WE ARE LOCAL News in Prince William, Virginia




Kroger Buys Harris Teeter

Kroger will buy grocery chain Harris Teeter, allowing the Cincinnati-based grocery store chain to enter the Washington, D.C. area market.

Of the 212 stores Kroger will pick up as part of the newly announced $2.5 billion deal, three stores are in Prince William County and one is in Manassas.

As part of the deal, Kroger will buy out all remaining stock in Harris Teeter for $49.38 per share.

In addition to our area, Kroger will also enter markets in in Maryland and Washington, D.C. The grocer already has locations in Richmond and Roanoke in Virginia.

Harris Teeter will continue to operate its stores as a subsidiary of the Kroger company following the financial closure of the sale, according to a press release.

Harris Teeter has locations at Prince William Parkway at Hoadly Road in Woodbridge, Prince William Parkway and Hasting Drive in Manassas, at Vint Hill Drive in Bristow, and just of U.S. 15 in Gainesville.

Bella Cafe to Close July 20

NORTH STAFFORD, Va. — A popular live music venue and cafe in North Stafford will once again close its doors.

Bella Cafe on U.S. 1 in Boswell’s Corner, near Quantico Corporate Center, will close by July 20, according to a post on its Facebook page.

A spokesman for the restaurant was not available for comment this morning.

Half of the building will be demolished and converted into a car lot.

“With the diminished seating and parking available to us, we felt it better to preserve the integrity of Bella and move on from this spot,” according to a statement.

The restaurant will sell its tables and chairs, as well as memorabilia from the its closing location to raise funds for a new location.

The renovation of the still developing Aquia Town Center played a roll in the restaurant moving out of that shopping center to their current location in Boswell’s Corner about six to seven years ago. It appears they are eager to move again.

“There are bigger and better things in store for Bella. So this is not a “farewell,” but an “until next time!” the statement included.

The coffee shop is popular with musicians and singers in the area who often host live performances on Bella’s cozy stage. Also a cafe, sandwiches, soup, and ice cream is also served at the cafe.

Unfinished ‘Toby Keith’s’ Bar Has Shoppers Talking


While it was later than its anticipated opening at the end of March, Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar and Grill told developers they had planned to open by July 1, said Roadside Development spokesman Jeff Edlestein.

And just like in March, it looks like the restaurant is going to miss that goal. But the eatery still plans to open.

“We’re doing everything we can to help them get the place open,” said Edlestein. “The heavy lifting has been done and the major components are in place, now everything just needs to be set up.”

Edlestein admits the work to open the restaurant has been slow, but does not know why it’s taken so long.

“I’m not the one in there during construction, so I can tell you what is happening there,” he remarked.

The bar and restaurant is the last of the large projects slated to open in at Stonebridge at Potomac Town Center. At 20,000 square feet, it’s much larger than a few of the remaining retail spaces still available at the nearly sold-out retail center off Neabsco Mills Road, near Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center.

In an effort to bring in more business to the center, Stonebridge has begun showing movies on a large jumbo tron fixed above the stores, as well as holding more live musical performances for children.

“With the movies, it’s been phenomenal. We had between 200 and 300 families come out to see them,” said Edlestein.

1:30 p.m. 

WOODBRIDGE, Va. — As several new restaurants continue to open at Stonebridge at Potomac Town Center, one still remains dark.

Toby Keith’s I love This Bar and Grill, a restaurant, bar, and live music venue with several locations across the country including a location in Newport News, Va., has yet to open for business.

 The restaurant was supposed to open by the end of the March in the second quarter, but the opening was pushed back.

It appears little has been done at the restaurant to move things along, as exposed light fixtures remain hanging from the ceiling, stacks of wood sit in the middle of the floor, and a tube of caulk sit on the unfinished bar surface shaped like a large guitar.

The developers of Stonebridge at Potomac Town Center and the corporate offices for Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar and Grill could not be reached for this story prior to press time.

That has left nearby restaurant workers and customers walking along the bustling shopping area to speculate on what it taking so long to open the destination bar, which promises nightly live music.

“We’ve heard all kinds of things, including that it’s not going to open,” said an employee of the nearby restaurant Not Your Average Joes.

Others are more hopeful the eatery is finished and it opens its doors.

“We need it to open. That way we can walk over there after work and have a good time,” said a bartender at a nearby Firebirds restaurant.

Stonebridge at Potomac Town Center has planned some 300 apartments, has 500,000 feet of retail space, is home to several restaurants and a popular Wegmans grocery store, and will be the future home of the Potomac Nationals baseball team.

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Flory Center Plans Business Start-Up Workshop

MANASSAS, Va. – The Flory Small Business Center, Inc. continues to offer free workshops to entrepreneurs that are in the start-up phase of their business. The next Start-Up workshop will be held from 9 a.m.  to 1 p.m. on Friday, July 5  in Manassas.

A light, continental breakfast is available at 8:30 a.m. The same workshop will be offered on Saturday, August 10 Gainesville. Attendance is free but pre-registration is required to insure adequate materials. Call the Flory Center to pre-register – 703-335-2500.

The Flory Center initiated the monthly workshops several years ago as a means of assisting start-up entrepreneurs that began establishing businesses in record numbers during the economic downturn. Attendees continue to give the class rave reviews, noting that it enables participants to gather a substantial amount of information in one morning session. Topics covered in the Start-Up Workshop include, “How to Write a Business Plan,” “Financing,” Recordkeeping,” “Business Entity,” and “Are You an Entrepreneur?”

Many new entrepreneurs are starting a business to support their own families – businesses that, with proper planning and training may grow to one day employ many others in the community. Linda Decker, President and CEO of the Flory Center notes that, “It is critical that those in the start-up phase get accurate information to insure that they invest their resources, including both time and money, wisely and build a solid foundation for future business growth.” “Most of our start up entrepreneurs know their industry well – we provide the information and “extra hands” that help them get their plans on paper and move forward with their dream of owning a business.“

Darren Welch, President of Edge Concrete Company Inc., a full-service site concrete company located in Bristow, said that the Flory Center was instrumental in helping the company get established almost a year and a half ago.

“The Center helped us understand the basics of setting up a company, and gave us guidance on what type of corporation to form.” Welch noted that the Center assigned a mentor to the company — someone with many years’ experience in forming small businesses. “Our mentor stressed the importance of setting up a proper business plan; he gave us step-by-step guidelines that we needed to follow in order to become a successful start-up business,” Welch explained.

The Flory Small Business Center, Inc. was created by the Prince William County Industrial Development Authority in 1991 as “economic gardening” program and the IDA continues to provide over 50% of the Center’s funding with non-taxpayer dollars. Economic gardening fosters the idea that economies can be grown locally by entrepreneurs. It is a concept that is currently gaining popularity in many economic development programs. However, the Flory Center has been actively practicing this concept for over 21 years.

The Center’s program is based on the needs and requests of the small businesses they serve. The Flory Center is funded by Prince William County, the Prince William County Industrial Development Authority, and the Cities of Manassas and Manassas Park. Flory Center Director Linda Decker points out that local entrepreneurs are fortunate that our jurisdictions are committed to assisting the potential “start-up” as well as the existing small business owner.

The Flory Center works with referrals from organizations such as banks and elected officials who understand what they do and want to insure that small businesses have access to the information and resources that they need to start, grow, and thrive. The Flory Center has been a resource partner of the U.S. Small Business Administration since inception. For more information, contact the Flory Small Business Center, Inc. at 703-335-2500 or by email at florycenter@verizon.net.



Chamber’s Clapper: Highway Would Attract Business

MANASSAS, Va. — In the past eight months, the Prince William Chamber of Commerce has expanded its membership base to more than 2,000 businesses.

Nearly 30% of the members who have joined this year are organizations headquartered outside Prince William County, and that has helped the Prince William Chamber surpass the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce as the largest local chamber in Virginia, said President and CEO Robert Clapper.

On July 2, the Prince William Chamber will celebrate its third birthday — a product born from the merger of the Greater Manassas – Prince William Chamber of Commerce and the Region’s Chamber, which had a strong following in the Woodbridge area.

About 87% of the chamber’s member businesses have 25 employees or less, making it the state’s largest largest business organization catering to small companies, Clapper said. While it’s not always best to be the state’s largest, it does help.

“Bigger isn’t always better, unless your business takes you to Richmond,” said Clapper. “The decisions that are made there that affect business, the conversations that are had with legislators — some of which are not even in our local delegation — it’s important that we have a presence there.”

Bi-County Parkway

Today, Clapper and his organization are very much in the daily conversation about the Bi-County Parkway — a proposed highway that would run along the 45-mile “North-South Corridor of Statewide Significance” that would link Interstate 95 in Dumfries to Dulles Airport. Clapper and several sister organizations in neighboring counties, have voiced their support for the highway.

That has made him unpopular with opponents of the Bi-County Parkway, who say the road will lead to an increase in cargo traffic through Prince William, as well as cater to developers looking to build new homes in Loudoun County. And, because initial plans for the road call for it to run through a portion of Manassas National Battlefield, and for the closure of portions of U.S. 29 and Va. 234 that run through the Battlefield, many fear traffic on nearby Interstate 66 headed to Washington, D.C. will only worsen.

But Clapper said the roadway has been a long time coming, and if built, will help spur economic growth in Prince William and Greater Manassas.

“This road has been on the comprehensive plan for Prince William County ever since 1994,” said Clapper in late May. “A road to Dulles — it’s an idea that has been a clear strategy for the region long before the growth in the area hit.”

Prince William’s elected leaders only recently removed the Bi-County Parkway from a list of road projects it wants to fund within the next six years. But for Clapper, that move doesn’t quell the need for the highway.

“The population here is expected to double by 2040, and where are the job centers?” asked Clapper. “They’re located along Route 28, and they’re going to stay around the international hub that is Dulles.”

Various companies would also be interested in locating to Prince William because of their proximity to Dulles Airport, and the road would help attract a some of the 28% of new chamber members who live and work outside Prince William and Manassas to set up shop in the region, he added.

“If your opportunity to be near an international cargo hub is 20 minutes down a straight road, why would you not necessarily go into a community like that?” asked Clapper.

When companies look to relocate to an area, Clapper said relocation cost, quality of workforce, quality of life, and transportation are all issues that factor into their decisions. While the path the actual road will take is one that needs to be be debated, Clapper says the need for it can’t be ignored.

“If we don’t fix that by enhancing existing roads, and building new connections, we are going to be left behind, and businesses are going to pass us by,” said Clapper.

Past positions

Prior to coming to Prince William, Clapper led the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce for two years. Prior to that, he was in South Carolina leading the Laurens County Chamber of Commerce. With 10 years in the Army, Clapper is used to moving around.

In fact, his stay in Prince William County has been his longest layover yet. The CEO was initially brought in to head the merger of the two chambers, but he’s hanging around for a “once in a career opportunity.”

“Rarely are you given an opportunity to start from scratch. Essentially we were a start-up, and I can tell you from west coast to east coast, from Canada to Mexico, I have friends across the country, and rarely to do we have a chance to build something from the ground up, and if something goes wrong there’s no one else to blame but you,” said Clapper.

Renovated Lake Ridge Shopping Center to Have String of New Plants

LAKE RIDGE, Va. — We have a better look at what the Dillingham Square Shopping Center in Lake Ridge will look like when renovations are completed later this year.

The shopping center just off Old Bridge Road will include a new outdoor facade and new landscaping.

“The design is by landscape architect Michael Spitzer of Landgarden. This fall, the center will be landscaped with approximately 1,400 new plants, including Crepe Myrtles, Red Maples, Ginko trees, Ink Bery, Hypericum, Smokebush, Itea, Liriope, Old Gold Juniper, Salvia and others,” stated shopping center spokeswoman Sheryl Siemeck in an email.

The shopping center is home to anchors Golds Gym and Food Lion, as well as the popular Brittany’s Sports Bar and Grill.

Now known as Festival at Old Bridge, the center will undergo a name change to Dillingham Square after renovations are completed to match the name of the street in which the shopping center is located.

In May, shoppers were alarmed to see that trees had been cut down on the property as renovations began.


First Home Prices for Potomac Shores Released

PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. — The first prices for new homes in the Potomac Shores neighborhood near Dumfries are out today.

The developer of the 2,000-acre property, California-based SunCal, said the first home sites at the master planned neighborhood are now in development, and their design of the homes are meant to mirror styles seen in areas throughout the Mid-Atlantic region from South Carolina to Delaware, according to a company spokesman.

The first homes will be built in the “Tidewater” style, based off homes seen in coastal areas of Virginia and Maryland.

According to a press release distributed this morning,  total of six neighborhoods in phase one of the project are being developed and will open later this year:

 · Fairways Cove — 169 home sites, six home styles available from the low-$500s

· Fairways Shore — 51 home sites, three home styles available from the mid-$500s

· Fairways Pointe — 41 home sites, three home styles available from the upper-$500s

· Fairways Landing — 27 home sites, two home styles available from the upper-$600s

· Fairways Overlook — 82 home sites, three home styles available from the $800s

In addition to residential homes, Potomac Shores will also boast mixed use area that will which will be located on the Potomac River and feature a mix of condominiums, apartments, retail shops, office space, and a hotel, and possibly a Virginia Railway Express Station.

Sentara Expands to Lorton, Opens Emergency Center

LORTON, Va. — Sentara Healthcare’s footprint in Northern Virginia is expanding.

This week, the massive healthcare provider that is deeply rooted in Hampton Roads, and then later expanded to Woodbridge, has opened a new center in Lorton.

Sentara Lorton Marketplace Emergency Care Center opened its doors. The concept for the new facility is based off one used at a Sentara outpatient center that opened in Lake Ridge in March 2012.

“The new Emergency Care Center will provide 24-hour emergency care, board certified physician specialists, and advanced imaging services, including low-dose CT, x-ray, and ultrasound. The 10-bed facility is powered by eCare, Sentara’s fully integrated electronic medical record,” a press release stated.

This new facility is Sentara’s first in Fairfax County and third in the region. The healthcare provider continues to expand in an ever crowding market of healthcare providers like Innova, and Novant Health, a North Carolina-based health care agency that recently purchased its first hospital in Virginia — Prince William Hospital, now known as Novant Prince William Medical Center in Manassas.

Sentara’s new Lorton Center is located in Lorton Marketplace, just seven miles north of Sentara’s regional hub, Northern Virginia Medical Center in Woodbridge, formerly Potomac Hospital.

If Fairfax FBI Site Fails, Prince William a Second Choice

In the process to relocate the FBI’s national headquarters to Virginia, it appears the CIA was here first.

Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell and members of a bipartisan congressional delegation in April unanimously chose a site in Fairfax County next to the Franconia-Springfield Metro Station for the new FBI headquarters. Now home to a massive warehouse owned by the General Services Administration, State officials assured the federal government the site has quick access to transit, and to Interstates 95, 395, and the Capital Beltway, and would meet criteria set forth by the General Services Administration.

Virginia, and Maryland with their chosen site in Prince Georges County, have been in the competition for the federal agency and its 11,000 jobs since last fall. The idea is to move the agency out of its aging J. Edgar Hoover Building offices in Downtown Washington and move personnel to a new building in one of the two nearby states.

But the mere existence of the warehouse in Springfield, which can be seen from I-95 and the Franconia-Springfield Parkway, and is said to be the largest wooden truss building this side of the Mississippi River, may stifle any chances the area once had of becoming the new home of the FBI. 

It’s rumored that the facility has a large underground room complete with lead-lined walls, accessible only by elevator, and is complete with a state-of-the-art communications system, according to the Washington Post.

But just 30 minutes south, at a new housing development called Potomac Shores on the banks of the Potomac River in Woodbridge, could be the next best choice for the FBI’s national headquarters.

Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart is collecting signatures of locally elected officials in hopes they’ll join him in urging the feds to consider Potomac Shores as an alternative space because of its proximity to Quantico, the FBI Academy, and an FBI screening facility at Manassas Regional Airport. Prince William is also home to the agency’s Northern Virginia bureau. 

“Should the Springfield site be deemed unsuitable by the GSA for the new FBI headquarters, we believe it would be prudent to have another specific site ready to immediately advance for this critical project to secure it for Virginia. That alternative site is clearly the Potomac Shores development site in Prince William County,” Stewart’s letter states.

With some 4,000 planned new homes at Potomac Shores, a walkable mixed-use business and shopping district, hotel, a planned Virginia Railway Express station, and access to express lanes currently under construction on I-95, Stewart said those who would work at the building would have a “reverse commute” in a secured space next to the river underneath Quantico’s controlled airspace.

Additionally, 75% of Northern Virginia’s workforce lives within a 30 minute rush-hour commute of Prince William County, according to Stewart’s letter.

As Stewart is a Republican, he’s also got support from across the aisle.

“The important thing here is that we all work together to ensure we get the FBI’s national headquarters in Virginia, no matter what district it’s located in,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Farifax, Prince William.

Another site that’s been proposed sits in Loudoun County, just off the Dulles Toll Road near Dulles Airport where Metro’s new Silver line is slated to run.

But for those eager to move on from the Fairfax County site, one Fairfax County official said taxpayers would save money if the FBI would locate to the GSA property in Springfield as the land is already federally owned. And, if Prince William County trades land from a developer for the FBI site, it’s possible the county could forgo millions of property tax dollars.

“The fact they’re working so hard to discredit this site tells me this site is the front runner,” said Fairfax County Lee District Supervisor Jeff McKay.

McKay says the warehouse, which sits in his district, is primarily used to house documents for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and office furniture for federal agencies, does have it’s challenges. He said security is an issue as the warehouse has several independent tenants coming and going on the property who are not controlled by the federal government, but added those issues could be resolved through a partnership with the FBI.

“This site was selected by the governor in April, and since then there’s been no been big revelation that has happened to change things over the past two weeks,” said McKay.

Apple Store Coming to Woodbridge?

WOODBRIDGE, Va. – Could new Apple Store be headed for Woodbridge?

The website, MacRumors, suggests Stonebridge at Potomac Town Center is ripe for such a computer outlet, and judging by job postings on Apple’s website, they say a new store could open in the new mixed-use shopping center before Christmas.

The shopping center already boasts a Wegman’s grocery store, Orvis, REI, and a host of other stores and restaurants. It’s also home to several housing units, and a new Potomac Nationals Baseball stadium that could open as early as 2015.

Roadside Development, the company behind the retail project, told Potomac Local News in an email they had no comment about this story.

MacRumors also suggest new Apple Stores could also open this year in New Jersey and Utah.

Selective Customer Base Key to Success for Manassas IT Firm

Growing the company out of a small basement to a large office, today John Jewell and Kristen Maxey work to deliver big IT services and small business solutions for JTC, Inc. in Manassas. [Kelly Harman / Potomac Local News]

MANASSAS, Va. — Would you go to school for 15 years after high school just to be prepared to start your own business? That’s what John Jewell did prior to starting his IT services company, Jewell Technical Consulting (JTC).

Jewell always knew he was going to own his own IT company someday. He even had the company slogan, “Big Business Solutions for the Small Business Budget,” selected years before he was ready to incorporate. But Jewell also knew he needed to learn more about IT, business development, and sales.

So for ten years he worked companies like EDS, where he honed his technical engineering skills, and later at Dell for five years learning sales and business development. He carried a sales quota of $12 million per year an exceeding that goal by about $3 million annually, he said.

He never waivered from his vision – on the fourth anniversary of his employment at Dell he incorporated his company. In 2003, on the fifth anniversary of his employment he resigned from Dell and launched JTC.

Fifteen years of preparation served him well. In fact, Dell immediately offered Jewell a contract to support one of their existing customers. Starting out in the basement of his home, Jewell soon made his first hire, an engineer to help support his growing customer base. While Jewell focused on sales, when he wasn’t actually working at a customer site, his wife Nora took care of operations and finances.

Ten years, 16 employees and several hundred customers later, Jewell and his executive vice president, Kristen Maxey, talked about lessons learned along the way to building his dream.

Act bigger than you are right from the start

One of the biggest breaks Jewell got early on in his business was meeting Creston Owen. Owen, who passed away in 2010, was the president and CEO of Falcon Communications, and an influential business leader in Manassas. Owen was looking for IT support for his company and invited Jewell to a meeting based on a JTC corporate brochure he’d been given by one of his employees.

Sitting in the conference room at Falcon headquarters, Owen was astounded to learn that JTC was comprised of three people working out of a basement.

“I’d have never called you if I’d known that,” said Jewell, recalling Owen’s comments to him. “Your brochure makes you look like a much larger IT company.”

Move fast when you find great people, and be flexible

It didn’t take long for Jewell and his wife, Nora, to outgrow the basement. In searching for their first office space, they met Kristen Maxey. Nine months pregnant, she showed them several options within the building where they eventually located their business. After the tour, while walking back to their car, Nora turned to John and said, “You need to hire that woman.”

John went back into the building and asked Kristen if she would be interested in coming on board. Maxey was intrigued, but pointed out the obvious: She was just about to go on maternity leave.

Jewell told her she could work from home for as long as she needed to after the baby was born, and he would always be flexible about her need to balance her job with her family, said Maxey. So, she accepted the offer and today she remains one of his most valued employees.


One of the hardest lessons a new business owner learns is that you can’t do it all. Jewell understood that his focus needed to be on sales and recruiting talented engineers. He couldn’t do that successfully if he was also trying to manage operations and delivery. Plus, both he and Nora had decided that working together full time was not something they wanted to do long term.

Maxey quickly took over management of the day-to-day operations of JTC and Nora narrowed her role to that of the company’s CFO. With the back office responsibilities taken care of, Jewell was able to go out and do what he does best – bring in new customers, hire top-tier talent, and ensure that his existing customers were satisfied with JTC’s services.

Build processes. Then follow them!

Fast growth in any type of business usually results in processes falling apart. Like any other company, JTC began to experience problems when they suddenly found themselves putting out fires and supporting their ever-growing customer base without following a disciplined, programmatic approach.

Working collaboratively with the rest of the employees, Jewell and Maxey developed a series of processes for every type of service the company offered. Whether it was as simple as setting up a desktop computer or as complicated as rolling out a wide area network, there was a clearly defined set of steps to follow, lists to check, and procedures to adhere to.

But that was just the first step. Maxey then made sure that everyone followed the system, to the letter, for every engagement. Ingraining this into the culture of the company early on has allowed JTC to grow in size without jeopardizing quality or customer satisfaction.

Develop your differentiator

The IT services market is a crowded one, and it is hard to stand out. Since most of the companies are essentially selling the same type of equipment, the differentiator has to come from how their services are delivered, said Jewell.

The difference lies in how JTC delivers on that promise through an in-house developed software system called “Vision.” It’s a robust, fully integrated helpdesk, ticket tracking, and customer relationship management (CRM) application that is at the center of JTC’s success. Customers go online to access the helpdesk, view the status of an open ticket, or place a new support request (they can always call or email JTC as well.)

To tackle some major common complaints of the IT world, Jewell decided to eliminate the frontline support on the helpdesk with call takers who escalate issues to more experienced engineers and, instead, staff it with experienced engineers. When a customer calls JTC for support, they are immediately speaking with someone who can help them, said Jewell.

Secondly, to avoid working with technicians who are not familiar with a customers’ equipment set up, JTC literally writes a book, or site manual, tailored for each client. This manual includes a detailed list of all the installed hardware and software, a Visio diagram of the corporate network, and all key points of contact. There are even photographs of the customers’ server room or IT closet so a technician on the phone can direct an employee to do something by referencing the image.

Weed your customer base

Most service companies tend to take on a wide variety of customers when they’re starting out. Over time, Jewell identified his “sweet spot” – those companies that are a perfect fit for his services.

After about five years, Jewell realized that his client base needed some weeding. Fortunately, thanks to Vision, he was able to analyze each customer and identify those that were no longer a good fit for the company.

This was a critical step for the success for his organization. For companies like JTC, at some point the customer base is large enough to sustain the company. But having the wrong types of customers can actually inhibit growth.

A cold hard look at the profitability of each customer, the demands they make on your resources, and their willingness to approach the business relationship with a win/win attitude was needed, said Jewell.

Develop a healthy dissatisfaction

Though JTC’s business has grown, it’s not there yet.

“I don’t consider us a success yet,” said Jewell. “We are well on our way, and we have a great team here, but we have so much more to accomplish and a lot of goals to meet.”


Michigan Firm Chosen for Prince William Logo ‘Highly Capable’

051513-signs-01PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. — Prince William County’s new blue box logo continues to appear on business cards and at formal functions like a recent commercial real estate showcase at the Hylton Performing Arts Center on Wednesday.

It was designed by Michigan-based firm David Castlegrant and Associates, LLC. Prince William County’s office of Economic Development ordered the logo created after a 2010 study was approved by the Board of Supervisors on how to better brand the county to businesses.

Brent Heavner, who is in the process of leaving the Economic Development office for a new job at the county’s communications office in Woodbridge, worked for Castlegrant on a project basis from August 2007 to September 2009.

“My prior experience with [David Castlegrant and Associates] absolutely influenced my decision to reach out to them for assistance on the logo project. I knew that Charlie and his design team are highly capable, and I was very pleased with their willingness to work within my cost constraints when I approached them about the work,” Heavner told Potomac Local News.

Castlegrant and Associates is a small company with a portfolio of two samples of featured work on their website, four listed employees, about 30 fans on their Facebook page.

What is also small is the amount of cash paid to the firm to design the logo, $750, said Prince William County spokesman Jason Grant, who said the final price tag was a great value. The price was so small that it did not require a competitive bid process, he added.

Kathy Strauss is the President of Prince William-based design firm ImageWerks. Her firm bid for and won the job to design the Prince William Chamber of Commerce’s new logo in 2010.

“The county pushes supporting local businesses with a buy local campaign… ‘support your local businesses, this is how we grow our local economy…’ that bothers me, that we outside the county for the work to create the new county logo,” said Strauss.

County leaders over the past three weeks debated the new logo and what it means to the residents of Prince William County. At a recent meeting, communications director Grant told them the new logo means absolutely nothing.

“Symbolically, it doesn’t mean anything within itself, it’s adaptable… it’s intending to be ambiguous,” said Grant. “A brand it created by our interactions with the people, the interactions with the community… that’s what builds the brand, the logo doesn’t.”

The logo replaces about 20 logos used in individual county offices and departments. Official government functions like police, fire and rescue, and elected officials will continue to use the county Seal, said Grant.

Future of Potomac Shores Rail Station Uncertain

PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. — The developers of a the 2,000-acre Potomac Shores project remain at an impasse with railway and state officials – there is still no plan to build a commuter rail station on the property.

The mixed-used neighborhood’s town center, which will be located on the Potomac River and feature a mix of condominiums, apartments, retail shops, office space, and a hotel, hinges on a future Virginia Railway Express Station. The hope is commuters traveling to and from Washington, D.C. would use the station. It would be built on the existing rail line that traverses the property, between VRE stations at Quantico and Rippon in Woodbridge.

Property developer SunCal has offered to build the station.

“We’re trying to dangle it in front of them, the option to have a train station build for them in hopes they would just get coordinated,” said Eddie Byrne, a SunCal spokesman.

Holding up an agreement for the station is a third rail that was supposed to have been built with $75 million in federal funding approved by the White House in 2009, form Arkendale in northern Stafford to the Cherry Hill Peninsula in Prince William County, where Potomac Shores is being built. But the project was scrapped when funds fell through.

Local, state, and Virginia Railway express officials are working with track owner CSX on a solution for the problem, but so far there isn’t one.

“I have not seen any money on paper for this project,” said Delegate Mark Dudenhefer, R-Stafford, Woodbridge. “The track, Route 1, and 95 improvements remain a priority for me in Prince William County.”

In addition to its town center, Potomac Shores will boast nearly 4,000 new homes, feature a new elementary and middle school, 10 miles of new trails, a riveside boardwalk, and a a Jack Nicklaus golf course that will open to the public next year.

“We’re not building a country club,” said Byrne. “This is something that will be open for everyone to use.”

Potomac Shores is the latest incarnation on a property that changed hands at least three times over the past decade. Originally dubbed Harbor Station, Potomac Shores will feature homes that “look like they have been there for a long time” with architecture inspired from Mid-Atlantic destinations from South Carolina to Delaware, said Byrne.

The development will set behind the Southbridge neighborhood, and future residents will use River Heritage Boulevard and Harbor Station Parkway (which has been renamed to Potomac Shores Parkway, and now has a planned extension to U.S. 1) to access the property.

As developers plan to connect Potomac Shores Parkway with U.S. 1, a new intersection near Va. 234 and U.S. 1 will need to be built to accommodate traffic, planners said. The developers presented plans for a new intersection that would eliminate all left turns at Va. 234 and U.S. 1, and would force drivers looking to access Va. 234 north to Manassas to travel through a busy commuter parking lot.

While land clearing is underway, construction on the first homes for occupancy will be built starting this fall.

Hiteshue Heading Chamber’s Advocacy Office in Woodbridge

WOODBRIDGE, Va. — The Prince William Chamber of Commerce has placed its Government Advocacy office in Woodbridge.

Chamber officials said the office will be located in an I-95 Business Park at 14000 Crown Court near an old one at the now closed Mason Enterprise Center. It’s one of three centers owned an operated by the Chamber to include their headquarters in Manassas and a satellite office in Gainesville.

“The new office, with its larger footprint, will afford us the ability to host committee meetings and activities in this office space as well as our Manassas headquarters and Gainesville office, said Prince William Chamber Vice President of Communications and Government Relations Nancy Hiteshue, who will be assigned to work in the Woodbridge office. “As for programs and projects, we will be continuing the Chamber’s already robust advocacy program and look to engage more of our members in public policy discussions.”

Hiteshue will spit her time between the Woodbridge office and a workspace in Richmond that is used when the General Assembly is in session.

The Prince William Chamber is the largest chamber of commerce in the state and the Washington, D.C. area. It represents 2,000 members with 70,000 employees.


Prince William’s SySTEMic Solutions Expanding to Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun

MANASSAS, Va. — What started out as a robotics program in Prince William County has now spread to Arlington, Fairfax, and Loudoun counties.

SySTEMic Solutions, a public-private partnership that aims to interest elementary, middle, and high school students in fields like science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, celebrated its expansion in Manassas on Wednesday. Officials gathered at Micron Technology Inc. to announce the regional expansion of the program.

“Business and industry are telling us that the jobs of today and tomorrow are in the STEM-H fields,” Virginia Secreatary of Education Laura Fornash stated in a press release. “We must ensure that K-12, higher education and business and industry are all working together to prepare our young people for the top jobs of the 21st century. SySTEMic Solutions is a prime example of the successful public-private partnerships we are looking to replicate throughout the Commonwealth.”

Students in the SySTEMic program participate in robotics competitions, take field trips to businesses, show STEM professionals, and complete internships to develop industry-specific skills. Its vision is to prepare students for jobs in these fields, which is expected to grow in the Northern Virginia area through 2020.

Virginia’s General Assembly awared a $1 million, two-year grant for the program. Officials say that more than $5 million is required to to maintain the program as it expands.

In Prince William County, the program has reached 4,000 students. As it expands into neighboring counties, SySTEMic Solutions aims to reach 40,000 children by 2016.

The company that hosted Wednesday’s event to announce the expansion also announced a financial contribution to help keep it going.

“Micron and the Micron Foundation are proud to have been there with SySTEMic Solutions since its inception. This is a win-win for business and education,” stated Raj Narasimhan, the site director for Micron Technology in a press release. “Public-private partnerships are essential and building programs like this will enable our goal. In addition to our seed funding and annual support since the inception, for this year we have committed a support of $120,000 for SySTEMic Solutions programs.”

Lake Ridge Shopping Center Under Renovation Getting New Name

LAKE RIDGE, Va. — Trees are coming down and a renovation of a Lake Ridge shopping center is getting underway.

Owners of the Festival at Old Bridge Shopping Center on Old Bridge Road cut down trees to make way for new ones. It’s part of an overall renovation of the property that includes tennants Gold’s Gym, Village Skis and Bikes, Brittany’s Sports Bar, and Food Lion grocery store.

“We’re in the process of cleaning up the site, which involves taking down trees, removing brush, overgrown shrubbery, etc. The site will be cleaned up and the stumps will be removed,” said spokeswoman Sheryl Simeck in an email.

Once renovations are complete, a total of 1,400 new trees will be planted in the shopping center – 720 more than officials at the Prince William County Government Center required. The trees will include crepe myrtles, red maples, Ginko trees, Ink Berry, Hypericum, Smokebush, Itea, Liriope groundcover, Old Gold Juniper and salvia.

After the renovation and planting is completed, the center will also undergo a name change to Dillingham Square. That name will match the name of street on which the shopping center already sits.

Bobby Flay’s Burgers & Fries Shake Up Woodbridge

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Chef Bobby Flay hands out one of his signature burgers from his kitchen. [Mary Davidson / Potomac Local News]


WOODBRIDGE, Va. — A long line circled the Potomac Mills parking lot Tuesday, waiting in anticipation for the opening of Bobby Flay’s 15th Bobby’s Burger Palace in Woodbridge.

The casual dining restaurant, which seats 70, is an expression of Flay’s childhood love for burgers, and his take on American classics.

“It’s been a long journey and I’ve spent a lot of time at my high-end restaurants, but I’ve always been a burger guy. Cheeseburgers are just my go-to food craving, so I always thought it would be cool to open my own burger place. I can still taste what it tastes like and I feel in some ways it shaped my technique for the burger after that,” Flay said.

Before opening the first of the chain in 2008, Flay thought long and hard about how his burgers and cuisine at Bobby’s Burger Palace would stand out from the crowd.

“There’s a lot of places that serve good burgers in this country and so I was trying to figure out how I was going to separate myself from the rest of the pack. And I think the thing that I decided was that I was going to be true to who I am,” Flay said.

The inspiration to create a menu of burgers inspired by all American ingredients came from his experiences on his Food Network show, Food Nation, where he had the opportunity to travel the country and experience the regionally unique flavors and ingredients.

“When I look at a map of America, I look at it differently. When most people look at a map they see states, towns and cities. But when I look, I see ingredients from all the different places,” said Flay.

According to Flay, there are three crucial components in the burger game; the burger, the fries and the milkshakes.

“I think of the burger as the quintessential sandwich,” said Flay.

The burgers served at BBP are certified Angus beef, and all are made on a flat iron griddle versus a grill in order to preserve the flavor, according to Flay.

And while he refuses to skimp on quality for his burgers, Flay stressed his restaurant’s affordability.

“When I started opening these restaurants, and still today, I hear people say, ‘Oh Bobby Flay has a burger place – the burgers must be $20 dollars,’ but that’s not what I’m trying to do here. I’m trying to cook a burger that everyone wants to eat,” Flay said.

A definitely unique feature of Flay’s burgers is the option to “crunchify” a burger, which means to add a thin layer of potato chips to the burger, at no additional charge.

“Whenever I’d eat a burger there’d be French fries or potato chips on the plate, next to my burger, and the cheese would melt down onto the potato chips on the side I would eat those first,” Flay said.

While Flay had control in creating the menu, as a true foodie he has a hard time settling on his favorite burger.

“It depends on the day. The other day I had a Bobby Bleu Burger. That was my favorite two days ago – today, it might be something different. I always get my burgers crunchified,” he said.

 The restaurant does offer turkey burgers and chicken in place of a burger patty, and Flay defended the lack of a veggie burger on his menu.

“Vegetarians are very unhappy with me, because they want me to have a veggie burger but I’ve yet to find a veggie burger that I’ve thought was great. I’ve had some that were okay, but I just have not been able to find something that meets the standards of everything else on the menu,” said Flay, who suggested having one of their salads or grilled cheese instead.

The other two components are the fries and milkshakes. The fries, which are offered as original or sweet potato, are hand cut on the premises and made from scratch using a two-day labor-intensive process. And if you’re in the mood to dip your fries or douse your burger in sauce, then consider their three signature sauces; a chipotle ketchup, jalapeno hot sauce or burger sauce.

After a year of happy sampling, Flay perfected his milkshake recipes, which come with a whopping 11 oz in each glass.

“They’re the right thickness and have a tremendous amount of flavor. The calorie count’s about 20 – but I was the one that was counting,” chuckled Flay.

Flay’s “Palace” offers 10 different milkshake flavors, as well as malted milk powder as an add-on. One of the milkshakes that has garnered the most attention from customers has been the pistachio shake.

“I’ll let you in on a secret – the pistachio shake is a cult favorite. If you like pistachio at all, I urge you to taste it,” Flay said. If you’re trying to lay off the sweets, then consider their signature margarita, which is also served at Flay’s Mesa Grill.

No matter what you order, Flay wants to make sure that your experience is as great as the food.

“I want them to really have a good time. I think the thing that I love about this place is that we’re always having a good time. I want this to be the go-to place that they come for their burger craving and that’s a hard thing to do because people often have a place in their minds when they think of their favorite burger,” Flay said.

Flay to Open ‘Bobby’s Burger Palace’ on Tuesday


WOODBRIDGE, Va. — Food Network TV star Bobby Flay will be in Woodbridge on Tuesday to open his latest eatery, Bobby’s Burger Palace, at Potomac Mills mall.

Handlers said Flay will be on hand at noon to greet customers and “flip burgers.”

This will be the 15th Bobbys Burger Palace that has opened in the U.S. The restaurant offers 10 signature burgers, from the Philadelphia Burger, the Buffalo Burger, the Dallas Burger, and the Santa Fe Burger, with, yes, you guessed it, jalapeno peppers.

Inspired by the recipes and food that he’s tried all across the United States, Bobby brings a menu of burgers and other lunch and dinner staples that are meant to serve as an upgrade to a normal meal out, while maintaining the casual setting and vibe, according to a press release.

Owner Builds TelNet after Key Decision to Never Serve Another Boss

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Mike Howard, President of TelNet. [Photo: Mary Davidson / Potomac Local News]

Sponsor Profile: Mike Howard of TelNet



Growing up in a military family with his father in the Air Force, Howard, also known as “Mike the Phone Guy,” had decided on the career path of architecture, a far cry from his telecommunications role today.

“When I was in high school, I was studying to become an architect. My goal was to become an architect. And I went, because as every 17-year-old, we always know best, and after going I knew that’s not what I wanted to do,” Howard said.

Realizing that a life of blueprints and building design were not for him, Howard veered to a pursuit close to his family roots, joining the Air Force at 17, where he had his first exposure to telecommunications.

“The second day after joining, I realized I made a big mistake. I realized it was going to be a long four years,” Howard said.

After spending four years in the Air Force before being honorably discharged, Howard moved to Florida where his parents had entered retirement. Spending a little over a year working and going back to school, Howard was offered a position at the National Security Agency in Maryland, bringing him back up to the Washington area. Working for the NSA for eight years proved to be a positive experience for Howard, but he decided he wanted to give it a shot at working for a mom and pop telecommunications business.

Signing on to work at a small telecommunications firm in Maryland, where he established his technical background, Howard worked hard to transform the company and to help it grow.

“I helped the owner build his company from me being employee number 4 to 42 employees. We were the third largest dealer for telecommunications product at the time,” Howard commented.

“During the latter part of my five- years with that company, I had the urge to do sales. I liked the technical process, but there was something about the sales process; the meeting with customers, solving problems and all of that,” Howard said, which led to his first sales job at Lucent in 1996. “I had a pretty high quota to hit, but I was there for four years and did very well,” Howard said.

Gaining his sales experience, Howard felt it was time to take the reins, and approached his former employer, who agreed to open another office in Virginia that Howard could run, which was located in Fairfax.

“In the first year, we did close to a million dollars in business. I was able to bring in 10 employees,” Howard said of his initial success in the firm’s new office.

Running into some snags with the new branch, Howard moved to Falcon Communications in Manassas where he served as VP of Sales, until he was laid off in the Internet bust of the last decade – a moment that changed the course of his life forever.

“I went into work with my son, who was 3-years-old, and I was let go that Saturday. That weekend, I told my wife I was never going to work for another person – I was going to do this my way. I was going to serve customers, I was going to help them in the best way I can and provide what I believe is the best service I can offer,” Howard said. This was a scary time for their family, as his wife was also unemployed and they had just given birth to their second child.

“That weekend I came up with our logo, and the name – real simple – TelNet, an abbreviation for telephone and network, and come Monday morning I got a business license and I started officially moving forward,” Howard said.

“We grew quickly. The first year we did about $100,000, we scraped by – it was terrible, but we made it through that – and then we went to $400,000 and $800,000 and $1.2 million,” Howard said, going on to say that the 2008 crash put the company in a place of hardship and loss, but Howard helped redirect the company to survive the crash and come out on top.

“Today we are in a growth mode – I’ve been blessed to have great employees and better than that even, I have great customers,” Howard said of his thousands of customer’s he’s served in the company’s 12 years.

Howard’s focus for his telecommunications company, TelNet, has always been to know their customer and differentiate themselves from the competition.

“We are a technology company for businesses. We provide telecommunications products – hardware and software for a business,” said Howard.

“What’s different about our company versus some of our competitors is that we don’t just represent a product or a specific manufacturer. Coming from the service end of the business, so often I’d witness how people would buy things because they were sold. We have multiple manufacturers that we represent so we can truly approach our customers and educate them on all of the options that there are,” Howard said.

And TelNet has done this, not only working to win the Northern Virginia state cabling contract for seven years, but also winning the Inc. 5000 Award.

While his path has been long and in many places, very difficult, Howard reflects positively on the choices he’s made and all that he’s accomplished in his career and with TelNet. “I am truly grateful for all of the opportunities I’ve been given,” Howard stated.

Auto Repair Shop Stays in Business by Educating Employees on Cost of Doing Business 

Let’s face it – going to an auto repair shop is a lot like going to the dentist.  You know you have to go once in a while, but there is always somewhere else you would rather be spending your time, and your money.

For auto repair shop owners, starting one can be difficult – many close within the first three to five years in business.  And, auto repair shops are one of the more regulated businesses in the U.S. today.

Sudley Car Care Center in Manassas is an exception to this rule.  The company, owned by Craig Ginther, and his wife Sandy, has been in operation for 23 years.  Today, the company has a roster of about 4,000 customers and has received several community awards for customer service and technical expertise.

Ginther recently offered to share about the success of his business, and what advice he would give to those starting out today.

Have a clear vision of the type of business you want to start.  This includes the culture, values, and target market.

Prior to starting Sudley Car Care, Ginther was employed at a local gas station, working his way up from mechanic to state inspector.  He then moved on to work at several dealerships in the area.  When Ginther decided to start his own business, he was determined to take the best practices from his previous employers and apply them to Sudley Car Care.  He also had a very clear vision of the type of company he wanted to own.

“Customer satisfaction was key,” said Ginther .  “I didn’t just want to do car repairs, I wanted to develop long term relationships and friendships with my customers.”

Because Ginther knew what type of culture he wanted for the business, he also knew what types of people he wanted to hire.

“I’ve always focused on hiring people who are very customer service oriented and have strong family values,” said Ginther.  “I want someone who strives for excellence and takes great pride in their work.”

Ginther also knew what types of automobiles he wanted to service.

“We have always focused on cars and light trucks only,” he said.  “We service about 50% domestic and 50% foreign manufactures.  However, on the foreign side we stick primarily to Asian manufacturers.”

This is because many of the high performance European manufacturers require specialized computer diagnostics and highly specialized training.  Having this type of focus kept Ginther from investing in expensive software and tools without a guarantee that he could get enough business from this niche market to make it profitable.  It also helped with sales and marketing – he knew exactly who to target with his marketing efforts.  This enabled him to get maximum value from his marketing dollars.

Have experience in the industry before you go out on your own, be realistic about the financial requirements, and never stop focusing on expenses.

Those years spent working at the auto garage and dealerships gave Ginther a priceless education on how to run his own business.  Most importantly, he didn’t just focus on what he needed to do for his own job.  He broadened his education to learn as much as possible about financing, marketing, business operations, cash flow, inventory management, and customer satisfaction.  As a result, when he launched his own business, he had realistic expectations of what he could expect in terms of growth, operational demands, and cash flow.

“What you often see in this industry is someone who is an excellent mechanic deciding to start his own auto repair shop,” said Ginther.  “While he has great mechanical skills, he has very little experience in business finance, operations, and marketing.  He also underestimates the amount of cash he will need to start and keep the business operating for the time it takes to become self-sustaining.”

Ginther and his wife, Sandy, funded Sudley Car Care with their personal savings and a home-equity loan.  While they considered several auto franchises, they ultimately decided to be an independent shop.  In the beginning, Ginther made the decision to lease both the building and the equipment he needed to start the business.  He started small and ran the business very conservatively, a practice he continues today despite his success.

“You have to keep an eye on every expense,” says Ginther.  “It is so much easier to control $1 of expense than it is to get a whole new car into the shop to repair.”

Teach your employees about the realities of profitability. 

As an employee, it is easy to make assumptions about the profitability of a business based on the size of a company’s inventory, the number of customers going in and out every day, and the value of the invoices that are processed daily.  Any business owner will tell you, the reality of that profit is a heck of a lot less.  Craig takes a pro-active approach to educating his employees on the realities of running a business.

“I take the new mechanics and show them a repair bill,” says Ginther. “Let’s say the bill shows we charged $400 for parts and $200 for labor.  Of the $600 total, I ask them to guess how much will be net profit.  I explain this is profit that will be reinvested into the business to buy better tools, more equipment, pay for employee training, etc.”

“Most of the time, they guess the amount to be about $250 in net profit.  This is when I start the exercise.  I show them where we deduct the cost of the equipment and their labor.  Then I deduct the appropriate percentage for taxes and insurance expenses.  Then I explain about fixed costs, like rent, utilities and lease payments.  So we deduct a percentage for that.  By the time we are finished, they realize the net profit is a lot closer to $25.  This is a real eye-opener for them.”

Ginther does this so his employees will be more actively engaged in expense control.

“After the exercise, they understand that every time they waste materials, or use a wrong part that cannot be returned, they are eating into that very narrow profit margin.  It makes them a lot more responsible,” commented Ginther.

Don’t expect all your employees to share your passion for the business.

One of the biggest lessons Ginther said he learned during the first few years of the business is that not every employee was going to have the same dedication to the business that Craig and Sandy had.

“I’d get frustrated with employees who did not seem to be as emotionally invested as I was in seeing the business succeed,” said Ginther.  “They didn’t seem to care that it was my house on the line, and my family’s security at risk if we failed.”

What Craig came to realize was that for many employees, their job was just that – a job.  They wanted to come into the shop, work hard, do a good job, and then go home to their family.  They were not ever going to be emotionally vested in Ginther’s vision.  And that was okay. As long as they remained dedicated to excellence, serviced the customer and honored the values of the business, it was enough.

Be just as clear on what you don’t want in the business as you are about what you do want.

About 13 years ago, Ginther opened a larger shop on Central Park Drive, several miles away from the original location on Sudley Road in Manassas. For about three years, he kept both locations running.  However, Craig realized that he didn’t want the additional burden of running two shops and driving back and forth between the two locations every day.  He also felt that by dividing his time between the two locations, he wasn’t able to attend to his customers in the way he wanted.

Many business owners are seduced by the idea of expanding, driven more by ego than solid business reasoning.  They jump into opening a new office or branch long before the business can support the expansion.  Ginther waited a decade before deciding to enlarge his operation.  His conservative approach toward corporate finances ensured that the expansion did not jeopardize the company’s cash flows or its ability to service the customer.

When Craig realized he did not like running both operations, he made the choice to close down the smaller, original shop.  His clear understanding of what his business stood for – servicing the customer – made the decision an easy one.

Don’t be afraid to say “no” to your customers.

You can’t run a successful business if you have unhappy employees.  The old adage, “the customer is always right” really needs to be tempered with, “but remember that some customers are just not worth keeping.”

When Sudley Car Care first opened its doors, they were open for half a day on Saturday.  However, most of Ginther ’s mechanics had families and on any given Saturday, kids needed to be taken to sporting events or practices of some sort.  The half-day of work made it difficult for the mechanics to meet these family demands.  Ginther decided to close the shop on weekends to allow his employees to enjoy the time with their friends and family.

“It upset quite a few customers at first,” said Ginther.  “But the type of work we did on weekends was mostly oil changes, and it didn’t seem fair to demand that our mechanics lose time with their families for work that could easily be done during the week.  We offer shuttle service for our customers that work locally, and I just had to hope that our customers would understand why I made this decision.”

The chance of tempers flying and customers yelling is higher in an auto repair shop than in other industries just by the nature of the business.  Ginther will be the first to tell you that most of the time the problem is not over costs, but some other type of misunderstanding.  While he counsels his employees not to take an angry customer personally, he also won’t tolerate a habitually abusive customer.

“About 99% of the time we are able to resolve the issue just by talking through the misunderstanding,” says Ginther.  “I have customers that may have been angry with us at one point or another, but have since become loyal clients and good friends.”

But on a few occasions, Craig has made the decision to “fire” a customer that he knows will never be happy, no matter how hard he and his mechanics try.

“In those few cases I have simply taken the person aside and had an honest talk about how it doesn’t look like we’re a good fit for his or her auto repair needs,” says Ginther.

Make sure you love what you are doing.

The longest vacation Craig has taken in 23 years is one week.  Despite this, he still gets up every morning eager to get to work.  He enjoys the camaraderie he has with his employees and the relationships he’s built with his many customers.

“People ask me if I have an exit strategy,” says Craig.  “I will most likely sell the business one day, but I still love what I’m doing so I’m in no hurry to stop.”

Breaking the Food Rut at the Farmer’s Market

Farmer’s Market Coordinator

Every couple of months, I’ll be eating my “old standby” meal when I realize mid-bite: I am in a food rut. It happened most recently over a bowl of oatmeal. Oats had become my staple in my morning. And I made them the exact same way every single time. The predictability of my morning meal was starting to grate on my nerves so greatly that I decided to take a break from the mundane oatsy mush I found myself forcing down.

I can’t possibly be the only person this happens to. There must be others that find something so enjoyable that it is overdone to the point of sickness. It’s sort of like when you hear that new Justin Timberlake song and you think, “I like this song! I should listen to it as many times as I want because I can’t imagine not enjoying it after the 34,554,546,890th time.”

This thinking is wrong because two months later you find yourself scoffing while changing the station when that song comes on the radio. Since I am on the cutting edge of “food rut” research (I did invent this terminology, after all), I have brainstormed a few suggested therapies for coping with the issue:

-Forage for a new recipe to try. Adding some flair to your meals will help you to re-appreciate a mundane meal. For example, I started eating oats again, I added blackberries and it made all the difference. Try and be realistic, though, find a recipe that is doable while still takes you a bit out of your comfort zone.

-Buy a new piece of produce as inspiration. It wasn’t until a few years ago when I became a lover of all things farm and vegetable that I discovered that there are delicious items sprouting from this earth that I have never tried—beets; kohlrabi (yea, I bet you’ve never heard of that one. Go Google it); patt pan squash. When you buy this new and astonishing vegetable, don’t be shy! Ask the farmer that you are buying it from for suggestions on how to prepare it. They are experts and more than happy to help.

Variety is the spice of life. Your body can certainly benefit from trying something new, your family may appreciate a different dish and your palette will enjoy a new host of flavors. There are so many foods that have yet to be explored, so I challenge you to connect with nature, and nutrition, by purchasing a novel item at the Farmer’s Market. Even if you don’t end up becoming a huge fan of beets, at least you’ll have given it a try and have an informed opinion of the root vegetable.

I recently stumbled upon this quote and I find that has a lot of truth in it:

“Cooking is like love; it should be entered into with abandon or not at all.” –Harriet Van Horne

I challenge you to pull yourself out of your food rut, be brave and try something new– and Virginia Grown!

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