one of our best sellers, but I will say that the cooking is more so very flavorful; it’s made with passion and love. We have a lot of different dishes that are varied from different parts of the world. So we have our jerk but we also have our curry chicken and curry goat, which is mostly Indian based. We have stewed chicken and all these lovely delicious items on our menu, so I would say that Jamaican food is mixed with a whole bunch of other cultures and has its own twist.
Are there any traditional recipes that your dad, who is the head chef, has put his own twist on?
Simone: I think we’ve added a twist on a bunch of things. Primarily, one of our sides that we serve is actually the mac and cheese. We get a lot of compliments on our mac and cheese because we do it a different method, so my father added a twist to that. He also added a twist to his curry chicken along with the escovitch fish, which is a red snapper fish, and he’s just added different items. Not only do we have Jamaican things on there but we also have our Rastaman lamb burger, which is pretty different, not a lot of Jamaican restaurants even have that item. So we try to do things in a different way, but we still stick to our traditional roots.
Where does the name Pimenta come from?
Simone: Pimenta is actually a spice that we cook with a lot in our food back home in Jamaica. It’s also known as well in South America, so my dad would always use that when he was cooking. When we were brainstorming names, my father was like, “definitely Pimenta.” We’ve used that ever since.
You said you’re also a co-owner as well as your parents, what do you all enjoy most about owning your own restaurant?
Simone: I think the most beautiful thing about owning the restaurant is having families come in or couples come in or individuals come in and enjoy their meals and bring their friends, their family. Whether it’s just for a family dinner night or to celebrate a graduation, a birthday, to me it’s bringing people across the table and making sure that they’re satisfied. The most wonderful thing about it is the people we’ve met through this process of being in downtown Fredericksburg, there’s such a wonderful community here. It just makes our day to know that we can bring smiles and fill up people’s tummies with good food and keep them motivated.
What does it mean to you to have Pimenta be in Fredericksburg?
Simone: We absolutely adore downtown Fredericksburg. It’s all about the people. The support that we got just from being a Jamaican restaurant in downtown was outrageous. We really like the atmosphere that downtown gets. Not only do we get support from the locals, but we also get support from other local businesses down here. It’s all about supporting each other and making sure that we keep downtown Fredericksburg a very strong, nice, and beautiful city.
What’s your favorite thing on the menu?
Simone: There’s too many! I would say when it comes to food, the curry goat. My father sources all the meats, it’s halal meat, so you’ll taste that fresh organic to it. With the goat in particular it’s just one of my favorites!
February 25, 2021 | Whatever It Takes Fitness and VIBES Entertainment | Kenneth Monsanto
Kenneth Monsanto (left) is a man who wears many hats. After being in the Fredericksburg region for just six years, VIBES Entertainment and Whatever It Takes Fitness are just two of the many endeavors he has already pursued here. We had the opportunity to get to know Kenneth, his inspirations, and what his businesses offer. VIBES Entertainment hosts decked out themed paint night events and Whatever It Takes Fitness goes a step above and beyond a traditional personal training program.
What is the concept of VIBES Entertainment?
Kenneth: VIBES Entertainment, the reason why I did it is because being Black in this area, there’s not too many places that I felt was conducive to what I wanted to do. There wasn’t really anywhere outside of Hard Times. I don’t really like the smell of cigarette smoke and there just wasn’t really anything conducive. I was looking at different things going on in Florida, Georgia, California, Vegas and it was just like, bring it all in here, together. We do themed paint events- I do listening parties, fundraisers for high schools, day parties. Let’s say it’s a Reggae night, I would do the Caribbean food, decorations, a painting inspired by that, I might have a spoken word, I might have an artist. I just make sure I’m providing an experience that you could go to Dallas or Houston to get.
The Juneteenth event this past year, that was an outside event. We painted a Black Lives Matter fist, but it was a tree rooted. We pick something themed, that will really resonate with people and cause emotion. We’re not looking for something just for you to paint, we’re looking for an experience, and something that you actually want up in your house. It’s been a blessing man, that people have been supporting it and how there’s so much diversity.
Do you put together the playlist?
Kenneth: I do. I’m actually very intentional with everything- the playlist, the food, the performances, timing, just every aspect. I don’t leave anything to chance, down to the security. I’m big on prevention being the best cure.
Do you do all your events at other locations?
Kenneth : I usually rent out a space, I might do it outside. I’ve done… I don’t know how many breweries, wineries, I rent out places in D.C., we go to this thing every year for this church convention in Lynchburg where there’s 1500 kids. I’ve been thinking about getting a brick and mortar for VIBES, but thank God I didn’t. COVID kind of blessed my business. I was able to scale everything I’ve got going on. I was thinking, “How do I transition everything I do good in person, over technology?” So now I do art boxes online, I do entrepreneurship events online, we have a whole virtual training platform that does kids classes, adult classes, and senior classes.
What are some of the popular themed nights you do?
Kenneth: I think the world’s favorite is Reggae night. Trap and Paint is fun, cuffing season, I do an ugly sweater party every year. I would say Reggae night, I always have to turn 20 or 40 people away, it’s unbelievable every time we throw that.
Let’s talk about your other business, Whatever It Takes Fitness. Is it a personal training program?
Kenneth: It’s bigger than a personal training program, it’s a philosophy. My mantra is, “If you want to live in that body, you got to pay rent.” So what I teach to my staff, my team, everyone, is we base everything off of physical, mental, and spiritual refinement. I’m a firm believer that refinement brings value, value brings significance, significance brings influence. Whatever It Takes Fitness is my biggest platform now. We have a subscription based membership there with anything and everything you can do from healthy classes, to tips, we do 21 live classes a week, we have pre-recorded classes, we have an exercise library, there’s so much value on that thing that it’s almost unbelievable. It’s just a blessing to have the team that I have, to cast a vision and find people that really saw it and bought in. It’s been a blessing.
That leads me to my next question, what’s the idea behind “if you want to live in that body, you got to pay rent?”
Kenneth: That’s just that holistic approach. Literally, reading and working out changed the whole trajectory of my life. I didn’t find education and things of that nature, valuable until the past four or five years. I’ve been in this area for about six years and prior to coming here, I’ve been in the newspaper, but not for the things I am now. Refinement, refinement, refinement. What I tell my clients is when they wake up in the morning after you pray, you need to look at yourself in the mirror and say if you want to live in that body you have to pay rent.
What do you enjoy most about being a business owner?
Kenneth: The most rewarding thing is opportunity freedom. I’m in a position where I empower my family and my friends. Before, I felt like I didn’t handle that responsibility well. It was a selfish look, it was about me. Once I took the approach of being selfless and understanding why am I being given these platforms? Why have all these things fallen into place for me? It’s not because I’m so smart, that’s God’s grace. That’s the biggest thing about being a business owner, it’s that opportunity freedom and the effective change that you cause if you have the power to see.
February 27, 2021 | Inspired Selections Boutique | Lakeya Hunt
Much like her boutique, Inspired Selections, Lakeya Hunt cannot help but radiate positivity and joy. Her women’s clothing and accessories store is about much more than fashion- it’s about cultivating self love and inspiring confidence within every customer that walks through her doors. From the color coordinated racks to the eccentricity blinged-out Coca-Cola purses, it’s no secret that women call this store their “happy place.” We were fortunate to interview Lakeya about her positivity philosophy, motivations, and the many services she offers to women in the community.
How would you describe Inspired Selections Boutique? Because it’s more than just a retail store, right?
Lakeya: Inspired Selections- we are basically a group called Inspired Women. We’re a non-profit group and we have positives that we do to motivate and inspire women. The boutique is like a big inspiring closet, actually the women call it their happy place. So you come in, you get motivated and you love on yourself. Self love is very important and that’s what we’re offering to the community.
You’re also a motivational coach, is that correct?
Lakeya: I am! Giving positives to people, working with people, making sure that they are focusing on life moving forward, looking at the positives, especially during the pandemic time, it’s really been a big help.
Given that you’re also a motivational coach, what inspired you to start your own business?
Lakeya: What inspired me was seeing a lot of women with their heads down, not feeling positive, knowing that a lot of women didn’t have those positive-perspective people in their lives, and growing up in church and just coming into contact with a lot of women who needed lift and love. So I said, “Hey! I need to do something to give back to the women in the community.”
Do you want to talk a little bit about the service you offer? Because as we said, it’s not just a store, you offer things like makeovers, you do parties, etc.?
Lakeya: Yes! We do makeovers for women, we offer free services for women, help them with their resumes, we get them prepped for interviews, we also provide them with free clothing to go to their interviews and a week’s worth of clothes to start their job. We go out to the community and do empowerment events- we host them ourselves or we join others, and that’s a lot of positivity, so women are getting lifted, educated, and taking courses and trainings. We do shelter give back as well. We have a group of women, we go into the shelters and we feed them and clothe them.
What do you find the most rewarding about having your own business?
Lakeya: The most rewarding is giving to another. Inspiring another. Encouraging another. Seeing another smile. So they come in one way, but they leave out a better way. That’s what motivates me and makes me feel great about being an owner of the business.
Women-Owned Businesses (March)
Get to know the owners behind the businesses we love in FXBG.
March 4, 2021 | Dragonfly Yoga Studio | Anne Kemp
19 years ago, Anne Kemp took her first yoga class which would begin her journey as a dedicated yoga practitioner and eventually a studio owner in downtown Fredericksburg. She bought Dragonfly Yoga Studio as an instructor in 2018 and has dedicated her time to spreading the benefits of yoga and serving the surrounding community ever since. We had the opportunity to interview Anne in her yoga studio (and try a few yoga poses too!).
When and how did your journey with yoga begin?
Anne: My journey began in 2002. I just popped into a yoga class not knowing what to expect and immediately fell in love. It was like, “This is it! I love how this makes me feel, I love what this is doing for my body, I love what this is doing for my mind.” It has been a journey ever since.
How did you come to own the Dragonfly Yoga studio?
Anne: I did not ever picture myself being a business owner or owning a yoga studio. My passion has always been to practice yoga. My husband is active duty Marine Corps and we were living in Germany. When I moved back from Germany, it just so happened that the previous owner of the studio was moving to Germany, so we started talking and I said, “Well, if you’re ever thinking of selling the studio, let me know, I might be interested!” It’s something that just kind of happened. It wasn’t planned and here we are almost three years later and it’s been quite an experience, quite a journey. I wanted to create a space as a practitioner of yoga where I would want to come and practice, and I think we’ve accomplished that.
Can you talk a little bit about the community service programs that you do with Dragonfly?
Anne: One of the programs that we created after I purchased the studio was our Veteran Sponsorship program. That is where individuals in the community can nominate active duty personnel, retired personnel, dependents, whether active duty or retired, for a year of yoga at the studio for free. The studio has always had a community outreach program with different organizations that we’ve continued with. We don’t have any specific ones that we’re always focused on supporting, but we look at one individually and we give back however we can, whether that’s promoting on social media, having a fundraiser here at the studio, giving free classes, or a free private group session, it’s part of always wanting to give back because there’s just so much reward in this profession.
What do you enjoy most about being a business owner in Fredericksburg?
Anne: The community itself, the people. It’s just all about the people that are here in this community and they’ve been so supportive, especially over the past year with everything that we’ve had to endure as a community, as a small business. We couldn’t have done it without the support of the community. We like to think of this as a family coming in. We get to know our students, we get to know what’s going on with their lives, we get to inquire about births of children, marriages, or people going off to school, and it’s just fascinating. It’s all about the community.
What are some of the changes you have had to make since COVID?
Anne: We had to shift really quickly because we had to be closed, so we switched to a virtual offering and we’ve continued with our virtual offering as well as in person now. That’s an area that we never thought we would be exploring, the virtual world. We have many students who love the virtual practice, they love that they can stay in their homes and have their practice and still be part of our community because they are live classes. We also have many people who travel and are still able to join in with their class or have moved away and can continue to join in. So there are definitely some good things that have come from this.
For someone who has never done yoga before, because it is more than just a form of exercise, how would you explain the benefits of practicing yoga?
Anne: There’s countless benefits to it. Obviously you are going to have a physical benefit from just movement of your body, but you’re also going to have a mental benefit. There’s a point where things can become a little more clear because you are taking this time to pause and reflect, you’re conscious more of how you’re breathing, and you’re conscious more of what’s going on with your body. We often talk about the mind being in motion all the time, the monkey mind is constantly moving, and in the practice of yoga, that’s one thing that you learn: to calm and settle down. All the thoughts you have going, all of the quick quick quick movements, we learn how to slow those down, have a point of focus, bring yourself back to that point of focus.
What do you enjoy most about being a business owner?
Anne: Being able to share this with everybody and sharing it in a way that I’m really passionate about. Sharing my favorite products, helping the environment, supporting local organizations, promoting different businesses downtown that I love, promoting local artists! That’s really the advantage of being a business owner that I never realized- I can share all of these things!
March 10, 2021 | Freedom Society | Nicole Robyn
Nicole Robyn’s journey as a business owner began with a life changing trip to India 11 years ago. After meeting with anti-human trafficking organizations that expressed the immense need for employment options for survivors, Nicole took matters into her own hands and began two businesses, Polished Pearl and Freedom Society, both aimed at providing freedom to human trafficking survivors. We had the opportunity to interview Nicole in the Freedom Society tea room, and learn about how her businesses and customers fight for freedom around the world.
What’s the mission behind Freedom Society?
Nicole: We are a gift shop and tea room, and our whole focus is on bringing sustainable freedom from human trafficking. All of our gifts are made by survivors of trafficking, both from companies here in the United States and around the world that employ survivors, so we have over 20 different freedom brands in our shop, and our tea room supports child survivors. We do high teas within an hour’s notice, but we also do tea and coffee with treats and lunch. It’s not Victorian-style, so it’s a great place to comfortably sit and have a conversation and just relax. We can also do our food and teas to go, curbside, or delivered through Grubhub; at the same time you get to help bring freedom from human trafficking.
You have another business, Polished Pearl, which you mentioned along with Freedom Society, were both products of a trip you took to India. Do you want to talk about what you learned from that trip that pushed you to starting these businesses?
Nicole: It was about 11 years ago, I took a trip to India with a group of women. I had never been to India before, but we went with the expressed purpose of meeting anti-trafficking organizations and understanding what human trafficking looked like. The largest trafficked population in the world is in India, so we went to five different Indian cities and met with all sorts of different organizations and asked the same question: “What is your greatest need?” Now you can imagine with somewhere between 14 and 16 million people enslaved, the needs are incredibly great. We estimate currently that about less than one percent of the 40+ million that are enslaved have a way out, and of that less than one percent, about 80% are re-trafficked because of a lack of employment opportunities. So the consistent thing that we heard was, “We need jobs.” If people were going to be sustainably free, not just out of a brothel or out of a labor trafficking situation, but actually be able to sustain themselves long term and have a life, they needed sustainable employment.
So I started Polished Pearl which does bridal accessories, we work really closely with Ava Laurennne here in town but we’re in bridal stores across the U.S and UK; I’ve done that for almost 13 years now.
What are some other ways in which an average person could be a freedom fighter?
Nicole: I say to everyone when you’re looking at slavery currently, actually being the most enslaved then there’s ever been, it’s an issue that really needs everyone. So, there’s lots of ways, from looking at choosing companies and where you spend your money at companies that pay people well, I’m not talking about their sales people in America, but their producers, to volunteering with different organizations, to helping share awareness. I always say to people, “Awareness is really just the first step. It doesn’t set anybody free if all we do is become aware.” There’s also programs that are really great at training online that give you an understand of what human trafficking looks like in your area so you can spot it.
We here at Freedom Society launched in January a Freedom Society membership. The intention of that was to be able to take that next step of engagement and so together with their membership fees and the profits from the company, we give to a different anti-trafficking organization every month, and we do a monthly community event together where we’re either learning something together about the issue of trafficking or about an organization so that we can develop a modern take on an abolition society.
What do you find most rewarding about being a business owner in the Fredericksburg community?
Nicole: We had lived here almost four years before we opened the shop and I just always loved the downtown community. I love the dynamic that there’s regular customers you get to know, that you’re waving at people walking by. I think part of it is having a walking community. Because you think most shops are places you drive to, so it’s wonderful when you’ve got a walk-in community and the community that just naturally develops around that, and we love that. We love our regulars, we love getting to know people in our community, we love the community between other businesses in downtown Fredericksburg. So we were customers and lovers of downtown before we even opened the shop, and now we love to be down here very day.
What do you see or hope for Freedom Society within the next 5-10 years?
Nicole: Our big dream is to develop this into a sustainable model that can be franchised and that ideally, survivors could become franchise owners. So whether that’s actually a tea room paired with retail, or just some sort of restaurant paired with retail, our hope is to see many more Freedom Societies, so that when people become more aware and have a way to engage with this issue, but also it creates a really special space where you get to enjoy being together as well as bringing freedom at the same time.
March 13, 2021 | Kickshaws Gluten-Free Bakery | Kathy Paz-Craddock
Going gluten-free changed Kathy Paz-Craddock’s family forever. After making the dietary change to improve her family’s health conditions, the next challenge was learning to cook and bake all over again with a new range of ingredients. Somewhere along the way, Kickshaws Gluten-Free bakery was born. We had the opportunity to interview Kathy about her business-owning journey in her new Central Park bakery.
Where did this idea for a gluten free, allergy friendly bakery come from?
Kathy: It started off almost 19 years ago. My son was born prematurely, he was born at 25 weeks and we went through problem after problem. He was hospitalized back and forth for about four years and he ended up on a feeding tube for about seven years and with all those issues they never really tested him for Celiac disease. We were kind of at a point where we didn’t know what else to do, so we thought, “Let’s try to do gluten-free and dairy free and see if it makes a difference and within three months he was eating on his own. I was actually suffering from a number of autoimmune issues myself, but I started getting healthier and better and so that’s when I really started baking gluten-free. It’s been 10 years that I’ve been baking gluten-free now. Then we opened the business downtown and had the restaurant that was exclusively gluten-free. The base is definitely in our personal family and the issues that affected us directly.
Did your passion for baking begin when you made that dietary change, or have you always loved it?
Kathy: I was actually a professional baker before I went gluten-free. I spent about two years [with a] blog called “Cake Cooks Gluten-free,” learning how to cook, learning how to bake again using totally different materials. But I had a bakery in Springfield a few years before that.
Did you know you wanted to take your gluten-free baking and turn it into a business when you came to Fredericksburg?
K: No, not at all. When we came to Fredericksburg we were still working on a lot of our health issues, so we were eating really clean, and we didn’t have a lot of places we could go to to find the things we were looking for. So I thought it would be a really cool idea to open a grocery store. In 2014 we opened Kickshaws Downtown Market and I told my husband, “I’m not going to bake again! I’m not making cupcakes,” and one holiday, I think it was 4th of July, I was like, “I’m just going to make some cupcakes.” People just went crazy about them, so it kind of spurred everything that came after that: developing the restaurant, developing the bakery.
What would you say is the most rewarding about being a business owner of your own bakery?
Kathy: One day I hope we’ll have this place packed with happy families enjoying various breakfast items and coffee. For right now it’s on a one by one basis. The kids are always the ones that touch me, because they can’t go anywhere, they can’t walk into a restaurant sometimes because of their allergies. We have small children that walk in here and their parents say, “You can have anything you want!” That’s unique and it’s special and I know that we’re helping these families.
You previously located downtown and now in Central Park, so what do you enjoy most about owning a business in Fredericksburg?
Kathy: Fredericksburg isn’t small, but it is small at the same time. We just have such a tight community of customers and friends that live in the area and that support our business. Over the last few years, with the closing of our original location, and then rolling right into COVID, the community support has just been amazing. The only reason we were actually able to open this location is because of that support through the COVID pandemic. The amazing support, donations we received were really what gave us the ability to move forward and without that, I’m not sure that we would have. That’s what we get out of Fredericksburg.
What is your favorite item on the menu?
Kathy: That’s a hard one because I think it changes every day! Right now I’m having a really hard time not eating chocolate chip cookies, but I love our cinnamon rolls too, and those are hugely popular. I do have a favorite cupcake flavor. It’s like the only one my family knows I’ll always be happy with, the German chocolate.
March 17, 2021 | Wildflower Collective | Joanna Mendelsohn
When the perfect storefront on William Street opened up, Joanna Mendelsohn’s spontaneity landed her the opportunity to start the business she’s always wanted to own: a sustainably focused retail shop that has a blend of vintage, consignment, and new clothing from around the world. We had the opportunity to interview Joanna in Wildflower Collective, to learn about her journey to becoming a business owner, her process of acquiring new pieces, and her philosophy on fashion.
How did you come to own Wildflower?
Joanna: My daughter and I actually used to shop here when it was Forage. My husband and I have been in the area for 30 years and my children went from Yamaha to UMW. I was looking for a downtown location to open a store, so when I saw the ‘For Lease’ sign go up, I called and we signed the lease that day.
What does your year look like in terms of acquiring new pieces?
Joanna: Our thought is to get things from all different countries and local. We source from different areas, and in a normal year we travel and bring back a lot of fun vintage as well as current styles. I’m from L.A originally and I actually had a store with my mother back in the 70s and 80s, so we have all that connection and buy from that area. We bring in things from our own trips as well. We do have a few ladies that bring in their things- one lady has an amazing amount of vintage and so she brings in some here and there all through the year for us. Our sources have just been great and even with COVID we still get boxes in from different people. We’ve got new lines in different sizes for people, something super unique that’s one of a kind, and the vintage that’s really hard to find, but with Bridgerton and Queens Gambit, those shows bring that love of those vintage pieces back. People love to see that, love to have it, and love to wear it.
With the shutdown and everything we went to online, so that’s something that has been really great. I have close to 1,000 things online. They can jump from Instagram or Facebook and go right to it, see it, click on it, and for the most part I am able to deliver it that day, and I do it free.
You mentioned you helped your mom at her Los Angeles store in the 70s, did you learn from that that you wanted to be a business owner?
Joanna: I started that with my mom in high school and actually did that for 10 years. We had a gift and candy store and in my mind I kept thinking, “Well when I do it my way, it will be a clothing store!” So it gave me a view of retail and a love of meeting new people. So we moved to Fredericksburg, loved downtown, raised our kids, and I was kind of looking for a storefront when I saw this was available, so it was like “OK! Next chapter!”
What is the most rewarding thing about owning the business you always envisioned in your head?
Joanna: I love meeting people everyday and bringing creative spirit to the store. It’s surprising how many have never been in the store, so there’s always new people. Setting the tone is a great thing as an owner, setting our hours and saying “Ok we’re closing- we’re going to go to Paris!”
So then you can fill it with all these beautiful clothes!
Joanna: That’s been fun- to be able to set your work schedule, set your tone, and be able to choose our path, as well as listen to what’s working.
You raised your family here and you’re on William Street which is a major vessel downtown, so what does it mean to you to serve and be a part of this particular community?
Joanna: I had friends that were here even though I was in L.A. I married my husband and moved back east and really loved the iconic historic old buildings. Being from L.A, if it was old it was maybe a Mission, but for the most part it was all new build. For me, all the historic buildings, all the history, I love that part and that’s my favorite thing to do when I go somewhere- find a little old town, walkability, and great coffee shops!
It’s very important, the clothes you put on everyday and how that makes you feel and take on the day, but what is your philosophy on the power of fashion or style?
Joanna: I grew up making my own clothes, so I love construction and look for details and the fun things about clothes. I love the unique things and I look at construction, wearability, movement, where you’re going to wear it, and that sort of thing. With style and fashion, it’s fun to see how it keeps coming back. A lot of my clothes from the 80s are super popular now and yet if you look at that, it was from a different era before that. You can see that with shows that feature vintage clothes. So just seeing that cycle of fashion, the history of it, is really fun.
March 23, 2021 | 25 30 Espresso | Maureen Bartosh
It’s no secret that downtown Fredericksburg, Virginia is home to a unique coffee shop community. 25 30 Espresso lives near the VRE train station and has been roasting their coffee in house since 2007. Their robust menu and cocktail offerings make it the perfect cozy corner for breakfast, coffee breaks, or happy hour! We had the opportunity to chat with owner Maureen Bartosh about the importance of where coffee beans are sourced, the roasting process, and her journey to being a business owner in Fredericksburg.
I don’t know much about the coffee roasting process and you roast your coffee in house, so could you explain the beginning of that process with where you source your beans from?
Maureen: We buy our beans from a broker in New York, but we source through all over the world. Right now we have coffees from Tanzania, Ethiopia, Columbia, Peru, Honduras, Brazil, we have like 10 different coffees right now. We try our best to source from women-owned farms. I learned a few years back that women were taken advantage of terribly in these countries. They would be taking their beans to the wash station to be sold and they would be robbed, they would go home with nothing. Fortunately there have been a lot of different associations that have supported, not that it’s gone away completely because it hasn’t, but there are resources now for women, there are wash stations that are only for women-owned farms. Their quality is excellent, there’s education programs and different things like that, so we tend to pay a little bit more for those beans, which is fine, I don’t have have a problem with that, because they’re getting the benefit of community centers in their village, the wash station is designed to accommodate them, and things like that. We will eventually be nothing but women-owned farms. A lot of the farms are organic as well!
Once you have the beans, how does it become a drink?
Maureen: We get in a pallet of coffee in green bean form. From there, we do continued research on elevation and the countries that it comes from. Some beans have more moisture in them than other beans, so we determine a roast level. Temperature, time, the temperature for when it comes out, all different kinds of factors are involved in it. So we will roast at maybe three or four different levels to determine which beans have the most flavor, because the goal is to bring out the natural flavor in the bean. So some beans have spicier notes, some beans have more nutty, some are more chocolatey, so we want to find out what that bean has in it, and bring out the best inthat. Not over-roasted or under-roasted. From there, we’ll cup, we’ll taste several times after 24 hours, after 48 hours, after several days to determine that what somebody is going to go home with is going to taste like the way they would have it here, and the best of the coffee. After that’s done we will bag it, for example whatever we use in house, from there we will determine the grind setting which is mostly the same if you’re doing a batch brew for the big pots. From there, we brew!
When did you first start to get into the business of coffee?
Maureen: I’ve had a restaurant and I’ve had a catering business back in Arizona. I’ve always had a passion for coffee. I used to ditch high school and hang out in coffee shops, so it goes back a long long time. Coffee has always been very fascinating to me, from the way it’s grown to the way it’s roasted, I’ve just always loved the whole process about it, and of course, drinking it! That’s always been a driving force.
Years ago back in Arizona we were going to open a coffee shop, before Starbucks was huge and for several reasons that didn’t work out, I had twins so those thoughts were put on hold for a while. My husband got relocated out here with the government and he was a commuter and he kept bugging me about not having coffee on his way.
He was a commuter on the train?
Maureen: Yep! He had lots of friends and they all walked with no coffee. This building came up for rent, he bugged me about it again, and I had three little kids, I really wasn’t super excited about doing it, but I started doing my homework and different things and the dream came around. We went through the process of meeting with the city officials and we opened in December of ‘07 and we’ve been here ever since! We’ve seen some ups and downs but we have a very loyal following and we try and give our customers the very best.
What’s the meaning behind 25 30 Espresso?
Maureen: 25 degrees north and 30 degrees south is the growing region of coffee around the world, so it’s called The Coffee Belt. Coffee really doesn’t grow outside of those areas.
What would you say is the most rewarding aspect of owning a coffee shop?
Maureen: When somebody absolutely loves our coffee! So many customers have been coming in since we opened our doors and have become friends. It’s always great to come in and be welcomed by people who know you and know what you stand for and know how hard you work. Those are my favorite things.
What do you enjoy most about this community in Fredericksburg?
Maureen: COVID has taught us a lot of different things. The biggest thing I think is what we lost by not being together anymore. It’s just not the same. My goal for this year is to do anything and everything I can think of to rebuild the community and let people know that they’re cared for, that they belong here and we belong here. Those are my aspirations for 2021.
March 27, 2021 | Foode and Mercantile | Beth Black and Joy Crump
Foode has been a beloved restaurant in the downtown Fredericksburg community for a decade. In 2016, Foode expanded and moved into the historic National Bank Building on Princess Anne Street. Ever since the first bite of Rosie’s Fried Chicken, Fredericksburg was hooked! We had the opportunity to interview owners Beth Black and Joy Crump about their journey to opening a restaurant and the importance of community, now more than ever.
Joy, you had limited experience in the food industry prior to Foode and Beth, you previously had a background in journalism. What called you both to take the step to opening your own restaurant?
Joy: Momentary lapse of reason, right?
Beth: Joy is my best friend and sometimes when you believe in something so much, it’s easy to jump, and I believed in her food so much that it was very easy for me to switch from my background in journalism to becoming a small business owner and restaurateur.
Joy, was it your idea then, to open the restaurant?
Joy: I think sometimes things converge in the right way at the right time. I was always daunted by opening a restaurant because I think that so many really really good restaurants don’t make it, and that leads me to believe that it doesn’t just take a talented chef, it takes a lot more than that. I never had that other thing that it takes and then I met Beth. Then my father passed away, which kind of makes you wake up and go, “What are we doing? Let’s make sure to live every single day and not be afraid of the things I was previously afraid of.” I just decided to jump and Beth said she wanted to try something different at the same time and it felt like a really cool thing to do.
Neither of you are from Fredericksburg, so what is it about this city that attracted your business, Foode?
Beth: Joy grew up in Pennsylvania and was a young adult in LA, and I left Virginia and went to Atlanta. When we wanted to open a restaurant, it was the height of the Recession, and we knew that we’d get crushed in LA, and we’d get crushed in Georgia. Virginia felt safe to me, my background is in journalism and I definitely studied the trends here. I brought her to Fredericksburg and put her at the corner of William and Caroline during the Great Train Race and I just said, “Look at the people! Watch the people, watch the community, watch how they interact, and tell me if you think this is the right place for us.” I knew she’d be suckered.
What does the Fredericksburg community mean to you now that you’ve been here for ten years?
Beth: That question almost brings me to tears because it’s been so challenging lately and I’m so proud to be part of this community. This community has always shown us our road to growth. They’ve accepted us, they’ve told us what they wanted us to change, they’ve been honest with us, they’ve allowed us to employ their children, they’ve invited us into their homes when they’ve lost loved ones, they’ve allowed us to celebrate with them during graduations and weddings, and now during the pandemic they’ve been so supportive to make sure that our staff is ok, the business is ok, and they will reach us personally and say, “What do you need?” There’s no place like Fredericksburg.
Joy: You dropped the mic on that one, that’s pretty perfect!
It seems like it’s been a long journey to get to where you are today as partners and restaurant owners. What do you enjoy most about the work you do now?
Joy: For me, what COVID has done is it has stripped away everything that we don’t need to survive and left us with only the things we do need. As it turns out, to me that feels like it’s a place to gather as much as we’re allowed to gather. Sometimes that was just the two of us, or just the two of us and one or two other team members, and now we’re back to at least half capacity, but it’s a place to gather every day and it’s a place to share experiences. That’s the root of what we had in our hearts when we started the restaurant anyway, so COVID took all the craziness out of that and brought it to this real basic thing. There’s just nothing more community-minded than just sitting around a table and sharing a meal. That’s what I feel like I’ve been reminded of the nth degree over the past year- is how important that is to everybody.
What would you like to see for your business in the next 5 years?
Joy: I think that it’s no secret that the hospitality industry is built on people whose means are really fragile and having that taken away or reduced during COVID, in other words having their paycheck to paycheck lifestyle reduced, it was a monster reality check for us. We’ve always fought to exceed the living wage and give people a place where they feel like they can build a career and support their lives. What I would like to see is less fragility in this industry because so many things are interconnected in the hospitality industry. There’s almost no other means of commerce that somehow the hospitality industry doesn’t touch in one way or another. It’s not just farmers and growers, it’s not just restaurateurs, it’s hotels and uniformed supplies, and the list goes on and on and on. Everybody is connected, so when you take away one, two, three, four paychecks from them or reduce them by great amounts, it just leads to immediate turmoil. I’d like to see that really tender thing strengthen. More should happen to strengthen this industry that feeds so many people.
Beth: I love the way that the community, whether that’s the retail community or the restaurant community, is fighting everyday to make Fredericksburg a really fun place to be and that we’re getting more and more cars pulling off 95 to enjoy this city versus going and spending their money in Northern Virginia and D.C or Richmond. I hope that we continue to work together to grow that.
I hope one day we’re mentioned in the same breath as Carl’s or Allman’s or Hyperion, just as a place that belongs to Fredericksburg and is special here.
March 31, 2021 | Wren & Sparrow | Lisa Benoit and Amy Gardner
Wren & Sparrow is downtown Fredericksburg’s latest Caroline Street newcomer. Amy Gardner and Lisa Benoit’s deep passion for birding led them to open their own business which is for the birds! The store caters to beginners in birding to lifelong experts, and plans to host a variety of birding events for the community. We had the opportunity to interview Lisa and Amy during their grand opening week to chat about their birding journey, store offerings, and future plans.
Can you start by explaining what the hobby of birding entails, for those who are not familiar?
Amy: Birding entails something as simple as putting some feeders out there, attracting birds to your yard, being aware of what’s native to our area, and enjoying that commune with nature. It can go as far as to having a life log and going to different countries to find different species. So everything between setting up a simple feeder and having it engulf all your time is what birding can be.
When did your passions for birding begin?
Linda: My father was a birder so I naturally fell into it. I’ve been birding for about 45 years, worked at bird stores, always carried that feeder around with me wherever I moved. Amy and I met working in a bird store and decided that since we had such a nice camaraderie amongst ourselves, we would like to work together. We decided to put together a business plan last year in 2020 and the result is what you see here today!
Amy: My husband and I, before we were married, went to a cabin in Deep Creek, Maryland and there were these trays out on the deck and I couldn’t figure out what they were. He put bird seed in there and said, “Let me show you!” I didn’t want to do anything the rest of the weekend- I was hooked! I just watched the birds all weekend. When I was getting my MBA, I started working with Lisa 5 or 6 years ago, and it became all encompassing that quickly.
What made you want to take the step from working in bird stores to actually owning your own?
Linda: When the passion rules everything, you decide that it’s the right time to start a business. You always hear people say, “My hobby is my work, so it’s really not work” and that’s exactly what this is. When your hobby becomes what you do every single day, we don’t consider it work at all. We come here 6 days a week, we wake up in the morning and we’re ready to go, we don’t really want to leave in the evening. Tuesdays are our day off, so we’re closed on Tuesdays, but we do bird walks and other community events on our day off, so it’s in our blood!
Can you talk a little bit about what you sell here in the store and what events you do in the community?
Amy: There are a number of different ways to feed the birds and we try to provide items in the store that keep it easy to clean and fill, because we want your hobby to be fun, we don’t want it to become a chore. We get our seeds from an Amish farm in Ohio and there’s no fillers in the bag at all, so the birds will eat everything that’s there, there will be less mess, you won’t have weeds growing, all those things that make people really frustrated we try to address.
Linda: On Tuesdays for the whole month of March, we’ve been going to Old Mill Park and taking folks on bird walks. It’s been popular and a lot of fun, but unfortunately we can’t continue it in the summer because once the trees leaf out, you can’t see the birds. You can hear them and you know a certain bird might be in the location, but to get them on binoculars and teach people where they are is virtually impossible. Once COVID restrictions become lifted a little bit, we’d like to have some in-store presentations. For example, if you want to attract Bluebirds to your yard, how to safely feed hummingbirds through the summer, we can do presentations on that. We’d love to have the Virginia Living Museum come up and bring an owl or bring a hawk, so people can come and see these animals up close and personal. We’d love to get children in here and do some pinecone and seed rolling for them and teach them what nature is all about. They’re coming up right behind us and hopefully conservancy will follow as well. Once Riverfront Park opens we’d love to get out there and do some outside talks and things like that. We’re just waiting to see how things will progress over the summer but those are some of the things we want to do!
Your ribbon cutting ceremony is coming up soon, which is a huge full circle moment. Why did you choose downtown Fredericksburg for your business?
Linda: We looked everywhere. Most of the areas we looked at were cold, flat, didn’t have any personality, any history, or any local camaraderie. We came to Fredericksburg and looked at several locations and then one day we came in here with a realtor, and Amy actually sat on that wall and said, “I feel it. I feel it here, I think this is going to be perfect.” There was some work that had to be done, but we shook on it and said, “this is our location.”
Amy: This was the best decision. We have been absolutely and completely embraced by the downtown community. We have had positive feedback from other shop owners, our customers come in and say, “We need you down here, we’re so glad you’re here.” We feel like we’re already part of the community, even before our grand opening. It’s been a wonderful reception!
Can you finish us off by telling us your favorite bird or favorite birding fun fact?
Linda: In the fall, a Chickadee, a Titmouse, even Bluejays, they do what’s called “caching.” They know that the winter is coming, and if you feed sunflower seeds, they can hide (caching means to hide) upwards of 250 seeds a day for the winter when it gets lean and mean and very cold out. They can remember almost all of the places they have hidden those seeds. So in times of need, if they’re cold and hungry, they just remember where they hid food.
Amy: When we were planning the name for our store, Lisa’s favorite bird is the Carolina Wren and mine is the Titmouse. The Titmouse is my favorite because it’s the bird that comes to my feeder first. Anytime I put out something new, the Titmouse is so brave and will pick up half a peanut and fly away with all the other birds watching and thinking, “What’s in there?” The Titmouse doesn’t care, they just go! But, can’t really call it Wren and Titmouse because that just doesn’t work, so we settled on Wren and Sparrow.
April 5, 2021 | Strentz, Greene & Coleman | Stacey Strentz, Brenda Greene, Tara-Beth Coleman
Stacey Strentz, Brenda Greene, and Tara-Beth Coleman have dedicated their services to the Fredericksburg area for their entire careers. Now, their law office sits at 620 Princess Anne Street in downtown Fredericksburg. We had the opportunity to interview them about their experience practicing law, the importance of community, and the women who have inspired them along the way.
There are many fields of law to practice, so what made you decide to choose family law or criminal law?
Stacey: The reason I went into family law is because I love the stories, it’s a human interest. I was interested in psychology and sociology, and oftentimes I feel more like a therapist than a lawyer. For me, family law integrates all of those great aspects of getting to know my clients, knowing their story, helping them overlay the law, making a plan, and strategizing. That’s my love for family law.
Brenda: I came to practice law in this area through Legal Aid, and the opening that I took was a family law position. Family law was natural, it made sense to me. There is always an emotional component. Every family is different, all their needs are different, and I just naturally flowed into it. I also had the pleasure, before I worked with this fascinating woman over here [Stacey], to have cases opposite of her. I always said that Stacey made me a better lawyer, because there is not a lawyer who would go against her and not be prepared. There was no doubt in my mind that if I was going to have a case with Stacey Strentz that I was going to be prepared twice as much as any other case.
Tara-Beth: I don’t know if it was the generation I grew up in, but I bought into the ideal of the United States, the form of our country, the Constitution, and the battle that we fought to get the amendments to the Constitution. When I was in the 8th grade, we had a Youth of Law class, and we had to be lawyers. They stressed the ideal that it was better for 12 guilty people to go free than have one innocent person go to prison. I was young and I was impressionable and I believed in that ideal. I’ve always been very patriotic. I believe in our rights and I believe they should be defended. I’m in court all the time and I’m good on my feet. There’s poor people out there that deserve good representation and they need good attorneys to look out for them.
How did you all come together?
Brenda: We became partners [Stacey and Brenda] because she saw something in me.
Stacey: We just work really well together, our personalities really compliment each other. It’s been 13 years in different roles, different firms, different iterations of she and I being partners.
Brenda: As far as Tara-Beth was concerned, she was a natural fit: her personality, her skill set, and the way judges, clients, and the legal community respond to her. She’s just phenomenal! If you need criminal defense, Tara-Beth should be the only person you call.
Stacey: You are! You’re a phenomenal criminal lawyer. Tara-Beth is just amazing.
It’s very sweet to see how supportive you are of each other!
Brenda: One of the reasons that Stacey and I built this firm was because we wanted to have an opportunity for working women, mothers, in different stages of our lives, and build each other up in this career. It’s still not necessarily the norm to have a female-dominated law firm. We do a lot of encouraging one another and making sure we’re building each other up. With this job, you get beat up a lot, so it’s important for us to have a group, partners, paralegals, associates, that all build each other up, regardless if they’re a man or woman.
Stacey: We’ve hired women right out of law school, we’ve hired women with a few years of experience, and what happens in some women’s lives is they go in and out of law. I think law has been a nice field for me especially, I was able to take a couple years off when I had my son. It’s nice to have that flexibility and be able to give that to other people, because when I had my son, the firm I was at was not so great about when I wanted to come back. I had that stinging experience where you’ve been with a firm for over 10 years and they were really not willing to carve out any non-traditional role. I don’t ever want a talented young woman to feel like, “If I have a child or choose to take some time off, I can’t carve out a more creative role for myself.”
Who are your role models or heroes that help you push through your challenging days?
Brenda: She’s sitting right over here [points to Stacey]. We also had a female judge, Judge Hutcherson, and the way she handled people and her courtroom was the epitome of class. That was certainly an inspiration, but day to day, I want to be her [Stacey]. If I could be as good as her, I have accomplished something.
Tara-Beth: Ruth Bader Ginsburg is awesome. It just brings tears to your eyes, the things that she’s done for women and men in the workplace. Judge Kelly and Judge Deneke: Judge Deneke was a prosecutor and Judge Kelly was a criminal defense attorney. Partially I’ve also got to say my grandma, I just recently lost her this year. She was a huge hero for me. She started working when she was 18, and worked every day until we had to put her in a nursing home three years ago. My grandfather died in 1987 and she spent every day after that waiting to go to heaven to meet him. She’s a wonderful woman.
Stacey: Ann Hunter Simpson. When I was a young lawyer working for Joe Ellis, he sent me to watch Anne Hunter Simpson and Georgia Sutton practice law. They had a case against each other the first time I watched them and they’re both amazing female lawyers. The second time I had the honor to watch them, I was the guardian in their case, and one was representing the father and one was representing the mother. I was 27 years old and I was so stressed out because here I have to make a recommendation as the guardian and both of these women I just idolized!
Brenda, I just have to say, you’re a lot better at numbers than I am. You’re my idol when it comes to numbers, you can make sense of some of the worse cases!
Brenda: I have my skill set but I’ve never been told when I litigated a case it’s like watching poetry! More than one person has said that about Stacey!
What does the Fredericksburg community mean to you?
Brenda: It’s our role to collectively represent the people in this community. Stacey, Tara-Beth, and I still represent clients in pro bono cases. It’s important for us to bring the services we offer to everyone in the community, not just the people that can necessarily afford our services. We are part of the fabric and fiber of Fredericksburg. All of us have pretty much practiced our whole careers here or in the surrounding area. We are Fredericksburg attorneys.
Celebrate Diversity (April)
avidararyaryGet to know the owners behind the businesses we love in FXBG.
April 10, 2021 | ACVN | Andreina Verdesoto and Dugan Caswell
Andreina Verdesoto began her architecture career in Ecuador working on the American Consulate, where she met her now-husband, Dugan Caswell, a fellow architect. After moving to Fredericksburg, she created ACVN, an architecture, construction, and project management company in 2018. We had the opportunity to interview Andreina and Dugan at one of their project locations to talk about their business-owning journey and emphasis on sustainable architecture.
When did your passion for architecture begin? How did you get to where you are today as a business owner of your own architecture company?
Andreina: My passion for architecture began when I was 18. When I was 15 I liked to draw a lot, and when I had to go to college I thought, “Which career could I go and draw?” That’s when I went to architecture school. After I graduated from school, I did some small jobs, but then I started working for the American Consulate in Ecuador when they began building the Consulate. I was working for a subcontractor that assigned me to that project and that’s where I met Dugan [Andreina’s husband], he was the architect for the company. We had to work everyday together and it was very much a “hate” relationship at the beginning! We were friends but he would just come over and say, “Well you forgot to do this, you need to work on this, you need to do this!” But that’s how we both got to know each other.
After the consulate, we moved to Fredericksburg and I had Abigail, our daughter. In 2018 I decided to create a company where I could work part time- that was the initial idea. We found a project that we liked, a statewide project for Virginia ABC, we made a proposal, our first one as a company, and we won! All of that made the whole company develop faster, because that’s when I had to bring Dugan to my company.
What has been your favorite project to work on?
Dugan: It was a neat commercial renovation project in downtown Warrenton, right on main street. It was one of these wonderful old buildings from the late 1800s and we got to renovate quite a bit of it. We took a totally raw space in the back and transformed it into this really beautiful office for a civil engineering company. It was pretty cool!
What do you enjoy most about being part of and servicing the Fredericksburg community?
Andreina: What I like about Fredericksburg is their support. As a new business owner, it was nice that I could go to city hall and they’d be nice about answering all of the questions I had.
Dugan: The Small Business Development Center, they’re all super helpful and super friendly there. Fredericksburg is also a great location, in terms of being the crux of Stafford and Spotsylvania County, and being close to Richmond and D.C.
What does the process of designing a project look like?
Dugan: It just starts out with a conversation, finding out what the client wants, what their expectations are, and then you can figure out what you guys can do together.
ACVN places an emphasis on eco-friendly architecture. What does that look like? Why is sustainable architecture so important?
Andreina: When you think eco-friendly or energy efficient, most people think about solar panels. What we’re trying to put in each design is building science, to make the house more comfortable and work for your benefit.
Dugan: We can just do some little detailing tricks to minimize air infiltration, seal around things, minimize thermal bridging, and minimize insulation voids. Those small things decrease how much heat loss there is in the winter. These are very small things but they go quite a long way to increase the thermal energy efficiency of the building and reduce heating cost. We like to take things a step further but every client has a threshold about how much they’re comfortable with.
What do you want to see for ACVN in the next 5-10 years?
Andreina: Our dream right now is to escalate the amount of energy efficient science that we are putting in houses, and to educate. We’re going to start doing blogs about energy efficiency so we can start educating people and they can get more comfortable with some of the ideas that we might propose in the future!
April 14, 2021 | 540 Party Bus | Gary and Antoinette Arrington
Gary and Antoinette Arrington’s talent and creativity allowed them to adapt 540 Party Bus to celebrate special moments during COVID. With weddings, graduations, proms, and birthdays cancelled in 2020, the Arringtons quickly shifted to providing unique parties for small groups of friends and family, with no amount of luxury spared. We had the opportunity to interview Gary and Antoinette in their Ford F-550 Party Bus to talk about how they started their family business, the events they service, and their dedication to the community.
Where did the idea for 540 Party Bus come from?
Antoinette: Originally the company did not start out as a transportation business, it started as an inflatable rental business. It was a way to provide income to our families. I have nieces and a nephew that are old enough that in the summers they need a job, so we started the inflatables and they would deliver them and pick them back up. As time went on, my husband had a group of friends, some developers, who had sessions on Sundays together and they started building an app for party busses.
Gary: It was like Uber for party busses! It’s funny that you mentioned the Sunday development meetings because it was actually called ‘Diversity Developers.’ We would bring a lot of diversity to the IT community, so it didn’t matter what color you are or where you came from. We would randomly send out invitations on LinkedIn and MeetUp.com, and that’s how we started to develop this app idea!
Antoinette: In this group, one of the developers had a friend who owned party busses, and we thought it was a really cool idea. My husband and I kind of looked at each other and said, “Hey, let’s invest in that!” That didn’t necessarily go the way we anticipated so two years ago my husband decided, “I’m just going to do this on my own!” We purchased our first party bus, a 14 passenger party bus, and it was successful! It was constantly going every weekend, we couldn’t get it to stop.
We are now up to four vehicles in our fleet: three of them are party busses and one of them is a Mercedes-Benz Limo Sprinter.
Did you always know you wanted to create a family business?
Gary: We’re still in the IT industry, but we have an entrepreneurial mindset. Growing up, we did not come from a wealthy neighborhood in New Jersey, but we always had the idea to want more. From my father being in the construction industry to being a commercial fisherman, there was always a hustle mentality: you got to go get it because no one’s going to give it to you. So I always had this mindset to strive for more. When me and my wife first got together, we said one day we’ll have our own business and build our empire for our kids. One of the main things I’ve always wanted to do is if I pass on, to have something to give to them that they can take over and continue running. The first graduation we did as a business was our kids’. The first prom we did was our kids’. They were actually our first clients!
What are the events and services you do?
Antoinette: We get a lot of wine tours, that’s a huge seller. If the customers can go to multiple wineries in a day, then they’re loving it! We do quite a few weddings, I think they’re so fancy and so beautiful, and to have this awesome transportation for it is great! We do birthdays, proms, bachelor and bachelorette parties, and tacky light tours during the holidays.
Gary: From Black Friday to New Years Day, tacky light season is in full effect. Sunday through Sunday, everyday of the week, my vehicles are up and rolling. Whether you’re going to Richmond, Hanover County, Manassas, where they do festivals of light shows, we’re everywhere!
What is the most rewarding thing about owning this business?
Gary: The most rewarding thing for me is being able to give back to the community of Fredericksburg and provide employment. I do enjoy getting behind the wheel, but also being able to learn more about the community and support different organizations, which is why we joined the Chamber of Commerce. A lot of chamber members do give back through time or donations.
Antoinette: We participated in Night To Shine and that brought tears to my eyes. That was the most amazing thing that we could have done for the community, to provide them with this transportation just to give them that experience, which on any given day they would have never done. To be able to give them a ride on this vehicle with the music and the lights and to watch them dance and smile, was very rewarding.
That’s what’s so special about a business like this, you’re there for all the big moments in people’s lives!
Gary: Especially in 2020, the graduations were very different. I felt that the kids and parents needed something. The seniors of 2020 lost everything, they didn’t have graduation and they didn’t have prom. One of the things I came up with was a mobile prom. It was very intimate with just the people in their home, but it was beautiful. We picked them up at their house and the daughter was very shocked, it was a full surprise! We had fine dining staging on the vehicle with steak, crab cakes, salad, and sparkling water in wine glasses. They got to dance on the bus and I took them on a ride to Washington, D.C. We took them on a tour of the monuments, they got to take some photos, and then we brought them back. They still had a prom and it was worth every moment. You have to take something so negative like COVID-19 and try to turn it into a positive.
April 17, 2021 | Madison Ghent | Colette Arnold
Colette Arnold’s love for vintage fashion traces back to her childhood. For her, it’s about wearing something one of a kind to perfectly and uniquely express yourself, no matter what the occasion. Madison Ghent, her vintage clothing business, began five years ago and lives in the Fredericksburg Antique Mall at 925 Caroline Street. We had the opportunity to interview Colette about her fashion philosophy, acquiring process, and pop-up shops.
When did your passion for vintage clothing begin? How did it lead you to where you are today as the owner of a vintage clothing store?
Colette: I started my interest in vintage clothing back when I was a teenager in high school. I’ve always loved second-hand fashion and the idea of having really colorful, standout pieces that no one else had, so I didn’t look like the girl next store. That’s where it really started, and from my love of vintage back then, I always thought it would be great to have my own business selling the same type of products: colorful, unique, eclectic, things that stood out. I knew I wanted to do something that allowed me the creativity to determine my own journey. I started Madison Ghent in 2016 and I’m celebrating five years this month! I am very happy to be part of Fredericksburg’s fashion community. It’s also very exciting when our customer fashionistas share pictures of themselves wearing their Madison Ghent outfits on social media. I love posting their photos on Instagram (@MadisonGhent), Facebook(@MadisonGhentShop), and Twitter (@MadisonGhent).
Congratulations! Where does the name ‘Madison Ghent’ come from?
Colette: I’m originally from Norfolk, Virginia and there’s a beautiful community in Norfolk called Ghent, so that’s where the ‘Ghent’ part comes from. I’ve always loved that community, so I wanted to add that as part of the name. Madison is derived from the meaning ‘gift of God’ and I feel like this opportunity to have a business is truly a gift.
Can you walk through the process of how you acquire new pieces? What do you have your eye out for?
Colette: My buying process is searching second-hand stores, estate sales, I travel quite a bit throughout the country and abroad, and everywhere I go I’m always looking for colorful pieces that are really unique. The nature of vintage clothing is clothing that’s 20 years or older, and when you think about that, it’s going to be a rare find to find something that no one else has. That’s something that I think my customers really enjoy.
You take Madison Ghent as a pop-up shop to different locations and events, correct?
Colette: I like to do pop-up shops in the Northern Virginia area and also in my hometown of Norfolk. What I found, because I’m a small one person business, is you want to get as much exposure as you can. I try to do that with social media, but pop-up shops really allow me to have that kind of exposure and have a broader reach. One of the things I really enjoy doing, whether it’s social media or meeting customers in person, I always like to point them back to Fredericksburg. I like them to know that there is a stand alone store that they can come to and have the experience of perusing things that are hand-picked, curated, in great condition, and very stylish!
What does fashion mean to you?
Colette: Fashion, to me, means a visual expression of your personality. It’s what you want to present to the world: the different textures, the colors, the versatility in how you want to look. With vintage clothing, you can get a piece that’s 1940s and mix and match it with something that’s 1980s or 1970s. You start with two one of a kind looks, and you combine them and get a completely new one of a kind look. People like the eclectic nature that allows them to really express themselves in a different way.
What do you enjoy most about being a business owner in Fredericksburg? Especially being right smack dab in the middle of Caroline Street?
Colette: I really enjoy Fredericksburg because when I think ‘Fredericksburg’, I think ‘friendly.’ When I came here to this location at the Fredericksburg Antique Mall five years ago, I was welcomed by the owner’s of the building and the other vendors. Customers welcomed me and showed excitement for the products that I have. This downtown area, being in the heart of downtown historic Fredericksburg, is really just welcoming. That coupled with the fact that Fredericksburg offers art, great food, tours, and lots of activities for families, those are the kinds of things that are a major draw for me in being here, and that’s what really excites me!
April 21, 2021 | Casey’s | David Bess and Alex Casey
Alex Casey and David Bess met just before the pandemic’s world-wide shutdown. Alex was a chef in Washington, D.C, and David had just closed his Richmond restaurant after 14 years of service. David saw Alex’s talent and passion right away, and though they barely knew each other, approached him with the idea to open a restaurant. Alex had one request: it had to be in Fredericksburg, his hometown. Casey’s opened January 29, 2021 and has plans to stick around the neighborhood for generations to come. We had the opportunity to interview Alex and David about their passion for food , the importance of community, and their dreams for the future of Casey’s.
Alex, where did your passion for food come from? How did you get into cooking?
Alex: I got into cooking coming out of high school. I’d come home from school and Mom and Dad weren’t there so I’d have to whip something up from the fridge. Most of the time it was just sandwiches, but it evolved and I started embracing the traditions and family gatherings where I’d make a side dish or a casserole. That was how I got my foot in the door, but it wasn’t really until I went to school and got a job up in the city when I really fell in love with it and enjoyed the passion, energy, and the hustle.
While I was in D.C, I went to an art institute in Rosslyn. Out of there I got a job at a very high volume restaurant, which was a great foundation for me. It taught me all aspects of a restaurant- especially how to adapt quickly. Going up to the city was an amazing experience, but it’s even more beautiful for me to come back to my hometown and share it with my family and friends. That’s what cooking is, it’s more than just food, it’s bringing people together.
David, can you share your experience in the restaurant industry?
David: My experience and passion for hospitality and service came from frequenting restaurants as a boy with my mom in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, and Virginia. I quickly discovered I wanted to go into the hospitality industry and take care of people and the community. As Chef Alex just said, food brings people together, and it’s an awesome opportunity to see people come together and put a smile on their face. You get instant gratification as soon as they leave the restaurant and they’re shaking your hand and smiling. It’s never goodbye, it’s always, “see you soon!” That’s what Casey’s is.
How did you decide to start a restaurant together?
David: I met Chef Alex a year ago in January 2020 and I quickly saw his talent. When I had the opportunity to be in D.C., I was always searching for the “one chef.” I told him, “If you ever want to start a restaurant, let me know!” and he looked at me like I was crazy. Two weeks after the pandemic hit, Chef Alex came to me and said, “Ok, tell me about this restaurant idea. BUT, I have one request: we go back to my hometown, Fredericksburg.” That’s how we started!
Casey’s serves up “American fare” cuisine. What’s the inspiration behind that?
Alex: I didn’t want to be stuck to a specific cuisine. I love to use all types of ingredients and all flavors, that’s cooking to me. Traditional American is built off of different cultures and different traditions.
David: This country was founded by immigrants, it’s a blend of different cultures, and that’s truly American food. When we wanted this concept to come alive, we decided on American cuisine because America is built on flavors as well as diverse cultures. Hence, the “traditional” American cuisine. That’s Casey’s. All flavors. All cultures.
What would you like to see for Casey’s in the next 5-10 years?
David: Our mission is to be involved in the community. We want Casey’s to be a beacon of the neighborhood, not just an eatery or a bar. We want people in the neighborhood to be proud of this restaurant, to have family traditions here, and we’d like to be a part of their family. We want memorable experiences to start at Casey’s and become traditions.
People often ask us about these empty frames on the wall. If you look at the people around you at the dinner table, that’s the memory that you should remember forever. You can put a piece of that memory up in one of our frames.
Now for the MOST important question, what is your favorite thing on the menu?
Alex: The FredVegas! I love buffalo chicken, it hits home every time, it’s very nostalgic for me. Right now the scallops are also one of my favorites. We take scallops and we smoke them until they start to caramelize and turn super dark, which sweetens up the scallop. We pan roast them after with an Israeli couscous, bacon, tomato, mushroom, and parmesan cheese. It’s a top seller for our dinner crowd!
April 28, 2020 | PONSHOP | Gabriel and Scarlett Pons
Scarlett and Gabriel Pons have been a part of the downtown Fredericksburg community for over 15 years. They’ve watched downtown revitalize and evolve, all while being residents and business owners. Their art gallery and studio, PONSHOP, showcases both their work, and the work of other artists who aim to turn their craft into a career. We had the opportunity to talk with them about their dedication to the community, their passion for art, and how things have changed since COVID.
Where did this idea for a gallery come from? Did you always know you wanted to turn your passions for art into a business?
Gabriel: Scarlett and I had a shared art studio at LibertyTown Arts Workshop from 2005-2010 and we knew that we would have to eventually raise the bar and bring our business to main street. That forced us to improve the level of our craft as artists as well as be entrepreneurs.
Scarlett: We saw an opportunity downtown. You have to picture downtown about 11 years ago, before we started to have a revival. When we got to know downtown better we immediately thought there was so much opportunity here and a niche for what we’re doing. We also wanted to be a space that would invite other artists that weren’t just hobbyists, but people trying to turn their art form into a career. It has worked out so great over the years because we’ve made relationships with these likeminded people who take creativity and turn it into a business.
How did both of you get into art?
Gabriel: We both went into Architecture School at Virginia Tech and that was deﬁnitely a foundation. Before college I enjoyed art and creativity, but I never aimed for that. I was drawn to architecture simply because I was enamored with drawings and model-making. Through those years in college it really opened up our eyes in terms of creativity and design. Halfway through school I started to wonder, “What would it take to be a painter?” Slowly that became its own activity parallel to the architectural profession.
Scarlett: For me, I always enjoyed art since a very young age, but never knew it was something you could pursue. It never crossed my mind to be an artist. I ended up in architecture school because I had a great teacher that asked me what I wanted to do. It was my Junior year and I had no idea. He knew I had an interest in art so he suggested I do architecture. Architecture school really laid the foundation to just be creative. At some point we just realized, “Oh! We can do this! We can do art professionally!”
You mentioned that you sell your own art and ceramics as well as the work of other artists. What do you look for in a product or in an artist that would potentially be featured in PONSHOP?
Gabriel: One word that comes to mind is innovation, meaning the artist’s work is something that impresses us and is new and exciting. We also consider how invested the artist is. Is it just a weekend deal, something casual, or are they taking steps to get to that next level of professionalism? We look at potential artist’s social media to see how they are presenting their work (and themselves) to the public. Finally, it’s looking at the work and asking if it ﬁts in the family that we’ve built up as an ensemble of work. How does it compliment the shop or push things forward?
How many artists do you feature in your store at one time?
Scarlett: Around 20. We rotate artists throughout the year. We always have a focus on people who are making locally in Virginia, but we do branch out across the U.S. from there. Unless we’re doing a monthly ﬁne art show, then we’ll bring in another 20 or 30 people.
Can you talk about the different classes and events that you do?
Gabriel: The most popular class through the years is our Skate to Create class: spray painting skateboards. I’ve been doing an Intro to Street Art class where kids get to use spray paint in a relatively controlled environment. Over the years I started to do a comic book workshop for kids which involves drawing, writing, and storytelling. Over the past year, we’ve been doing virtual classes and that’s one class that works well in the format of a virtual session. It’s exciting because even though we might not be in person together, there’s so much pop culture and comic book lore to get the kids interested, even if they’re as young as 7 or as old as 17. We can all come together and share that love and help that inform their creativity.
Scarlett: Typically we host a variety of events, everything from big community events like First Friday and Art Attack to hosting something more intimate. In the past we’ve done jewelry trunk show events to highlight individual artists.
Gabriel: We’ve partnered with the Rappahannock Area Community Services Board for an annual exhibit for Mental Health month in May. We’ve been hosting that event since 2011 and it includes upwards of 30 or 50 artists throughout the region to bring awareness to mental health. We also did shows for the Fredericksburg Skatepark Project where we painted skateboards to raise awareness and funds for their initiatives.
What is the most rewarding part about what you do?
Scarlett: One of the most rewarding parts is being able to make something and put it right out on the shelf of my own store to get feedback from the public. That, for the last 10 years, has been so rewarding. I have some things that start out as one thing then turn into something else because someone looks at it and thinks, “Actually, this is how I’d use that!” It’s a very consistent exchange of ideas, even though the public isn’t always aware that they’re participating in this experiment with me. I’ve really missed all that interaction this past year. It made me realize there is so much value in having a storefront, because it is your connection to the community. My work doesn’t even exist until it gets put out into the public and I can see how people interact with it.
Given that you’ve had your business downtown for many years, what does the Fredericksburg community mean to the both of you as business owners?
Gabriel: Over the past year I think it’s been more apparent than ever that the Fredericksburg community is a very tight and a solid family. Everyone has really stepped up in terms of relationships and support of the shop. It came from a lot of fans near and far that we hadn’t seen in ages, but they came out in one way or another to support us. Even if it was just reaching out or stopping by, it was a great thing. In the 15 years we’ve been here, Fredericksburg is ofﬁcially home.
Scarlett: We’re a city that acts like a small town. Once you spend some time here you realize there is a very small-town feeling about the place because it’s a very tight knit community. Especially coming off of last year in 2020, Fredericksburg means support. As soon as it was announced that Virginia was going into lockdown, the ﬁrst thing that happened was we had so many people reach out to us and ask, “What can we do for you guys? How can we support you?” It was so touching. In the midst of everything happening in everyone’s lives, people were concerned with all the small businesses on main street. When we opened the store we were looking for a community to be a part of and a community to help grow. That was completely showcased last year. For me, the Fredericksburg community means love!
May 5, 2021 | Renee’s Crepes and Cakes | Irene and Frankie Zavolakis
Irene Psaras Zavolakis got her start in the restaurant industry at the ripe age of 11, helping serve tables at her parent’s Greek restaurant, the Parthenon. The Parthenon has been a staple of the Fredericksburg community since 1984, and when Irene decided to go her own way (though she still helps out at the Parthenon!), she moved two doors down to open Renee’s Crepes and Cakes. Inspired by their family vacations to Greece, Renee and her husband Frankie serve up sweet and savory crepes to bring a piece of Europe to Fredericksburg, Virginia.
How did you enter the restaurant industry? What made you decide to open your own restaurant?
Irene: It’s definitely because of my parents that I’m in the restaurant business. After high school, I became a dental hygienist for Dr. Rose for about two years. I went to travel for a little bit and when I came back I decided to open a restaurant. There weren’t really any crepes in Fredericksburg and we wanted to choose something different and unique! I have no regrets! I started at the Parthenon then came here. My husband too, he was a firefighter in Greece, but he also had a deli/coffee shop. So we both had the same path.
What is the most rewarding thing about what you do, now that you’re 5 years in?
Irene: It took us a little bit to get to where we needed to be. It’s a hard business and people don’t know about crepes, but after the second year it started to get really busy. We’re good at what we do, so we just want our customers happy and satisfied before they leave.
Who is your biggest inspiration?
Irene: My biggest inspiration is my dad. He’s on point from 5 o’clock in the morning to 9 o’clock at night, Monday through Saturday. Even Sunday he’s in there, imagine that! All my parents know is work, that’s how they were brought up, and that’s how they brought us up. I started waiting tables in 1991 at the Parthenon when I was 11 years old. I still remember the first soup I dropped on a lady!
Who is Renee?
Irene: I am! I was actually going to name the restaurant ‘Crazy Crepes,’ but you know we’re a little cuckoo anyways, way have a lot of wild in us, so we went with ‘Renee’s Crepes and Cakes.’
Did Frankie know how to make crepes before or was that a skill he had to master?
Irene: We just threw ourselves into it! He actually wanted us to open a Greek restaurant, but since we’re so close to our parents we decided to do something different. But we practiced a lot. It took us 20 months to open, but when we put our minds to something, we’ll do it. There’s certain things I don’t know how to do, but if I’m dedicated to it, I’m going to learn.
What do you and Frankie have in store for Renee’s Crepes and Cake’s future?
Irene: We want a food truck, a pop-up restaurant, or to open our own Greek restaurant somewhere!
What do you enjoy most about being part of the Fredericksburg community?
Irene: I love meeting new people, especially from out of town. We had some people stop in recently, one from Dale City and one from Woodbridge, who came just to eat crepes. Families who live in Alexandria and Richmond drive here and meet halfway. If people know about crepes, they’re going to find them, no matter how far away they are.
May 10, 2021 | Orofino | Danilo Orofino
Danilo Orofino has been serving authentic Italian dishes to downtown Fredericksburg for the past five years. After growing up and discovering his passion for food in Sicily, Danilo took a leap and moved to New York City. Nine years ago he found his way to Fredericksburg, Virginia to open his restaurant, Orofino. We had the opportunity to interview Danilo about his restaurant experiences, his love for bringing people together, and what he enjoys most about Fredericksburg.
How and when did you know you wanted to enter the restaurant industry?
Danilo: That goes all the way back to when I was little. My dream was to play soccer, every Italian boy likes to play soccer, so that was my dream all along. I remember when I was little, I used to dream about snow. In Sicily where I’m from, we hardly ever see snow. I remember being under the kitchen table with my mom, grandma, and aunts around it making fresh pasta and fresh bread. I started seeing flour come down the table and I started to dream about snow. It was then that I realized that food made me happy and made me dream, so I wanted to enter that world.
My experience began in Palermo when I was about 18 years old. I opened a coffee shop/lunch place/bar and my family members worked for me. That was the first time I really entered the restaurant world. I had that restaurant for about four years because the economy in Italy was not so great at the time. I like to work hard and I believe in myself, so I knew I couldn’t make it work. Sometimes it’s not just about yourself.
How did that experience prepare you to open and run Orofino?
Danilo: It taught me how to be understanding and analyze things properly. When I was little younger I would jump towards things and come to conclusions too quickly. I learned to put myself into someone else’s shoes. That’s why my first restaurant wasn’t a failure for me- it actually taught me a lot!
You grew up in Sicily, then moved to New York City before starting a business in Fredericksburg. Why did you choose this city to open Orofino?
Danilo: You know when things are meant to be? I believe that God works in mysterious ways. When I was in Italy, the only thing I knew about the United States was New York, the city that never sleeps. I was so excited to move there! While I was getting experience in New York, I met a gentleman who owns a few businesses around here. We became friends and that’s how I got to know Fredericksburg. In New York, I was missing the sense of family and community where everybody knows you and asks how you are. That’s how I grew up, so I felt like a part of me was missing. When I discovered Fredericksburg and saw that’s how the community is, I immediately fell in love. Now I’ve lived in Fredericksburg for nine years and have owned Orofino for five years!
My wife and I own Orofino, and everyone that works here is family. I get to spend every single day in this place with these people and they have immediately become my family. So it’s a family restaurant, both those who work here and those who come in and eat, they’re part of the family too!
What do you find most rewarding about the work that you do?
Danilo: I strongly believe that food builds relationships. When you sit at a table with someone you just met, or a date, or your family, you get to know their experiences and their personalities, and food is such a valuable part of that. It also makes you dream. In here I always hear people say, “I wish I was back in Italy!” The fact that people remember their great memories, or dream about going to Italy, makes my day.
What do you hope and plan for Orofino in the next 5-10 years?
Danilo: I’d like to explore outside of the traditional dining and day-by-day tasks. I love events: weddings, caterings, rehearsal dinners, private dinners, chef tables, wine tastings. I have always loved all of those things so I would love to get into that. I also like to bring people on Tour of Italy, which unfortunately was paused due to COVID, but I want to get back into it. Delivery and pickup became huge during COVID, so I’m going to explore that a little bit more.
Small Businesses (May)
Get to know the owners behind the businesses we love in FXBG.
May 13, 2021 | Four Rivers Psychological Services | Dr. Patrice Berry
Dr. Patrice Berry has been serving Fredericksburg families for over a decade. Her passion for mental health stemmed from her own experiences in middle school, which led her to pursuing a career as a psychologist. In addition to owning Four Rivers Psychological Services, Dr. Berry brings her colorful and fun personality to social media, to help showcase the importance of therapy and de-stigmatize mental health. We had the opportunity to interview Dr. Berry about her dedication to serving the community, her experience starting her own practice, and why mental health is no different from your physical well-being.
What made you decide to become a psychologist?
Dr. Berry: I had a bad experience in middle school with a guidance counselor, before that I actually wanted to be an accountant! After that experience I realized that I wanted to help people, give them a safe space to talk about what’s going on, not judge them, and have them feel heard.
What made you take the extra step to starting your own practice?
Dr. Berry: I used to run a school-based therapy program in Spotsylvania County Schools. With the schools closing this past March, I was no longer needed. I was already planning to launch my business because there were changes in Medicaid programming, and financially I knew a change was coming. In March, my student loans were placed on hold and it was the perfect time to launch my own business!
What is the meaning behind ‘Four Rivers’?
Dr. Berry: Four Rivers Psychological services came out of a name that my mom had started. My mom has a business, Four Rivers Consultants, and when I was thinking of a practice name in the midst of planning everything else, Four Rivers represented the four different services I offer: psychological testing, therapy, coaching, and speaking.
There is a big stigma around people who go to therapy. Can you talk about the different clients you serve?
Dr. Berry: Since launching my own practice and being able to market myself, I really had an increase in marginalized groups, working with people of color, and working with more adults. I used to work a lot more with kids and teenagers, but with only doing services online, it’s a bit easier to work with adults. I work with people who have been through a lot, I’ve worked with foster care, and with adoption. I am an adoption-competent therapist and I work with people that have been adopted throughout their lifespan. I also work a lot with people who have anxiety and depression. I really wish people didn’t stigmatize mental health and just viewed it like going to your medical checkup. Nobody looks at you silly when you go in for your annual medical evaluation, but if somebody goes to therapy they think, “Why are you in therapy?” The mental and physical health are connected. There are certain mental health conditions that cause an increase in physical symptoms or physical symptoms that can affect our mental health. Being able to provide a safe space for people is really important to me.
Speaking of de-stigmatizing, you have an AMAZING social media presence that helps normalize mental health!
Dr. Berry: A client of mine recommended back in September that I join TikTok! I was already on Instagram and YouTube, but I hadn’t gotten into TikTok yet. Being able to normalize mental health in a way that organically reaches so many people is incredible. I answer people’s general questions, but I make it fun and I dance a little!
Can you talk about the podcast you do with your mother?
Dr. Berry: I have a podcast called Legacy Moments with my mom. We have authentic conversations all the time on my drives home from work. I wanted to start a podcast, but I wasn’t ready to invite random people on it just yet. I trust her and we have a really good relationship. She has over 50 years of business experience and we are able to just talk and it ends up being really fun. The goal is to start conversations that people can then have with their family, and model a healthy mother-daughter relationship, because not everybody has that.
How can therapy be beneficial in someone’s life?
Dr. Berry: Since May is Mental Health Awareness Month, I will share that therapy was very helpful for me. Any good therapist has done their own therapy. It gives you a space to talk with somebody that doesn’t have an agenda. When you talk to your family, they may tell you what you want to hear or what you don’t want to hear, but when it comes from a stranger, it just feels a little bit different. To have a safe and validating space is so important.
You’ve been servicing the Fredericksburg area since 2009. What do you find most rewarding about helping this community for over a decade?
Dr. Berry: The Fredericksburg community is so diverse! There are rural parts, suburban, and the city, there’s so much in this one area. The people are so welcoming and I’ve really enjoyed serving the military population and all the different people I’ve gotten to meet in the past 10 years!
May 24, 2021 | Outlaw Enterprises | Rashida Outlaw
Rashida Outlaw has spent the last 15+ years giving back to others through her role as a teacher. Now, she wants to give back to small businesses and sustain a company that will create lasting change for future generations. We had the opportunity to interview Rashida about her shift to becoming a business owner in Fredericksburg, her time in the Peace Corps, and the importance of supporting other small businesses in your community.
For the last 15 years you worked in education, what made you decide to become a business owner?
Rashida: When you sit back and you create a vision for your life, remaining in that same position may not be the path to fulfilling that vision. My whole mindset shifted in terms of money and how to acquire wealth. Up until that point, I had this idea about working, moving up the ladder, and increasing your salary. I started reading things that challenged this notion, and the best thing I read that disrupted my thinking about “the rat race” was a CNBC article from 2019 that was titled, “How to Turn 100 Dollars into a Million Dollars” and I thought, “this is something worth looking at!” I was exploring this possibility of acquiring existing businesses, but I got another idea to build a business from scratch. I thought this was more exciting than walking into somebody else’s dream and instead I wanted to be there from the beginning. I would like to acquire wealth not so I can live lavishly, but so I can pass it on to future generations. I want to be someone who can endow an institution or a charity. Right now as a school teacher, the most I can do is give a quarterly donation, but I want to be able to do something more substantial. People like Mackenzie Scott and Reed Hastings donated massive amounts of money to historically Black universities, and I would love to be able to do something like that. I want to leave a legacy behind.
When did you start Outlaw Enterprises? Can you talk a little bit about what services the business offers?
Rashida: I formed the business entity almost a year ago and I did it through the Small Business Development Center Office based out of the University of Mary Washington. My original intention was to acquire a home care franchise through Outlaw Enterprises, but for a number of reasons such as funding and COVID, it fell through. I decided to repurpose Outlaw Enterprise to offer merchant services. We offer personalized and competitive merchant processing solutions, more than what a lot of our Fredericksburg businesses are experiencing. Many businesses go for the easiest options that get them started the fastest, like Square or PayPal. However, there is an instability that comes with partnering with options like that. We partner with all sorts of merchant banks and are able to lower the card processing rates that businesses have to pay.
Your business emphasizes the importance of supporting other small businesses. Can you talk about why that’s so important, especially in the Fredericksburg community?
Rashida: I lived outside of the country for 10 years and when I came back, I was very specific about the area I chose to live in. You can go to a big city very easily and live that urbanite life, but deep down inside I know that’s not me. I prefer smaller towns and a slower-paced life. I really love supporting small businesses because they offer services that you cannot get from mainstream corporate stores. I see small business owners as working people and I feel I have an obligation to support them. It’s why when the Fredericksburg farmer’s market opens, I go every Saturday because I know they’re working hard, they’re trying to be self-sufficient, so I want to do my part to support them! Small businesses really are the backbone of our country.
You spent two years in the Peace Corps in Bangladesh. What did that experience teach you?
Rashida: It taught me so much about people, culture, and working with others. The biggest thing is learning to not be what I call America-centric, where you only think about your own country and people. It showed me to broaden my perspective and see things from other people’s perspectives. One of the goals of the Peace Corps is that you understand the country you’re working with, and they understand you. I have taken that with me wherever I go.
You are a relatively new business, so what do you hope to see for Outlaw Enterprises in the future?
Rashida: I hope that this business is known throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia, while still being based in Fredericksburg. I like the idea of being able to promote Virginia businesses. I’d like to be well-known in Virginia, Maryland, D.C., and some of the other surrounding states. I would like to be able to have those connections that extend beyond Fredericksburg. I’d like to still be a small business but be able to expand what I have to offer to different markets. I love that idea!
May 25, 2021 | SUP Yoga Virginia | Kolbie Rosser
When Kolbie Rosser graduated high school, she had no idea what would come next. She knew she loved paddle boarding, she loved yoga, and she loved adventures. After teaching a trial run of a SUP Yoga class on the Rappahannock River, she decided to turn her passion for SUP Yoga and the outdoors into a business, SUP Yoga Virginia. Seven seasons in, we had the opportunity to interview Kolbie at City Dock and learn about her inspirations, business journey, and plans for the future.
Which came first, your passion for paddle boarding or your passion for yoga?
Kolbie: My passion for paddle boarding definitely came first. The first time I went out I was 12 years old, my grandparents took me to the beach, and ever since then I’ve been in love with it! I got into yoga around the end of my junior year in high school as another form of exercise to get into, but it turned into so much more than that. After I graduated high school, I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do, so I got my yoga certification. I work at Dragonfly Yoga Studio on Caroline Street with Anne Kemp, and she’s amazing, she’s very supportive of SUP Yoga Virginia!
SUP Yoga is a relatively new practice, how did you get into it?
Kolbie: I had my own board when I was 18 and I was looking for another way to challenge myself physically and mentally with yoga, so I started doing some yoga poses out here on the Rappahannock River. I had seen a few people around the world doing SUP Yoga, so I thought I’d give it a shot and figured I could teach it. I started with some trial run students one summer and it went great! I started six years ago and this is my seventh season teaching it. Six years ago, no one in the area was really doing it and we all thought it was going to be a yoga fad. A lot of people gave it a shot and now they’re hooked!
When you graduated high school you said you had no idea what you wanted to do next. Did you ever think that one day you would be a business owner?
Kolbie: In high school I thought it would be so cool to have my own paddle board business with my own fleet of boards, but it seemed like a wild dream that was unreachable because it’s expensive and requires a lot of external factors. I slowly started working towards it and over the years it’s just kind of come together!
What would you say is the most challenging part about your job?
Kolbie: The most challenging part for me over the past couple years is running the back end of the business. I love getting out on the water, doing yoga, and meeting people. Everyone is amazing and we have such a good time, but the challenging part is sitting down and scheduling people, paying bills, and working out the logistics.
What services does SUP Yoga Virginia offer and what skill sets do you cater to?
Kolbie: We take out everybody of all ages! The youngest that I’ve brought out was six years old all the way up to people who are retired and looking for something new and fun to do! I bring out all levels, people who have never paddle boarded before and people who have done it for years. Everybody is very welcoming to all levels! We do simple lessons on just paddle boarding, we do yoga on the boards, and throughout the summer we do free paddle meet-ups and enjoy the river with other people!
Who is your biggest inspiration?
Kolbie: I don’t have a specific person, but over the past year as a younger business owner, it’s the group of younger people who don’t necessarily have it figured out and they’re just following their dreams bit by bit and doing the best they can. They have gone down a different path than what everyone else is doing. They’re not just doing things that they think they should be doing, they’re doing things that make them feel alive and following their passions!
Since it’s National Small Business Month and you’re a one woman show, what would you like to see for SUP Yoga Virginia in the future?
Kolbie: I want to continue to grow this community of people and get more people out here to try new things. I personally travel all the time, I have this van that I travel around the country in, I’m building it out myself right now, but my plan is to bring people with me on these adventures. I’ve done a few trips to Virginia Beach, but my first out of state trip in Wrightsville, North Carolina will be in September. A group of people from this community here are coming with me to paddle, do yoga, and spend the weekend there. My goal is to continue doing this here, but also giving other people, who otherwise might not have done so on their own, opportunities to come out and travel with me around the country.
March 26, 2021 | Mondays | Ashley and Carmelo Sanchez
Mondays, the plant studio and garden center that’s closed on Mondays, is Caroline Street’s newest addition. Ashley and Carmelo Sanchez opened up shop this month with a modern twist on the traditional house plant store. We had the opportunity to interview Ashley and Carmelo in their stunning space about their tips for new plant parents, their passion for design, and their business partnership.
Where did your passion for house plants and gardening come from?
Ashley: That started with me when somebody gave me a clipping of a Pothos! I watched it root in the cup and then I took it home and planted it in dirt and named it Petunia. Next thing I know, our house is full of plants! It just kept growing from there.
What made you decide to take that love for plants and turn it into a business?
Carmelo: Ashley started selling plants online to locals, but when COVID-19 happened and our kids started online learning, we started looking for a storefront. We were driving down Caroline Street one day and saw this building for rent! We were nervous though, we didn’t know if we wanted to move forward or not. As a family, that was never really in our plans to be business owners.
What pushed you to move forward?
Ashley: I was the push behind it. I thought, “We won’t know how this will be unless we try. Let’s go for it!”
Why did you choose downtown Fredericksburg for your business?
Carmelo: We knew we wanted the foot traffic of downtown and the college nearby. Downtown needed something more modern. We are a mom and pop owned place, just a younger mom and pop! I thought our store may be a culture shock to downtown, but we were hoping it would be a positive culture shock, and I think that’s what this has become!
What is the meaning behind the name, ‘Mondays’?
Carmelo: We visit all the plant shops in Virginia and out of state to figure out the good and bad things as customers. I kept noticing a lot of them were open seven days a week like regular retail. When we go out of town it’s usually a Sunday, and one day when we were driving home I thought, “Let’s name it ‘Mondays’ and we’ll be closed on Mondays!” Our hours are limited to remain exclusive. We know that most Millennials are at work between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm and they enjoy boutique shopping, so on Saturdays we make sure we’re open nine hours, 11:00 am to 8:00 pm. It’s a huge day, we always have t-shirts, new plants to purchase, and a new project release that we’ve been working on!
This is a beautifully unique space! What’s the thought process that went into designing the store?
Carmelo: I’m in real estate myself, so I’ve always been into home design and decor, but mostly I love art. Ashley has the decor mindset so we collaborate with what art we can incorporate and what colors we put up. We just decided to model this after our house: industrial and modern!
Who would you say your biggest inspirations are?
Carmelo: It depends what field we’re discussing. In terms of fashion and marketing, I love Chinatown Market because they do everything in-house, which means they can release a capsule of clothing within a day. I also enjoy the simplicity and design of Supreme- they only release things on Thursday mornings and then they’re closed for 3 months. A lot of that mindset came into this. I also love to look at a lot of locals who are minimal with their design and love black and white photographs.
Ashley: I love Pinterest! I created a whole house board on Pinterest that these ideas came from. I get my inspiration from browsing and looking at certain things that I end up falling in love with.
Do you feel like you make a good business partnership together?
Carmelo: Oh yes! I learned the legal aspects of business and Ashley is more of the “people person.” I help with the foundation of the business, but she keeps it going! It works really well and it came about very naturally.
When people went into quarantine, so many people got into having house plants. What tips would you give new house plant parents?
Ashley: Be patient with them. Some people smother their plants, which is ok, but some plants don’t like that. Love your plants, talk to them, pay attention to them and they will speak to you and tell you what they want! Don’t get discouraged by them. Some of them will die or their leaves will die, it happens! Not every leaf will be perfect on a plant and you can just snip it off and keep it growing.
What is your favorite plant?
Ashley: I love Pothos because that’s what I started with and they’re so forgiving. They grow to be super long!
March 28, 2021 | DSS Inc | Sarah Degen
DSS has been a part of the Fredericksburg community for over 30 years. They’re a family business that is now run by third-generation family member, Sarah Degen. What began as a surveying and drafting supply company in 1971 has evolved overtime to providing digital graphics, signs, awnings, and more! We had the opportunity to interview Sarah about her journey to owning the business, the evolutions of DSS, and what she enjoys most about her business and the community.
DSS is a third generation family business, correct?
Sarah: That’s true! My grandfather was a partner with some other gentlemen back in 1971 when it started. My father got in in the 1980s and bought everyone out and I started to take over in 2011.
What is the origin story of the business?
Sarah: Oh, well here’s my dad [Mike Degen]! Dad, can you tell the business origin story?
Mike: The company was started in 1971 with my father, my uncle, and a few other partners. It was mainly a surveying supply company with some drafting supplies, but in the mid-80s we added blueprinting when I took over. Now we’ve moved to more digital and more signage but we still do the drafting and surveying. We’re just so much added things as opposed to taking things away. We currently have two locations: one here and one in Fairfax.
Where did you go to school?
Sarah: I went to George Mason in Fairfax and I got my bachelors degree in Psychology there, then I came home and decided to get my MBA at University of Mary Washington.
When you were growing did you know that eventually you wanted to be working here?
Sarah: I have been working at DSS since I was five years old- I would go around picking staples and rubber bands off the floors! Growing up and working here actually funded my college education, but I really didn’t think this was the direction I would go. I was working in our Fairfax location when I was at George Mason and I just gave it a shot. I thought, “I want to grow this into something different!” We were kind of stagnant when I started, I could see that blueprinting and surveying was going away and I knew we had to do something new. That’s where the digital graphics and signage arena came in.
We started out with the big flatbed printer that I bought from Canon. I got into the real estate arena that way, I did lots of banners, but I was really limited. I ended up meeting an individual about helping me put up a banner and he just asked me, “I know this is going to sound really weird, but would you be interested in buying an electrical sign company?” I said, “Okay! Why not?” That’s how we purchased Beacon Signs.
Was there a big learning curve in adding signage to DSS?
Sarah: You have to learn design and how to take in an idea that someone has in their head and bring it to life. You need to understand how construction works, you have to do permitting, installation, and you need to know what the building is made of to make sure that it will be structurally sound. There’s a lot that goes into signage that most people don’t think about and I didn’t know until I got into it. The skillset is extensive and the learning curve is high, but I love it! I love starting an idea in my head, putting it on paper, and having the customer be happy with the finished product. Because when the sign is finished, then their business can start! You know there’s a saying, “A business with no sign is a sign of no business!”
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
Sarah: Something happened yesterday that was really illuminating. A gentleman called me about a project he was working on for his mental health. He is a veteran who suffers from PTSD and struggles most days. It helps him to look at his accomplishments to know that he has done good in the world, so when days are really hard he wants something to look at so he can feel better. He told me what he wanted and let me do my thing. I got him the proof the next day and he called me to tell me that I blew him away and he thinks it’s really going to help him a lot in his journey to happiness. That doesn’t happen very often in the sign industry, most people aren’t really moved by signs, but to have someone tell me that I changed their world, that was amazing.
What do you enjoy most about Fredericksburg as a community, now that DSS has been here for 30+ years?
Sarah: Fredericksburg is home for me. I can’t go out without seeing someone I know, which is sometimes a good thing! This place is comforting to me and the people are very kind.
Because it’s National Small Business Month, and your business helps service the small businesses of Fredericksburg, can you talk about why you think it’s important to shop small and support local?
Sarah: Supporting small businesses is important because you’re not giving a CEO that makes millions of dollars more money. You’re helping fund family soccer tournaments and helping families grow. I don’t have any children, but I always see it that way. Each person who owns a small business is trying to become successful in their own way. I’ll put it this way: I’m a small guy, so I want to help other small guys.
May 30, 2021 | Premier Eyecare | Angela Tsai Robson
Premier Eyecare has been serving the Fredericksburg region since 1945. Dr. Angela Tsai Robson has been the current owner of the practice for the past seven years. Her passion for ocular disease, pediatrics, and technological advancement has pushed the optometrist practice to keep up with the 21st century. We had the opportunity to interview Angela about her passion for business and leadership, what excites her about optometry, and her love of skydiving!
What made you decide to become an optometrist?
Dr. Tsai Robson: I was actually working at my optometry school in the binocular vision and pediatric clinic in undergrad and I loved it so much! After undergrad I did an early acceptance program to Indiana University and went to optometry school there. I love it! I’ve been doing optometry for 15 years here in Virginia.
Did you enjoy going to the optometrist as a child?
Dr. Tsai Robson: Optometry is a little different now than what it used to be. When you’re younger you don’t really know what to expect, but my optometrist was very friendly, they were actually a family friend. It was just like going to the dentist for me, you went because you had to. There’s a lot more technology and advancements now that make it really friendly.
How did you become the successor to Premier Eye?
Dr. Tsai Robson: My brother actually introduced me to Dr. Smart who was working here before with Dr. Powell. Premier Eyecare is a well established practice that’s been here since 1945. They were looking for the next person to come in and buy into the practice and then eventually purchase the entire practice. I came in 2006, became partners in 2009, and then I bought the rest of the practice in 2014 after Dr. Powell’s retirement. My big passion is making sure we’re up to date with the 21st century and I love pediatrics, binocular vision, and ocular disease.
What about this field most excites you?
Dr. Tsai Robson: The field of optometry is always changing. If you look at where it is compared to where it was 20 years ago, it’s very different. Before it was just, “Can you see with glasses? Can you see with contacts?” Now, we can figure out why patients have things like dry eye and treat it appropriately. The technology we have now is much different so we can treat diseases more quickly as opposed to just giving someone glasses.
I’m also very passionate about visual therapy. If you have a child that has a lazy eye or decreased vision, then we’ll rehabilitate those people, and we also do it for traumatic brain injuries, stroke victims, and concussions patients. It’s rewarding to see if they have tracking and focusing issues then see therapy resolve it.
What do you find most rewarding about your profession?
Dr. Tsai Robson: Giving sight is instant gratification! Once you get done with visual therapy or you get your glasses or contact lenses, people can see. There are many cases where people didn’t know they had any issues, then when we do their dilation or their photos, we find that they have a cancer in the back of the eye that requires treatment, or there’s a bleed that would have caused them to lose their sight. So you can treat it really quickly and make sure they don’t lose their vision or pass away from something they didn’t even know they had.
You are an active member of a lot of organizations like The Chamber of Commerce and the Next Generation of Business Leaders. Did you always know you wanted to have your own practice and be a business owner?
Dr. Tsai Robson: I am better as an employer and not an employee, because I like to formulate ideas and see if they work. I love to be on the leadership side, so that’s where I like being part of the community and with business affiliates. Being a woman in business is also huge because it’s really changed throughout the decades where it used to be a man’s world. Women are now rising in the industry and rising as business owners, so I like being able to elevate that for our profession.
What do you like to do in your free time?
Dr. Tsai Robson: I love anything that gives me adrenaline so I’ve gone skydiving quite a few times. I go in Orange County and Warrenton. I was trying to get my pilot’s license for quite a few years and I was putting my hours in before COVID happened. Eventually I want to get back into it because I love adrenaline. When you’re in the sky, you feel like a bird!
Can you talk about the other community service work you do in Fredericksburg?
Dr. Tsai Robson: The biggest one we do is The Chamber of Commerce because they bring businesses together and it’s the fighting force for policies needed in the Fredericksburg area. We usually try to sponsor the Chamber of Commerce Galas well. We do a lot of the Lion’s Club evaluations and examinations, and we’re also a drop off center for all glasses!
What do you enjoy most about Fredericksburg?
Dr. Tsai Robson: I am from a little town in Indiana, so when I came to Virginia I was looking for something that felt like home where people are friendly, and that’s what drew me to Fredericksburg. Fredericksburg is unique because it has its history but it’s always evolving. People are very friendly here and care about each other. Businesses want to elevate other businesses. Everybody knows everybody here, which is really great because I’ve met a lot of my friends from some of my patients. Being in Fredericksburg lets me grow with my patients. Some of them have been coming here since they were 5 years old and now they’re going into college!
LGBTQIA+ - Owned Businesses (June)
Get to know the owners behind the businesses we love in FXBG.
June 10, 2021 | Skin + Touch Therapy Spa | Brian Lam and Will Mackintosh
It has been over 10 years since Brian Lam and Will Mackintosh made the move from New York City to Fredericksburg, Virginia. Since then, Brian opened Skin + Touch Therapy Spa downtown and Will became a member of the Economic Development Authority. We had the opportunity to interview Brian and Will about their passion for bettering the Fredericksburg community, what they enjoy most about their careers, and who their biggest inspirations are.
Brian, you previously worked in the fashion industry. What made you decide to switch to wellness?
Brian: In fashion there’s always trends, and I saw the trend of wellness coming up and it always intrigued me. I also personally had a journey with stress and understanding how that affects the body, so the combination of the two made me more interested in the industry. I was transitioning out of fashion anyways, so I began working at a spa. I learned yoga, Pilates, barre, massage, skin care, and nails, I just immersed myself into it. I felt like it was something becoming more important in the world.
What made you turn your passion for wellness into a business?
Brian: I think a lot of people want to make that leap. I did massage and skin care but I really enjoyed the marketing part of my background too. For me it was like using both sides of the brain and it combined into a small business. I like aesthetics and interiors, so it was a combination of all my interests. That’s why it’s called Skin + Touch Therapy Spa! It’s ‘Skin’ for facials, massage is for ‘Touch’, and ‘Therapy’ was my yoga background. It rolled everything into one and fit as a nice package!
What is one thing about skin care you wish everyone knew?
Brian: The skin is a living tissue and with that it changes every season. At Skin + Touch we try to teach you about how to understand your own body and skin. The skin is a good way of how the body communicates its health. So if you feel like something’s happening or it’s not normal, let us tell you how to interpret that and we can give you the right ingredients to rebalance it. With this approach you get a customized experience and save a lot of money because you’re not buying a bunch of random things on the shelf. Understanding yourself more is a good thing!
What brought you both to Fredericksburg?
Will: We moved to Fredericksburg because I got a job here at the University. We were living in New York and I was finishing my graduate degree, so I applied across the country for jobs in my field. I got the job at Mary Washington so we moved to Fredericksburg!
Brian, how did you know Fredericksburg was the right place to open your business?
Brian: I opened my business in 2010 at the initial location in Fall Hill, but I really wanted to be downtown. Will and I have always liked Fredericksburg and what it had to offer the community and everyone has always accepted us and supported us. It reminds me of a cute section of New York. I think of Fredericksburg as it’s own village with it’s own character and feel, and I’m just happy to be a part of it!
Will: It was very clear to us after we moved here that this is where we wanted to put down roots!
The both of you are very involved in the Fredericksburg community and part of that is Will’s membership to the Economic Development Authority. Why did you want to join the EDA?
Will: I love Fredericksburg and I wanted to put some time into seeing it grow and thrive. I had a double perspective on it- as someone who works at the University and is a historian, I had a professional view of where it was coming from. Through Brian and his work at the spa in the downtown community, I could see where it was going. I got excited about the opportunity to use my skills to put those two things together. How can Fredericksburg build on its history and its past? How can Fredericksburg build on its historic infrastructure to build a modern and thriving environment for small business? The opportunity came up to join the EDA so I thought I’d throw my hat into the ring to help move that process along.
What do you both find most rewarding about what you do?
Will: I love that I get to be a teacher and a student at the same time. I get to help mostly young people learn about the past and think creatively and critically about where we’ve come from. That’s what I spend most of my time doing, but I get to balance that with always learning myself at the frontiers of what we can understand about the past. That could be keeping up with the work of my fellow historians all over the world, or spending my time with old materials and dusty archives and trying to piece together people’s lives and experiences. So I get to be both a teacher and a student all the time and that is an enormous privilege!
Brian: For Skin + Touch Therapy Spa, what’s satisfying is that we’re a place for people to get back in touch with themselves. We’re a service-based business, so we’re at service to our clients and what they need and what we need to help them achieve. It’s very rewarding because when they come in they could be feeling a little bit stressed, but when they leave they’re happy. Or we have new mothers who have just had a baby and this is their first moment to themselves and we give them that space, which is always rewarding for us. I like that everyone does their job in the world, but when they come here we are servicing them and they leave happy!
Who are your inspirations that you look up to on your challenging days?
Brian: We have two kids, a 6-year-old named Hazel and a 1-year-old named Clementine, and they are my biggest inspirations. If I have a bad day, they ground me. There’s a lot in small business and happening in the world, but to have them and experience life through their joy and unbiased approach, it’s nice. I forget about the world and focus on them.
Will: Brian is the most level-headed person I have ever met. He has an unflappable sense of himself and I’ve never met anyone who is less traumatized by himself and how he wants to be in the world. He has a way of seeing things clearly and when I get all messed up in my head and over-complicated, he has a real ability to cut through the knot and get to the heart of things. It helps me think, “Oh right, it really is that simple!” He keeps me very balanced because I over think things and he has a gift for clarity.
What do you both enjoy most about serving the Fredericksburg community?
Brian: We do service our clients but we also feel the need to service the community we’re in and helping out with other organizations. I was on the board of Main Street when they were newly formed. I’m proud to see how far Main Street and downtown has come. There’s been a lot of forward progression in the past 10 years and now we have a lot of diversity, stores, and businesses. I feel like I’m just the cheerleader for downtown!
Will: Fredericksburg is such an ideal combination of small town and big city. It’s a community where you’re constantly running into people you know but it’s got some energy and a worldliness that I love. The city has been incredibly generous to us as newcomers. I mean, we’ve lived here for 10 years but in Fredericksburg terms that’s nothing! As relative newcomers, it’s a community that’s welcomed us with open arms, given us so much, and never made us feel like we didn’t belong here. I just want to return that favor, it’s been an incredible place to put down roots.