For a Better Commute. For a Better Prince William County.


Real Estate Brokerage Opens


Stafford County, Va. — A new real estate brokerage firm has opened, and they’re operating without walls.

Robert Donovan opened Donovan and Associates on Jan. 1, a real estate brokerage operating in the Potomac Communities, is operating online and face to face, said Donovan.

Donovan and his wife, Kristie, both live in Fredericksburg and graduated from Mary Washington University. They also have both worked in real estate and educate perspective homeowners on the home buying process.

“Interest rates are at historic lows, and we’ve seen home prices in our area drop back to where they were in the 2002-2003 timeframe,” said Donovan.

Focusing on residential real estate, many of Donovan’s first time home buyers put about three percent down on a new home loan, which qualifies them for a loan through the Federal Housing Administration. Other first time buyers looking to live in rural areas, including portions of south Stafford County, could also qualify for loans through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said Donovan.

“We really don’t have a particular client. We work with a lot of people at many levels, from the first time homebuyer to the client who is purchasing a million dollar home,” said Donovan.

Prior to launching Donovan and Associates, Donovan was the marketing director for the Rappahannock Electric Cooperative. He’s also been active in the Fredericksburg Area Builders Association.

Another Thrift Store Coming

Savers Thrift Store will open a new location in the Potomac Festival shopping center in Woodbridge.

Woodbridge, Va. — Another store is entering the growing thrift store market in Woodbridge.

Savers super thrift store appears to be opening a new location on the Potomac Festival shopping plaza, across from Potomac Mills mall.

A banner noting the store will be “coming soon” hangs above the entrance to a vacant retail space next to Hard Times Café. The same space used house computer retailer CompUSA, which closed their Woodbridge store after the company announced cuts in 2007.

The Bellevue, Washington – based Savers is a for-profit thrift store with 107 locations in the U.S. and 123 in Canada, according to company information posted to their website.

The store will carry clothes, shoes, kitchen items and furniture, to name a few.

Savers is the latest big-box thrift store to set their sights on Woodbridge in less than a year.

In August, B-Thrifty opened its doors in Station Plaza at U.S. 1 and Va. 123 in Woodbridge. The store, which was converted from the Hi-Mart mini mall, carries similar items to what Savers claims to carry.

Milk Delivery Popular Again

A Virginia couple is delivering milk to Woodbridge residents the old fashioned way: right to their doorstep.

Samantha and Tim Stern, along with their children, founded Holy Cow Delivery in 2009. At their 20-acre farm in Strasburg, they raise sheep, goats, and Rhode Island Red Chickens. And at Samantha Stern’s father’s farm, South Mountain Creamery in Middletown, Md., is where fresh, whole, homogenized milk is produced for delivery to the Potomac Communities.

Samantha, an agriculture teacher for 10 years, and Tim a former Botanist for Winchester, started out selling 15 half-gallons of milk per week at local farmers markets, including the popular Dale City Farmer’s Market. The business has grown to selling and delivering 1,000 half-gallons per week, and they now fill orders made on their website.

“Doing home delivery was a better way to reach you guys instead of people coming out to us on our farm. Why not have farmers on wheels delivering locally produced milk and dairy products,” asked Samantha Stern.

In addition to Woodbridge, Holy Cow delivers to towns along Interstate 66 – a road where they attracted at least one customer:

I found your site while drivi[n]g on I66 on your cool truck, ironically from grocery shopping at Giant. Got on the internet while driving, (not cool) to get your phone number. I spoke with your very patient and witty mom and got most of the info I need to place an order. I’ve been in the market researching the best possible milk I can find in the market for my 3 kids without having to buy a share of a cow or traveling to the ends of the earth to get it.

-Holy Cow Delivery customer email

For many, having milk delivered fresh to their homes is something they’ve never experienced. Samantha, herself, was surprised at the concept of delivering milk to people’s homes and exclaimed “holy cow” when she and her husband began talking about the idea — hence the business name.

The Sterns say they make it easy for anyone to come out to their farm to put a face with the milk.

“It’s like were all a family when they come to our house to meet us, we chat over email, we all become part of a family,” said Samantha Stern.

Doc Popcorn Opens at Mall

Tong Zheng serves up new popcorn flavors at Potomac Mills mall in Woodbridge. (Photo: Stephanie Tipple/

By Stephanie Tipple

Woodbridge, Va. — If you’re looking for a tasty snack while shopping at the Potomac Mills mall in Woodbridge then look out for the bright yellow Doc Popcorn shop in the food court.

Doc Popcorn, created in 2003 in Boulder, Colorado, is all about the all-natural and healthy popcorn snack, with many innovative flavors and a family friendly franchise atmosphere. This is the first Doc Popcorn location in the Potomac Communities, and is the first of three that Tong Zheng, the franchise owner, plans to open in Northern Virginia.

Tong Zheng, of Manassas, started his career in the food industry in high school, helping to run his parents restaurant. While Zheng loved the food business, he wanted to branch out and move into a franchise that would allow him more time to spend with his two children, who are both students in Manassas public schools. To find the right franchise, Zheng reached out to business consultants, and found Doc Popcorn.

“I think what we try to offer is product that is all-natural, to be healthy with the product, recycle materials and we all try to make the customer’s smile, which is the most important,” said Zheng.

These tasty and moderately priced popcorn treats come in a variety of flavors, all of which are made with whole grain kernels, made in 100 percent corn oil. Zheng’s personal favorite is the Triple White Cheddar flavor.

The Hoppin’ Jalapeno flavor is a subtle kick, but just enough that it gives you the savory and spicy flavor –perfect for those that love spicy food. The Triple White Cheddar hits the notes of cheddar cheese dead on, but is light and melts in your mouth.

The Cheesy Cheddar is a more cheese based flavor than its triple cheddar counterpart, and has a taste reminiscent to Smartfood popcorn. The Better Butter flavor is a great alternative to movie theater popcorn, without the heavy butter flavoring.

The Sinfully Cinnamon, like the name implies, is chock full of cinnamon and was one of my favorites that reminds me of the holidays. The Caramel Kettle flavor is very bold, and is a great treat for someone with a serious sweet tooth. The Klassic Kettle is very similar to kettle corn, but with sweeter undertones and by far, my favorite flavor was the Sweet Butter Flavor. This flavor is the sweetest of the bunch, and is a step up from the Klassic Kettle in terms of sweetness.

The cost of the popcorn typically ranges from $4-$6, and the Doc Popcorn location is open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.

Health Foundation Accepting Grant Apps

Woodbridge, Va. — The Potomac Health Foundation Board of Directors announces the start of its next round of large grants. Beginning in January the Foundation will begin accepting applications for the spring 2012 grant cycle. Eligible grant recipients are nonprofit organizations that provide health services to communities in eastern Prince William County, southeast Fairfax County and north Stafford County.

Applying for a large grant is a two-step process. The first step is to submit a “Letter of Intent,” a brief concept paper which describes the project. Letters of Intent are due on January 31, 2012. The Foundation then invites a limited number of applicants to submit a full proposal, based upon the merits of the project. The Board of Directors will make and announce its large grant awards on June 8, 2012.

Attend the Letter of Intent Workshop on January 9, 2012, to learn more details about the grant application process. The Foundation will explain the types of grants it will offer and the requirements for the Letter of Intent. The training will be held at Sentara Potomac Hospital, Hylton Education Center, from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. Reservations are requested. Call 703-730-4445.

-Unedited press release 

Diner of TV Fame to Reopen in January

Stafford, Va. — On the blue walls over a lunch counter, a sign still hung on Wednesday harkening back to what this restaurant turned made-for-TV diner use to be.

The sign states “County Fare – A Great American Diner,” the restaurant in Stafford that closed in October despite getting national attention from TV’s Food Network’s “Restaurant Impossible” in April. The show helped to remake the diner at the corner of U.S. 1 and Hope Road over 48 hours by giving it a new coat of paint, remaking its lunch and desert counters, and added some new menu items like a Ruben burger.

Though the changes came too late for County Fare’s owner, Eric Green, new owner In Jun Bang hopes to build a successful business here, and he’ll call it “County Café.”

“I saw the restaurant on TV, and Eric, the old owner, I think he’s a really good person but he didn’t have that much experience on the restaurant business,” said Bang, who’s run a restaurant in Georgia for the last 10 years.

Being the restaurant business is tough, said Bang. He and his wife – who for the past 10 years has managed an eatery on K Street in Washington – both have done it for more than 25 years. The key to success here will be great food.

“When we open and do the food test, we want to make sure that we have what we need to make delicious food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner,” said Bang.

The menu will be a mix of American food, a taste of southern cooking he picked up while in Georgia, as well as some Korean favorites like Bulgogi, or marinated beef.

Bang lives in Maryland with his wife but is looking to move to Stafford to be closer to his new business.

“I checked the neighborhood and they’re not a lot of restaurants in this area, and the most of important thing for small business is location, location, location, and this area is not hot but it’s not bad,” said Bang.

He’s been cleaning the restaurant for the past month, as he said it was left in mediocre condition. Bang plans to open in late January and will invite area residents to a special tasting event prior to the grand opening.

Dumfries Coffee Shop Serves Up Joe, Treats

Emoni’s Coffee and Desert Bar founder Cici Matthews. (Stephanie Tipple/

By Stephanie Tipple

If you’re in Dumfries and are looking for a great cup of coffee and a treat, then look no further than Emoni’s Dessert Bar & Café. Emoni’s has been open for just three months, in the previous Dumfries Coffee location, but has already been warmly received by various members of the Dumfries community, due to Emoni’s wide variety of offerings and excellent baked treats. The word “emoni” means faith in Swahili, and Emoni’s CEO Cici Matthews has quite a bit of faith in her business and her product.

Matthews, a Los Angeles native, and 17-year Virginia resident has had the opportunity to see the impact and importance of a strong community, and this is something that is being incorporated into her business model.

The dessert bar and café is named after Matthew’s daughter Emoni, a student at Woodbridge Senior High School, and this is appropriate when considering all that Emoni’s aims to do for residents of Dumfries. In addition to offering quality baked goods, the café plans to host several cultural and community events, working with poets and artists from the DC metro area, like poet Phillip Gregory, to get children, teens and adults reinvested in the Dumfries community.

“I believe that you have to put seeds in other people’s dreams and talents, in order to get your own seeds for your dreams,” Matthews said.

Emoni’s also offers coffee and wine pairing educational talks with customers, teaching customers about the impact and reasoning as to why certain coffees and wines pair with different desserts, allowing customers to get the full flavor experience. They also offer free WiFi to all of their customers, which means that you can have your cake and eat it too, when it comes to grabbing a treat and getting some work done.

They offer cakes, cupcakes, cake pops, cookies, brownies, pies, and cheese cakes, and will take special orders within 24 hours. All of these bakery items are made daily and fresh on the premises, and all of the left-over products are donated to local charities and organizations in the community.

And like any good reporter, I took it upon myself to perform the grueling task of sampling various dessert offerings that you’ll find at Emoni’s. The lemon cupcakes were fresh and light, a perfect pick me up when you want dessert, but without the afterward heavy bloated feeling. The Kentucky Derby pie didn’t disappoint, and was crisp and flaky like a pie should be when made just right. But overall, my hands down favorite had to be the German chocolate cake. There was just the right amount of fudge and coconut topping to blend together, and didn’t leave my mouth with an overly sweet or chocolatey taste.

JCPenney to Reopen

JCPenney will reopen in Potomac Mills mall.

Woodbridge, Va. — After closing its outlet store at Potomac Mills mall earlier this year, JCPenney will reopen in its old location as a full retail store.

Work is underway now to transform the old drab gray 107,000 square-foot interior of the old store to match the brighter look of the company’s’ regular retail stores.

“The addition of JCPenney will enhance our great value retail mix and establish us as an innovative hybrid shopping destination, offering outlet, value and full-price retail selections,” says Mike Sullivan, general manager of Potomac Mills in a press release. “We believe that our shoppers will appreciate this one-stop shopping opportunity and it will soar Potomac Mills to new heights.”

The new store is expected to open in March, and will join other nearby large anchor stores like Saks Fifth Avenue OFF 5TH .

This is the latest in a series of changes taking place at the mall. Last week, Potomac Mills mall replaced its iconic highway sign after the old one blew away during a windstorm in February, and a new children’s playground was installed.

Jeweler Buys Elizabeth Taylor Piece

Jenny Caro of Jewelry By Design purchased a piece of Elizabeth Taylor’s jewelry and will now display it in their store in Woodbridge.

Woodbridge, Va. — The owners of a Woodbridge jewelry store are now the owners of jewelry worn by Elizabeth Taylor.

Jenny and John Caro recently went to New York City to purchase a necklace and two pairs of earrings from Taylor’s collection, reports

Competing with the likes of Kim Karsdashian, the Caro’s bought the cheapest item to be auctioned off.

Taylor’s jewels were auctioned off last week at Christie’s auction house in New York City.

If you’re on Facebook, you can see photos of Caro’s trip to Christie’s.

Quinn Appointed to IJO Board

Terry Quinn and his wife, Joy. (Photo: Mary Davidson/

Terry Quinn of Quinn’s Goldsmith in Occoquan was recently honored by being appointed to a position on the Board of Directors of the Independent Jewelers Organization (IJO), according to an announcement by IJO President and CEO Jeff Roberts.

“Terry was chosen from among 850 retail jeweler members, which really says a lot about his leadership abilities, and the confidence the membership as a whole has in him,” Roberts reported. “I’m excited to be working with Terry, as is the rest of the Board.”

The IJO Board of Directors is comprised of nine retail members and two supplier members.

The Board position is to act as a liaison between the membership and IJO management, and to help form ideas for the betterment of the overall operation of IJO.

“Terry will be a great asset to IJO’s Board – he’s been an active, contributing member of this organization since the moment he joined ten years ago, and we’re privileged to have his input,” said IJO’s Director of Member Services Penny Palmer.

Independent Jewelers Organization is the world’s largest jewelry buying group, enabling its retail members to buy at group savings and pass those savings along to their customers. IJO also provides the latest education and information on product knowledge, techniques, trends and styles to its members, to further benefit their customers.

“Being associated with IJO represents integrity, quality and trust, and I’m proud to be able to give back to this organization that has helped my business in so many ways. I look forward to serving my fellow members in any way I can over the next three years,” Quinn stated.

Quinn operates two jewelry stores in the Potomac Communities, one in Occoquan in one in Woodbridge. 


Library, Clinic Ink Deal with Tacketts Mill

Lake Ridge, Va. — The neighborhood library that has had more homes than any other in Prince William County is about to move again.

The Lake Ridge Neighborhood Library will move from the Fairfield Office Park on Harbor Drive where it’s been since 1995 back to nearby Tackett’s Mill Shopping Center. The library recently inked a new lease with the shopping center’s management company, Rappaport Companies, and will move into a 3,500-square foot space on the upper level of the shopping center between a pizzeria and barbershop, near a Safeway grocery store.

“For years we’ve had people come in and say they have a hard time finding us, or call and say they can’t find us at all,” said library supervisor Lynn Casey.

The library has not announced a moving date , and officials with the county’s library office had been looking for a new space for at least the past six months, added Casey. The library will pay about $38,000 per year for the space, about $15,000 less than what they were paying to house the neighborhood facility in the office park.

The library’s relocation will benefit not only the shopping center but the neighborhood too, said Prince William Occoquan District Supervisor Mike May.

“…the location is much more visible and will attract many folks who might not have otherwise had occasion to visit this section of Tackett’s Mill. This will, in turn, benefit the other businesses that are located there–after people are done visiting the library, they may want to grab a bite to eat or stop in at one of the other shops. Hopefully the new library location brings new vitality and excitement to this part of the center,” said May.

The Lake Ridge Neighborhood Library opened in 1985 in Tackett’s Mill but moved the facility to the nearby office park in the mid-1990s due to budget cuts, according to the library’s webpage.

The library is one of six neighborhood libraries in Prince William County.

Also slated to open in Tackett’s Mill is Patient First Neighborhood Medical Center. With a location in North Stafford, the new location in Lake Ridge will be the walk-in clinic’s second site in the Potomac Communities.

Patient First will be built in the on a pad site where an old Shell gas station used to sit, said Rappaport Companies spokeswoman Sheryl Simeck.

Osprey’s Landing Reopens

Osprey’s Landing restaurant in Belmont Bay has reopened after it closed for two years. (Stephanie Tipple/

By Stephanie Tipple

Woodbridge, Va. — If you’ve missed fine dining and the views of the Occoquan River at Belmont Bay then you’re in luck, as Osprey’s Landing restaurant has reopened for business.

The restaurant has been closed for the past two years, but this fine dining experience is now ready to serve local customers. Osprey’s, a fixture in the Belmont Bay area, serves American food with a French flair – and it’s all about the superb dining experience.

The restaurant’s owners surveyed residents about what foods they’d like to see served at Osprey’s, and the public has spoken, prompting the American food menu with French flair. The clientele, mainly consisting of Belmont Bay residents, and Alexandria, Manassas and Stafford residents have been very supportive over the course of the reopening, coming out in droves for their soft opening – a Sunday Brunch that was held back in October.

Richard Davila, Osprey’s Landing Director of Food and Beverages, has 25 years of experience in the restaurant industry, and this experience has helped him understand the palette and the pricing needs of his customers. “What we’re trying to do on a daily basis, is to give people a great value for a meal that you’re not going to get at a lot of other places in the area,” said Davila.

The average cost for a meal here is about $19 per person.

People come from all over the county for their tuna slider appetizer, and the roasted chicken with mushroom Foam is one of Davila’s favorites. Osprey’s Landing is known for their desserts as well, serving up their famous waffle bread pudding and the crème brulee, which has a flavor change every two days.

Old Borders Now Used Bookstore

The old Borders Books on Prince William Parkway in Woodbridge is now 2nd and Charles books.

By Stephanie Tipple

Woodbridge, Va. — The one-time Borders location in Woodbridge off Prince William Parkway has been given new life. It’s been converted in a 2nd and Charles – a used book store chain based in the southeast U.S. with an eclectic assortment of merchandise.

This old Borders location is the only one that once belonged to the now-defunct book retailer that has been transformed in to a 2nd and Charles.

“There’s a big market for used books. There are lots of people, especially in this economy, who want to get books that are cheaper, that are perfectly fine – they’ve just been read before,” said general manager Kim Sarratt.

The current retail climate, families’ push for more conservative spending, and the local customer base made this a prime location for the company, said Sarratt.

Two managers and 15 former employees of Borders were also retained, which has made for an east transition for the new store and its customers.

While it may seem like large shoes to fill in the wake of the closing of all Border’s locations, Sarratt says there is a great demand for used books. And while 2nd and Charles puts a large focus on their used book selection, they make it a point to let customers know that they’re not just a book store.

They also carry movies, video games and vinyl comic books.

“We want an eclectic type of atmosphere, where people can come – we’re a destination place for people to come and find that rare treasure, as well as new stuff,” Sarratt said.

The store also has a buy-back and trading program for customers to trade in their books and video games, earning them cash or store credit for books. The store has been open a week and, thus far, they have already seen a positive level of sales from both new customers and former Border’s customers, said Sarratt.

The bookstore chain has five locations, with the Woodbridge store being the only one in Virginia. The company has plans expanding further at the start of the New Year.

A Borders store in Stafford Marketplace also closed this year. In October is was occupied by a Halloween costume store which has since closed for the season.

Stephanie Tipple is a contributing writer for

Local Black Friday Deals

In the current economic climate, more and more people are choosing to spend their dollars locally. According to an often cited research study, for every dollar you spend at a locally-owned business, 72 cents remains in the local economy supporting small business owners and employees.

As a locally-owned, run, and supported small business, is proud to support other local businesses as much as possible.

We asked locally owned businesses to send us what special deals they’re offering for Black Friday. We’ve posted them here for free to show our support for local business in the Potomac Communities!

Shopping for: Wife, girlfriend, fiancé

Shop at: Touch of Gold, 202 Washington Street in Occoquan.

Deal: Touch of Gold will be offering jewelry specials Friday-Sunday including 50 percent off a selection of fine jewelry already on sale, 50 percent off Celtic/Irish sterling jewelry, 25 percent off of diamond semi-mounts, 25 percent off genuine pearls, Buy One Get One Free on Kameleon Jewel Pops with any Sterling purchase.

Why we love it: Touch of Gold offers personalized service, unique lines, and a wide variety of special order products. If you’re a TrollBeads fanatic, this is definitely the shop for you. The pink and grey color scheme and boutique feel make this Occoquan jewelry shop extra charming.

Shopping for: A best friend, girlfriend, or co-worker

Shop at: The Polka Dot Divas, 405 Mill Street in Occoquan.

Deal: A Black Friday rolling sale with a different special on select items that will rotate every two hours. Cyber Monday on Nov. 28 will feature 10 percent off everything on

Why we love it: Bouncing back from serious flood damage, Polka Dot Divas’ new location still offers adorable styling and wide variety of gifts never fails to produce a perfect find for your best gal-pals. Their charming and funny combinations would also be a hit in any white elephant swap.

Shopping for: Wife, girlfriend, fiancé

Shop at: Jewelry By Design 2932 Prince William Parkway in Woodbridge.

Deal: 3 Days Only: Friday, Saturday and Sunday Save on Gifts for Everyone in Your Family! 14K Gold Diamond Studs ¼ ctw $149, Silver Pearl Earrings $29, 14K Gold Diamond Ring ½ ctw $999, Gold Black Diamond Studs ½ ctw $149, Silver Cross Pendant, $199, Silver Sapphire & Diamond Pendant $149, Silver Diamond, Pendant $199. Free iPAD2 with purchase of $2,499 or more

Why we love it: JBD has a huge selection of items to choose from and its right it the heart of Prince William County’s shopping district, just off I-95.

Shopping for: Your crafty friend, sister-in-law, mommy-group buddies

Shop at: Pink Crow Designs,

Deal: 10 percent off already discounted prices and free shipping using code BLACKFRIDAY10, or 10 percent off any custom order placed on Black Friday.

Why we love it: Shopping online? No lines? Count us in! Plus these unique designs are all handmade locally.

Shopping for: Your crafty friend, sister-in-law, mommy-group buddies

Shop at: Pink Crow Designs,

Deal: 10 percent off already discounted prices and free shipping using code BLACKFRIDAY10, or 10 percent off any custom order placed on Black Friday.

Why we love it: Shopping online? No lines? Count us in! Plus these unique designs are all handmade locally.

Shopping for: The person on your list with everything

Shop at: Workhouse Arts Center, 9601 Ox Road in Lorton.

Deal: Workshops, parties, plays, demonstrations and more, with no admission fee or requirement to buy anything. Santa will be on hand, raffles and food and carolers will be part of this full day experience, too. Events start at 9 a.m. and run to 7 p.m.

Why we love it: Instead of waiting in line at 4 a.m. alone, come out to the workhouse with the whole family and be entertained while shopping from the great works of local artists. Bonus- signing your kid up for a drama, art, or music class won’t clutter the toy room and gets them out of your hair once a week.

Shopping for: Just about anything- clothes, books, gifts, decorations

Shop at: Old Town Manassas

Deal: Just like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, you can purchase Old Town Chocolate Bars at participating shops, and if yours has the golden ticket, your child gets to escort Santa in the Old Town Christmas Parade

Why we love it: Escorting Santa. Enough said!

Shopping for: Wife, girlfriend, fiancé

Shop at: Quinn’s Goldsmith- Choose from Occoquan or Potomac Town Center at Stonebridge

Deal: This they’re giving away an iPad 2: One on Mens night Dec 14 in Occoquana and one on mens night Dec 15 at our Woodbridge location (near Wegmans), and another one Christmas Eve.

Why we love it: If you’ve got to buy jewelry anyway, you may as well win a little something for yourself, too!

Shopping for: Fun

Shop at: Wherever you want, but drop the kids off at Kids In Motion Woodbridge

Deal: Kids in Motion will offer a Black Friday fun camp for kids ages 3-12 from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. for $5-$7 per child. For more information or to sign up, visit their website at

Why we love it: There’s no way the kids are going to make it from a 4 a.m. trip to Macy’s all the way to when the indie stores open….what, you don’t teach yours to deal hunt?

Shopping for: Home cleaning services

Shop at: Jazzy’s Cleaning Service

Deal: Save 30 percent off your first home cleaning service if you call before Dec. 15. Call 540-272-3438!

Why we love it: It’s holiday time and with all the parties and get-togethers you’ll want to have your place looking it’s best. Why not let Jazzy’s help?



Civil War, Mall, Museums Boost Tourism

Prince William, VA-Tourism revenue is on the rise in the greater Prince William region and across Virginia, according to data released by the Virginia Tourism Corporation.

Visitors to Prince William County generated almost $444 million in revenue last year, a 6.8 percent increase from 2009. In the City of Manassas, visitors generated almost $54 million, a 5.5 percent increase from 2009 and in Manassas Park about $1.2 million, which was a 3.7 percent increase.

The figures, which were calculated by the U.S. Travel Association, represent what domestic travelers spent on everything from meals, lodging and public transportation to shopping, admissions and entertainment. Virginia Tourism Corporation officials also said that every dollar Virginia invests in tourism marketing, generates $5 in tax revenue.

“We attribute the growth to the interest in the region’s Civil War history coupled with our other top attractions,” said Ann Marie Maher, Executive Director for Discover Prince William and Manassas, the regions convention and visitors bureau. “Prince William & Manassas is making a name for itself as a destination that is diverse, culturally dynamic and a tremendous value for travelers to the metropolitan D.C. area.”

Maher said visitors are coming to the greater Prince William area not only to see the Manassas National Battlefield Park and walk the Civil War Trail, but to visit the National Museum of the Marine Corps, Potomac Mills Mall and the community’s quaint main streets. Others are attracted to the arts, culture, events and outdoor recreation opportunities.

Tourism supported 5,600 jobs in Prince William last year and 524 between Manassas and Manassas Park. Travel-related state and local tax receipts also increased in Prince William by 3.7 percent and 4.2 percent, respectively.

Maher said she expects tourism will rise as the community builds on the momentum of the 150th Civil War anniversary and gets ready to open new attractions including the American Wartime Museum.

At the state level, domestic visitor spending in Virginia generated $18.9 billion in revenue in 2010, up 6.7 percent from 2009. Officials with the Commonwealth said spending by overseas travelers to Virginia increased by more than 12 percent last year. The number of visitors from Canada is also on the rise. In 2010, almost 575,000 Canadians came to the Commonwealth and spent more than $133 million, up 16.6 percent from 2009.

“The increase in revenue from tourism is very encouraging,” Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell said. “Tourism is an instant revenue generator and job creator for Virginia, which is why I continue to advocate for more resources for tourism marketing. Smart investments in tourism provide economic benefits to communities across the Commonwealth and good jobs for our citizens.”

For additional information on things to do and places to see in Prince William & Manassas, call 1-800-432-1792 or visit or

Discover Prince William & Manassas is the Convention and Visitors Bureau marketing Prince William County and Manassas, Virginia as a destination for leisure and business travelers, group tours, conferences, meetings and events.

-Unedited press release

New Restaurants, Day Care Coming to Aquia Towne Center

As Aquia Towne Center awaits a construction rebirth, the company developing the center has assured Stafford County leaders they’re working hard to bring businesses to the once-popular shopping center. (Uriah Kiser/

North Stafford, Va. — The on again – off again project to redevelop Aquia Towne Center is progressing with several new businesses signed up to lease space at the mixed-use shopping center.

New restaurants including Bungalow Ale House, Travinia Italian Kitchen, as well as other businesses like Gold’s Gym, a new Regal Cinemas and a child development center called The Learning Experience have all signed leases to open in the center.

Bungalow already has a location in Woodbridge, and Travinia has a planned location at Potomac Town Center. 

“Construction has slowed, but the developer, Ramco-Gershenson Properties Trust, assures us they are in the process of signing leases to fill the center with businesses that will help improve the lives of the residents in Stafford. We think the newly developed center will be a great addition to the area,” said Aquia Supervisor Paul Midle.

Construction slowed, county officials said, after the developer encountered financing issues and the effects of the stalled economy. 

Stafford’s Board of Supervisors in 2006 approved a rezoning for the property near the intersection of U.S. 1 and Va. 610 in North Stafford to include a mix of retail and commercial office space. Since then, a new office tower that houses Northrop Grumman was built on the property.

But other businesses that were once a staple in the center, such as a Big Lots, Rite Aid Pharmacy, and the locally-owned Gargoyles Coffee Shop have were all closed and demolished. A Shoppers Food Warehouse that was in the shopping center moved into Stafford Marketplace in 2004.

“We anticipate the center to be well under construction in the next two years. They’ve got good leasing activity going on now, but they tell us they’ve had some financial problems in the past that should be resolved and construction should be back on soon,” said Stafford Economic Development spokesman Tim Baroody.

Car Dealership a New Neighbor

North Stafford, Va. — First houses, then a convience store, and now Nissan car dealership.

The Hills at Aquia continues to expand as Rosner Nissan of Stafford has opened its doors along U.S. 1 in North Stafford. It’s affiliated with Rosner Toyota, which sits about a half-mile away on nearby Va. 610.

“We’re pulling a lot of people who have not had the choice to by Nissan in Stafford, giving them another choice than Toyota,” said general manager Bob Gasbarri.

The car dealership hired 73 people when it opened last month, something Gasbarri said is difficult for many businesses to do in this down economy.

“For us, we’re fortunate enough to plan on keep growing and growing,” said Gasbarri.

And the dealership plans to continue expanding, as it’s clearing land directly behind the Nissan dealership to make room for another one.

The dealership stocks between 300 and 400 new cars on its lot.

Behind the dealership, several single-family homes have been built. The asking price for the new homes is $405,000, according to the developer’s website.

In addition to the car dealership, the area just north of Va. 610 now boasts at 7-Eleven and a new hotel.

Incubator Grows Small Business

Woodbridge, Va. –– The high-tech firm, Vectare, in June outgrew its office space at the Mason Enterprise Center at George Mason University.

The small company gained 10 employees and chose to move out of its incubator space fostered by the center and into their own office. The Enterprise Center calls it “graduating.”

Vectare was located at a business incubator office in Fairfax, one of several Mason Enterprise Centers in Northern Virginia. There’s also one in Woodbridge, and it, like the others, is open for small business owners looking to transition from a home office to a workplace setting.

“George Mason University focuses on education, research, and outreach – to include economic development initiatives in the surrounding communities. The Mason Enterprise Center serves as a significant interface supporting local and community-based entrepreneurship initiatives,” said GMU Associate Vice President for Economic Development Keith B. Segerson.

For a fee anywhere between $49 for a virtual membership and over $1,000 for an actual office, small business owners can utilize conference space, and get professional consulting to help them solidify their business plan, create a marketing strategy, and find all important sources of funding.

“Most clients utilizing the incubator office space are early stage companies with under 20 employees,” said Segerson.

These incubators are not new to the region. The Virginia Business Incubation Association was founded in 2000, and has fostered small businesses across the state. The Mason Enterprise Center in Woodbridge comes after the federal government in March decided they were no longer going to fund a telework center just a few blocks over from the incubator center. 

Forming partnerships with the community, Mason Enterprise Center also works with area chambers of commerce, government offices and other community organizations to further their goals of business expansion.

In addition to its location in Woodbridge, there is another Mason Enterprise Center in Prince William County outside Manassas.

Business Park a Vision Realized

Qauntico Corporate Center is located on U.S. 1 in North Stafford. (Mary Davidson/

Editor’s note: This is the third part of an ongoing series about redeveloping the Potomac Communities.

North Stafford, Va. — At the center of the Potomac Communities lies one of the area’s economic bright spots, which aims to bring thousands of new jobs over the next eight years.

Quantico Corporate Center on U.S. 1 in Stafford County has already built and leased 280,000 square feet of Class A office space, and has more than 70,000 more square feet being built.

Located outside the back gate of Quantico Marine Corps Base near Interstate 95, it’s a win for companies doing business with the Marine Corps, and for the more than 6,000 federal workers transferred to the Potomac Communities after the Base Realignment and Closure Commission.

“We have had a long term vision for that area materializing as a poignant center for the region, and we’re living that very vision,” said Stafford County Economic Development Administrator Timothy J. Baroody. “We’re working with the base [to develop the center], and [Quantico] encourages outside access to contractors to pop up so they can do more business close to home.”

Once a softball field on base, 10-years-ago Quantico traded the parcel of land for property elsewhere in the county. Today, Baroody said, companies have flocked to the center because of the reasonable lease rates, Stafford’s pro-business environment and the county’s repeal of a Business and Professional Licensing tax – something neighboring Prince William County still collects.

The land outside Quantico Corporate Center, known as Boswell’s Corner, is one of several Urban redevelopment areas defined by the Stafford County Board of Supervisors for future growth, where commercial, retail, and perhaps someday housing could be built.

Officials are hesitant about homes because Quantico has several live munitions ranges nearby where Marines undergo weapons training. While the base is known for rattling windows in homes built more than 20 miles away, base officials worry would-be residents closer to the base would complain about noise.

Baroody says the county could enter into a land use study to that would determine if homes here would be a good idea.

Boswell’s Corner is also a candidate for a science and technology center, aimed at attracting research and development jobs.

“Research and development is the holy grail of job opportunities, and that’s something we are working very hard with the base to bring to the area,” said Baroody.

Construction at the corporate center recently hit a snag when a crane collapsed and damaged a building, but no one was injured. It could take six to eight years to completely build-out Qauntico Corporate Center, but when finished, more than 8,000 jobs could be located there, officials said.

The series: Redeveloping the Potomac Communities
Part 1: Emerging town centers in Woodbridge could spell trouble for small business
Part 2: Forty-years-later, the region’s first town center hopes for a renaissance

UVA Likes Todos Supermarket

Carlos Castro, owners of Todos Supermarkets in Woodbridge, has been recognized by the University of Virginia. (Submitted photo)

Todos Supermarkest in Woodbridge is one of 14 finalists recognized by the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business annual Tayloe Murphy Resilience Awards. The supermarket has two locations in eastern Prince William County and recently moved to Marumsco Plaza in Woodbridge.

More in an unedited press release from the University of Virginia:

They have survived fires, isolated locations, big-box competition and a crippling recession. Their innovations include lighter-than-air cell technology and a special process used to clean boats in the Gulf oil disaster. They display dramatic growth, bridge cultural divides, support local charities and bring economic hope to areas of Virginia where industries have fled. Above all, they are resilient.

These are the stories behind the 14 finalists the University of Virginia Darden School of Business and its Tayloe Murphy Center announced today will compete for five winning spots this September in the second annual Tayloe Murphy Resilience Awards competition.

The following finalists, listed alphabetically, were chosen from among 21 semi-finalists and 88 total Virginia businesses that completed applications online at between May 2 and June 30:

• A Bowl of Good Café, Inc., Harrisonburg

When landlords raised the rent, A Bowl of Good Café had to make a tough decision: Pay more or start over without much equipment and risk losing their customers. They gave up their storefront and while continuing to sell at farmers markets and out of the back of the van, they rolled the dice, took out a favorable loan and moved into a new, custom-made store to provide their quality, “slow food, served fast.” From their connections with farmers and local producers in the farmers market, they are able to provide a high-value, low-cost core product: meals that are “globally inspired, local goodness” in a bowl. Through grassroots campaigning, the partners, Katrina Didot and Rachael Dorsey, worked to let patrons know about the move, along the way, building a mailing list and social media network. The café has kept up community relations, hosting a World Cup event and raising nearly $12,000 to support earthquake relief in Haiti.

• Astyra Corporation, Richmond

Named one of the fastest-growing companies in the U.S. three years in a row by Inc. magazine, Astyra has excelled despite stiff competition in a tough field. Since its founding in 1997, the technology and staffing firm’s reputation has grown among the many government agencies, financial institutions and engineering firms it serves. Its commitment to its employees also carries over to the larger community. Astyra has set up shop in an area of Richmond underutilized by businesses in hopes they can bring further economic revival to the city.

• Blue Crab Bay Co./Bay Beyond Inc., Melfa

For a quarter century, the Blue Crab Bay Co. has safely navigated the perils facing small businesses on the Eastern Shore. The internationally recognized specialty foods producer has come back from a fire, weathered a recession and successfully reached beyond their isolated location — the source and inspiration of many of their products — to a larger market seeking their special twist on clam-juice infused Bloody Mary mix or spicy snacks, to name a few. In addition to the scores of jobs it keeps in the community, it is a beacon for other businesses and a testament to resilience on the Eastern Shore.

• Blue Talon Bistro, Williamsburg

A fire gutted Blue Talon Bistro in 2007. The owners reacted by offering renovation jobs to staff that would have otherwise been laid off. As a result, the remodel was completed far ahead of schedule. Since then, the eatery has faced challenges including a drop in tourism and a lack of foot traffic from the nearby Colonial Downtown. Still, they continue to concentrate on good food and good service and it’s paid off by building a loyal customer base. They are also very active in their community, going so far as to host and pay for free outdoor movies to which the entire City of Williamsburg is invited.

• Chateau Morrisette, Inc., Floyd

Chateau Morrisette is a little off the beaten path, but they use it to their advantage. While many Central and Northern Virginia wineries may garner more foot traffic, the 30-year-old vintner uses its idyllic location along the Blue Ridge Parkway to advertise its solitude and unspoiled beauty. It’s an easy jaunt for day-trippers as well as a get-away destination. Today, it is one of the largest vineyards in Virginia, employing scores and helping cottage industries flourish in Floyd, where manufacturing jobs have steadily declined.

• GearClean, Inc., Winchester

When the Deepwater Horizon exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, it was a Virginia company that found an environmentally friendly way to help safely decontaminate vessels streaming back from the front lines of the clean-up effort. Founded in 2006, GearClean has relied on its innovative cleaning technology and service to grow its business in a variety of ways. However, the company has not forgotten about its community. The company moved into a building abandoned 15 years ago by the faltering apple industry in one of the poorest parts of town. Now new tenants are inquiring, bringing an economic light to the North End neighborhood and Winchester.

• Highground Services, Inc., Franklin

When their No. 1 customer and the largest employer in Franklin announced it was closing its paper plant and laying off 1,100 workers in 2009, it was a dramatic blow to Highground Services. Yet the engineering and consulting firm, formed in 2006, trudged on, even hiring 24 employees who were laid off at the plant. Many of their new hires helped form relationships with new customers, and today, the company boasts multiple “anchor” clients. Along the way, the firm bolstered its ability to seek government contracts by locating in an area underutilized by businesses. The move supports the community by not only locating its headquarters in the so-called HUBZone, but many of its employees as well.

• L & R Precision Tooling Inc., Lynchburg

With little notice, L&R Precision Tooling’s largest customer moved its operations to Mexico and Asia in 2001, cutting business almost in half. It was a devastating hit to the relatively new machine shop. The company learned a valuable lesson, and today, after nearly 15 years in business, they have a much more diversified client base. With a reputation of taking on the most difficult machining work, business is brisk today. In 2010, they moved into a new 57,000-square-foot building and employ more than 30 people. They are a cornerstone in the Lynchburg community, often supporting local causes.

• Lindstrand USA, Inc., South Boston

With the arrival of Lindstrand USA in 2004, a new high-tech industry took off in South Boston and Halifax County. As the maker of lighter-than-air cell technology, Lindstrand expanded to the area to target government contracts including projects in aeronautics, although the technology can be used in a variety of ways, including fighting tunnel fires or forestry. The versatile product was the brainchild of Swedish-born inventor, Ph.D. and expert hot air balloonist (and thrill-seeker), Per Lindstrand. Since its arrival from across the pond, Lindstrand USA has faced many challenges, forcing it to diversify and navigate logistic and bureaucratic hurdles. However, today it employs 30 full-time workers locally, nearly 90 percent of whom were out of work for longer than two years prior to being hired. In an area that has seen the decline of the tobacco, furniture and textiles industries, Lindstrand USA is a much welcomed lift.

• MountainRose Vineyards, Inc., Wise

MountainRose Vineyards coaxes award-winning wines from previously coal-mined soil and jobs from a rocky local economy. As the only winery for miles near Wise, the Lawson family struck out in 2004 to make a great product. Along the way, they helped spawn a new industry in the heart of coal country. Using sustainable farming methods, MountainRose today produces 11 varieties of wine grapes on nearly 13 acres. They look confidently to the future, no matter the terrain ahead.

• Office Plus Business Centre (Est. as Ace Office Supply renamed to Haynsworth, Inc. in 1960), Danville

Since it was founded in 1937, the Haynsworth family-owned Office Plus Business Centre has endured four moves, a fire, and the death of its founder and second generation President, and renaming the company five times! Its newest challenge: big-box retailers and their Internet sales. Yet, the business, now in its fourth generation, has adapted. They formed a key relationship with the nation’s largest office products buying group, reward customers for shopping on their Internet site, added new product categories to supplement sales, and re-focused the business to the founder’s original business model. They also engage employees and, most of all, remain committed to quality customer service “after the sale.” Customers often walk out of the store with a courtesy bottle of water. In addition to employing more than a dozen people they are active in an array of local charity and civic groups. For this, they have been named a finalist for the second year in a row in the Resilience Award competition.

• Southwest Virginia Veterinary Services, Lebanon

Three years after they opened what would one day become Southwest Virginia Veterinary Services (SVVS), Drs. Margaret and Bayard Rucker had to re-launch their business. The year was 1978, just three years after the couple graduated from veterinary school. As one of only two veterinary hospitals in rural Russell County, and without any real business experience, they were quickly overrun with too many customers, seeing patients during the day and performing surgery at night. They eventually connected with more experienced practice owners, learned from their mistakes and tried again. Today, the business remains a stalwart part of the community. With an emphasis on the best care possible, customer relations and training staff, the business has grown, even upgrading its facility in 2009. In addition to numerous critical services they perform daily for pets and owners in the area, they support a variety of local charities.

• Thomas A. Johnson Furniture Company, Lynchburg

While his ultimate dream is to build trade schools that empower people and communities, Thomas A. Johnson, whose company is a finalist two years in a row, has made significant strides along the way. In April, Johnson invested in a 131,000-square foot facility, expanding his operation for the second time. His commitment to working with the city in revitalizing projects is as important as his charitable giving.

• Todos Supermarket, Woodbridge

With the opening of a new 50,000 square-foot grocery store last April, Todos Supermarket celebrates a milestone. It’s only recently that business returned to levels before the foreclosure crises decimated adjacent neighborhoods. A controversial local immigration law passed in 2008 had a chilling effect on customers and put the market and its owner and founder, Carlos Castro, in the middle of a fight that roiled the community. Castro, who fled El Salvador’s civil war as a boy, helped lead opposition to the law while working to bridge a cultural and community divide in Prince William County. The county ultimately revised the law, which gave police power to investigate a person’s legal status to only those in custody for a suspected crime. Now Castro looks to the future, hoping his new anchor store at Marumsco Plaza will play a key role in the revitalization of Route 1 in Woodbridge.

The Tayloe Murphy Resilience Awards honor the most resilient businesses in Virginia — those which displayed growth, a dogged entrepreneurial spirit and commitment to community in areas facing high unemployment, high poverty and low entrepreneurial activity.

Five winners will be announced at a special dinner, reception and awards presentation in the Dome Room of the University of Virginia’s historic Rotunda on Wednesday, Sept. 7, where all finalists will join state and local officials, economic development and business leaders, and Darden representatives.

“The goal of the Resilience Awards is to bring well-deserved attention to highly successful businesses in parts of Virginia that some might unwisely overlook,” said Greg Fairchild, executive director of the Tayloe Murphy Center. “These finalists demonstrate the strength of Virginia’s main street businesses, even in the face of significant economic obstacles. With average annual profit growth rates of 42 percent and average annual employment growth rates of 20 percent, in areas where the average company is actually declining, these firms embody resilience.”

To help spur economic growth and entrepreneurial efforts in hard-hit areas of the Commonwealth, Tayloe Murphy Resilience Award Winners receive more than recognition from one of the best business schools in the country. Through ongoing media coverage, opportunities to engage key business and government leaders, and enrollment in a week-long Executive Education course at Darden — valued at $8,000–$12,000 — Resilience Award winners each year gain visibility and resources to help their company and community continue to grow and succeed.

The Tayloe Murphy Resilience Awards are presented in part by sponsorship from Virginia Business.

To learn more about the Sept. 7 awards ceremony, please visit the Tayloe Murphy Center website or contact Chris Allerton at or call 434-979-2678.

Tax Holiday Begins

Back to school is closer than you think, so that’s why Virginia’s tax free shopping holiday begins today.

This weekend only, mom and dad will enjoy tax free shopping on school supplies that cost $20 or less, and on clothing for purchases of $100 or less.

What’s included in this tax-free retail extravaganza you might ask. Luckily for you, the state has made a very easy to read website with all of the answers.


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