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KISSED WITH FIRE
M AT TH E W E A D S TURNS LOVE OF GRILLING INTO A NEW CAREER
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FROM THE PUBLISHER GRILLERS AND SPELLERS
e try to put it off as long as possible, but one of the saddest days of the year at our house is the day we have to cover up the grill for winter. It means no more long evening meals on the deck, lingering as the sun sets and listening to the frogs and the crickets while we enjoy a juicy hamburger or steak. (And thankfully, not having to listen to the cicadas any more.) During the summer, we often grill (charcoal only – none of this gas stuff!) two or three times a week. And while the menu is usually simple, I always thought of myself as something of an expert – until I read this month’s cover story about Matthew Eads, Ashburn’s own “Grillseeker.” Eads has written a book, gained thousands of social media followers and appeared on national television to talk about grilling. It’s easy to understand why, as he told editor Chris Wadsworth, Eads is often asked: “How do I get that job?” And his mac-n’cheese recipe is definitely being added to our summer to-do list. Elsewhere in the magazine this issue, writer Jill Devine will introduce you to another Ashburn resident with an amazing story: 95-year-old Carl Johnson, who lives in Potomac Green and was the last graduate from the famed “Tuskegee Airman” program
for Black pilots during World War II. Although Johnson didn’t see action in that war, he went on to serve our country with honor for 24 years, including commanding over 1,000 men in a combat aviation battalion in Vietnam. Nope, they just don’t make them like that anymore. And if you’ve always wondered what the deal is with those small cemeteries in odd places, such as next to the Chipotle in Ryan Park or the CVS at Farmwell Hunt Plaza, well, we have some answers – along with the story of an Ashburn teen who helped to restore one of them. Finally this month, how about a shout-out to Brambleton’s own Ashrita Gandhari, who just finished eighth grade at Stone Hill Middle School? Ashrita, who we profiled in our May 2019 issue, was one of only 11 spellers to reach the finals of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, which were held July 8. (Check our website for an update on how Ashrita did.) Congrats, Ashrita! And with that, we hope you all enjoy the rest of your s-u-m-m-e-r!
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contents 08 our neighbors A PAINFUL PAST Ashburn teen’s bizarre accident changed his life forever BY CHRIS WADSWORTH
12 cover story KISSED WITH FIRE Ashburn man turns love of grilling into a new career BY CHRIS WADSWORTH
18 time travel feature
real estate round-up
HALLOWED GROUND Old family cemeteries abound in Ashburn
The latest facts and figures about home sales in Ashburn
BY JILL DEVINE
26 time of our lives feature THE LAST TUSKEGEE AIRMAN Ashburn veteran was final graduate from famed World War II program BY JILL DEVINE
wine & dine BEAUTIFUL BOARDS The Cornichon has taken cheese and charcuterie to a whole new level BY CHRIS WADSWORTH
42 local adventures SKATING THROUGH TIME Roller rink encompasses 120 years of local history BY JIM LENAHAN
46 the burn
ON THE COVER Matthew Eads, the Grillseeker, on his deck in Ashburn. Photograph by Astri Wee of Astri Wee Photography
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A Painful Past Tragic accident changed Ashburn teen’s life forever
BY C H R I S WADSWO RT H
cars are a difficult thing. Some of us carry scars on the outside. Others carry scars on the inside. It’s the unfortunate soul who carries both. Samuel MooreSobel grew up in Ashburn Farm and attended Stone Bridge High School. In the summer between his freshman and sophomore years, MooreSobel was involved in a sudden and shocking accident that has affected his life ever since. Moore-Sobel — who now works in global cloud security for Amazon — has written a book about his life, the accident and his recovery called “Can You See My Scars.” It was released last year by publisher Mascot Books. Ashburn Magazine talked with Moore-Sobel, 27, who lives with his wife, Megan, in Leesburg.
8 • ASHBURN MAGAZINE • JULY/AUGUST 2021
TAKE US BACK TO THAT DAY — THE DAY OF THE ACCIDENT. WHAT HAPPENED? I was hired by a man in my community to move boxes out of his garage and into a nearby storage unit. Nothing went as planned. Long story short, we ended up filling a U-Haul truck with the man’s belongings and taking them to his friend’s house for storage in her shed. The man told me that his friend’s house was “just down the road.” Turns out, his friend lived 45 minutes away. When we arrived, the friend’s shed was filled with items. We had to empty the shed so that we could fit the man’s belongings inside.
opened box and saw books and hay. “Toss it,” the woman said. So I did. The minute it hit the ground I heard an explosion. I could see a liquid substance flying toward me. Within seconds, I felt like I was on fire.
HOW DID THE ACTUAL ACCIDENT UNFOLD? A box made its way into my hands. I looked down at the
WHAT WAS IT? WHAT WAS IN THE BOX? Sulfuric acid. It was in a glass jar at the bottom of the box.
skin and prevent infection. After that surgery, I was released from the hospital. And just like that, my life had changed forever.
‘Toss it,’ the woman said. So I did. The minute it hit the ground I heard an explosion. I could see a liquid substance flying toward me. Within seconds, I felt like I was on fire.
WHAT WERE YOUR INJURIES? I suffered second- and third-degree burns to my face and arms. I was rushed to Winchester Medical Center and placed into the chemical shower. Then I was flown to Children’s Hospital in Washington. I underwent a debridement surgery to clean the affected areas, remove dead
YOUR INJURIES LEFT SCARS — THE TITLE OF YOUR BOOK. WHAT WERE THE VISIBLE SCARS? At that point, my face looked like it was covered with dark black, brown and green stains. Over time, bright red scars formed on my face and arms. I have scars across my neck, cheeks and forehead and a few scattered across my right arm. WHAT HAPPENED TO THE MAN? WERE THERE ANY CRIMINAL CHARGES OR WERE YOU ABLE TO BE FINANCIALLY COMPENSATED? I don’t know what happened to the man — I haven’t spoken to him since the day of the
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accident. I do know that no criminal charges were brought against him. There was a civil suit, but I’m not able to discuss the details. YOU HAD TO MISS A LOT OF SCHOOL. HOW DID THAT IMPACT YOU? I missed the first two months of school. During that time, teachers would come to my house in the afternoon to teach me at my dining room table. When I returned to school later that fall, it was jarring. I felt overwhelmed by the experience of walking through a crowded hallway. I was worried a backpack might accidentally hit my face and subsequently reverse the healing process. I was really worried about how I would be received by my classmates, whether I would be a target for bullying. HIGH SCHOOL IS SUCH A CRITICAL FORMATIVE TIME. HOW DID YOUR SCARS IMPACT THAT EXPERIENCE? I really struggled to connect with my peers. I felt like an outcast. My friends from freshman year mostly drifted away. I felt like they just didn’t know how to interact with me
(Left) Samuel Moore-Sobel, shortly after the accident that saw sulfuric acid splashed on his face; (right) Moore-Sobel today with his wife, Megan. after the accident. Academically, I still managed to get decent grades, although it was hard to keep up. Socially, I definitely didn’t fit in. I was involved in a lot of extracurricular activities, but I was struggling to stay afloat, and the frequent surgeries, followed by lengthy recovery periods, didn’t leave much time for a social life. IN THE YEARS SINCE — COLLEGE, CAREER, MARRIAGE — HOW DID YOU RECOVER FROM YOUR EXPERIENCE AND WHAT PARTS HAVE STAYED WITH YOU? Physically, I've recovered well. Most people say they can no longer see my scars. It took me much longer to reach emotional healing. I carried
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this experience with me into adulthood, especially in romantic relationships. I had convinced myself that my scars (both inside and out) made me unlovable. BUT YOU’RE HAPPILY MARRIED NOW. Yes. I came to a place where I decided that despite my scars (and perhaps even because of my scars), I was worth loving. Soon after, I met my wife. She helped me overcome any remaining feelings of inadequacy and insecurity I felt over my scars. To say I am grateful to her doesn’t do it justice. Our relationship has been a healing and beautiful chapter in what had been a long and painful journey up to that point.
YOU CHOSE TO WRITE A BOOK. WHAT WAS THAT EXPERIENCE LIKE? It took several years to write “Can You See My Scars?” I wanted to find the right words to describe what I had experienced. So much of what had happened felt indescribable. It was painful reliving the experience. But now that it’s out, I feel at peace. Publishing this book was the final step in a process to move on from the past and into the present. A For more about Samuel Moore-Sobel and his story, as well as upcoming events and speaking engagements, visit www.samuelmoore-sobel.com.
onehourloudoun.com 571-367-7713 ASHBURN MAGAZINE • JULY/AUGUST 2021 • 11
PHOTOGRAPHY BY ASTRI WEE
KISSED WITH FIRE ASHBURN MAN TURNS LOVE OF GRILLING INTO A NEW CAREER
BY C H R I S WADSWO RT H
BY ASTRI WEE
shburn backyards are full of grills and would-be grill gurus. Every nice weekend in the summer, hundreds, even thousands, of local residents fire up their grills and pile them high with burgers, ribs, steaks, you name it. It’s as Ashburn — and as American — as apple pie. But not every griller takes it to the next level and turns grilling into a lucrative and rewarding career. Meet Matthew Eads, better known as the “Grillseeker.” He has parlayed a life-long love of grilling into writing a best-selling book, gaining tens of thousands of followers on social media and making local and national television appearances across the country. “When I tell people I cook meat for a living, it’s always met with the same response: ‘How do I get that job?’” said the 47-year-old resident of Ashburn Overlook off Belmont Ridge Road. It’s been quite a journey. Eads was raised outside Detroit and remembers hanging out with his best friend at a fort they had built in the woods. Tired of bologna sandwiches, the duo decided to up their game. “Our fort was the Taj Mahal of forts, and we built a grill out there. I ‘borrowed’ my mother’s cast iron pan and we made our first meal — bacon, eggs and potatoes — over a fire on the grill we built ourselves,” Eads said. “I knew from that moment on that I was hooked on grilling over live fire, and I’ve been passionate about it ever since.”
ASHBURN MAGAZINE • JULY/AUGUST 2021 • 13
(Left top to bottom) Matthew Eads with “Today” guest host Heather McMahan and host Hoda Kotb; Eads appearing on Fox News; Eads videotaping an infomercial for a grilling product; Eads’ first book. (Right) Eads during his time in the Marines. Eads kept on grilling. He was grilling when he joined the Marines at 17, and he was grilling when he left his military career to enroll at Penn State at age 30. He was grilling when he started a new career with General Electric, and he was grilling when he started to get the itch to make a change. “I was 40 years old, and I basically realized I was paying a nanny to raise my youngest daughter,” said the father of three girls. “I knew that I wanted to do something else.” That’s when one of his daughters suggested he launch an Instagram page with photos of all the amazing dishes he makes on the grill — not just meats, but side dishes like grilled beans, grilled macaroni and cheese and even grilled desserts. “Most people think about grilling as being only meat over very high heat,” Eads said. “That’s a misconception. You can control the zones of heat in your grill and use it just like an oven. You can make grilled banana splits, grilled angel food cakes. I even do a tortilla that is filled with all the things in a s’more. When you take a food that isn’t normally kissed with fire and flame and smoke, it brings it to another level.” With beautiful photos of his amazing dishes, Eads’ social media page took off, and soon companies started sending him products like sauces and rubs to try out and hopefully promote. These became paid endorsements, and a burgeoning business was born. “When I started this gig, I made a promise to myself to not promote any product, for any amount of money, that I wouldn’t feel proud to give as a gift to a friend or family,” he said. “That stands true today.” Eads started a website and a blog and found there was a huge audience for his recipes, tips and techniques. That’s when Utah-based Cedar Fort Publishing came calling. They were interested in doing a book with Eads about grilling. “Grill Seeker: Basic Training for Everyday Grilling” was published in April 2019 and soon became a bestseller. On Amazon, it not only reached No. 1 among grilling and barbecue books but also reached No. 8 out of all books. “Grill Seeker is our best-selling cookbook and in high demand,” said Dru Huffaker, executive vice president of sales 14 • ASHBURN MAGAZINE • JULY/AUGUST 2021
and marketing at Cedar Fort. “Matt has done an incredible job of leveraging his expertise as a chef to make gourmet dishes accessible to everyday foodies.” The cookbook begat a series of television appearances. First stop was Richmond, then D.C., and soon Eads was appearing on morning news programs in Chicago, Arizona, Los Angeles and elsewhere. “Fox & Friends” on the Fox News Channel was his first national appearance, followed by a cooking demonstration on NBC’s “Today” show.
Eads said he normally doesn’t feel any nerves before a TV appearance but going on the “Today” show rattled him a little bit. “I met [‘Today’ host] Hoda Kotb maybe three minutes before we went live, and I thought, ‘Holy crap, that’s Hoda.’ She sensed I was nervous and looked me dead in the eye and said, ‘You’re here because you deserve to be here,’” Eads recalled. “I really appreciated her saying those words. I thought, ‘You’re right. Let’s do this.’ And we had a great time. After we wrapped, everyone in the studio came over and they were all eating the food and they loved it. For me, that’s the biggest accolade.” Eads moved to Ashburn from Fairfax County last year during the peak of the pandemic. The social distancing means he hasn’t met too many people so far, but at least some of his new neighbors have discovered his magical talents. “I love barbecue. When I was pregnant, I ate barbecue for nine straight days. Nothing comes between me and my barbecue,” said Carol Corneby, who lives two doors down from Eads. “He made me a rack of pork ribs with a thick Kansas City barbecue sauce. It
See next page for Matthew’s T H E BEST SMOKED M AC ‘ N ’ C H E E S E r e c i p e
was sweet and tangy, and the meat was very tender. It was just perfect.” The future for Grillseeker LLC is as bright as one of Eads’ red hot flames. He has already written his second grilling cookbook. It’s currently scheduled to be released in April 2022 — just in time for Memorial Day, Father’s Day and the summer grilling season. And a third book is in the works as well. Longer term, Eads is in the beginning stages of working on his own spice and sauce product line. And for a guy who calls TV his “sweet spot,” he’d love to one day do something with the Food Network or other culinary television channels. “The fact that I am able to share my passion and impart it to other people is everything,” Eads said. “I literally go to sleep at night — and wake up every morning — thinking about what I can create on the grill.” A You can see more of Eads’ recipes and culinary creations at his website: www.grillseeker.com.
ASHBURN MAGAZINE • JULY/AUGUST 2021 • 15
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16 • ASHBURN MAGAZINE • JULY/AUGUST 2021
M AT T H E W EADS’
THE BEST SMOKED MAC ‘N’ CHEESE INGREDIENTS 16 oz. cavatappi pasta (or elbow macaroni) 8 oz. extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded 8 oz. Gruyere cheese, shredded 1/2 tsp. chicken bouillon powder 5 tbsp. salted butter 2 tbsp. of all-purpose flour 2 cup heavy whipping cream 2 cup milk 2 tsp. salt, or to taste 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper, or to taste 1/2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper 1/2 tsp. garlic powder 2 tbsp. parsley, finely chopped DIRECTIONS 1: Light grill or smoker and set up for indirect heat. Establish temperature at 225° F. 2: Cook pasta on a stovetop, according to the box’s instructions, but for only half of the recommended time in order for the pasta to be al dente. Drain pasta through a colander, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Rinse pasta with cold water to stop the cooking process and set aside. 3: In a large cast iron skillet over medium heat on the stovetop, add butter and let it melt. Once melted, whisk in flour to make a roux. Cook over medium heat for 3 minutes stirring constantly. 4: To the roux, whisk in milk, cream, pasta water, chicken bouillon, salt, cayenne pepper, black pepper, and garlic powder. Continue whisking for an additional 5 minutes, until steam is rising off the mixture. 5: Remove from heat and add in shredded cheeses, continue to stir until they are melted thoroughly. Mixture will be very thin at this point. 6: Pour macaroni into cheese sauce and fold together, then place in preheated grill or smoker over indirect heat. Add maple wood chunks to hot coals and allow pasta to smoke for one hour, stirring about every 15 minutes.
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time travel feature
Hallowed GROUND Old family cemeteries abound in Ashburn BY JI L L DE V IN E
18 • ASHBURN MAGAZINE • JULY/AUGUST 2021
arly last year, Jack Gray and his family were out for a walk when they noticed old headstones in the woods near the golf course at Brambleton Regional Park. The Brambleton family had stumbled upon the remains of the Lyons Family Civil War Cemetery. Jack, 15 and a Boy Scout, had been looking for a project he could lead to earn his Eagle Scout badge. When he saw the cemetery, inspiration struck. “We found a stone wall and, at first, didn’t know what it was. As soon as I
realized that we were looking at a cemetery, I knew this would be a great Eagle project for me,” said Jack, who after doing some research set out to restore the cemetery with the help of his troop and other volunteers. “I knew I was looking at a piece of history, right here in our neighborhood.” Jack had found what so many others in Ashburn have also discovered — there is history all around us in the form of old cemeteries. Many are small family plots, dating to Ashburn’s farming days, often sitting in plain sight in the most unusual places. Take the tiny cemetery tucked between busy Shellhorn Road and the Chipotle restaurant at Ashburn’s Shoppes at Ryan Park. It seems so out of place – one lonely grave, separated from a parking lot and a Giant grocery store by a small patch of grass and a chain link fence. The single headstone honors husband and wife George (1847–1900) and Mary (18491933) Fouche, who were buried in a family cemetery on land owned for generations by George’s ancestors. According to newspaper
(Left to right) The Fouche Cemetery off Shellhorn Road, the Freeman Cemetery in Brambleton, the Craven Cemetery off Farmwell Road.
obituaries, George was a “well-known have struggled to work around the old community’s numerous small cemeteries. citizen” who died of pneumonia, and when All gravesites are protected under Virginia Mary died at age 84, “many gathered to pay law, but developers’ solutions have her tribute.” There may be other unmarked sometimes been less than ideal. graves at the site as well, but George and Some are strangely close to homes — Mary’s children were buried at town such as the French/Bradshaw Cemetery cemeteries in Leesburg and Herndon. in Loudoun Valley Estates. Steve Thompson, an Others are wedged against archaeologist for Loudoun retail centers — like the Craven County’s Office of Planning and Cemetery near the CVS Zoning, said the Fouche gravesite Pharmacy by Farmwell Road. is just one of 219 cemeteries And some, sadly, are left to currently identified in a Loudoun fade away in the woods — such County database. Almost 20 of as the Etcher Cemetery, on those are in or near Ashburn. STEVE THOMPSON private property off Sycolin That list will probably grow. Road, near the entrance to the “Previously unrecorded cemeteries Academies of Loudoun. continue to be discovered through the land When land is sold in Virginia, the buyer development applications process, while becomes the owner of any graves on the others are reported by county residents,” property, except in rare cases when family Thompson said. members retain ownership of graves Spreading Development through a deed. As long as the graves are Since bulldozers first arrived in not disturbed, owners are not obligated to maintain gravesites in any way. They rural Ashburn in the 1980s, developers
must provide access for descendants or researchers to visit, although they can require visitors to make an appointment to do so. If development is planned near known graves, the owner must try to locate and notify descendants and must follow county requirements regarding cemeteries. It is a felony to knowingly disturb human remains. Developers will search records and conduct history and physical archeology studies of the entire property before construction can begin. “The difficulty is that gravesites are not always readily apparent,” Thompson said.
Time Takes its Toll
While some families could afford headstones, many graves were marked only by field stones or wooden markers that have long since decayed. This presents a dire situation for many gravesites, especially those of thousands of African Americans who were enslaved at Loudoun plantations, because they were almost always buried in remote areas marked by ASHBURN MAGAZINE • JULY/AUGUST 2021 • 19
only a stone or nothing at all, making them difficult to discover. Sometimes the only clues are depressions in the ground or the presence of non-native groundcovers or flowering plants. “Almost certainly some gravesites prior to the 20th century have been developed over if there is no lasting record of them in the county property records and surface indications of unrecorded cemeteries was not seen during development,” Thompson said.
Preserving Family Plots
State law allows landowners to relocate graves, Thompson said, but that requires a court order and is not common, primarily due to public opposition and the associated costs. To accommodate the Route 28/Nokes Boulevard interchange project in 2007, the Virginia Department of Transportation spent $100,000 relocating as many as 40 graves, some more than 200 years old, from a Loudoun site known as the Kilgour/ Hummer Cemetery. Most of the graves were moved to Herndon’s Chestnut Grove Cemetery, including those of George Kilgour, a mill operator who owned the land
20 • ASHBURN MAGAZINE • JULY/AUGUST 2021
in the early 1700s, and his wife, Run Church Cemetery (also Martina. called Hillside), in his backyard In 1996, to expand a runway at off Waxpool Road was a big Washington Dulles International selling point when he bought Airport, the Metropolitan his home in 1997. Washington Airports Authority “This area was once dairy relocated 28 marked graves, cattle country, so the cemetery CATHERINE BOONE dated from 1871 to 1985, from went straight to my heart as a the McCullock/Moran/Stallion testimony to the cattle industry Cemetery, with almost all going to Chestnut producers who lived here,” he said. Grove at the request of descendants. Both he and his neighbor, Catherine Fairfax Genealogical Society records list Boone, said they feel protective of the four other cemeteries that were relocated cemetery, which is visible from their back during the airport’s construction in the late windows. 1950s, and local historians speculate that “My own children are comfortable with other cemeteries, unknown to the FAA at the cemetery being there, but I’ve taught time of development, could lie under the them to respect it and not pass the fence airport’s buildings and runways. without me,” Boone said. “And I do keep a watchful eye when someone enters the area.” Respect And Honor Both neighbors agree that Nineteenth-century British prime deterioration is part of a cemetery’s minister William Ewart Gladstone once lifespan, although Wiesemeyer said it said that how a community treats its dead would be nice to see the groundhog holes is a good indicator of how it treats its living. — common in many cemeteries — filled How is Ashburn doing? Thanks to county and the headstones repaired. and volunteer efforts, better than before. Broadlands resident Jim Wiesemeyer, an agricultural journalist, said the Broad
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The entrance to the African American Burial Ground for the Enslaved at Belmont.
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Mikaeel Martinez Jaka with Pastor Michelle Thomas at a scouting ceremony honoring his work at the burial ground.
In 2015, Pastor Michelle Thomas, a Lansdowne resident, was searching for a place to build her church when she noticed an African American cemetery on the map, near the southeast corner of Route 7 and Belmont Ridge Road. Visiting the site, she had to cut through the forest before finding the forgotten markers of those enslaved at nearby Belmont Plantation. “I wasn’t expecting them to be laid to rest in such a beautiful location,” Thomas said. “Our ancestors were laid to rest in a prime location, where we can now study their path for years to come. This place is proof of their existence and a testimony to their resilience and struggle for freedom.” Thomas is president of the Loudoun’s NAACP Branch and founder of the Loudoun Freedom Center. She is also a former engineer who returned to school for a certificate in public history and historic preservation at Northern Virginia Community College. With the help of volunteers, Thomas has helped bring dignity and honor to the memory of Loudoun’s enslaved, who she says constituted as much as a quarter of Loudoun’s population before emancipation. Thomas was able to persuade the owners of the land — home building company Toll Brothers — to donate the land to the Loudoun Freedom Center to preserve the cemetery and ensure that it would be open to the community. Toll Brothers also recently announced plans to develop neighboring land and is working with the Freedom Center to expand the center’s property to provide room for a future museum and history trail. “Now African Americans actually own a part of this slave plantation where [their ancestors] had been forced to work — a strange bit of irony,” she said. In 2018, as an Eagle Scout project, Mikaeel Martinez Jaka from Troop 2019 in Leesburg led about 100 volunteers to build a gravel path to the cemetery, making it possible for visitors to safely access the site and learn its history. “I felt it was so important to help increase public awareness of the history and effects of enslavement on the African American population,” Jaka said. Loudoun historian Wynne Saffer, who once chaired a committee on historic cemeteries for the Thomas Balch Library in Leesburg, believes African American cemeteries should be protected by federal laws similar to Native American gravesites. “It is hard to advocate for the gravesites of those who have no records, because it is impossible to search for their descendants who would be necessary for appeals in court.” Sadly, last year, Thomas buried her 16-year-old son, Fitz Alexander Campbell Thomas, at the cemetery after he died in a swimming accident. He was the first African American person who was born free to be buried there. “I wanted to bury him in the place that is dear to my heart,” she said.
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Visiting Cemeteries In 2019, Loudoun’s Office of Mapping and Geographic Information launched an online interactive map of known Loudoun cemeteries (https://tinyurl.com/6sa22mtz). Burial sites are color-coded as active, inactive or disturbed/removed. Using the map, it is easy to find most of the gravesites near Ashburn. Before visiting, be aware of laws concerning private property and the treatment of human graves. Ask permission to enter if required, and do not remove, alter or adjust anything on or near graves, including rocks, stones or bricks. Each grave, whether that of a plantation owner or an enslaved laborer, a dairy farmer or a child lost at birth, is part of Loudoun’s heritage.
(Left to right) Albert Moran, and Joseph and Sara Jane Spence, who are buried in Ashburn area cemeteries; the Hillside Cemetery off Waxpool Road; a tombstone at the Freeman Cemetery in Brambleton.
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Jack Gray to fix up the decrepit Lyons Family cemetery at the Brambleton golf course. One of Jack’s first steps was to meet with Northern Virginia Parks Authority Manager Dustin Betthauser to gain permission to work on the site. Jack’s father, Bart Gray, said they were aware of public and cultural sensitivity concerning gravesites, so he wanted to
make sure his son would not unwittingly encroach on gravesites of undiscovered enslaved African Americans. Before starting work, they followed careful guidelines while searching areas outside of the 4,200-squarefoot cemetery. The project included adding landscaping, restoring a stone fence and a wrought iron fence, cleaning, repairing and restoring grave markers, and updating archives and signage. Jack consulted with Jim Short, whose company, Graveside Guardians in Manassas, specializes in the preservation of cemeteries. COVID-19 restrictions presented an added layer of difficulty in terms of social distancing, but 25 hard-working volunteers completed the physical portion of the project in one day. “Many people stopped to thank us or give us fist bumps — golfers, veterans, people walking by,” said Jack, who successfully earned his Eagle rank in December. “It felt good.” A Jill Devine is a freelance writer and former magazine editor from Loudoun County who writes for a variety of Virginia publications.
ASHBURN MAGAZINE • JULY/AUGUST 2021 • 23
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time of our lives feature
THE LAST TUSKEGEE AIRMAN Ashburn veteran was the final graduate from famed World War II program BY J ILL DEV INE
he decision that changed Carl Johnson’s life came in 1945, and it was one he did not make for himself. It was delivered in an envelope to his home in Bellaire, Ohio, in the form of a military draft notice. Johnson was studying at Ohio State University to become a dentist, but he left his
textbooks behind and headed to Fort Hayes in Columbus, Ohio, for induction into the U.S. Army Air Corps. He had no idea that he would soon earn his wings and that his name would be recorded in history. You see, Johnson was the very last graduate of the now-famed “Tuskegee Airman” program, established in 1941 to train Black pilots at
the Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama when the U.S. military was still segregated. “A lot of my friends were drafted before they finished high school, so I knew it was coming,” said Johnson, who today is 95 and lives in the Potomac Green community in Ashburn. “I didn’t get to choose, but I was glad that I got Air Corps instead of Infantry.”
(Left) Army aviator and Tuskegee Airman Col. Carl Johnson photographed at his home in Ashburn; (above) members of the Tuskegee Airmen “Class of ‘46”; Col. Johnson as a young airman. ASHBURN MAGAZINE • JULY/AUGUST 2021 • 27
An early photo of Col. Carl Johnson and his wife, Nancy; Col. Johnson receiving his wings; images of Col. Johnson from early in his aviation career. Johnson remembers making model airplanes as a child. He also fondly recalls going down to the Ohio River each day and excitedly watching the airmail plane fly its route down the river to Cincinnati and Louisville and back. But he never dreamed he would one day become a pilot. He had never even been on an airplane. Initial stops in the Army took him to Indiana and then Texas before he and 14
other Black draftees were selected for pilot training and given tickets to Tuskegee. When the Black men boarded their train, they were directed to coach seats, even though they had tickets for Pullman sleeping cars. “The conductor said they had no Pullmans left, and we refused to go to coach, so they threatened to have the military police arrest us,” Johnson said. “We took seats
behind the engine in the heat, with open windows all the way to Alabama, and they wouldn’t let us use our meal tickets, because we couldn’t go to the dining car.” By the time the group arrived in Chehaw, Alabama, a day and a half later, they were tired, hungry and covered in coal soot. “That was our welcome to Alabama,” he sighed. Like all the Tuskegee Airmen, the men chosen were the best of the best, and
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Johnson quickly found himself soaring through the air. That doesn’t mean there weren’t humbling moments — like the first time he piloted a plane solo. “I made two landings and my third landing, my last landing, I really greased it in [made a smooth landing], and I was really proud of myself. I looked over to see if my instructor was watching and that’s when I ground-looped,” Johnson said with a chuckle. (A ground loop means a pilot accidentally touches a wing to the ground
causing the airplane to spin in a circle.) “I wasn’t paying attention … and it taught me a lesson. I never ground-looped again in the next 37 years.” His time at Tuskegee produced some of the best friendships and memories of his life. A case of appendicitis delayed his training and caused him to earn his wings after his classmates, in 1946, making him the last Tuskegee Airman to graduate. The program was disbanded, and only later was it made famous through books,
documentaries and feature films, such as 2012’s “Red Tails” starring Terrence Howard and Cuba Gooding Jr. “If you had asked me back then who I was, I would have just said I was an Army pilot,” said Johnson. “No one called us Tuskegee Airmen or Red Tails back then. I never heard anyone describe us using those words until the 1970s.” Although he entered Tuskegee too late to fly on combat missions like the airmen portrayed in the movies, he knew many of them well.
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“The pilots who flew in Europe were the best group of people I have ever known,” said Johnson, who flew in the 617th Medium Bomb Squadron. “I lived with them, and we ate meals together, but I never once heard them brag about their accomplishments.” With the war over, Johnson was discharged from the Army in 1947. He returned to finish college at Ohio State, where he met his wife, Nancy. While in school, he joined the Ohio National Guard and later returned to active
Images of the some of the awards, honors and memorabilia that adorn the walls of Col. Johnson’s home, including (left to right) an honorary degree from Tuskegee University, a Congressional Gold Medal and a variety of other military medals.
duty as an Army aviator, a role he proudly filled for the next 24 years. During his military career, Johnson served in Korea and also in Vietnam, where he was commander of a combat aviation battalion made up of seven companies and over 1,000 men. “The personnel that I commanded in Vietnam … they must have thought pretty highly of me because a lot of them sent me letters after I had my change of command,” Johnson said. “They compared me with the
commander they had afterwards, and it was apparent they liked me a whole lot better.” He received numerous awards and medals, including the Distinguished Flying Cross for heroism in Vietnam. He achieved the rank of full colonel before leaving the service and going on to hold positions at the Department of Defense and the Federal Aviation Administration as well as commissioner of airports in Cleveland and deputy director of Pittsburgh International Airport. Johnson said things greatly improved for Black people in the military during the years he served, but racism never ended completely. “I could sit in a classroom or meeting and [fellow officers] would say racist slurs or jokes right in front of me.” Johnson recalled the time he and his wife were told by his post commander in Puerto Rico to move from the comfortable, modern quarters they were assigned upon arrival to inferior quarters once the commander realized Johnson was Black. “The kitchen sink in the new apartment was so small my wife had to use a bucket to wash dishes.” Despite such indignities, Johnson holds no grudges and cherishes his memories of Army service. He and his wife, Nancy, moved
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PHOTO BY ASTRI WEE
to Ashburn in 2012. The walls of Johnson’s home are covered with photos and keepsakes from a lifetime of personal and professional achievements. After almost 67 years of marriage, Nancy passed away in 2018, and photos of her and their children and grandchildren hang side by side with military memorabilia, such as the flag that was flown over the Pentagon in Johnson’s honor, his framed Congressional Gold Medal and cases of military awards and decorations.
(Left) Col. Johnson with his wife, Nancy, prior to her passing in 2018. (Right) Col. Johnson with his granddaughter, Sancia Winslow. His granddaughter, Sancia Winslow, drives from her Round Hill home every week to help Johnson. She says growing up she was not aware of her grandfather’s military
accomplishments and is just coming to realize the mark he made in history. “He is very humble,” Winslow said. “To me, ‘Pap’ and my grandmother were a loving constant in my life. They wanted to spend time with me and my sister, taking us to swim lessons, sledding and amusement parks. I am incredibly proud of him and I’m thankful that my own children have formed special bonds with him that they will cherish forever.” In May, the East Coast Chapter of Tuskegee Airmen, along with locals from the Ashburn American Legion, the Loudoun County Sheriff ’s Office and Mission BBQ honored Johnson’s 95th birthday with a festive drive-by parade and celebration in front of his home. “I was overwhelmed, actually,” Johnson said quietly. “I just didn’t expect anything like that. I have to admit it made me feel important, even though I’m not important. I really appreciated it. It’s a memory I will take with me to my grave.” A Jill Devine is a freelance writer and former magazine editor from Loudoun County who writes for a variety of Virginia publications.
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real estate roundup
ASHBURN’S TOP 10
he spring housing market remained relatively busy in Loudoun County, but activity in May slowed slightly from April, signaling a possible cooldown, according to the Dulles Association of Realtors. Ashburn’s 20147 Zip code had the strongest sales growth in May with more than double the number of sales from the prior year. Sales in the 20148 Zip code were up 49.4% from May 2020. Prices also have continued to soar, the DAAR said. At $630,000, the May median sales price in Loudoun County jumped 19.9% from the prior year—the largest increase in the county’s housing market in more than six years, in large part due to tight inventory. The biggest median price gain in May was in Ashburn’s 20148 Zip code (up $207,000, or 38.8%). Median prices in the 20147 Zip code were up 8.8% in May. New townhomes in One Loudoun continue to appear among the top sales in the 20147 Zip code. Highlighted below are the five highest-priced homes that sold in each of the two Zip codes between mid-April and mid-June, along with the sales price and other key information. Data and photos from Realtor.com.
19808 ROTHSCHILD COURT
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20444 NORTHPARK DRIVE
41874 PLEASANT FOREST COURT
$1,289,999 Sold: May 11 5 bedrooms 4½ bathrooms 4,326 square feet
$2,300,000 Sold: May 27 7 bedrooms 7½ bathrooms 10,969 square feet
20581 WILD MEADOW COURT
23041 BRYNDON HALL PLACE
$1,200,000 Sold: April 28 5 bedrooms 4½ bathrooms 5,058 square feet
$2,100,000 Sold: May 26 5 bedrooms 4½ bathrooms 8,905 square feet
44647 DANVERS TERRACE
23068 CHARMAY POND PLACE
$1,200,000 Sold: May 20 4 bedrooms 3½ bathrooms 4,326 square feet
$2,000,000 Sold: June 2 5 bedrooms 5½ bathrooms 8,011 square feet
20314 KIAWAH ISLAND DRIVE
43113 UNISON KNOLL CIRCLE
$1,192,500 Sold: May 5 4 bedrooms 4½ bathrooms 5,619 square feet
$1,850,000 Sold: May 14 5 bedrooms 6½ bathrooms 7,046 square feet
34 • ASHBURN MAGAZINE • JULY/AUGUST 2021
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ASHBURN MAGAZINE • JULY/AUGUST 2021 • 35
Beautiful Boards R The Cornichon takes cheese and charcuterie to a whole new level BY C H R I S WADSWO RT H
egina Alvir is the type of guest you want to invite to a potluck. The shareable dish she’s likely to bring will blow everyone’s minds. That’s because Alvir is the owner of The Cornichon, a local purveyor of fine cheese and charcuterie boxes and boards. In her first year in business, she’s already become the talk of Ashburn. “I didn’t think the business was going to take off,” Alvir said. But she got lots of good advice and guidance from her friend, Renee Ventrice of Cork & Keg Tours. The two developed her social media pages, and her eye-catching images of gorgeous cheeses and savory meats quickly caught on. Originally based in Sterling, she now operates out of kitchen space at Ashburn’s Famous Toastery in Loudoun Station. Ashburn Magazine talked with the married mother of two grown kids about her business (which is named for a tiny pickle that pairs well with meats and cheeses) and how The Cornichon has grown since launching in early 2020. HOW DID THE CORNICHON GET STARTED? WHERE DID THE IDEA COME FROM? “I always really liked cheese and cured meats. My home state in Brazil has a huge Italian population, and I remember having coppa [a type of salami] and I thought it was such an exquisite thing. When I was doing catering … this lady in DC requested that I assemble a whole table of cheeses and meats. It was a grazing table. It looked so inviting and people could nibble on whatever they liked. And I was hooked.”
WHO ARE YOUR TYPICAL CLIENTS? WHO IS BUYING GOURMET CHEESE BOARDS? “I have business people that use them for gifts as client appreciation — real estate agents, insurance agents. I also do events. I just did a huge event for the Land Trust of Virginia out in Middleburg. People that are going to 36 • ASHBURN MAGAZINE • JULY/AUGUST 2021
WINE&DINE wineries will call me up and get a little order going. I have a wine-tasting box with samples of cheeses that will pair with wines.” YOUR BOARDS ARE OFTEN SO BEAUTIFULLY COMPOSED, THEY LOOK LIKE A WORK OF ART. LIKE YOU SHOULDN’T TOUCH THEM. “Some people do say that, but please — touch it. It’s supposed to be eaten. I used to be a gardener and was interested in landscape design, and I use some of the same principles for a board. It’s like my own little portable garden.” WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE GO-TO INGREDIENTS FOR A CHEESE AND CHARCUTERIE BOARD? “I used to use serrano ham, but I switched to speck. It’s kind of a smoked prosciutto and it’s nice to fold. The appearance is so important. My boards are about all the senses — the taste, the visual, the sense of smell. I always add herbs and flowers to a board. I’ve started using Saucisson d’Alsace because it’s delicious. For cheeses, everybody knows I like Harbison — it’s wrapped in the spruce
38 • ASHBURN MAGAZINE • JULY/AUGUST 2021
tree cambium, basically tree bark. I’m also very fond of Rocket’s Robiola from Boxcarr in North Carolina. Both of these have a bloomy rind, so they are soft like a brie, but they each hold their own and are not alike.” IT SEEMS THERE IS A TREND TOWARDS USING MORE UNIQUE AND EXOTIC ITEMS ON BOARDS. GONE ARE THE DAYS OF JUST BRIE AND GRAPES. “Most of these boards are grazing boards — and with grazing boards, you can use just about anything. What I try to do on my boards is always have a couple of familiar things and a couple of daring things. People are careful. They go with what is familiar. So they start eating the familiar cheeses, but after the second glass of wine, they start going to the more daring parts.” WHERE DO YOU SOURCE YOUR ITEMS? “I put a lot of emphasis on the quality of the items I buy. I understand my items are rather pricey compared to some of the
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others that are out there, but that’s because of the quality. I try to purchase directly from the creameries, but I also use wholesalers, and I use local stores too. I do a lot of legwork. The variety you see on a board is the result of me walking around — going to three, four, five, even six stores.” WHAT WOULD YOU TELL A BEGINNER TRYING TO CURATE HIS OR HER OWN BOARD? “I would say keep it simple. Get something you really like on it. If I were going to make my own board for the first time, I would always start with three of something. That’s my magic number. I do things by odd numbers. I would put something familiar and something adventurous and play with color.” WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD FOR THE CORNICHON? “I always keep an open mind. I would love to grow. I would love to have a brick-andmortar store. Maybe one day, but right now I’m just trying to expand my clientele and just get really good at what I’m doing.” A
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Skating Through Time Purcellville’s Bush Tabernacle is a roller rink with nearly 120 years of history BY JI M L E N AH AN
ore than a century ago, this building could hold some 3,000 people, packed together in stadium-style seating, an exceptionally large structure for its time. The masses would arrive in Purcellville, many by train, from Washington and other areas and gather to hear speakers talk about the ills of alcohol in the run-up to Prohibition. But walk into Bush Tabernacle today, and you’re likely to hear pop music by Katy Perry or Lil Nas X over the sound system while kids and their parents skate around the hardwood floor under colorful lights and the exposed gabled roof. A halfhour drive from Ashburn, this octagonal building is one of our area’s more curious landmarks, hearkening back to two different bygone eras while holding current appeal as the only roller rink in Loudoun County. “I came to a kid’s birthday party here years ago, and I remember thinking that this place is really cool,” said Juliana Spaven, an Ashburn resident who enjoyed a recent “girls’ day out” at Bush Tabernacle with a neighbor friend and their two 8-year-old daughters. “When we got here and I started skating, my mood was just … .” Spaven searched for a word. “I have a perma-smile right now.” Few people who visit Bush Tabernacle these days care much about its origins in piety and political activism. Built in 1903 as a sort of arena, it then housed “bush meetings,” or religious gatherings in the woods that had been taking place since the late 1800s. The tabernacle was never connected to a single church or denomination. Rallies around the growing temperance movement of the early 20th century were the main draw. Later, as Prohibition came and went, the building transformed into a community gathering spot. Walls were eventually constructed and a wood floor installed. It hosted church services but also events, including dances, wrestling matches, 4-H fairs, dog shows, beauty pageants and concerts. A young country singer from nearby Winchester performed there — she would go on to become superstar Patsy Cline. Until 1962’s opening of Dulles International Airport, Bush Tabernacle was the largest building in Loudoun County. The roller rink got its start in 1947, after the Purcellville Volunteer Fire Department bought Bush Tabernacle for use as a teen center. 42 • ASHBURN MAGAZINE • JULY/AUGUST 2021
“Give the kids in town something to do, to stop their delinquent behavior,” said Philip Message, who now runs the building’s nonprofit operations (the city owns the building), including a weekly teen night. “Parents use that as a bargaining tool with their kids. If you don’t do X, Y and Z, you’re not going to the teen center this Friday night.” The building often hosts other events and can be rented for private parties. But roller skating is the main attraction. Bush Tabernacle hosts about 400 skating birthday parties a year, in addition to regular open skates, which draw thousands more (in non-pandemic times). Only about 1,500 roller rinks exist in the United States today, down from a peak of about 4,000, said Alan Bacon, spokesman for the Roller Skating Association International trade group. The two most popular periods for roller skating in America were the postwar recreation boom of the 1940s and ’50s and the disco-era ’70s. But Bacon said interest in roller skating has been climbing in the past year. The pandemic forced people toward relatively isolated outdoor activities, but since social-distancing restrictions have ended, “those skaters are now coming indoors.”
The sign outside the historic Bush Tabernacle building; Juliana Spaven and her daughter, Jemma; the wooden-floored roller rink at Bush Tabernacle; rental skates piled up on a counter.
ASHBURN MAGAZINE • JULY/AUGUST 2021 • 43
To some skaters, the appeal of Bush Tabernacle is that it has stood the test of time. “This used to be the hangout spot when I was a kid. I grew up here. My mom used to skate here too,” said Matt Schilling of Lovettsville, who made the trip for a recent skate with his wife, Shiva, and their children. He also was able to reflect on memories, not just of skating but also attending “battle of the bands” events and dancing with his first girlfriend. “I can’t tell you the emotions.” But Bush Tabernacle almost didn’t make it this far. In 2009, it had to undergo structural renovations, a $1.3 million project that shut its doors for more than a year. Around that time, Message’s group took over the operations. He had been helping with the Friday teen night events for about five years, but then formed a nonprofit when the city put out a call for a
44 • ASHBURN MAGAZINE • JULY/AUGUST 2021
full-time operator. He gladly left behind his IT job and daily commute to Washington. “I had to make a decision: Do I want to be here every day of my life? I saw the progress [of the renovations], and I said, ‘Yeah, I can do that,’” said Message, now 61. “I quit the IT business, and I was senior management. They figured I was going to the competition. I said, ‘Nope, I’m going home.’” Although Message developed a love affair with the rink, he doesn’t skate himself. Once a Washington news program came to shoot a feature story on Bush Tabernacle and wanted to conduct an interview on the rink, for good visuals. A somewhat embarrassed Message resorted to using a rolling support, the type young beginners hang onto, to steady himself around the floor. The renovations and reopening also led to new interest in preservation. In 2010, Bush Tabernacle was added to the National Registry of Historic Places and designated a Virginia Historic Landmark. “The building has been a hub of social activity in Purcellville for nearly 120 years,” said Maral S. Kalbian, an architectural historian who contributed to the application for historic status. “To visit the site today is to step back in time to another era. Who wouldn’t want that opportunity!?” A Jim Lenahan is a veteran journalist who lives in Ashburn Farm. He also co-hosts a daily music podcast called “Rockin’ the Suburbs.”
IF YOU GO What: Bush Tabernacle Roller Rink Where: 250 South Nursery Avenue, Purcellville When: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, with occasional exceptions — call to confirm Cost: $6 per skater, includes skate rental. No cost for non-skaters. Contact: 540-441-3131 More info: www.bushtabernacle.com
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the burn A ROUND-UP OF THE LATEST RESTAURANT, RETAIL AND OTHER COOL NEWS FROM ASHBURN AND BEYOND. CHECK OUT THE BURN AT THEBURN.COM AND FOLLOW IT ON FACEBOOK, TWITTER AND INSTAGRAM.
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6 ‘BATTLE OF THE BURN’ TO BE HELD AT SEGRA FIELD The athletic directors from Broad Run and Stone Bridge high schools have announced that the two long-time rivals will hold their annual football game this fall at Segra Field in Leesburg, the stadium that opened in 2019 as home to the Loudoun United soccer team. It will be the 14th time the “Battle of the Burn” has been played, but the first on a neutral
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GAS STATION OPENS The new Filling Co. Gas
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A Sterling restaurant serving Turkish, Mediterranean and Central Asian dishes has relocated and
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By the time you read this, the new Silver Diner restaurant on Loudoun County Parkway should have opened for business, and Ashburnites should be elbow-deep in a stack of pancakes. The grand opening date was June 30. The new restaurant — part of a popular regional chain — is in the Commonwealth Center development across from One Loudoun at Russell Branch Parkway.
RESTAURANT RELOCATES TO OLD ASHBURN
5 SILVER DINER READY TO ROLL ON LOUDOUN COUNTY PARKWAY Ashburn residents with a sweet tooth have some big news in their future — a new Crumbl Cookies shop should be opening soon in the Ashburn Village Shopping Center. At press time, the owners were aiming to start serving their gourmet cookies at the end of July. The Crumbl concept includes a warm chocolate chip cookie and a chilled sugar cookie on the menu every day, and then each week, more than 100 other varieties rotate through.
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& Grub has opened at the Brambleton Town Center. It’s the first gas station in the sprawling Brambleton community. The Filling Co. convenience store brand is from the folks who own the local Rubino’s Pizzeria restaurants and includes a full carry-out restaurant.
A new ice cream shop serving over-the-top milkshakes opened to long lines at One Loudoun. Fans turned out to try the sweet concoctions that are served in a Mason jar and come topped with candies and coatings and even slices of cheesecake or cookies and brownies. The fastgrowing chain has more than a dozen locations in nine states.
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opened in Old Ashburn. It’s called Oxus7 and its new address is 20937 Ashburn Road. The restaurant — which has made a name for itself with its unique breakfast dishes — took over the spot formerly occupied by District Pollo, a rotisserie chicken restaurant.
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field. The plans for the Oct. 2 event have been in the works for more than 18 months. A
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