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6 0 Phone: 703-858-7620 Lansdowne, VA. 20176 earing.org Email:Phone: firstname.lastname@example.org 703-858-7620
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www.ashburnmagazine.com Facebook and Twitter: @ashburnmagazine Ashburn Magazine is published every other month and distributed to over 13,000 selected addresses. While reasonable care is taken with all material submitted to Ashburn Magazine, the publisher cannot accept responsibility for loss or damage to any such material. Opinions expressed in articles are strictly those of the authors. While ensuring that all published information is accurate, the publisher cannot be held responsible for any mistakes or omissions. Reproduction in whole or part of any of the text, illustrations or photographs is strictly forbidden. ©2019 Rappahannock Media LLC.
FROM THE PUBLISHER ASHBURN’S GOT TALENT!*
alent comes in many forms. Over the first four issues of Ashburn Magazine, we’ve had the privilege of featuring a local high school football player who’s now in the NFL, a teen world-class golfer, and one of the region’s top spellers, along with reality TV stars, business people and community leaders. And as we head into the holiday season, we’re delighted this issue to spotlight three different kinds of talent – writing, modeling and, yes, playing pinball. All right here in Ashburn. In our cover story, you’ll meet the prolific and creative Sue Fliess, who has had more than 30 children’s books published, with many more on the way. With titles such as “Mary Had a Little Lab” (read it closely!) and her latest, “How to Trick a Christmas Elf,” Fliess shows a remarkable ability to entertain young readers who are too often distracted by their screens. Watching her connect with and read to the small group for the cover photo shoot at Clyde’s Willow Creek Farm last month was evidence of that — the children were enthralled. And then you’ll meet Jai Ram Srinivasan, who at age 8 has already become a professional model and landed the role of Tiny Tim this holiday season in a Broadway production of “The Christmas Carol.” Yes, Broadway. Oh, and Jai has cerebral palsy. Jai is our “Amazing Kid” this issue, but we have so many amazing kids here in Ashburn that we’ve expanded that section to feature some others as well. Thanks to
4 • ASHBURN MAGAZINE • NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2019
new advertiser Top Golf for sponsoring that page. Finally, a talent I might be able to emulate — pinball. We’re talking about the old-fashioned game with lights and sounds and bumpers and buzzers — not some digital version. Did you know there’s actually a pinball league playing out of Lost Rhino Brewing? I’m saving up my quarters! Elsewhere in this final issue of 2019, we learn about Northern Virginia’s only dinner theater, right here in Ashburn, meet a woman who helps to organize local greeters for Honor Flights, and profile Steuart Weller, the namesake of the elementary school on Marblehead Drive and a man who had a unique talent for tile. We hope you’ve enjoyed reading about your talented neighbors and learning a little bit more about your community this year. Best wishes to all for a safe and happy holiday season – and we’ll see you in 2020!
BRUCE POTTER, PUBLISHER PUBLISHER@ASHBURNMAGAZINE.COM
*With apologies to the annual competition sponsored by Blend Coffee Bar.
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contents 08 our neighbors FLIGHTS OF HONOR
Thanking our veterans, one plane load at a time BY CHRIS WADSWORTH
12 business boom WHODUNIT?
Interactive murder mysteries at StageCoach Theatre Company BY AMIRA ZAIDI
32 home sweet home ‘WOW FACTOR’
An Ashburn home gets a major update BY CHRIS WADSWORTH
36 wine & dine AW SHUCKS!
The holidays are peak oyster season BY ANGELA MARSH
A hidden gem in Middleburg celebrates the good life in Loudoun
ELVES, NINJAS AND ROBOTS
The magical world of children’s book author Sue Fliess BY CHRIS WADSWORTH
BY LAURA GRESHAM CLARK
42 great escapes
BY CHRIS WADSWORTH
Competitive pinball at Lost Rhino BY CHRIS WADSWORTH
26 amazing kids ROLE MODEL
A local boy overcomes the odds to find success on the runway and on stage BY CHRIS WADSWORTH
30 more amazing kids Highlighting local kids doing great things
An Ashburn family goes off the beaten path in Hawaii
46 on the town Snapshots from the local social scene
50 time travel NO STEPPING ON STEU
The man behind Steuart Weller Elementary School BY JILL DEVINE
54 the burn The latest restaurant, retail and other cool news
ON THE COVER: From L to R: Braeden Heese, Alyssa Heese (standing), Mary Hayes, Sophie O’Quinn, and author Sue Fliess. Thanks to Clyde’s Willow Creek Farm for graciously providing the setting for this issue’s cover image. Photo by Alex Erkiletian of Alex Erkiletian Photography. 6 • ASHBURN MAGAZINE • NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2019
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Flights of Honor Thanking our veterans, one plane load at a time BY CH R I S WA DSWO RT H
y this point, everyone has probably seen the heart-stirring images of elderly veterans arriving at Washington airports, men and women who served in World War II, Korea and even Vietnam coming to visit the war memorials in the nation’s capital. In those images, dozens, sometimes hundreds, of people greet the veterans, cheer their arrival, high-five them, even hug Donna them. The visits are called Honor Flights, Colombo the crowds are a combination of volunteers and passers-by — and while it all looks very spontaneous, a lot of planning and work goes into each arrival and farewell. Donna Colombo, 55, is an Ashburn Farm wife, mother and grandmother. She’s also the current president of the Virginia Parent Teacher Association, or PTA, and is one of a handful of dedicated volunteer organizers who oversee Honor Flight visits at Dulles International Airport. 8 • ASHBURN MAGAZINE • NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2019
ASHBURN MAGAZINE: WHAT LED YOU TO GET INVOLVED WITH HONOR FLIGHT? DONNA COLOMBO: “To honor all of my
military family members. My father is a U.S. Navy chaplain retired. My husband served in the U.S. Navy for 15 years as a cryptologist. I have brothers-in-law that were in the Navy and Marines and the Army.” WHAT IMPACT DO YOU THINK HONOR FLIGHTS HAVE ON THE VETERANS WHO MAKE THE TRIPS?
“They don’t know what to expect, so when they open the doors and there are Girl Scouts and Brownies and football players and cheerleaders and parents and kids who show up just out of the goodness of their hearts to honor them — sometimes the impact is tears. Sometimes we have that ‘awe’ moment — ‘You really came here just for us, just for me.’” WHAT IMPACT DO YOU THINK HONOR FLIGHTS HAVE ON THE VOLUNTEERS WHO GREET THE VETERANS?
“Sometimes the younger kids don’t necessarily get the true, deep impact of what a veteran did … so it’s very impactful. It puts a shining star on our heroes and — for the kids — it opens up a conversation about what a veteran is and how we should always honor them
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OUR NEIGHBORS — in the grocery store or at a Walmart or at a Starbucks. When you see a hat that says ‘WW2 veteran’ or ‘Navy veteran,’ I would bet that after Honor Flight, some of them would go up and say, ‘Thank you for your service.’” WHAT IS THE MOST POIGNANT THING YOU HAVE SEEN HAPPEN ON AN HONOR FLIGHT VISIT HERE?
“I tear up thinking about it. Just when I think I haven’t cried [at an arrival], something else will happen and it will be fantastic. Recently, a Vietnam vet stood up and said, ‘Fifty years ago today, I came home, and I have resented my time that I served. I have resented the government for making me go and today — that resentment is no longer there.’”
YOU SPEND A LOT OF TIME AT AIRPORTS. WHAT TIP DO YOU HAVE FOR TRAVELERS WHO DREAD GOING THERE?
“I have found that if you smile, those hard, disciplined TSA agents and those hard, disciplined police — who look like they are big and scary — are just as friendly as your neighbor next door. You just have to be friendly and smile back. Being kind pays off in so many different ways — even if you’re just Joe Blow at the airport.” DO YOU THINK HONOR FLIGHTS ARE EVER GOING TO END OR WILL THERE ALWAYS BE VETERANS TO HONOR?
“I think they will continue as long as the need is there. We’ve got 38,000 people just on the waiting list just to fly here from the 130 hubs across the country. Unfortunately,
10 • ASHBURN MAGAZINE • NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2019
we see the Senator Doles and the heroes of World War II that are in their mid 90s now. That’s their average age and they often can’t get here. But we'll get them here as long as their nurse says they can come, wheelchair-bound and all. We are going to try and get every single person here that deserves to come see the memorials and deserves that welcome at the airport.”
If you are interested in becoming involved in the local Honor Flight program, the Dulles-based team of volunteers has a website. You can learn more at: heroeswelcomeiad.com
Favorite Sports Team: St. Louis Cardinals
Favorite TV Show: “The West Wing”
Favorite Spot in Ashburn: On my deck with my husband
Favorite Movie: The entire “Rocky” series
Favorite Local Restaurant: Sweetwater in Sterling
Favorite Song: “God Bless the USA” by Lee Greenwood (often called “Proud to be an American”)
Favorite Color: Red
Favorite War Movie: “We Were Soldiers”
Favorite Holiday: Memorial Day Favorite Time of Year: Beginning of summer. I love the beach. A
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ASHBURN MAGAZINE • NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2019 • 11
Clockwise from above: The cast of “The Hamilton Murders”; Allen McRae in “Ghostly Vows”; cast of “Ugly Sweaters, Beautiful Music”.
Dinner theater offers murder mysteries with an interactive twist BY AM I R A ZAI D I
o stage. No red curtain. Just a couple of props. A cozy, little hall. And five actors. This is the simple recipe for an entertaining evening at a performance by the StageCoach Theatre Company in Ashburn. “I’m a long-term theater
lover and StageCoach is a completely different experience,” said Katie Hudson of Ashburn Village. She has worked with the company in the past and has seen more than 20 performances as an audience member. “You’re not just sitting and watching the
12 • ASHBURN MAGAZINE • NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2019
show. You are immersed in the show. They invite you to respond and question what’s going on and interact with everything.” Indeed, it’s not just the talented actors and fun scripts that help pull off the evening. Many — if not most — StageCoach shows are
billed as “interactive.” Actors roam among the tables, talking to the audience. Some visitors may even get involved by playing an impromptu character in the play, reading their lines cold from a highlighted script. “They talk to the actors and the actors talk back,”
said Terry Smith, one of the founders of StageCoach. “It’s a lot of fun.” StageCoach is Ashburn’s only true local dinner theater — offering fascinating and fun murder mystery whodunits with delicious meals catered by local companies.
StageCoach started in 2011. Smith met his business partner, Jerri Wiseman, while working on a show at another theater company. The duo hit it off and decided to launch their own company in Ashburn. April Bridgeman recently joined them as a new partner. The name StageCoach is actually a play on words. In the old days, a stagecoach was a vehicle pulled by horses, and because the theater company travels around Loudoun County and Northern Virginia putting on shows, the moniker fit. But the company also offers acting and production classes and summer camps for young people. So, they are “coaching” people in “stagecraft.” Ergo, StageCoach. “We do both equally — performances and theater education,” Wiseman said. “We provide the after-school classes, summer camps, and even theater courses for adults.” In addition to taking shows on the road to area wineries, restaurants and other venues, StageCoach opened a brick-andmortar location in 2017 in a commercial building in historic Old Ashburn. The company holds classes there and puts on its popular dinner theater shows as well as other productions, including a monthly improv. Classes for different age groups cover topics such as improvisation, story book adventures, acting skills and creating plays and musicals. Older students can learn stagecraft and stage
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BUSINESS BOOM Brambleton resident Glen Bartram appearing in “Diamonds to Die For.”
combat. Linda Cirba loves teaching voice lessons at StageCoach because she gets to know each student’s personality and character
through his or her voice. “I’ve been working with some of these kids for five years,” Cirba said. “You develop a relationship with the family, and you get to see them grow as singers and actors and that in itself is just a beautiful thing.” Beth Bollerer, who lives in Herndon, says her daughter has been involved in local theater for nine years, the past two with StageCoach. She has seen her daughter’s confidence increase through auditioning and performing. She’s also met many people outside her regular friend group and learned more about the theater industry.
“I appreciate that she has been exposed to some of the many different ways people can turn an interest in the arts into a career,” Bollerer said. For Smith, Wiseman and Bridgeman, running a theater is a labor of love. Smith still spends his days working as a computer engineer and his nights at the theater, while Bridgeman recently retired as vice president at an insurance company. “In the early days, Terry and I were both performers, but the business has grown so much,” Wiseman said ruefully. “Now, Terry is
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t’s the rare author who has even one book published. So, what to make of an author who has dozens of books published and another dozen or more in the works? Such is the life of Ashburn resident Sue Fliess — an amazingly creative children’s book writer who is in demand by many of the country’s leading publishers. Her start was simply a stray thought, an itch to scratch — an itch probably shared by millions of moms and dads — that maybe she could write a book like the ones she had been reading to her child. “My son was about 2,” Fliess recalled. “I started writing him a story — just to see if I could write a story for kids. I got some encouragement from a neighbor across the street who was a children’s librarian.” Fliess kept writing, finishing several manuscripts and sending them to publishers while simultaneously searching for an agent. Several fruitless years passed, but she kept trying, attending writers’ conferences, making contacts, following leads. And then lightning struck. A publisher in upstate New York signed Fliess to a book deal for “Shoes for Me.” That became her first published book, released in 2011. “Since then, things have taken off,” she said. Have they ever. In her eight years as a published author, more than 30 of her manuscripts have been turned into books. Another eight are done and in the publishing process. She’s under contract for five future books and continues to work on several personal projects she hasn’t tried to sell yet. On top of that, one of her current titles and another book series she hasn’t published are being considered for animated television series. Around the same time Fliess’ first book was making its way to bookstores, literary agent Jennifer Unter opened
an agency in New York City. One of the first new writers she brought on as a client was Sue Fliess. “She has a great voice for children,” Unter said. “A lot of people try and write picture books for children and their voice is an adult voice.” She believes there are several keys to Fliess’ rapid climb up the children’s book ladder: She has great ideas, she’s a really good writer and she’s easy to work with — which means editors at publishing houses want to work with her again and again. “She takes her profession seriously,” Unter said. “She’s definitely prolific and she definitely capitalizes on her success. If one book does well, she’ll come up with a bunch of new ideas to pitch to that same editor.” Writing wasn’t completely new to Fliess. She wrote poetry for her family when she was a little girl growing up in New Jersey. In her 20s, she joined a writing group in New York City where other members gently suggested she drop the poetry (Fliess says it was “dreadful”) and pursue her gift for storytelling by writing a novel for adults. It was while working on that novel — still unfinished nearly 25 years later — that she was inspired to write a children’s book. The rest is history. Today, Fliess, 46, lives in Ashburn’s Timberbrooke Estates neighborhood with her husband, Kevin, and her teenage sons, Owen and Wyatt. She writes pretty much full time — and she needs to with all the projects she’s juggling. Her latest book fits in nicely with the holiday season. It’s called “How to Trick a Christmas Elf” and was released by Sky Pony Press this fall. “I brainstormed a lot on this one. I didn’t want it to come off that you could trick someone into getting what you want for Christmas,” Fliess said. “The [children in the book] know that the elf is taking notes on them and will put them
5 QUESTIONS WITH SUE FLIESS WHERE DID YOU GO TO COLLEGE AND WHAT DID YOU STUDY? “I went to Salisbury University in Salisbury, Md., on the Eastern Shore. I majored in communications arts and minored in fine arts. I wanted to be an artist, an illustrator. My favorite thing to do was drawing with a pencil on paper, or painting. But then everything started moving toward digital and it seemed scary and foreign to me. Maybe if I had stuck with it, I’d be working for Pixar now.” WHAT DID YOU DO BEFORE YOU BECAME A WRITER? “My first job was as a publicist for a big publishing house. It gave me an appreciation of everything that goes into a book once it is published. And dealing with authors helped me avoid being a nightmare author myself.” WHAT DO YOUR KIDS THINK OF YOUR BOOKS? “I think they’re impressed. When they were younger, they liked to say, ‘Our mom is an author,’ but now they just say their mom writes children’s books. But I think they’re proud of me. I think they think it’s cool.” WHAT WAS YOUR MOST CHALLENGING BOOK TO WRITE? “My book ‘Little Red Rhyming Hood’ is about a little girl who speaks in rhyme. In my first few versions, the entire manuscript was in rhyme. But my critique group pointed out that Little Red’s voice — since her speaking in rhyme is what makes her quirky — was getting lost. So I took all but Red’s dialogue out of rhyme. At some point, she and Big Brad Wolf speak in rhyme together — in alternating lines, so then I had to rhyme two characters’ dialogues — half in rhyme, half in prose. This was one of the most challenging books I’ve ever written.” WHO DOES THE ILLUSTRATIONS IN YOUR BOOKS? “Once they buy my manuscript, the publisher goes to their art director and chooses the illustrator that they think will best match the story. I have very little say … but I feel like I have been very lucky and very fortunate with all the illustrators that I have worked with.”
on either the naughty list or the nice list. So, they make him a miniature sleigh to distract him so they can peek at the list. But the elf is so happy with the sleigh — it’s the first time ever that he has received a gift himself — that he puts all of them on the nice list. Everyone wins.” In that storyline may lie the secret of Fliess’ success. Her stories and her characters are not easy, mindless rhymes. Rather they are surprisingly complex and sophisticated. “You can’t just write simple, little stories. They want multiple layers and multiple hooks now,” she said. Take “Mary Had a Little Lab,” her spin on the famous nursery rhyme. In the story, Mary doesn’t have any friends, so she decides to get a pet -- a sheep, to be exact. So, she invents a machine — the Sheepinator — to make her a furry friend. Soon, all her classmates want sheep, too. Things go haywire, and Mary has to find a solution. The subtle message that Mary is a little girl who likes science and engineering should not be lost on anyone. “The story and the humor have to work on several levels with different levels of complexity for it to be a crowd pleaser,” said Jennifer Roy, head of children’s services at the Brambleton Library. Roy has seen first-hand how much kids love Fliess’ books during the many read-alouds the author has done at local libraries and schools. “She has an uncanny way of picking out the things that really speak to kids, things that are really, really popular,” Roy said. “She wrote one about ninjas — kids can’t get enough of ninjas -- one about fairies, one about cars. These are things that kids are already passionate and excited about.” Nowadays, Fliess finds those story ideas everywhere. During a recent walk through an airport, she saw an advertising poster that featured a goat. It prompted a possible idea for a book, and she quickly sent herself an email
(clockwise from top) The Fliess family — Owen, Sue, Wyatt, and Kevin — on a trip to Croatia this past summer; Fliess signing books at an author’s fair in D.C.; Fliess speaking at a Loudoun County elementary school. with some thoughts. (She won’t share details of the goat story just in case it turns into a future book deal.) “I’ve trained my brain to spot ideas almost to fault,” she said. “Sometimes, I’m like, ‘Turn it off, Sue. Go for a walk. Pay attention to your dog.’” With Fliess’ luck, going for a walk and playing with her dog would probably result in two more book ideas. Fliess has no plans to slow down her writing pace. She continues to strike deals with publishers, and some of her titles have begat a series of similarly themed books. “How to Trick a Christmas Elf” is actually a follow
up to “How to Trap a Leprechaun” and “How to Track an Easter Bunny.” “How to Find a Unicorn” is scheduled for publication in the spring. Meanwhile, Fliess says she would love to write a longer novel — one aimed at middle-schoolers or maybe the huge YA market (young adult) -and she sometimes daydreams about trying her hand at a screenplay. “I feel like I have a lot of teen angst still left in me,” Fliess said with a laugh. “I even have some ideas for horror stories, believe it or not.” Oh my! What would the elves and unicorns say about that? A
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DON’T TILT! COMPETITIVE PINBALL AT LOST RHINO STO RY BY CH RI S WADSWO RT H PHOTOS BY AND RE W SAMPL E
e careful who you call a nerd. That’s the lesson learned by data analyst Lindsey Galloway after she poked a little fun at a friend. “My co-worker at the time was in a competitive pinball league, and I always teased him about being a nerd and a pinball wizard,” said Galloway, 44, who lives in Ashburn’s Carisbrooke neighborhood. “Then I finally came out and tried it. It was fun. It was embarrassingly fun.” Galloway is now a formal member of the Silverball Sanctum, a local league that plays at Lost Rhino Brewing in Ashburn each week. That league is part of the Free State Pinball Association, or FSPA, an organization for pinball leagues around the Virginia-Maryland region founded in Baltimore in 1995. Some may think competitive pinball sounds funny, but it’s serious business.
22 • ASHBURN MAGAZINE • NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2019
“I FINALLY CAME OUT AND TRIED IT. IT WAS FUN. IT WAS EMBARRASSINGLY FUN.”
ASHBURN MAGAZINE • NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2019 • 23
“When you play in our league, you will get points that show up on a scoreboard and you will be ranked against players who play around the world,” said 27-year-old Edan Grossman, a senior league officer with the FSPA and the organizer of the local league. “At the end of the year, each state will have their own state championship. Whoever is No. 1 and No. 2 for each state — they get a chance to compete at the national event.” Recent past North American championships have been held in Las Vegas, but the 2020 event will be in Denver. Eric Banker, 42, is a software engineer who lives in the Broadlands with his wife and son. He remembers playing a lot of pinball as a kid, but hadn’t touched a machine in ages. Then a couple of years ago, Lost Rhino added a few pinball games, and, as a regular there, Banker gave it a try. “It re-energized that feeling I had as a kid,” he said. He’s gotten so into it that he bought two machines for his home
The FSPA’s local league — Silverball Sanctum at Lost Rhino — has three separate seasons each year — in the fall, spring and summer. There are other leagues that play around the Northern Virginia area, including ones in Fairfax and Dulles and a new one planned for Sterling. For more information, visit the FSPA website at www.fspazone.org. — a brand new 2019 “The Munsters” pinball machine by Stern, and a classic 1987 Williams “F-14 Tomcat” game. (If you know anything about amusement arcades, you’ll recognize Stern and Williams. They are two of the big names in games.) Lost Rhino has a small group of players - perhaps a dozen or so each week. The players say they like it this way. Some locations in the league get so crowded, there’s a long wait between turns. Grossman says some participants are pretty casual about it — just there
24 • ASHBURN MAGAZINE • NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2019
to drink beer, talk with friends and play a little pinball. Others can be a little more focused. “It’s an adrenaline rush — that feeling you get when you get a good ball and an amazing score,” said Christine Venezia, 35, who comes over to Lost Rhino from Herndon. “There are different ways to get higher points by going up certain ramps and doing different skill shots. You have to work hard to keep the ball in play the whole time. You can’t blink. You can’t let the ball drain.” Whew! Playing a game of pinball, sweaty hands on the buttons, gripping the machine as the lights flash and the bells chirp and chime — there’s definitely a tactile aspect to the game. In this digital day and age, it’s interesting that hardcore pinball players say their game will never change. “The game itself is what’s under the glass — a physical playfield, a steel ball, bumpers and flippers. And it will be that way forever,” Grossman said. “There are people who have built digital pinballs that are just screens, but that’s not considered real pinball.” Lindsey Galloway agrees. She says she enjoyed her first season playing competitive pinball — even if she did finish last in the lowest grouping of four players. Undeterred, she has some big goals. “My hope for this new season is to get second or third — in the bottom group,” she says with a laugh. A
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ASHBURN MAGAZINE • NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2019 • 25
amazing kids feature
Role Model Ashburn boy beats the odds and finds success on the runway and on Broadway BY CH R I S WA DSWO RT H
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sk 8-year-old Jai Ram Srinivasan how he learned to be a professional model and he’s very humble. “I’m a natural. It just came to me,” he said, with a huge smile on his face. Walking on the runway and being in front of the camera may feel natural for Jai (pronounced like the name “Jay”), but the Ashburn third-grader is actually breaking a lot of barriers with his burgeoning career. You see, he has cerebral palsy, which creates balance issues and weakness on his left side. It’s not a condition you usually associate with modeling. It all started in 2016 when Jai’s parents, Ram Srinivasan and Kate Sowerwine, took him to the annual Runway of Dreams gala in New York City. The Runway of Dreams organization promotes the inclusion of people with disabilities in the fashion industry. Jai’s good looks and enthusiasm caught the eye of some photographers. “He was getting his picture taken and he got really excited and started doing little movements and smiling,” Sowerwine said.
ASHBURN MAGAZINE • NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2019 • 27
PHOTO BY YANKA PHOTOGRAPHY
“The photographers loved it and so did Jai. He said, ‘Next year, I want to be on stage.’” And so he was. Mindy Scheier, the founder of Runway of Dreams, asked Jai to come back and model at the 2017 event, which he did. She liked what she saw and signed him to her company, Gamut Management, which represents individuals who are differently abled. “Jai … lights up every room he is in, is incredibly photogenic and has an amazing personality. His talent and intelligence shine through immediately when you speak with him,” Scheier said. “When I launched Gamut Talent Management … Jai was at the top of the list of rising stars I wanted to sign.” Happily, Jai has found a stream of new opportunities. He has worn Tommy Hilfiger adaptive clothing on the runway, appeared in a photo shoot for the launch of Target’s adaptive clothing line and traveled to Las Vegas for the launch of Zappos Adaptive. And what is adaptive clothing, you might ask. Basically, it’s clothing that is easier for people with disabilities to put on. By way of example, Jai demonstrates with an Oxford-style shirt he’s wearing. Although the buttons look like regular buttons, they are actually sewn on and don’t go through buttonholes. Instead, they hide small magnets that click together easily and hold Jai’s shirt closed. Buttons and buttonholes might present problems for someone with coordination issues, but the magnets are easy to manage. “You can be dressed in 10 minutes,” he said. “For people with disabilities, if you don’t have [adaptive clothing], it
From left: Jai on the runway; in front of the Lyceum Theater in New York City; with his sister, Ivy, his mother, Kate Sowerwine, and his father, Ram Srinivasan, at an event; Jai with his service dog, Banks.
might take an hour or two hours to get dressed.” When he’s not in New York or Las Vegas, Jai is a typical boy. He lives in Belmont Country Club with his mom and dad and his 6-year-old sister, Ivy. He attends Newton-Lee Elementary School and is obsessed with sports. He plays golf, basketball and tennis with his family. He’d like to play with other kids on local rec teams, but his balance issues make this difficult. When he’s not playing actual sports himself, he’s on his Xbox playing NBA 2K, managing his fantasy basketball team and practicing as a sports commentator. His dream job? “NBA general manager,” he shouts. And he’s completely serious. But a chance meeting with actor RJ Mitte may have sent Jai’s career in a new direction. Mitte, who also has cerebral palsy, found fame playing
28 • ASHBURN MAGAZINE • NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2019
the character Walter White Jr. (better known as “Flynn”) on the hit TV show, “Breaking Bad.” Inspired by this encounter, Jai traveled back to New York in September and auditioned for the part of Tiny Tim in a production of “A Christmas Carol” on Broadway. And darned if he didn’t get the part — one of only two little boys cast for the role. The other child actor is Sebastian Ortiz, and the two will alternate performances. “The Broadway people called and said, ‘Do you want the part?’ and I said, ‘Yes!’” Jai recalled. “It was crazy. I just couldn’t believe it.” This fall, he has spent most of his time in the Big Apple, being homeschooled while in rehearsals for the show. At press time, “A Christmas Carol” was scheduled to open for previews on Nov. 7 at the Lyceum Theater and to officially run from Nov. 20 through Jan. 5. Clearly, Jai doesn’t let his cerebral palsy slow him down and the fact that he had never acted before didn’t slow him down either. After all, two years ago he had never modeled before, and — as the world is learning — it turned out he was a “natural” at that. A
OK, we know all kids are amazing, but if you know of a kid who’s so amazing that he or she should be featured on this page, please email information to firstname.lastname@example.org.
GRISHM’S GALA LAND 7-year-old Grishm Panda won first prize for the “Most Original” product at the Baltimore Children’s Business Fair. The second grader at Belmont Station Elementary School in Ashburn set up an Etsy Grishm Panda stands in front of store named Grishm’s his display table at the BaltiGala Land and created more Children’s Business Fair, animal party bags made where his product was named from 100% recycled “Most Original.” paper bags decorated with colorful card stock. He offered giraffe, frog, dog and elephant designs. Grishm’s solid sales pitch to the judges helped him clinch the award. “He enjoyed the entire process from making the bags to selling them to winning the prize,” said Grishm’s mom, Gayathri Gautam. “He is more determined to keep up the good work and wants to sell more bags with new designs to customers.”
INDEPENDENCE GOLF TEAM Congratulations to the Independence High School golf team for capturing the first state championship for the new school in Brambleton. The team’s score was 294, a full 13 strokes better than the second place team. The Virginia Class 3 State Golf Championfrom L to R: Team members Mira Ramship was held Oct. 15 at achandran, Julie Shin, Kyle Tinschert, the Williamsburg NationAryan Vuradi, Mehrbaan Singh and al Golf Club. IndepenJonah Han led the Independence High dence High welcomed School golf team to the school’s first students for the first time state title in October. this fall. “There were smiles everywhere, high-fives,” said Independence golf coach David Larson. “The win means a great deal — not only to the school, but to the community as well. To set that tone after just opening your doors — it’s a tremendous accomplishment.”
TUTU AMBASSADOR Victoria Paz, 11, loves dancing — and she wants other little kids around the world to feel that same joy. That’s why she’s one of the top fundraising “ambassadors” with the Traveling Tutus organization. The sixth-grader lives in Sterling and studies dance at the Ashburn Academy of Dance on Red Rum Drive. In her free time, she collects dance costumes, ballet slippers and tap shoes to be distributed to children in need around the United States and around the world. She has also raised $800 for the organization so far. “I'm excited by the fact that I am given the opportunity to bring the joy of dance to underprivileged children,” Victoria wrote on her fundraising page. “I believe there's a dancer in all of us.” LEFT: Victoria Paz, Traveling Tutu ambassador
30 • ASHBURN MAGAZINE • NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2019
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home sweet home
S u sa
nN e id
zwi c ki
New lights, dark accent colors highlight makeover
BY CH R I S WADSWO RT H
usan Neidzwicki had a problem. Sure, she had a lovely home in the Broadlands. She was the original owner and had lived there nearly 20 years. But what was stylish in the late 1990s no longer cut it. “I knew I was outdated,” Neidzwicki said. “Especially the colors. I really have a hard time picking colors. I needed help from someone to give it a facelift.” 32 • ASHBURN MAGAZINE • NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2019
So, on the advice of a neighbor, she made a call that many in Ashburn have made. She rang up Chantal Gibson, who has aptly named her local business “It’s Done” because when homeowners have been dragging their feet on a project, Gibson comes in and gets it done. “My first impression when I walked into Susan’s house was that it was cute and open and very well set up. However, everything was dated,” Gibson recalled. “When I went into the kitchen, it was definitely the look of [many] years ago. My immediate thought was, ‘I wonder how much she is going to let me do.’” Turns out — a lot. Neidzwicki and Gibson ended up refreshing and
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redecorating the entire house, top to bottom, room by room. They spent seven months working together on it. The kitchen was a key focal point to the entire house — visible from many rooms. Gibson changed the color on the cabinets and the walls. She added a new kitchen table, a beautiful glass subway tile backsplash, granite countertops and, most importantly, new lighting — including a dramatic spiked chandelier in the center of the room. “It was stepping outside her box a little bit, but when you walk into the room, it’s the ‘wow’ factor,” Gibson said. In the family room, same drill. New furniture. New lighting and new paint — especially a dramatic dark ASHBURN MAGAZINE • NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2019 • 33
HOME SWEET HOME
accent wall around the fireplace painted a color called “Kendall Charcoal.” “She was terrified when she saw the paint color I had selected, and my clients often are,” Gibson said with a chuckle. “In the end, they always come back and let me tell that it’s their favorite part. It’s putting a dark pop of
‘wow’ into the room.” “I wasn’t used to the dark colors, but I trusted her and sure enough I love it,” Neidzwicki said. “It really makes a big difference.” Taking a cue from the changes she made at Neidzwicki’s home, Gibson shared some key advice for anyone giving a room or a home a refresh. Add Lighting. So many homes are “light poor” and dim because they don’t have enough light fixtures and bright enough bulbs. “The best thing you can do to update your house is add lighting,” Gibson said. “It makes you feel better. It makes you happier. Lighting is everything. That’s my number one design tip.” Repaint. Any house, any room — no matter how dated — will usually look fresher with a new coat of paint — especially if you mix and match colors
and create contrasts. “Painting to me is like another piece of furniture. And it’s the cheapest and most ‘bang for your buck’ when it comes to renovating your house.” Step Outside Your Box. Change can be hard, but just as Neidzwicki did with her light fixtures and the dark paint on her fireplace — push your boundaries. “You have to try things that are a little different,” Gibson said. “Shiplap on the wall. Putting tile from the floor on the wall. A color you think might be too dark. Say to yourself, ‘I’m going to give it a try.’” Count Neidzwicki among the believers. “What a change,” Neidzwicki said. “Before, my house was comfortable, but it was stuffy. Now it’s a more relaxing and comfortable atmosphere.” A
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Aw Shucks! A It’s not just the holiday season - it’s oyster season! BY AN G E L A MARSH
36 • ASHBURN MAGAZINE • NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2019
s we approach the winter months, pumpkin spice and peppermint may be all the rage, but for many folks cold weather brings a slightly less sweet, more savory treat to mind. We’re talking oysters. Since the 18th century, New Englanders have enjoyed oyster dressing at Thanksgiving while their Southern counterparts served oyster stew on Christmas Eve. As author Bill Neal wrote in his book “Southern Cooking,” before refrigeration, long stretches of cold weather were necessary to transport the fresh seafood inland. “Far from the coast, oysters became a symbol of the arrival of the winter holiday season, appearing in the markets by Christmas Eve and on the tables that night as oyster stew,” he wrote. With the season of oysters upon us, Ashburn Magazine explored — and sampled — a few of the different ways the mouthwatering mollusks are served at local restaurants. High on our list was DC Prime off Route 7 in north Ashburn. The elegant restaurant offers classic raw oysters with a champagne mignonette. It also has a customized house version of Oysters Rockefeller on the menu that diners love. “The Oysters Rockefeller is a steakhouse classic. But I didn’t want to do it the traditional, classic way,” said Brad Weideman, executive chef and partner at DC Prime. “I wanted to have similar flavors but to change it up a little bit. It’s our cream spinach base, baked with bacon and bacon fat, then topped with panko breadcrumbs and grana cheese. You get the creaminess of the spinach, the crunch from the breadcrumbs, the saltiness of the cheese and the
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38 • ASHBURN MAGAZINE • NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2019
WINE&DINE smokiness of the bacon.” On the other side of Route 7, Eddie Merlot’s at One Loudoun has a wide variety of creative oyster recipes. You can get oysters on the half shell, grilled oysters with Cajun butter, and fried oysters. Eddie Merlot’s also makes a unique version of Oysters Rockefeller with creamed spinach, bacon, parmesan, and Pernod, a French liqueur that is similar in taste to absinthe. “Pernod, Sambuca, and fennel are all similar in their flavor profiles and pair well with the oyster,” said Joshua Hutt, a bartender at Eddie Merlot’s. It seems like the chef agrees since he included crispy fennel fronds with his latest fried oyster dish. Down the street at One Loudoun, Copperwood Tavern has tasty oysters chilled on the half shell or grilled with panko breadcrumbs, garlic, parsley, and butter. Oysters are so popular here that the restaurant even has an Oyster Happy Hour with $1 oysters — chilled or grilled — on weeknights. Ford’s Fish Shack is probably the spot many locals think of when it comes to seafood — and rightly so. Ford’s serves up a varied menu of oyster dishes in Ashburn, including its own brand with the cheeky name “The Wicked Pissah.” Staffers say they sell more than 17,000 of these beauties every month. Many of them are served in the restaurant’s popular “oyster shooters” — shots of different flavored alcohols with a Wicked Pissah in it. A recent visit to the Ford’s location in Ashburn found seven kinds of oysters available, three of which were sold out by early evening. Katie Hartmann, a Broadlands resident and oyster lover, was there. She enjoyed some yummy Sewansecotts from Hog Island Bay in Virginia. “These remind me of being with my family at Cape Cod. We would sit on the porch for hours shucking and slurping oysters,” Hartmann said. “To me, they taste like vacation.” Sewansecotts are just one fanciful name given to Virginia oysters. There are Misty Point oysters, Broadwater Salts, Schooners, Skipjacks, and Potomac Whitecaps, just to list a few. Despite the many monikers, all Virginia oysters are actually the same species — known as Eastern oysters, or Crassostrea virginica if we’re being all scientific. The different flavors ascribed to Virginia oysters come from the waters where they are harvested — based on location (coastal, island, mouth of a river) and the salinity level of the waters there. That’s why you will hear people refer to different styles of oysters as salty or buttery or sweet. And what better time of year to explore the huge variety of coldwater Virginia oysters than when cold weather sets in and the holidays arrive — just like
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TRADITIONAL OYSTER STEW Oysters are a huge part of our nation’s history. Native Americans in New England harvested oysters for thousands of years before the English arrived at Plymouth Rock. For early settlers, oysters were a nutritious meal that both the wealthy and the poor could enjoy alike. Indeed, the oldest restaurant in America still in operation is the Union Oyster House in Boston, dating to 1826. As you prepare your holiday dinner plans, we’re happy to share this recipe for a traditional oyster stew. INGREDIENTS
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sliced green onions (scallions) tablespoons butter cups or about 16 ounces of raw, undrained fresh oysters quart of milk OR half and half teaspoon salt teaspoon white pepper teaspoon cayenne pepper
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1. Sauté onion in butter until soft. Do not brown. 2. Add oysters and milk or half and half. Use more liquid for a thinner stew. 3. Add the white and cayenne pepper. 4. Cook over low heat. Do not boil. When cooked, oysters will begin to curl. 5. Adjust seasoning to taste and serve hot with crackers. 6. Garnish with sliced green onions if desired. *If stew cools, a skin may form, so be sure to serve it hot.
Virginians did a century or two ago. “It is definitely a peak time,” DC Prime’s Weideman said. “With the water temperatures cooling off, the oysters just thrive. They are at their full potential in the fall months.” A Angela Marsh is a freelance writer living in the Broadlands with her husband, Dan, and their two children. She’s also the owner of CoolMama, a local purveyor of gourmet granola products. ASHBURN MAGAZINE • NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2019 • 39
Field Sports Local museum celebrates the history of horse riding, fishing and more BY L AU R A GRESH AM CL ARK PHOTOS BY D O UG GR AH AM
s you travel through Middleburg, you may notice an unusual statue at West Washington Street and The Plains Road — a horse, head hanging low, looking dejected. It’s not the usual proud, majestic portrayal one is used to seeing. But this statue marks the location of a hidden treasure right here in Loudoun County — a library and museum that celebrates the noble history of the area and the literature, art and culture of equestrian, angling and field sports. The National Sporting Library & Museum houses an astounding collection of more than 26,000 books and over 1,200 art objects. The library is filled to the brim with resources for serious scholars and casual visitors alike. Librarian John Connolly displays a remarkable mastery of every item under his charge, and he discusses his responsibility with appropriate gravitas and depth. But he still appreciates a lighthearted take on the library’s mission. “If it’s a sport from a Jane Austen novel, we’ve got it,” he said. Connolly is referring to the fact that the library’s collections include, but are not limited to, works related to general riding, horse breeding, foxhunting, steeplechasing, polo, fly fishing, carriage driving, falconry, and wing shooting. In 1954, George L. Ohrstrom Sr. and co-founders Alexander Mackay-Smith, Lester Karow and Fletcher Harper wanted to start a library that was accessible to all, not just those with academic credentials. In its earliest days, the library was in a small house across from what is now Safeway in Middleburg. It later moved to its current location at Vine Hill, a Federal home built in 1804. A donation of 5,000 volumes by John H. Daniels in the 1990s necessitated an expansion, and the stunning new library opened next to Vine Hill in 1999. Attracting locals as well as tourists from around the world, the library is designed to feel warm and inviting. Its Eachisyear, the Corn in The Plains décor evocative of a Maze well-appointed home. In addition a different theme. Thisits photo to features the thousands of titles gracing stacks, there are shows their Wolf mazearchival from 2014. magazines, periodicals, collections, photographs, letters, manuscripts, and hunt diaries. 40 • ASHBURN MAGAZINE • NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2019
The art collection at the NSLM grew so much that it led to the creation of a new museum space which opened in 2011. Additionally, more than 7,000 books line the shelves of the temperature- and humidity-controlled F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room. Gleaming trophies take up residence at the library all year except when they leave briefly to be awarded and engraved for annual sporting contests. The unexpected collection of weathervanes assembled by the late Paul Mellon of Upperville lends an amusing touch. The library’s status as a research institution prohibits checking materials out, but anyone can spend time in the comfortable rooms reading, studying and learning. Throughout its existence, the library was also home to many works of art. So many, in fact, that it ultimately became evident that they needed their own building. Vine Hill was the ideal location, and after a significant renovation and expansion, the museum opened in 2011. Inside the museum are paintings, sculptures, works on paper, and decorative arts from the 1600s though today. The objects reflect a passion for the same country pursuits as the library, including images of landscapes, portraits, sporting events and animals. With strong representation of
both American and British works, much of the collection celebrates all things equestrian. One room after another offers delightful surprises. A dramatic, 12-foot horse head sculpture greets visitors as they enter. An English sterling silver model of a horsedrawn carriage is the largest of its kind. A magnificent oil painting from 1878 depicts foxhounds and a terrier enjoying a moment of rest in a kennel. On the manicured grounds, sculptures of horses and foxes dot the landscape. Some are whimsical, like the little foal nipping its hindquarters, aptly named “Darn That Itch.” Another is somber. The dejected horse is a tribute to the 1.5 million Confederate and Union Army horses and mules who were killed, wounded, or died from disease during the Civil War. Connolly says the museum saw an attendance uptick while the PBS drama “Downton Abbey” was on the air. That may seem funny at first, until you realize that visiting the National Sporting Library & Museum truly is like stepping onto the set of a lush and engrossing period piece. It’s a chance to immerse oneself in refined words and art, to feed the intellect, to escape the everyday, and to leave one’s cares
The bronze statue titled “Civil War Calvary Horse” was sculpted by English artist Tessa Pullan as a commission from philanthropist and horse breeder Paul Mellon. behind. In comparison to the hectic pace of life in 2019, that’s a horse of an entirely different color. A
IF YOU GO WHAT: The National Sporting Library & Museum WHERE: 102 The Plains Road, Middleburg WHEN: Wednesday-Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. COST: Library — free. Museum — free to members and children 12 and under. Adults $10. Seniors 65+ and Youth 13-18 $8. INFO: nationalsporting.org NOTE:The museum is free on Wednesdays and on the last Sunday of every month. ASHBURN MAGAZINE • NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2019 • 41
Adventures In Paradise Ashburn family finds thrills - and beauty - in Hawaii BY CH R I S WADSWO RT H
ots of families go to Hawaii and spend much of their time on a beach, sipping a piña colada on a chaise lounge. Then there’s the Albrecht family. They took a summer vacation to the Hawaiian islands of Maui and Kauai and risked life and limb in the pursuit of adventure. From hiking in prehistoric jungles to zip lining at 50 mph in the spitting rain, this was a vacation for adrenaline junkies. Mom Carey, dad Brian and their two sons, Nate 21, and Griffin, 17, traveled from their Broadlands home to the Pacific paradise in July. Carey Albrecht shared some highlights with Ashburn Magazine. “This was at an overlook. It’s called Waimea Canyon on Kauai. We did our most amazing hike there. This picture does not do it justice. It’s humongous. It was just surreal hiking there. We felt like we were on another planet or had stepped back in time. You expected to see dinosaurs.”
and a stream started running down the hill under us and we’re going straight up, pulling ourselves up on vines because there was no other way up or down.” “This was incredible. We were looking down at the ocean, and then a day or two later, we were on the Na Pali coast boat cruise and we looked up to the exact spot where we hiked. This was one of the most beautiful places we saw. There were bamboo forests. The plants are like Jurassic Park. The ferns and the flora and flowers were just crazy.”
“We were hiking straight up rocky, muddy embankments. In some places, the path dropped off to the right and left and we were in the middle of cliffs on both sides. It started to rain and the trail was complete mud,
42 • ASHBURN MAGAZINE • NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2019
“We saw so many waterfalls. There were rainbows coming out in the water. There were chickens and roosters all over the place. There are wild roosters everywhere.”
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“We did a three zip line tour. This was the last of the three and it was a mile long. They take you up to this incredibly high platform that was swaying in the wind. They put you in this suit to make you aerodynamic and then they hook it to your back, so you are face down like a bullet. They push you up to the opening, but I couldn’t let go, so I had to give them permission to pry my fingers off the railing. It was raining and you are going 50 miles an hour in the rain and its hammering you in the face. You truly felt like you were flying. It was incredible.”
“This was the best ice cream. It was near our resort in Kauai and it’s made locally. I got coffee flavored ice cream. It was so creamy, and the portions were huge. The waffle cones are delicious. The line literally wrapped around the entire plaza every day that we were there.”
“This cave was along the Na Pali coast. You have to get there by boat. We saw a baby sea turtle and the water was so blue, so turquoise. The cave wasn’t very big, and the water was really rough, and the boat goes right in. The roof of the cave had collapsed and you’re looking up at blue sky.”
“Our tour guide told us that these cliffs along the Na Pali coast were part of ancient Hawaiian families’ territories. They divided them up into pie-shaped wedges and your tribe got a wedge, and you had a piece of mountains so you could hunt birds and you got a wedge down by the water so you could fish and get food from the sea. There are ancient burial grounds still there today.”
44 • ASHBURN MAGAZINE • NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2019
“This is Waikomo Shave Ice at Koloa on Kauai. They call it ‘shave ice,’ no ‘d’ on the end. It was unlike anything we have ever eaten. It had fresh fruit from Hawaii and coconut cream and then you could get vanilla ice cream in the middle. The ice is like powder it was so soft. It wasn’t frosty or ice. It’s next to Da Crack where they have great tacos. They had fish tacos that were to die for. They are right next to each other and I highly recommend you go there.”
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“This was at the very start of our trip on the Road to Hana. I’m an artist and I love color and it just struck me. There was a whole line of these old boards stretching along the fence.”
“I just thought this was interesting. Fortunately, nothing fell on us. We did eat fresh coconuts. They take a machete and they hack the top off and give you a straw and you drink it straight from the coconut. It was delicious.”
“This was a shot off the boardwalk at Kaanapali in Maui. The sunsets were unbelievable there, better than anywhere else we went in Hawaii. People just flock to the boardwalk and line up on the beach to watch the sunsets. And there were gorgeous rainbows during the day. They rise up out of the water. You think you can’t see the end of a rainbow, but we actually did.” A
If you’ve taken an amazing trip somewhere recently and have beautiful photographs, drop us a line at editor@ashburnmagazine. com. We may just share your adventure in a future issue of Ashburn Magazine.
ASHBURN MAGAZINE • NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2019 • 45
AN ALBUM OF ASHBURN AREA EVENTS SEPTEMBER 8
Ahso Dinner at Oatlands Jason Maddens, founder and chef of Ashburn’s Ahso Restaurant, held the first in a series of gourmet dinners at the historic Oatlands House & Gardens south of Leesburg. Guests gathered in what is said to be the second-oldest existing greenhouse in the country for a five-course meal with wine pairings. 1 Jesse Saunders and Brian Viola from Brambleton enjoy a moment with Ahso chef Jason Maddens. 2 Guests dine in the historic glass-roofed greenhouse at the Oatlands Historic House & Gardens.
One Loudoun Summer Concert Series On a warm evening, the DC band Keeton entertains crowds at One Loudoun in Ashburn, the final installment this year in the center’s annual Summer Concert Series.
Loudoun On Tap @ Loudoun United Segra Field Loudoun County’s business community turned out for a Chamber of Commerce mixer at Segra Field, new home of the Loudoun United soccer team. 2
1 Loudoun United COO Adam Behnke welcomes guests at the Loudoun On Tap event. 2 L to R: Ashburn resident Liz Gartzke of City Tap Loudoun, Judy Harbin of Ashburn Magazine and Grant Wetmore of BCT-Bank of Charles Town enjoy the festivities. 3 Despite the rainy conditions, a few brave guests practiced their soccer skills on the Segra Field pitch. 46 • ASHBURN MAGAZINE • NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2019
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No Stepping on Steu The legendary man behind Ashburn’s Steuart Weller Elementary School BY J I L L DE V INE
nyone who enters Ashburn’s Steuart W. Weller Elementary School will notice a feature that is unique in Loudoun County schools — a large custom-laid mosaic lion that graces the foyer floor. Affectionately referred to by students and staff as “Steu,” the mosaic represents the school’s mascot — the Wildcats — while also honoring the memory of a long-time Ashburn resident, the late Steuart W. Weller. It’s a fitting tribute. Weller was a man who understood mosaics. Owner of the landmark Ashburn business,
Weller Tile and Mosaics, he made his living by joining individual, unique tiles together to create unified larger designs. And so it is at Steuart Weller Elementary, where each grade level is named after a different species of wild feline, which make up the Wildcat family. Weller’s wife and children donated the mosaic to pay tribute to Weller’s life’s work and to embody the school’s motto of “Uniqueness within One Family.” “We wanted to give something to the school that would last,” said Weller’s
50 • ASHBURN MAGAZINE • NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2019
daughter, Martha Fletcher, who works as a teaching assistant for Loudoun County Public Schools. Today, both Weller and his business are just memories in Ashburn, but for decades, Weller Tile was an anchor of what is now called Old Ashburn. Back then, life in the community centered around a group of buildings on Ashburn Road, including the post office, the volunteer fire station and the Partlow Brothers general store. Today, that store is the Carolina Brothers Pit Barbeque restaurant, and Fletcher can sometimes be found greeting customers
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TIME TRAVEL from behind the counter there, just across the street from her father’s old business. Weller’s store was in the center of the action. The dusty blue building with white porch railings still stands, and busy commuters pass it daily without knowing the vital role Weller and his tile business once played. “He was known as the unofficial mayor of Ashburn,” said Janet Platenberg, the principal when Steuart Weller Elementary opened in 2008. “Every person you meet leaves a fingerprint on your life, and Weller left many prints.” Weller died in 2007 at age 74, and Platenberg became friends with Gracie Weller — who insisted on being called his bride, not his widow — during the process of opening his namesake school. Installation of the lion mosaic was an incredibly emotional experience,
Platenberg recalled. “Mr. Weller’s son, John, surrounded by family, lowered to his knees and installed every tile by hand. It was a true labor of love, and I was deeply honored to lay the final tile.” The Wellers raised five children in their busy Ashburn home. When not installing tile in houses and businesses across the region, Weller devoted his life to serving the Ashburn community. He helped establish the Broad Run High School sports and parent programs, and he was a life member of Ashburn Volunteer Fire Department. He was active in the Salvation Army, Boy Scouts, Loudoun County 4-H, Dulles Little League and more. In a press release for the school’s dedication, Edgar Hatrick, the school superintendent at the time, said Weller was “part of everything significant that occurred in the area.” “If something had to be done, and
nobody wanted to do it, you knew that if you went and talked to Steuart Weller, somehow it would happen,” Hatrick wrote. Weller’s work can be found embedded in the walls of several Loudoun libraries. At the Ashburn,
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52 • ASHBURN MAGAZINE • NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2019
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From left: Steuart and Gracie Weller in their younger years; the mosaic in the entry to Steuart W. Weller Elementary; the old location of Weller Tile & Mosaics, which still stands on Ashburn Road.
Rust, and Purcellville branches, Wellerâ€™s company laid the tiles for whimsical mosaics designed by noted Loudoun artist Joan Gardiner that celebrate the countyâ€™s history, diversity, and natural beauty. Youâ€™ll also see his work in Broad Run High Schoolâ€™s much-loved Spartan mosaic and in the tiled student art mural in Hamilton Elementary Schoolâ€™s front hallway. No place is Wellerâ€™s memory more revered, however, than at his namesake school. If you visit today, administrators say you will probably never find a student walking across the beautiful lion mosaic in their foyer. Out of respect for the art â€” and the spirit of the man it represents â€” the kids skirt around it, insisting â€” â€œNo stepping on Steu!â€? A
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Paint Your Own Pottery Children & Adult Classes Visit our website for more details: jimmypotters.com Broadlsnds Village Center, Ashburn, VA. ASHBURN MAGAZINE â€˘ NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2019 â€˘ 53
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.
BLACK HOG BBQ COMING TO RIVERSIDE SQUARE
Black Hog BBQ, a Maryland-based restaurant brand with four locations in the Frederick area, has announced it will open a fifth location in 2020 at Ashburn’s Riverside Square shopping center. The center is under construction on the north side of Route 7 near Ashburn Village Boulevard.
ZINGA FROZEN YOGURT CLOSES ASHBURN FARM LOCATION
The former Zinga Frozen Yogurt shop in the Ashburn Farm Market Center has officially closed. The once popular store
had a change of ownership in 2018. The store was officially called Yobe Frozen Yogurt, even though the Zinga sign never came down. No word on what will replace it, although there have been discussions about the center’s Starbucks coffee shop taking over the larger space.
SHEETZ EXPLORING LOCATION ALONG OLD OX ROAD
The gas station and convenience store chain Sheetz is considering opening a new location off Old Ox Road near the intersection with Mercure Circle, south of the Dulles Greenway. According to documents filed with Loudoun County, the store would include a drive-through lane for its onsite fast food restaurant.
54 • ASHBURN MAGAZINE • NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2019
NEW ASHBURN CHICK-FIL-A OPENS
To much hoopla — including people sleeping out overnight in tents — the new Chick-fil-A at the Shoppes at Ryan Park center opened for business in October. The new location features covered double drive-through lanes and digital menu boards. It’s the latest in a rapid expansion of Chick-fil-A in Loudoun County. Another CFA is under construction in Lansdowne, and there are plans for one in Leesburg at Oaklawn.
FIRST SILVER LINE TRAIN ROLLS INTO ASHBURN The arrival of the Metro in Ashburn took a big step forward as the first trains traveled down the tracks into
Ashburn Station. The arrival is part of a process to test the alignment of the new tracks. Passers-by can expect to see trains traveling to and from the station periodically as the Silver Line moves closer to opening in mid- to late 2020.
LEXINGTON DRIVE INTERSECTION CLOSED PERMANENTLY
The intersection on Route 7 with Lexington Drive has officially closed. Road crews moved barricades into place in October. The last remaining traffic signal on Route 7 between Sterling and Leesburg caused big back-ups during rush hours. Customers
wanting to get to Blue Mount Nursery — which sits at the closed intersection — will have to access it via Riverside Parkway.
CUBASÍ BISTRO OPENS FOR BUSINESS
Cubasí Bistro, the first Cuban restaurant serving traditional dishes such as roast pork, black beans and rice, salted plantains (tostones) and more, has opened at the Dulles 28 Centre between Ashburn and Sterling. The restaurant is at the far end of the center, near the Residence Inn hotel. A
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