‘Tis the season to shop local, according to the Vienna Business Association.
The VBA and a downtown partner, Bards Alley Bookshop, collaborated with dozens of businesses and organizations to offer a Holiday Shopping Pass to urge community members to support stores in the Town of Vienna.
Customers who make purchases at five or more participating businesses are put into a Jan. 4 drawing to win gift cards.
The initiative began Monday (Nov. 15) and runs until the end of the year. Over 100 prizes — mainly $25 gift cards — are available, according to the Vienna Business Association.
“There’s a really good chance for people to win,” VBA Executive Director Peggy James said.
Customers can download a pass or pick it up in partnering stores. When they make a purchase, they have to get their card initialed.
James said there’s no limit to how many passes each person can submit. You can also save paper by having a pass record purchases at 10 or more businesses.
“You can play over and over,” James said. “And we encourage people to do that.”
Businesses range from Ben & Jerry’s to the Mediterranean restaurant Zenola and a new bakeshop, Madeleine Proust (448 Maple Ave. East). The contest also ranges slightly outside Vienna’s town limits to include a square for Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts.
While the Holiday Shopping Pass was designed to reward people who support local businesses, James encouraged people to shop local at non-participating businesses as well.
Break out the beer steins and lederhosen.
While the original Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany, has been canceled for a second year in a row, the Town of Vienna is bringing back its iteration of the annual folk festival on Oct. 2 after it got stricken from the calendar last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Vienna Town Council approved a memorandum of understanding with the Vienna Business Association (VBA), which helps organize the event, as part of the consent agenda in its meeting last night (Monday), setting the terms of their partnership.
Oktoberfest serves as the VBA’s main fundraiser, according to Executive Director Peggy James, who says the revenue it generates is crucial to keeping the organization going and enabling it to maintain low membership fees so that small businesses aren’t excluded.
“Our goal is to have a safe, outrageously fun event that raises lots of money so that the VBA is able to continue to support our community and the wonderful service organizations that help make this Town so special,” James said by email.
Like previous versions of the festival, the 13th annual Vienna Oktoberfest will be held around Church Street and the Town Green. It will last from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. with a beer and wine garden, food vendors, live music, children’s activities, a marketplace, and more.
Since the novel coronavirus remains a concern, this year’s festival will likely have fewer vendors and more spacing, James says.
Additional measures could include scheduled cleanings in the kids’ area and dining tents, signs and ground markers with social distancing reminders, and a mask requirement for volunteers. If current recommendations hold, masks will be strongly suggested for attendees when they’re not actively drinking or eating.
The VBA’s MOU with the town commits it to adhering to all local, state, and federal health guidelines related to COVID-19.
“If the CDC guidelines change, we are prepared to alter our event to be fully compliant,” James said.
Oktoberfest will benefit from the Town of Vienna’s growing experience with organizing large outdoor events amid the fluctuating conditions of the pandemic, from ViVa Vienna — which became the first event of that scale in Fairfax County when it returned at the end of May — to the 2021 Virginia State Little League Majors Tournament in July.
Most recently, the first Chillin’ on Church block party drew approximately 2,500 people on Aug. 20, according to Town of Vienna Parks and Recreation Director Leslie Herman, who says the return of major events “has gone very well” so far.
“Viva Vienna required extensive planning in order to abide by the regulations of the [governor] of VA and recommendations of the Fairfax County Health Dept and CDC in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Herman wrote in an email. “Due to Viva Vienna’s extensive planning, the Vienna Business Association is able to utilize that event’s model should there be similar restrictions in October.”
In past years, Oktoberfest has gotten between 20,000 and 25,000 visitors over the course of a day, according to James.
Organizers anticipate having about 60 vendors, though applications are being accepted until Sept. 7.
Proceeds from wine and beer sales will go to the VBA Foundation, which supports local nonprofits and community service organizations. James says the foundation has especially focused on efforts to address food insecurity over the past 17 months.
Other Oktoberfest revenue, including vendor and sponsor fees, will cover the costs of putting on the festival and help the VBA support other events in the Town of Vienna, including the Halloween Parade and Taste of Vienna.
Organizers say the festival also helps the town by bringing in meals taxes from participating food vendors and attracting visitors.
“Vienna Oktoberfest also attracts visitors from outside the Town of Vienna, thereby showing off our Town and encouraging them to revisit and also to shop/eat at our local businesses,” Oktoberfest Committee Chair Kathy Georgen said by email.
Courtesy Vienna Business Association/Facebook
D.H. Scarborough, a supporter of Vienna businesses and community leader, was the first person to show up to events and last one to leave.
That’s how friends remember the 85-year-old accountant who co-founded the Vienna Business Association and became known for helping organize the town’s annual Halloween parade.
Scarborough, whose full name is Donna Helen Macdonald-Scarborough, died of pancreatic cancer on Aug. 15 at her Manassas home.
“She was very, very well-rounded in wanting to do everything for everybody,” said Kathy Georgen, who co-founded the Vienna-based accounting firm Georgen Scarborough Associates with Scarborough in 2008.
Scarborough would always put the customer first, just like when she was raising her four sons on her own, Georgen says, even if that meant driving to older people’s homes or other places to serve her clients’ needs.
In addition to serving as the first VBA board chair and president of the Town Halloween Parade Committee, Scarborough was involved in the Town of Vienna Historical Association, the chamber of commerce, and various town commissions, among other contributions “to her beloved town,” her obituary says.
She had also been named Lady Fairfax and won awards for business owner and business person of the year.
In her community roles, Scarborough loved serving kids and often helped behind the scenes.
For the Halloween parade, though, she accepted the honor of grand marshal — a title usually bestowed on one person each year — and “had the pleasure of riding down Maple Avenue in the parade with her granddaughters,” according to the Vienna Business Association, which announced her death in an Aug. 19 tribute.
“For some reason, she and the Halloween parade clicked. D.H. was always synonymous with the Vienna Halloween Parade,” Georgen said.
Scarborough served in several iterations of Vienna’s business group, preached the importance of face-to-face connections, and kept a smile on her face.
Vienna Business Association Executive Director Peggy James recalls Scarborough as a nurturing mentor and friend who made pulling off events that sometimes went as long as 15 hours more manageable.
“She understood that…the most important thing you can do is show up for others,” James said, noting that Scarborough was a regular at ribbon-cutting and grand opening events.
Scarborough also collected money for the Town of Vienna’s annual Oktoberfest, and when teased that she needed protection or security, she would adamantly reassure others, “I don’t need a security guard.”
“She loved being around people and being part of the team who had brought joy to all those attending,” friend Mike Davis wrote. “D.H. was a wonderful, caring person and she will be missed in Vienna for a very long time to come.”
She retired in 2018 and was later diagnosed with cancer, but Georgen notes her former business partner was still able to return to her accounting practice when needed, and the firm will continue to bear her name.
A memorial service for Scarborough will be held at 1 p.m. on Friday (Aug. 27) at the Vienna Presbyterian Church, according to her obituary. It will be followed by a Celebration of Life at the American Legion post in Vienna.
There are a number of things that give Caffe Amouri owner Michael Amouri a warm feeling: drinking a cup of coffee, unsurprisingly, getting to a toll booth and learning someone paid it forward, and stopping to chat with someone in the street.
But those feel-good community moments have been hard to come by during the pandemic.
In the hopes of reviving that neighborly goodwill among his customers, Amouri has introduced a pay-it-forward “Cup on the Wall” program to his Vienna coffee shop. He was inspired by the Vienna Foodies and the Italian practice of caffè sospeso — literally “pending coffee” — when a cup of coffee is paid for in advance as an anonymous act of charity.
Customers ordering in-person or online can choose to buy any drink on the menu for someone else. Staff put a sticker on the window for someone to “cash in” when they order.
“If you’re feeling a little down, come and let a ‘friend’ buy you a drink,” he said.
It can be for anyone, particularly people who cannot afford a cup of coffee, but also for someone having a bad day or celebrating their birthday, Amouri says. The option will be available as long as the community engages with it.
Though it has mostly stayed open, Caffe Amouri has not been offering indoor service during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Competitively, we’ve probably lost some ground, but I just don’t feel I can do it,” Amouri said.
Customers can order in-person from one window, or pick up an online purchase from another window. The coffeehouse’s interior is configured to allow for six feet of distance between staff members, and staff and delivery workers are screened daily for COVID-19 symptoms.
Amouri plans to reopen after his staff is vaccinated.
“I have amazing staff and I can’t believe they’ve weathered it so well,” he said.
Amouri says he founded his shop nearly 11 years ago on the principles of quality, community, and sustainability. During the pandemic, he said the cafe’s role as a liaison among the government, the Vienna Business Association board — which Amouri sits on — and residents has grown in importance.
He commended Vienna residents for supporting local businesses and making the small town “feel even more small-townish.”
“There are times when I go, ‘I didn’t want to have a coffeehouse and hand coffee out a window’,” he said. “But as long as we can keep our doors open until we can fully open, I’m going to count that as a success.”
Photo courtesy Michael Amouri
Laura Schwartz is a licensed Realtor in VA, D.C. and MD with McEnearney Associates in Vienna. You can follow Laura on Instagram at @LauraSchwartzRealtor or her Facebook page. Laura can be reached at 703-283-6120 or [email protected].
You may not know there is a Vienna Business Association, which is basically a chamber of commerce. The group has monthly meetings, speaker series, weekly e-blasts, monthly mixers and helps sponsor local events, like ViVa Vienna and Oktoberfest. They are currently a discount of 20% of your first year, which includes lots of free advertising opportunities for members.
One of the things the VBA does that I absolutely adore is they mail (or, pre-COVID, drop off) a “welcome bag” to new town residents once a month. This program started about two years ago, and the CBA includes offers on discounted items like coffee, ice cream, bundt cakes, accounting services, massages, hair salons, dental services, oil changes, home improvement and design services, and more. It’s a great way for new residents to learn about the Vienna businesses.
If you’re thinking of joining the VBA, you can find them online or by phone at 571-550-2483. The woman who runs the VBA, Peggy James, is delightful, and you can always find her around town supporting local restaurants and shops. It’s a true “shop small, support local” group.
The winter holiday season tends to be a crucial time for retailers, restaurants, and other small businesses that rely on the annual flurry of gift-giving and festivities to bring in the revenue they need to stay afloat, but it will be especially pivotal this year after months of economic challenges wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic.
As part of its ongoing efforts to encourage community members to support local businesses, the Vienna Business Association has expanded the Small Business Saturday guide that it normally puts together every year into a Vienna Holiday Guide.
Launched online on Nov. 1, the guide gives local businesses a platform to share the deals and promotions that they are offering during this holiday season. It also features public events hosted by the VBA and the Town of Vienna, such as the Shop & Stroll series and the annual decorating contest.
“We just want to do everything we can to help the businesses that are struggling so much, and this holiday season is so critical,” VBA Executive Director Peggy James said. “Nothing against Amazon, but our businesses really, really need the business. Small businesses really need the business, so it just seemed like a nice thing to do.”
Vienna business owners say the VBA’s support and the sense of community fostered by Town officials and residents have buoyed them as they adapted their products and services to a world of social distancing and public-gathering restrictions.
“Vienna is really awesome. They’re really a loyal customer base,” Potomac River Running Marketing and Community Outreach Coordinator Gina DeGaetano said. “…The business association [is] doing everything right to encourage people to continue to shop small, whether that’s supporting them online or coming into the store, and we’re certainly seeing the Vienna customer base is doing just that.” Read More
(Updated at 12:05 on 10/30/2020) Town of Vienna residents and visitors are invited to enjoy the crisp fall weather and live entertainment while supporting local retail during the town’s first-ever Vienna Shop & Stroll.
It is the biggest and longest initiative organized by the Town of Vienna Economic Development Office, which will soon celebrate its one-year anniversary after being formed in November 2019. The town’s business liaison committee and the Vienna Business Association are partners on the event series.
Each Saturday through Dec. 12, designated shopping centers will host safe and socially distant seasonal activities and in-store promotions. Locals and visitors are encouraged to meet business owners and learn more about the history of the shopping centers.
“It grew out of the fact that we need to come up with creative ideas throughout this time,” said Natalie Monkou, the economic development manager for the Town of Vienna. “The more creativity, the better.”
The Vienna Shop & Stroll kicked off last Saturday (Oct. 24) at the Vienna Shopping Center (180 Maple Avenue), where seven businesses participated. It featured two pop-up opera concerts by emerging artists at the Kennedy Center’s Washington National Opera. The singers performed two micro-concerts from the Concert Truck, a Maryland-based pop-up truck that aims to make classical music more accessible.
“I’m actually pretty pleased with what happened on Saturday,” Monkou said. “It was set at one of the busiest shopping centers in town, so it was a great place to kick off what we could do for other locations.”
The pop-up concert truck was “a great way to remind people that Vienna is accessible to all,” Monkou said.
Future special programming will remain in the realm of music and art to avoid direct competition with the shopping centers. Concerts are also family-friendly and a great way to manage social-distancing guidelines, Monkou says.
“If we are going to provide something, we want it to be something that we can count on families to enjoy with little ones,” she said.
Because the Economic Development Department is so new, “everything we’re doing is a pilot,” Monkou said. “Depending on the participation from tenants and property managers, we’ll see if the [Shop & Stroll] is an annual thing.”
She emphasized engaging property owners because they have a role to play in the success of the town.
“When their businesses don’t do well, we all suffer,” she said. “We all benefit when we come together to do something that’s off the beaten path.”
Here are the dates and locations for upcoming Shop & Stroll Saturdays:
- Nov. 7: Danor Plaza
- Nov. 14: Cedar Park
- Nov. 21: Jades Shopping Center + Vienna Plaza
- Nov. 28: Small Biz Saturday on Church Street and surrounding streets off Church
- Dec. 5: Village Green
- Dec. 12: Glyndon Plaza
Correction: This article previously described the Vienna Business Association as the organizer of Shop & Stroll. The VBA is a partner with Vienna’s economic development office as the main organizer.
Businesses and local governments alike are sorting out how best to continue local restaurant and retail operations as winter starts to make outdoor options less viable.
The Board of Supervisors announced plans yesterday to start loosening restrictions on outdoor tents, and the Town of Vienna is planning a virtual talk early next month to discuss winterization options and plans for local restaurants and entertainment businesses.
“Join the Town of Vienna Economic Development Department for our kickoff event on a two-part series on business winterization during COVID-19,” Vienna’s Economic Development Office said in an event listing. “We will address the ‘new normal’ for restaurant and entertainment businesses brought about by economic and social changes of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The first discussion, planned for Thursday, Oct. 8, will focus on stimulating and sustaining dining and entertainment as the temperature drops. According to the event page:
We will examine:
- If outdoor dining and entertainment can help increase restaurant and retail sales throughout the health crisis
- How restaurants can stimulate and sustain dining and entertainment as we move into colder weather
- Locating funding and technical assistance to help with the expansion of outdoor and entertainment areas
- Mastering and streamlining takeout and delivery procedures
The round table discussion is scheduled to include several local business owners and regional restauranteurs. The event is scheduled to run from 10-11:30 a.m. and accessible via Zoom link provided after registering.
In a discussion last night (Tuesday) with Vienna Mayor Linda Colbert, several business and economic leaders talked about how locals could show support for their businesses, and how some businesses could do a better job of bringing in customers.
The simplest, and most obvious answer, was for locals to shop local when they can rather than buying through a company like Amazon. Jim Brooke, Town Business Liaison Committee chair, said people should also be more conscious now of taking the time to leave positive reviews online.
“Talk about local businesses on social media, leave positive Yelp reviews for local businesses,” Brooke said. “It’s easy to shop online, but if you want to have brick and mortar businesses in your community, you have to shop at them sometimes.”
Some industries have fared better than others in the pandemic, and Brooke said it’s particularly important to show support for the hardest hit, personal service businesses.
“Construction businesses and real estate have been doing pretty well, but businesses that are more intimate like hair stylists, anything that involves close interaction with people, aren’t doing very well,” Brooke said. “For my business and the people I work with, hospitality industry is really in trouble. Especially caterers, party planners, or party venues.” Read More
Despite canceling in-person shows, Wolf Trap found a way to put their costume-making skills to work this summer by making and donating masks to the Vienna community.
When Gov. Ralph Northam announced the stay-at-home order through June 10, Wolf Trap’s Opera Costume Department realized shows wouldn’t be happening and decided to find another way to employ some of their artisans.
Initially, Wolf Trap just planned to make masks for its foundation board and staff, as well as artists from its opera residency. But they also knew they wanted to help the community, so they worked with the Vienna Business Association to provide masks to restaurants, according to Lee Anne Myslewski, the vice president for Opera and Classical Programming at Wolf Trap.
“We determined that partnering with the VBA would get them to organizations and individuals that needed them,” said Myslewski.
Of the 1,000 masks made by the company, 130 went to the VBA, according to Peggy James, the VBA’s executive director.
The masks are made from three-ply pre-shrunk cotton, and some mask material comes from unused off-cuts from previous shows, according to a newsletter from the VBA. They have large and medium masks to give out to Vienna businesses.
“I really appreciate that they are big supporters of the Vienna community,” said James. “We are very appreciative of their membership and their generosity.”
In addition to restaurants, masks were also given to nonprofits, teachers and other businesses around Vienna, according to James.
While the mask donation was a hit, Wolf Trap says that it was just a one-time thing, and hopefully, they can resume performances soon. “We hope to be able to make opera sets and costumes again next summer,” said Myslewski.
Wolf Trap is still offering virtual concerts for both adults and children on their website.
Photos courtesy of Peggy James