By Chelsea Rose Moore | Photos by Alexa Wolff
Penny and John Gulick dreamed of transforming Aldie’s old general store into a café and shop. John, an architect, owns Aldie’s J. F. Gulick Construction, and his wife Penny has an interior design background, which created the perfect combination for renovating the 110-year-old store. With the store in need of a major overhaul, the Gulicks used their unique talents to breathe life into it and preserve its rustic vibe and country flavor.
The Aldie General Store & Café opened May 1, 2017, and has been warmly received by the community. Penny is proud the store can “put Aldie back on the map” and give residents a place to eat, grab a soda and pick up basic items without driving to Middleburg or South Riding.
The Gulicks were careful to preserve the integrity of the store during their renovations. The original wood was recycled into benches and counter tops, and the original beams were used on the ceiling as decorative elements.
“If people knew the old place, they should come in for the shock value of the transformation alone,” said Penny. “The old store is still here, but repurposed in a different way.”
With a help-yourself coffee bar and a slushie machine, the owners have found innovative ways to connect to the community. They carry local produce, make glazed and chocolate dipped doughnuts daily and bake a variety of cookies. In addition to Loudoun County wines, they sell wines from New Zealand, Australia and France and offer pre-made charcuterie plates customers can take to wineries.
The store is reaching out to the community by hosting events, which kicked off with a steamed crabs and beer-on-tap day in late July. Coming in the fall are Australian barbecue, Mexican Mix-Up and Oktoberfest events.
While the kitchen makes favorite American dishes, they also offer popular foods from Australia and South Africa, including traditional Australian meat pies and sausage rolls, South African jerky and roasted Portuguese peri-peri chicken.
“We are trying to offer our customers things they [might not] have had before and introduce them to different [flavors] or things that remind them of home,” said Penny, a native of Australia herself.
Although the kitchen closes at 3 p.m., the hours are extended for private groups. The store also offers a catering service for events, and takeout dinners for families to enjoy at home. With seating for 40 people, the store is primarily a café, but pulls from its “general store” roots by selling detergent, toilet paper, dry pasta and an assortment of other basic items.
The Gulicks love supporting the community and are grateful for the warm reception they’ve received. According to Penny, contributing to local businesses increases tourism and lends itself to the small business cycle: wineries send visitors to the general store, and the general store refers them to the local brewery. Hikers stop in for a bite to eat, and they are encouraged to visit the antique store down the road.
“Everyone helps each other out. Everyone supports each other,” Penny said, “Even if you sometimes sell the same thing, you have to be on each others team.” ML
– Aldie General Store & Café –
Open Monday-Friday, 6 a.m.-7 p.m.
Saturday 8 a.m.-6 p.m. | Sunday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
39285 John Mosby Hwy., Aldie, VA 20105