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Fairfax City has been working to promote its downtown retail (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Fairfax City is browsing for makers of art, crafts and other products who want to expand beyond an online shop or farmers’ market stall but aren’t quite ready to commit to a full storefront.

Those are the budding entrepreneurs that the Fairfax City Economic Development team (FCED) hopes to attract to Wander In, an upcoming retail incubator store that the city is developing with the Old Town Fairfax Business Association (OTFBA).

Announced in September, the store is expected to launch this coming winter in Old Town Plaza, replacing Sylvan Learning’s tutoring center at 3950 University Drive, Suite 211.

“Establishing Wander In as a business incubator in our historic downtown plaza is an important step in building Fairfax City’s small business retail,” Mayor Catherine Read said in the press release. “It’s a path for our local artisans from online sales and festival participation to a brick and mortar presence. Located in close proximity to a free parking garage and three very busy restaurants with outdoor dining, this multi-vendor retail offers residents and visitors a reason to wander in.”

The FCED and OTFBA concocted the idea for Wander In after the city received a grant that it wanted to use to help small businesses grow, according to Tess Rollins, the business association’s executive director.

Initially, the economic development office suggested opening a temporary pop-up store, but the local business owners on OTFBA’s board of directors were wary of supporting a new business that could compete for customers and the association’s attention.

Rollins and the FCED then pitched the board on the concept of an incubator that would not only provide retail space for up-and-coming businesses, but also educational events and resources to give them the skills needed to be viable long-term — and potentially open a permanent brick-and-mortar location in the city.

“They were more receptive of basically helping…small businesses grow because each one of them has their own establishment, whether it’s a restaurant or a retail store,” Rollins said. “So, they felt that was more in line with the mission and the core values of Old Town Fairfax Business Association.”

Applications for prospective Wander In vendors are now being accepted. Vendors must stay in the space for at least three months, be OTFBA members, obtain a city business license after the first 30 days, and pay a $200 fee each month, along with 10% of sales.

Rollins says one of the initiative’s goals is to promote businesses in Fairfax City, but it’s also open to businesses and entrepreneurs based outside city limits.

“We do want to promote other businesses who may be looking for a place in Fairfax City to see if our community is a good place for them to have an additional location,” she told FFXnow.

At the moment, there’s no limit on how many vendors will be accepted, since the capacity will depend on how much room each business needs. While most will likely sell jewelry, paintings or other artisan goods, Rollins says prepackaged food vendors could be considered.

FCED and OTFBA worked with Old Town Plaza manager Kimco Realty to secure the suite, which is in the same building as the recently opened Commonwealth Brewing Co. With the pub Earp’s Ordinary also on the way, the shopping center’s revitalization is central to the city’s Old Town Fairfax Small Area Plan, which was adopted in 2020 and seeks to make the historic downtown more active and pedestrian-friendly.

To encourage collaboration between businesses and with the larger community, Wander In will work with George Mason University’s Small Business Development Center to assist and provide training to the vendors. It will also host events both inside the store, where customers can meet and learn from the vendors, and outside.

Rollins suggests shopping days or scavenger hunts that involve other Old Town retailers as possibilities.

“I love the idea of the mix of having retail shopping with a creative experience, whether it’s ‘Meet the Maker’ or whether it’s one of their classes,” Rollins said. “I think that having the combination of the two is going to bring something different to Old Town.”

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Small businesses on Lynn Street near Nachman Way in Herndon (via Google Maps)

The Herndon Town Council wants to move forward with creating a new advisory committee focused on the small business community.

The committee would focus on developing recommendations from the town’s recent business survey, which highlighted the business community’s desire for more support from the town.

Councilmember Kevin LeBlanc introduced the recommendation at a council work session on Tuesday (Oct. 17) in response to the findings.

Respondents to the survey, conducted by Priority Metrics Group (PMG), said they would like to see the town have more business-focused events, such as networking, promotional, or informational sessions. LeBlanc said that would be the focal point of the committee.

“I feel like it’s really important that we do something that’s kind of immediate to show that we’re acting on the results,” LeBlanc said.

According to a town staff memo, the committee will have six to eight representatives of small businesses based in Herndon, and it will be in place for six months or until the recommendations are provided. The group’s job will be to “provide prioritized recommendations with details and analysis of cost/approach specific to events the town can provide or support in collaboration with other groups,” the document states.

Councilmember Donielle Scherff supported the idea of the committee, saying it would benefit the council in multiple ways, even if she feels it doesn’t go far enough.

“We get the benefit of the experience and the background of those who are serving on each individual subcommittee or committee,” she said. “And then they get our immediate attention so that there is no lapse and we are responsive.”

Councilmember Cesar del Aguila also voiced support for the idea, noting that there were “a lot of actionable items” in the survey.

“I think we pick one or two and put resources to it — let’s show that we are committed,” Aguila said.

The next steps include identifying a town council member to serve on the committee and selecting other people to be on the committee. However, the timeline is unclear, as the council said it would need legal advice on how to put the committee together.

Photo via Google Maps

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Something new is brewing in Old Town Fairfax.

Expanding operations from Virginia Beach, Commonwealth Brewing Company is gearing up to join the neighborhood with an anticipated Labor Day weekend opening at 10426 Main Street.

In honor of its opening, which will ideally come on Sept. 1, the brewery will offer a “pie and a pint” special associated with its participation in Fairfax City’s upcoming Restaurant Week. Customers can choose from one of Commonwealth’s eight signature pizzas and a draft beer for $25.

Fairfax visitors can expect “an even bigger implementation” of Commonwealth’s offerings in Virginia Beach (2444 Pleasure House Road), where the brewery serves 25 to 28 styles of beer crafted in house, owner Jeramy Biggie says.

The new Fairfax location will boast a 4,800 square-foot tap room with 48 taps, five of which will be dedicated to draft cocktails that are currently exclusive to Fairfax. It will also eventually add the coffee brand that Commonwealth recently launched in Virginia Beach.

“It’s a great, great spot right on Main Street, and it has a pretty expansive patio with outdoor seating where dogs are welcome,” Biggie told FFXnow. “I’m just really excited to see how people can respond to the beer.”

Along with specialty alcoholic beverages, Fairfax’s Commonwealth Brewing will serve freshly made food, like its signature Neopolitan wood-fired pizza, and it will experiment with “eclectic concepts” and “interesting ingredients,” such as Korean short rib and kimchi, Biggie says.

He plans to maintain a rotating menu by introducing three to five new beer styles every week and new food items every month.

“I think our ethos is all about being creative and trying to really foster an environment where people can come together and have a really enjoyable, hopefully world class product,” Biggie said.

Also new with the Fairfax location is a dedicated beer production space for Belgian-style, long-term, barrel-aged sour beers — the very beer that Biggie says first sparked his passion for becoming a commercial brewer. This particular style of beer is aged on wild bacteria for a year to three years, so it’s “a labor of love,” Biggie says.

“They’re not profitable at all, but they’re delicious, so we like to make them,” Biggie laughed. “…It’s a really small percentage of our total volume, but it’s a really important part of it.”

Beers have long since been a labor of love for Biggie, who began home-brewing around 13 years ago as a hobby while working full-time as a structural engineer.

“When I met my wife, she was studying abroad in Germany, and I flew over to Europe to spend Christmas with her over 20 years ago now, and she took me to all the hot houses and European beer gardens, and I was blown away by the food and the quality of the beer,” Biggie said. “That’s where it all kind of started for me. I came back and started seeking out more interesting beers and then that turned into home brewing.”

After a decade of home-brewing, Biggie and his wife Natalie decided to liquidate their retirement savings and “make the huge jump” into their “first-ever entrepreneurial endeavor,” Biggie recalls.

“I found I had a pretty natural ability to make recipes and really loved doing it,” Biggie said. “I loved all the social inspiration that I got from it, being able to invite the neighborhood over to come try the beers and just really got into it and got super passionate about it — basically filled my entire house with fermenters. After making all different styles over a decade and passively researching, we made a decision to open a brewery.”

Formerly based in Alexandria’s Del Rey neighborhood, the couple found no better place to break ground on their brewery than where they first met: Virginia Beach.

Now, after experiencing success by the ocean for the past eight years, the Biggies are heading back to Northern Virginia, where they hope to “create a bigger and stronger nightlife scene” in Old Town Fairfax, Biggie says.

“We know the area, we know that people up there really appreciate high-quality products,” Biggie said. “We came across the Fairfax property, and it was just amazing, and we really liked the building owner, and we loved it being in a really cool main street.”

As Commonwealth prepares to open in Fairfax at the beginning of next month, Biggie says he’s focused on integrating the brewery into the Fairfax community and involving George Mason University students, who he hopes will become regulars.

His goal, he says, is to make Commonwealth a close-knit community hub that promotes interpersonal connection.

“We want to be a community center. We want to be a place where people can come every week and meet and see each other,” Biggie continued. “…We’re the antithesis of a sports bar. We have no screens anywhere, and we really want you to focus on the beer you’re enjoying, the food you’re eating and the people you’re with.”

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Bon Tea House in Centreville (via Google Maps)

One Centreville cafe is offering something sweeter than just desserts: community.

Bôn Tea House (5718 Pickwick Road) launched a new three-part, pop-up Summer Market series this past June in hopes of bringing together the local community.

On the last Sunday of June, July and August, the small tea shop transforms into a bustling community hub, where customers can purchase an array of handcrafted items from local vendors in a monthly market-style event. Offerings include, but are not limited to, apparel, jewelry, soaps and baked goods.

“Summer market is a place where people can come and meet and support local vendors,” co-owner Danny Bae said. “We do our best to only invite or accept vendors that are in the NOVA area and who are not these major businesses, so a lot of people who don’t have a platform, a store or anything like that…they need a place to be able to advertise and sell and get their name out there.”

Danny, who started Bôn Tea House with his wife Diana and brother in 2021, says the market has grown significantly from their initial launch on June 25 to their most recent market on Sunday, July 30, despite how new and limited-edition the series is.

“After the June market, a lot of vendors reached out to us saying, ‘Can we be a part of it? How do I be a part of this?'” Danny said. “So, I think there was a lot of anticipation for the July one, so that July one was actually the biggest one in terms of traffic flow.”

Danny hinted that the upcoming market on Sunday, Aug. 27 may be the last one for the foreseeable future. Though grateful for the success of the series, he noted that the colder weather brings more complications, so their next event will likely be a one-day holiday market in the late fall or early winter, rather than a recurring series.

“We’ve had several vendors where it was their first time ever selling something like in person, and they were all very surprised at the turnout and how well it went,” Danny said. “…We were very grateful and thankful that a lot of vendors showed up, and they did their best to showcase their merchandise. It was just a really good experience for us as the host and all the vendors as well.”

According to the Baes, the vendors appreciated the opportunity to sell their wares and meet other business owners in their position.

“I think it’s great that they’re able to…see that people do enjoy what they have to offer and gain that support through the community,” Diana said.

Building community is Bôn Tea House’s founding mission, the Baes say. When closed on Mondays, they usually let locals rent the space for private events, and they are rolling out new bonding events this month, like the game nights that will be held on Tuesday (Aug. 14) and Monday, Aug. 28.

“We really wanted to create that community aspect and have people come, whether they just grab ice cream and go, or whether they’re in there for a conversation, that they could really feel like this is a place that they could relax and enjoy and come back to,” Diana said. “…So, we’re always looking for ways where we could use our space and use our platform to share our passion and what we think the community might need or want.”

Bôn Tea House began out of the Baes’ living room before they transitioned to a small window in D.C., where they became “the first ones” to serve specialty matcha desserts, Diana says.

As they began to receive outpourings of support from the local community, the Baes knew they had something special and eventually sought an official storefront. Coming from a Korean background, the Baes settled on Centreville for its strong Korean community.

Along with tea, Bôn Tea House specializes in ice cream, with matcha as its best-seller. The cafe prides itself on using fresh, in-house ingredients and taking the “time and effort to really try and bring out the flavors,” Danny says.

Now, the Baes are focused on forming a tight-knit community in Centreville, though many of their loyal D.C. followers still yearn for them to return to the nation’s capital, Diana says.

“We’re just trying to be this local mom-and-pop shop where people can come and gather and have a nice meeting with their friends and family and just enjoy their tea,” Danny said. “We wanted to showcase the Asian American culture, whether it’s our styling through our merch or through the flavors of our ice cream and teas.”

Photo via Google Maps

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Fujisan arrived at 10698 Fairfax Blvd at the beginning of the month (staff photo by Vivian Hoang)

A new Japanese restaurant has rolled into Fairfax City, opening its doors on Aug. 1.

Located at 10698 Fairfax Blvd next to Party City, Fujisan offers a wide selection of Japanese delicacies like wagyu steak, donburi (rice bowls) and ramen, but particularly specializes in sushi with options for both raw and cooked fish. Hibachi is also available, though it’s not cooked at the table.

For its soft opening period, Fujisan is offering 10% off the first order each customer makes using its website.

Fujisan’s official ribbon-cutting will take place on Sept. 14 at 11 a.m. Fairfax City Mayor Catherine Read says she recently organized the grand opening after learning about the new restaurant from a friend and trying out its food for herself.

“The hibachi was great, the soup is great, the quality of the food is great,” Read said. “It’s a cute little restaurant…I can hardly keep up with the number of new businesses opening in the city. And these ribbon cuttings are a great way to bring out [Fairfax City] Economic Development, local press and to get people to come by.”

Owner Kathy Yan, who previously operated a hibachi restaurant in Montgomery County, Maryland, says she moved to Fairfax two years ago. Since then, she has been working towards opening Fujisan, named after Japan’s tallest mountain, Mt. Fuji.

She expressed her desires to deliver an “upscale casual” dining experience that she says she hasn’t been able to find in the area.

“I go to those fancy restaurants in D.C., Arlington all the time,” Yan said. “I like the atmosphere, I like the seating, I like chatting with my friends, but I just think we pay too much for the food, so I want to give people a similar experience here but not so expensive. Good food, good environment but not super fancy prices.”

Yan says Fujisan works hard to keep prices low without sacrificing high quality, offering special lunch deals under $20 that are prepared by top chefs with “many years” of prior experience working in New York and at “five star hotels” in D.C.

“We have very, very good price compared to our food quality, presentation and fresh fish,” Yan said.

Customers especially seem to love the Fujisan Box Deluxe, which offers a combination of sushi and sashimi at a discounted rate, according to Yan. Salmon volcano rice — consisting of “seared salmon with a poached egg over rice” — is another crowd favorite for those who may not enjoy raw fish as much, she says.

Yan noted that Fujisan also caters towards younger customers, offering a special kids’ bento box and deep fried ice cream that has been popular among children.

“[We’ve gotten] I think 90% positive feedback,” Yan said. “People are happy.”

Yan’s next hurdle to overcome is obtaining a liquor license so Fujisan can introduce cocktail specials in time for its grand opening next month.

“We’ll have happy hour all week,” Yan laughed.

Yan’s future plans, however, are much loftier than just one license, as she aims to expand operations in the next few years.

“Here, we want to start small, and we want to have more interaction with our customers — we want more personal experience,” Yan said. “So we don’t want it too big. We want izakaya style, like more casual dining but still good food. So we hope to be able to open more locations in the coming three and five years in this area.”

Until then, Yan is focused on her one storefront and making sure Fairfax residents know that Fujisan is open and eager to serve new customers.

“We want more people to know we are here, we are open,” Yan said. “I believe once they know we are open, they come here, and they will come back. Even though we don’t have many customers since we are new, a lot of them have already come back three times.”

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A new shop in Old Town Fairfax hopes to spark fresh joy with its shelves of vintage wares.

Lucy Loves celebrated its official grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony yesterday (Thursday) after initially opening its doors at 10414 Main Street on Saturday, July 1.

With its eclectic, handmade items, the vintage shop is appropriately located down a small alleyway tucked behind the Vietnamese restaurant East Wind, offering the impression of a hidden gem.

Though narrow, the hallways of the store managed to fit local residents, Old Town Fairfax Business Association members, Fairfax City Economic Development Authority officials and Fairfax City Mayor Catherine Read.

“This kind of business is the kind of business that Old Town Fairfax has been missing,” Read said.

Lucy Loves is an outgrowth of the Fairfax Funky Flea, an outdoor flea market that operates on the last Saturday of every month from April to November. Owner Sharon Buttram says she and longtime friend Kathy Hackshaw decided to launch the now-popular flea market in 2021 after bonding over a mutual love of hunting for vintage odds and ends at thrift shops and estate sales.

“I love mixing old stuff and new stuff, and I like making it current,” Buttram said. “…I don’t want my house to be a museum of old stuff. I like to mix it up and be really eclectic in my approach. So we just thought we should do a flea market. We love going to flea markets.”

Lucy Loves currently sells a mix of items like clothing, jewelry and pottery from 16 commissioned local vendors, many of whom Buttram recruited from Fairfax Funky Flea. But in the future, Buttram hopes to also use the cozy space for community gatherings.

“I’d also like this to become a cornerstone of the community as well as an event space,” Buttram said. “Like, if you want to have a conversation about something, let’s have conversation nights. I think after a couple of years of isolation with Covid, we were starved for person-to-person [interaction]. We want to touch things…Everything you see here, you can find online, but it’s a different experience when you go, and you can touch it, and you’re supporting somebody small.”

Read sees Lucy Loves as “exactly the kind of business that people want in a historic downtown.”

“They want some place where they can go to lunch or go to dinner and wander around and pop their head into shops and spend 30 minutes looking at everything in the shop,” she said.

According to Read, Fairfax City has been working to attract more businesses and shoppers so it can better compete with major shopping centers like Fairfax Corner, Mosaic District and Tysons Corner Center.

“I think Lucy Loves is the beginning of seeing more of this kind of retail want to come to our downtown,” Read said. “This is a very promising turn of events for the City of Fairfax because we want to attract visitors. But we also want our residents to stay here. We want our residents to dine here, shop here, attend our events here and to support businesses just like this one.”

In the future, Buttram envisions collaborating with George Mason University students to further engage them in the creative process.

“I’m really excited about a bigger partnership with GMU, and I’ve talked to them about doing workshops for students in their makerspace,” Buttram said. “But I’m also talking to them about even [giving] makers on campus that want to sell things [an opportunity to sell here].”

But for now, Buttram is proud of what she’s accomplished, finally cutting a ribbon on a shop named after her grandmother — “an original thrifty soul” who loved everything, she says.

“I’m really proud of the shop and the turnout today and of all my friends and family in the city,” Buttram said. “I love doing it here in the city. I’ve lived here for 30 years, and it’s just my absolute favorite place here in Virginia. So to have this here is the culmination of all the things I’ve wanted and then to have all my friends come out and support me, it’s been really meaningful to me.”

“This is a small shop, and I fully expect that one of these days, they will outgrow this space,” Read said. “But for now, having a space that’s over full of things is a good thing.”

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A new cupcake business has landed at Fair Oaks Mall, adding a sprinkle of delight to visitors’ shopping experience.

Located near the mall’s upper-level food court next to a smoothie shop, Irresistible Cupcakes (11750 Fair Oaks Mall) celebrated its soft opening on Thursday, June 29.

Though Sunday, July 1 marked Irresistible Cupcakes’ official grand opening, founder and owner Fatima Reid has decided to extend the celebration through the entire month of July.

Until Aug. 1, Irresistible Cupcakes is sweetening the deal with a discount in honor of its grand opening: buy four or six cupcakes, get one free. Purchases of a dozen cupcakes are also discounted.

Reid says her cupcakes are freshly baked in the morning, and she hand-makes all of the cupcake batter and buttercream.

“Irresistible Cupcakes does everything from scratch,” Reid said. “So we use high-quality products and whatever I think are the finest products to produce a good quality cupcake and cake. I don’t cut any corners on that at all.”

Reid turned to baking cupcakes as her full-time career after losing her job in 2017, inspired by friends and family who insisted that there was something “special” about the cakes she would make during the holidays, she says.

Though Reid didn’t initially believe in her ability to perform physical labor and questioned whether her cupcakes could truly stand out against the pack, her husband and a higher calling gave her the final push to pick up a whisk and get to work.

“My husband said if you’re going to do this, you’ve got to be all the way in,” Reid said. “So I just researched and prayed about where I should go next.”

Launching her cupcake business out of her home kitchen, Reid went from selling baked treats at her local Bible study to opening her own store, which migrated across the D.C. region from Joint Base Andrews in Maryland to Fort Belvoir to Springfield Mall.

Reid settled on Fair Oaks Mall as Irresistible Cupcakes’ next spot after her storefront in Springfield Mall closed, because she would have access to an in-store kitchen, something she has long sought.

“My wonderful big fat oven that I love so dearly has brought me much joy in this last month here,” Reid laughed.

Now, she makes the 26-mile commute from Upper Marlboro, Maryland, to Fairfax every morning to open the store at 11 a.m. and close at 8 p.m.

“I’m excited at being welcomed at Fair Oaks Mall and to the Fairfax community,” Reid said. “It’s a wonderful community, and it seems like the people are very kind and very welcoming to us.”

Reid says she’s observed over the last five years that, wherever her business operates, the residents seem to gravitate towards different cupcake and cake flavors, creating different lineups of best-sellers.

“Here, they love pineapple upside-down, strawberry shortcake, strawberry cupcakes,” Reid said. “And definitely the red velvet and the caramel. The caramel is a huge hit…and the rum is a great cake as well.”

In the future, Reid hopes to expand her menu to include more vegan options, and she is seeking another store manager to help run day-to-day operations when she isn’t there.

Until then, she’s focused on “figuring out what works best for Irresistible to flow” seamlessly and giving her customers “a great experience” when they come into the mall, she says.

“It’s not just a bite of heaven, but it’s a good experience,” Reid said.

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Twelve Twenty Coffee is one of three tenants left in the food hall after Urbanspace and Tysons Galleria parted ways (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Barely a year after relaunching its food hall, Tysons Galleria is angling for yet another reboot.

Andy’s Pizza, Empanadas De Mendoza and Twelve Twenty Coffee are the only eateries remaining on the mall’s third floor after the recent departure of Urbanspace, the New York-based market operator that oversaw the “Taste of Urbanspace” food hall.

Brookfield Properties, which owns Tysons Galleria, confirmed to FFXnow that it “did part ways” with Urbanspace after more than four years, a period disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The developer was unable to share details about what led to the breakup, but it hasn’t given up on the space.

“We have new tenants that will be announced soon,” Brookfield spokesperson Lindsay Kahn said, stating that the property owner is now handling the leasing itself instead of using a partner.

Urbanspace didn’t return a request for comment by press time.

In the meantime, however, the loss of Urbanspace has added an element of uncertainty for at least one of the remaining shops.

Emphasizing that she wasn’t speaking for either of the other vendors, Twelve Twenty Coffee owner Victoria Smith describes the future as “really in limbo right now” for a floor that has seen plenty of upheaval over the years.

“Since Twelve Twenty has been at Tysons, there’s been a lot of change,” she said. “…For us, I would say that we are definitely blessed to have a space, but it’s challenging. It’s a challenging space.”

Toward the top of the list is the stress of covering rent and other expenses, a challenge familiar to any small business, particularly in an expensive area like Tysons. But Smith also cites more specific hurdles, like the mall’s 11 a.m. opening time — less than ideal for a coffee shop — and the loss of the lunchtime office crowd that was once a core part of the mall’s customer base.

Then, there’s the arrangement with Urbanspace, which Smith says may have created “a disconnect” when it came to marketing and communications.

When discussing Twelve Twenty Coffee, Smith likes to highlight its status as a woman-owned, Black-owned business and her commitment to working with other local, women and/or minority-owned businesses, such as Toimoi Bakery and Bisnonna Bakeshop.

Press materials for the food hall’s relaunch last year, however, mostly focused on Smith’s previous role as an events director and assistant general manager for Urbanspace Tysons.

“They’re not sharing our stories, how we want to be represented or the information we’d like them to know, because it kind of seemed like it was a little bit…third party, I guess?” Smith said. “You know, when it’s like a step removed, when you’re not talking to someone, it’s not as personal or whatever.”

Taste of Urbanspace opened in December 2018 as a replacement for Isabella Eatery, a food hall that shut down after just nine months of operations following declining sales and a sexual harassment lawsuit against its namesake, celebrity chef Mike Isabella. Read More

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(Updated 3:45 p.m.) Local charitable organization Western Fairfax Christian Ministries (4511 Daly Drive J) welcomed Sen. Mark Warner through its doors last week.

On Friday, June 16, Warner toured WFCM’s food pantry and warehouse in Chantilly and participated in a roundtable discussion with WFCM leaders and partners, such as the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Washington, Fairfax County Neighborhood and Community Services, Fairfax County Public Schools, Wegmans, Boy Scouts and Kings of Kings Lutheran Church.

WFCM primarily provides financial resources and free food and toiletries to residents of Fairfax County’s Sully District.

WFCM Executive Director Harmonie Taddeo says Warner had reached out to Sully District Supervisor Kathy Smith to see how federal funding designated to the district during the COVID-19 pandemic has been used.

“What an opportunity for him to be able to see that this is how your money’s been spent, right?” Taddeo, who led Warner on the tour of WFCM’s facilities, said. “You approve these bills? Now, here’s literally the milk in the refrigerators that [those bills] paid for.”

In 2020 and 2021, WFCM received $1 million and $1.2 million respectively, from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Emergency rent assistance funds also granted WFCM $5.5 million in 2021, and the American Rescue Plan Act gave WFCM $257,588 in 2022 and $151,480 in 2023, according to a handout provided by the nonprofit.

These funds provided relief for WFCM, which saw a marked increase in need as soon as the pandemic hit.

“Before the pandemic, we were probably serving 300 families a month in the food pantry, and we spiked all the way up to 650,” Taddeo said. “Now we’re about 500 to 550 every single month…So the needs are just so much greater, and we think they’re going to take a long time to go back.”

With WFCM continuing to experience high demand for its services, Food Pantry Manager Kristine Hurt implored Warner to relay to Congress the significance of funding local food pantries like WFCM.

“I hope you see, beside our hearts, that we’re very efficient with money here,” Hurt said during the discussion. “And when you’re saying you need to cut things, I hope that you can go and share that this is a program that is using every dollar better than anybody else could in my opinion.”

Acknowledging the concerns over the potential decrease in federal funding for local food programs as emergency funds authorized during the pandemic dwindle, Warner told FFXnow that his office will continue to defend local organizations that had been assisted.

“How do we make sure that these great initiatives where we’re really stretching dollars don’t disappear because the Covid funds are going to run out?” Warner said. “…[We’re going to] see if we can do more in terms of direct investment, but also in terms of seeing if we can even give greater tax credit benefits.”

Warner also noted that he plans to continue using his platform to combat food insecurity locally through the Farm Bill, which he co-sponsored with Sen. Tim Kaine in 2018.

“Most of the food programs are actually funded through the Department of Agriculture and the Farm Bill,” Warner said. “[The Farm Bill] usually goes for five years — it sets up all the programs, things like these food relief programs…This is the year that it’s supposed to get renewed. So we’re trying to build in things like this challenge around food deserts.” Read More

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Town of Herndon government offices (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

The Town of Herndon is exploring the creation of a new business incubator.

The project is intended to promote e-commerce and establish the town as a tech-savvy area.

Partnerships could include George Mason University, Virginia Small Business Development Center, and Office Evolution, an office space rental agency based in Herndon. Overall, the incubator would offer education and training for entrepreneurs and small business in an effort to boost business growth and overall independence.

The project is in the early planning phases.

“The Town Council has not yet adopted a resolution authorizing the incubator project; that is anticipated to come before the council at its December meeting,” town spokesperson Anne Curtis wrote in a statement to FFXnow.

At a meeting in mid-October, the town council explored the possibility of the project.

Office Evolution would act as the incubator for the project. Mason Enterprise Center Services, a business development service affiliated with GMU, would offer programatic support, including access to its mentor team, discounts for recruiting and payroll services, and access to capstone students and interns.

The project could also include counseling and training services, along with information on marketing, sale, financing and financial management.

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