It was love at first sight for Afsaneh and the 123-year-old building at 131 Church Street NW where she recently launched Café de Vienna.
Constructed in 1900, per Fairfax County property records, the quaint, two-story house atop a hill on Vienna’s historic Church Street was converted at some point into a commercial space. It was home to Money & King Funeral Home — the town’s oldest still-operating business — until the now-closed Guarantee Shoe Repair took over in 1990, according to The Connection.
Though she initially considered a property in Great Falls, Afsaneh knew as soon as she saw the building that it was the right setting to fulfill her dream of opening a cozy, small-town cafe, an alternative to the “industrial” ambiance found in chains like Starbucks.
“I want to have that warm feeling, but that starts from a building. The building has to have character or that old-fashioned look,” she said. “…Right away, I said this is it. I was envisioning to have a coffee shop in an old building, and that’s how it started. The building did it. It was the building’s fault!”
A 27-year resident of Reston, Afsaneh says she always wanted to start her own business, but knowing how risky that can be, it took years of working in the retail and food service industries before she decided she’d gained enough experience to make that leap.
After submitting paperwork for various permits from the county and town in April, Afsaneh and her business partner Reza Sadeghi gave Café de Vienna a soft opening on Sept. 21.
In addition to Nespresso coffee, the shop serves tea, bread and pastries baked daily, gourmet fruit pops, raw honey and 16 flavors of handmade ice cream, which comes from “a little company in Maryland” that doesn’t use any preservatives or additives, Afsaneh told FFXnow.
She says the customer experience and the quality of its food and drinks are the cafe’s top priorities, which to her, means supporting local businesses and providing freshly made, preservative-free products.
“I know it might be a little costlier, but it’s worth it. So, quality is important for the products I’m bringing,” Afsaneh said.
In the future, Café de Vienna plans to introduce paninis and other dishes for a “small” breakfast and lunch menu.
Though the space is relatively small, it can fit 16 indoor seats that are supplemented by a 12-seat outdoor patio and a gazebo with picnic tables at the rear of the building. Afsaneh says she also intends to add some benches inside.
The cafe currently opens from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. on Tuesday through Thursday, until 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and until 5 p.m. on Sunday. Those hours and the day off on Mondays could change during the warmer spring and summer months, according to Afsaneh.
While noting that she still has “a tough road ahead,” she’s encouraged by the community’s response to Café de Vienna during its first month of operations.
“It’s been going great because of the people in Vienna,” Afsaneh said. “They were so supportive in the past one month, so [I’m] very grateful for that. So far, so good, and I hope it’s going to continue.”
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