local business

Village Cheeseworks: Helping Revive Loudoun’s Local Dairy Industry

Written by Victoria Peace | Photos by Michael Butcher

Village Cheeseworks founders Eric Hilgartner and Kelly Harding know that it takes a village to get high-quality cheese from farm to consumer — that’s why every step of the way, they have partnered with local farms and small businesses in order to deliver a product that is delicious, historic, and community-centric.

Established in 2020, Village Cheeseworks is a joint venture between Hilgartner and Harding. Both partners come from a dairy background, and the pair met while they were helping get another creamery off the ground. Hilgartner has a degree in animal science from Virginia Tech where he completed several classes in dairy management and has previously served as a beef cattle, land management, and farm business consultant. Harding has almost 30 years of experience as a creamery consultant and helps creameries craft recipes, train employees, create protocols, and receive certification from the state.

Hilgartner says that while there were aspects of starting a small business during the midst of a global pandemic that were intimidating, it also presented a huge opportunity. “COVID gave us the chance to work together and pull the trigger,” Hilgartner emphasizes. Hilgartner and Harding took the time to revive an old creamery site in Upperville that had not been used in 15 years, getting it recertified and tailoring it to their specific needs. 

After about a year, they produced their first cheese. The duo initially focused on making soft cheeses because with their shorter expiration date, they were harder to procure during the pandemic due to supply chain pressures. “We wanted people to have access to a really good product at a good price — and this is still what we hang our hat on,” Hilgartner says.

Village Cheeseworks currently partners with several local businesses to distribute their cheese including wineries, breweries, restaurants, and resorts. They offer free delivery and low order minimums to stay small-business friendly.

Village Cheeseworks sources the majority of their milk from Dogwood Farm in Purcellville, Virginia, the last remaining operational dairy farm in Loudoun County. In the 1950s and 1960s, Loudoun County was one of the most prolific per capita dairy farming areas in the world; there are even milk drops lining the border of the Loudoun County flag to symbolize the historic importance of the industry. However, in the decades since, dairy farming in the area has experienced a sharp decline. “We are trying to draw attention to the fact that if we don’t support this, all of this goes away and we don’t get to enjoy it — the visual appeal of driving by and seeing cows and open land and stone walls,” Hilgartner says. 

Hilgartner and Harding are passionate about increasing collaboration in the cheese production process, and getting the raw product to a value-added form that pays everyone along the value chain back a little more than under the traditional system. “We want [value] going back to the farmers, we want it going back to the people adding the value into [cheese] and providing the raw products,” Hilgartner emphasizes.

In honor of Village Cheeseworks’ hyper-local model, many of their cheeses are named after small towns in Hunt Country. “We wanted to put a stamp in the history books to highlight these little towns where all of the historic dairy farming happened,” Hilgartner says. Village Cheeseworks’s offerings include Zulla, a washed rind cheese; Atoka, a soft-ripened cheese; and Round Hill Camembert-style cheese, a nod to the town where Hilgartner grew up and attended high school.

Village Cheeseworks also produces Philomont Feta, named after a local town which is home to a unique, dairy-centric memorial. A plaque located next to the Philomont Country Store honors Round Oak Rag Apple Elevation, a bull raised in Loudoun County whose genetics have influenced 90% of Holstein dairy cows in the world. Hilgartner likens him to the “Genghis Khan” of Holsteins, born and bred right here in Virginia.

Hilgartner’s favorite cheese from Village Cheeseworks is the Zulla. “I love everything about it — if you let it mature to its peak ripening phase, it’s super funky,” he says. The process of making it is definitely a labor of love. Every other day, Hilgartner and Harding have to scour and scrape the cheese with a brine-soaked rag. However, this process results in a rind with a “delightful mouth feel” and a smooth, pâté-like interior.

“Long term, we have visions of collaborating with a lot of other cheese makers to market and distribute and sell dairy products on a broader scale and put the mid-Atlantic on the map,” Hilgartner says when discussing plans for the future. “We’re a very strong agriculture and dairy area. You hear about Vermont, you hear about California, but you don’t hear a lot about Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, or Pennsylvania. We’d like to draw a little more attention to the unique features of our agriculture systems here and the high quality of our milk and dairy products.” ML

Author’s Note

I had the pleasure of sampling two of Village Cheeseworks’ cheeses when writing this article: the Round Hill Camembert-style cheese and the fresh cow’s cheese with garlic and herbs.

The Round Hill Camembert is incredibly smooth and buttery with a slightly earthy aroma. I can’t wait to bring it to my Twilight Polo tailgates this summer, perhaps accompanied by some prosecco and fig and walnut crackers. The fresh cow’s cheese is light, tangy, and herbaceous, and paired perfectly with a loaf of bread from the farmer’s market for a mid-afternoon snack. 

You can purchase Village Cheeseworks cheese at multiple different locations around Hunt Country, including but not limited to Fields of Athenry Farm Shop, Market Salamander, Market at Bluewater Kitchen, and Great Country Farms. For more information, please visit: villagecheeseworks.com.

Published in the May 2023 issue of Middleburg Life.

Parsonage Handmade Soap: A Traditional Recipe Masterfully Made with a Modern Twist

Written by Diane Helentjaris | Photos by Kaitlin Hill

Like many, Dick Darr didn’t stick with his freshman college major, chemistry. He swerved and ended up with a degree in biology. But life has a way of weaving those loose ends of early interests and captivations into an unanticipated tapestry.  

“It’s been a fun trip. I thought I was going to be in the corporate world, then the government,” Darr says, “but working for yourself is a great gig.” That winding path brought him to a unique destination. He is now a professional soap maker, and the face of Parsonage Handmade Soap. 

What began as a homemade Christmas gift project morphed into a business venture in the early ‘90s. Darr enjoyed making the bars of soap and had some left over. He also shared a passion for gardening and handcrafted items with neighbor Julie Pieper. As an accountant, Pieper had business skills. Darr understood chemistry and biology. The two joined forces and, in 1997, began Parsonage Handmade Soap. Pieper has since moved on, but their initial effort continues with Darr.

Life as a soapmaster proved to be family-friendly, and a family tradition. Darr is a third-generation soap maker. In addition to farming, his grandparents, originally from Ohio, also made their own soap. The craft allowed Darr to be available to his children when they were still at home, and, though his children are now grown, still offers a flexible schedule and autonomy that he enjoys. It has worked well in conjunction with his wife’s career in education.

Making soap is an ancient practice. How old is unknowable, but a Sumerian clay tablet from 2500 B.C. describes it. The basic recipe never changes: a fat plus an alkali. Combining the two creates a substance with the power to separate dirt and grime away from surfaces like human skin. For instance, throwing a handful of cold campfire ashes into an iron skillet dirtied by bacon grease, adding water, and swishing it around makes a primitive soap for campers. And cleans the skillet.

Log cabin pioneers made their soap from animal fat — leftover cooking grease or fat rendered from butchered livestock and game. For alkali, they seeped old wood ash in water, which made lye. 

Parsonage Handmade Soap calls back to this historic American heritage. It’s easy to find a photo of Dick Darr in a wide-brimmed William Penn-ish hat, Colonial knee pants, and white hose. Each bar of Parsonage soap is hand cut, hand wrapped in a quaint cotton print fabric, and labeled with a final strip of recycled paper. 

They may look from a bygone era, but these soaps have been updated to suit modern tastes. Using his own original recipes, Darr has replaced old-fashioned animal fat with vegetable oils. Soaps and other aromatic products are scented with essential plant oils or cosmetic grade fragrances. He is selective in his ingredients. All vegetable oils are non-GMO certified. The palm oil is RSPO sustainable. Fragrances are phthalate-free. 

Among other products is an answer to a common problem: how to enjoy the final slivers of a great soap. The exfoliating soap pouch sold by Parsonage can be filled with these remnants to complete their life cycle as a scrub.

Parsonage also manufactures, as a special order for Dogfish Head Brewery, Dogfish Head Shampoo Bars. Although created for humans, according to Dogfish’s website, “the special conditioners in this shampoo make it [a] hit on the professional dog grooming circuit.”

A member of the Handcrafted Soap and Cosmetic Guild, Darr devotes serious time to finding the best fragrances. Soothing lavender is by far the most popular scent, followed by spicy cinnamon and piquant citrus. Pungent patchouli, which became popular in the ‘60s and ‘70s, still has a dedicated fanbase. “People either love it or hate it,” Darr jokes. 

Each year, Parsonage Handmade Soap releases new fragrance blends, some of them seasonal with names such as “Christmas Memories,” “Waterford Faire,” and “A Walk in the Woods.” Parsonage also offers unscented soaps for those who prefer it.

Darr describes the shop as “hyper-local.” Parsonage Handmade Soap goods are sold at regional outlets such as the Loudoun Heritage Farm Museum in Sterling, Trinity House Café and Market in Leesburg, Hamilton Mercantile, and Philomont General Store. The Darr family can also be spotted at events such as the Leesburg Flower & Garden Festival, the Mount Vernon Colonial Market and Fair, and the Waterford Fair. Products can be ordered online from the company’s website.  

Darr emphasizes that his soaps are “real soap, something to clean you. [They] won’t hurt you and [they] keep your skin moist. Commercial soaps are often detergent. While they are very, very effective at cleaning, they strip off skin oils. Real soap produces glycerin, which we leave in. It attracts moisture, is a humectant. [We] make a good product. … It does what it’s supposed to.” ML

Parsonage Handmade Soap
P.O. Box 283
Lovettsville, VA 20180
[email protected]

For more information see parsonagesoap.com.

Published in the May 2023 issue of Middleburg Life.

Premier Promotional Products is Ready to Place Your Logo Where it Counts

Written by Lia Hobel | Photos by Kaitlin Hill

Picture this: you have a company event coming up and need branded giveaways to hand out. Your first thought might be to shop online. And when you do, you quickly realize that options are limited and offer no guarantee for the quality of what you’re about to purchase. 

Online ordering can be impersonal and oftentimes deceptive. Luckily for Hunt Country residents and beyond, there’s a local promotional marketing company that has a physical showroom and friendly service in Middleburg. 

Just off South Madison Street, Premier Promotional Products is a woman-owned company that offers personable interaction and honest feedback about products and logo designs. “We consider ourselves a branch of our clients,” shares Margaret vonGersdorff, president of PPP, speaking from the showroom floor that’s equipped with a variety of apparel and accessory options for customers to touch and peruse. The showroom opened in 2020 after being at the Village of Leesburg since 2004. VonGersdorff says she has never looked back regarding the decision to move to Middleburg. “The people that we meet here just fit and we love the town,” she adds. 

With 25 years of experience in the marketing space, vonGersdorff jokingly describes her team as the “logo police,” especially when it comes to color. VonGersdorff has many of the Pantone color chart codes down by memory. She and her two team members, Pamela Taylor and Kaitlyn Ahalt, work daily to make clients happy with their color selection, logo design, and placement. “When you go to an event or you’re giving something out, you want to be [proud] to say, ‘That’s my item. That’s my company name.’ And if you don’t have the right product that reflects on your company, you’re going to be sorry,” explains vonGersdorff. 

The PPP team frequents shows, both nationally and regionally, to see all products firsthand and stay ahead of trends. It’s there that they’re able to meet with manufacturers to touch and experience the products before the samples hit their Middleburg showroom floor. “We’ve been in this business so long that we know which [suppliers] are going to get a product shipment on time,” Ahalt notes, adding that the team can easily “weed out” the products that don’t meet a standard level of quality. 

VonGersdorff gives the common example of an event T-shirt. She boils it down to whether you want to give out a T-shirt someone wants to wear or one that a person would likely wash their car with because it’s uncomfortable. “We can help guide you, because if you’re looking online and you see a $7 T-shirt and a $10 T-shirt and say ‘we’ll get the $7 dollar one’ — do you really want the one that’s going to be itchy and hard or do you want that soft ring-spun cotton,” noting that they know the textile terminology and can provide a client options to touch and feel in-store. 

Oftentimes, customers are quick to gravitate toward pens and mugs when selecting products for a company event. However, vonGersdorff encourages customers to think outside the box. The goal of the PPP team is to find the most suitable option that will maximize the client’s visibility while honoring the customer’s criteria. “We take pride in saying, ‘Let’s pause for a minute. Give me your audience. Give me your goal,’” she explains. Some of the latest trends have included the Stanley Mugs and Under Armour apparel that clients can customize. 

Whether you have a small family reunion, need a customized flag for your boat, want to personalize your tailgate, or are gearing up for a major corporate event, the PPP team will happily handle it all. Clients are welcome to see samples and share ideas of what they want to achieve through their branded merchandise. From there, the PPP team will give their honest input and provide options. They’ll offer digital proofs and ask for multiple sign-offs before completing the order. Whether it’s one time or ten times of going back and forth, the PPP team is willing to make as many edits as required to the logo design until the client says it’s perfect. “We want our customers to shine. When they’re happy, we’re happy. We’re all shining together,” vonGersdorff beams. 

Walk-ins are welcome to the showroom, and visitors are guaranteed to be greeted by one of the three ladies that proudly represent Premier Promotional Products. With clients locally and nationally, the establishment remains a community marketing merchandise destination. 

Interested to learn more? On Friday, May 12, PPP will host an open house from 1 to 4 p.m. for anyone to come preview new spring and summer products. ML

Premier Promotional Products
15 South Madison Street
Middleburg, VA 20117

Published in the May 2023 issue of Middleburg Life.

Meet Your Neighbors: Megan, Drew, and Tilley Robitaille of Tilley’s Pet Supplies

Written by Carlo Massimo | Photos by Callie Broaddus

The walls of Tilley’s Pet Supplies are new. The paint, a comforting sage green, looks like it just dried; the metal of the freezers, filled with raw and gently-cooked dog food and liters of goat milk, is still shining. A framed black-and-white portrait of a horse watches over the register. The doors at Tilley’s Pet Supplies have only been open for a few weeks, and the store seems, impossibly, like it has both just opened and been there for decades.

Anyone who has ever met Megan Robitaille and her husband, Drew, will understand. The Robitailles don’t like to sit still. On Thursday, February 9 of this year, Megan noticed that the pet shop on East Washington in Middleburg, once the much-beloved Wylie Wagg and then a succession of other pet stores, had a liquidation sign out front. By Monday, Megan and Drew were in talks with the landlord; they were going to buy the shop. Neither of them had run a pet shop before, but of course that didn’t matter.

Megan is a lifelong Northern Virginian. Born in Warrenton, she grew up riding with the Casanova hunt and stayed local after graduate school. That’s about the only constant in her life. By her own admission, Megan doesn’t like straight lines or well-trodden paths. “My whole life has been like that,” she says, “going one direction and then suddenly in another.” At one point she had a bakery; at other times she taught at the elementary level and worked retail. 

Drew, born in New Hampshire, has been here since 2008. Like Megan, he grew up in an atmosphere of dogs and horses. He started riding as a 2-year-old and trained for show jumping until age 24. His grandparents bred and showed huskies, and his aunt took medals at the Westminster Kennel Club show twice. His family had a feed store, but Drew’s first business venture was as a photographer. These days he has given up show jumping for triathlon training, which has him out of bed every morning at four. 

There’s a third partner in this business, too: Tilley the corgi, one of the Robitailles’ four dogs. Tilley was a nice name for a store, Megan explains. “We have another dog named Bourbon,” she says, “which would have probably given people the wrong idea.” (“I wouldn’t have minded,” Drew adds.) Tilley and Bourbon are only a small part of the Robitailles’ vast herd of animals. At home they keep bees, 40 chickens, and tortoises, and are considering a Highland cow. Until 2019 they raised cattle on a small farm, which the pandemic forced them to sell.

For years this restless, energetic couple was without an outlet. That changed in February. Megan didn’t initially realize that the shop she was looking at, with the liquidation sign in front, had once been Wylie Wagg. She had visited once in 2004, just out of college, to buy food for her corgi. Wylie Wagg’s owners opened her eyes to what dog food could, or should, be. Up until then, she laughs, “I was feeding my dog crap.”

Megan and Drew explicitly modeled their shop on Wylie Wagg. They wanted to provide the best and most varied food for dogs and cats, and avoid the dreary atmosphere of most corporate pet supply stores. “Pet owners in Middleburg are generally conscientious and intelligent,” says Megan. “They’re readers. They know how to shop, and they love to try something new. This is like Christmas for them.”

Walk along the aisles of Tilley’s and you’ll see what she means. Every imaginable kind of pet food is on the shelves or in the freezers, from diet or hairball control dry food to extravagances like turducken dog food and — for German cats, presumably — Hasenpfeffer in dainty tins. Pumpkins and goat milk are popular remedies at the moment, in high demand, and customers generally know their way around the medicine shelves as well as the food selection. Their food meets all price points and is always holistic and authentic. Most of it, Drew notes with some pride, is human grade — just in case.

Megan insists that Tilley’s Pet Supplies could never have worked in a community without Middleburg’s farm-to-table culture. Even more, a shop like Tilley’s could not exist without the infectious energy of the Robitailles. Their ownership of the property only began on the first of March, and they opened for business on the 31st. In Drew’s words, they “gutted the place,” having painted, met with suppliers, mastered the point-of-sale system, hired staff, and learned, for the first time, how to run a pet supply store — and all this with children and animals and athletic training to keep up with. What’s their secret? Cassie Craft the manager and her six years of experience, according to the Robitailles. (Cassie is an artist as well; several of her paintings are displayed around Tilley’s.) 

It’s no surprise that Megan and Drew are already working on the next phase of Tilley’s. So far, the only products they sell for animals other than cats and dogs are a limited selection of horse treats and other odds and ends. This is going to change, as customers have been asking about rabbit and turtle feed. There’s been some discussion about offering grooming services, as well, but that poses logistical questions. However, Megan has plans to use some of the space in the back as a pet bakery (“a barkery,” she laughs), drawing on her years as a baker to make dog biscuits and cat treats. 

Tilley’s is open seven days a week. For more information, call 540-687-5033. ML

Tilley’s Pet Supplies
5B East Washington Street
Middleburg, VA 20117
[email protected]

Published in the May 2023 issue of Middleburg Life.

Vine to Wine with Greenhill Vineyards

Written by Kaitlin Hill

“We have a team that believes in a wine experience that starts in the vineyard, works its way to the bottle, and into the glasses we pour and the information and passion we share,” says Jed Gray, general manager of Greenhill Vineyards. Gray and his team know that more than good soil and the right climate, making an exceptional bottle of wine starts with meticulous vine care, staying true to the land, and pride in the final product. Gray, along with David Greenhill, Ubaldo Morales, Ben Comstock, and Jenny Travers, invest their expertise, sweat equity, and an undeniable camaraderie in their craft to produce bottles as distinct as the property, process, and people on the path from vine to wine. 

A sprawling 128-acres, the Greenhill property is the image of Virginia wine country complete with a stylish tasting room, historic stone manor, gorgeous vistas, and, of course, rolling hills of diligently tended vines. More than the aesthetics, it’s the dedication to the vines that is at the root of the vineyard’s success. “When you are dealing with vines, you are tending to them 365 days a year. It’s personal,” Gray shares. “Each vine is a little different and you can get to know not only a block of vines, but individual vines themselves.” Perhaps no one knows the vines better than Morales, who has worked on the property for 19 years. “I started on this land in 2003…When Mr. Greenhill bought the farm, I started working for him full-time. And, I’m still here.” 

Nearly two decades on, Morales has seen the quality of the landscape improve. He notes, “The vines look nice, and the fruit grows differently than before.” And Gray adds, “Over the years we have implemented more sustainable vineyard techniques that produce a healthier canopy and healthier fruit. Everything we do is to make a healthier vineyard and we have seen the results over the past couple of years.” 

Part of achieving optimum vineyard health is down to understanding the environment of the Middleburg American Viticultural Area. “We really try to understand what is happening in [our] unique microclimate,” Gray shares. He expands, “We plant varietals that thrive in [this] unique microclimate. Now that we have revitalized the land and learned what works best and what doesn’t, it has resulted in some unique fruits from our vineyard.”

Sustainable practices are aided by Morales’ vigilance in the field. Gray shares, “Ubaldo has this immense attention to detail and pride in his work. Growing the vine from bud break in the spring, watching the fruit mature, taking care of the vine to produce the highest quality fruit, when you pick it and know it is as perfect as you can make it, it’s insanely gratifying.” He adds with a laugh, “Essentially, he enjoys the fruit of his labors.” 

The result of Morales’ dedicated tending and the vineyard’s agricultural practices are grapes ripe for picking and producing award-winning wine. This next step benefits from the talent and experience of Ben Comstock, Greenhill’s head winemaker. Comstock got into the wine world when a friend with a winery in Loudoun County needed help with his harvest in 2009. “When I started, I didn’t necessarily have a passion for wine. I actually fell in love with the work first, and then got to fall in love with the industry itself as the years went on.” Comstock brought that love to Greenhill Vineyards in 2018. 

At Greenhill, producing premium vintages is as much a practice in adaptability as it is in standardized methodology, all while reflecting the relative newness and distinct terroir of the region. Of Comstock’s approach, Gray says, “Every single vintage is different, and the fruit that comes in is different. Ben allows the fruit and then the juice to speak to him [about] how he is going to ultimately create a final product.” 

“Our goal, our ideal, is to make a wine from Virginia,” explains Comstock, understanding that in making it, Greenhill is helping define it. “There is no definition of what Virginia wine is supposed to be,” offers Jenny Travers, the assistant general manager at the vineyard. “So, we are part of a process of defining what Virginia wine actually can be.”

Crucial to defining Virginia wine is harnessing the terroir. “Everything [the team] does, they do in accordance with the terroir,” shares Greenhill’s owner, David Greenhill. “It’s not just the land, but the soil, the climate, everything that goes into the wine…We actually care for the vines in accordance with the elements that are here and not techniques from other areas that don’t necessarily apply,” he adds.

“It’s an evolutionary process where we are constantly educating ourselves with the fruit every single year and always striving to make a better product,” Gray says. 

The result? Numerous award-winning and, as Travers says, “cult favorite” wines with something for every preference from Chenin Blanc to Cabernet Sauvignon. “Our sparkling is something that people know Greenhill for. Our Cabernet Franc is amazing. Our Merlot is fantastic. And then we make two or three iterations of Chardonnay. Oh, and Petit Verdot. Those are some of the wines we are known for making exceptionally well,” Travers lists. When asked, Morales says his favorite is the Merlot.  

Beyond the wine, the team at Greenhill applies the same laser focus when nurturing team camaraderie and guaranteeing customer enjoyment. “Me, Ben, Ubaldo and Jed, we all have separate roles, but we all work collaboratively. And we all like each other. I mean, genuinely like each other,” Travers emphasizes. 

Just a few minutes in the tasting room or a walk around the grounds reveals an inter-employee warmth that spreads to each customer with whom the team members interact. “Everything we do is about an experience…And every touch we have with the customers is extremely important to us. It is something that every single person that works here takes pride in,” Travers says. 

“We are not [only] successful because of our pride, but [also] because of our passion. If you can look someone in the eye and pour them wine and speak passionately about it, that resonates with the customer and their enjoyment and appreciation of the product is endless at that point. We have pride and passion in everything that we share with our [guests] and we stand behind that 100%,” Gray says. Travers finishes, “And that’s 100% from vine to bottle to glass.”  

Pride, passion, and a spirit of camaraderie are served in abundance at Greenhill Vineyards making it a must-visit during Virginia’s wine month and beyond. Perhaps Travers puts it best when she says, “The celebration around the time you spend with people when you are drinking, that connection you make, that is extremely important [to us]. It’s extremely important to the business and it is extremely important to the experience.” ML 

This article first appeared in the October 2022 issue.

Local Breweries Collaborate on Fall Beer

Article by Diane Heletjaris
Photos by Michael Butcher

Chris Burns had an idea. As the president of Old Ox Brewery, not surprisingly, the idea revolved around beer. Wouldn’t it be fun to get together with fellow Virginia craft brewers to dream up a new brew?

“What sparked this collaboration was that we are all distributed by the same distributing company, Premium Distributors of Virginia. It would be great to get everybody together to brew a beer, [which would] give us the opportunity to talk shop and have a good time. Customers would have the opportunity to try beer from breweries they haven’t had the opportunity to try,” Burns says. “Collaborations are pretty normal. The [brewing] community likes to get together, see how different people approach the same problems…We always learn something during these collaboration beer days.”

Julie Broaddus, co-owner of Old Bust Head Brewing Company, confirms the camaraderie of the experience. “I really like connecting with other local breweries. [We] all share a lot of the same challenges. It’s good to help each other out. [We] definitely want to do it again.”

Representatives from Virginia-based breweries gather at Old Ox Brewery in Ashburn to make a batch of Collaborator.

Typically, craft breweries, like Loudoun’s Old Ox, produce small quantities of beer for a mostly local market. Their craft brews reach the chilled glasses of beer lovers several different ways. Locally,  customers can drink at the taproom or pick up their beer while passing by. To reach a broader audience, craft breweries, like Old Ox, use the same distribution supply lines as the huge nationwide breweries. Any retailer served by the distributor can order craft brews right alongside the nationwide brands and sell it at their bar, tavern, restaurant, or store. 

In August of 2022, six craft breweries from Ashburn to Charlottesville, that all use Premium Distributors of Virginia as their distributor, met at Old Ox Brewery and spent the day formulating a new brew. Others joined in, including representatives from the distributor, sharing tips, finding solutions to common challenges, and having fun preparing the ingredients for the new beer. The collaboration was a rousing success even before the first barrel of beer had been tapped.

Behind the scenes at Old Ox Brewery.

They chose to brew was a lager, specifically a bock beer, and even more specifically, a doppelbock. Lagers originated in Germany and are brewed using a cool fermentation method in contrast to the warm fermentation used to make ales. Bock beers originated in southern Germany as seasonal lagers. Doppelbocks are historically (or maybe only mythically) tied to beers made for monks fasting during Lent and reportedly nicknamed “liquid bread.” 

Doppelbocks are rich amber lagers in the Bavarian tradition. “This is a style we would love everybody to [have] an open mind [about] —  a classic style with a rich history and a lot of integrity,” says Dave Warwick, founding brewmaster and CEO of Three Notch’d Brewing Company in Charlottesville, Virginia. 

The new beer has been dubbed “Collaborator.” This is a nod to doppelbock naming conventions which typically end with the suffix “-ator.” Aldie artist Ryan Danger created the label which features the logos of the six breweries. 

Warwick believes “Beer tells a story. Beer is world history.” Three Notch’d Brewery frequently creates special beers with input from customers for charity dinners, weddings, birthdays, and other events. They even did a beer to celebrate a divorce. “Needless to say, it was bitter,” Warwick says. “When Old Ox approached with the idea of doing a beer together, it was a no-brainer.” 

As Broaddus says, “[This is] really a celebration of local craft. It’s a statement about how craft breweries are a different type of business. Breweries, in general, often have a more community-focused mission… [They] are gathering places for the community, something we’ve been missing, a place you can bring your family, go, and lighten up a little bit. What else do we have like this? Coffee shop? Not the same. Bar, winery? Not the same.”

The beer aptly named Collaborator is slated to be released in mid-October and will be available from all six breweries in a territory reaching from Roanoke to Richmond to Williamsburg and up into Northern Virginia. It will also be offered by Premium Distributors. Burns describes the flavorful amber drink as a pleasant beverage to “wind down and relax” with after the hurry-scurry of Oktoberfest. 
Charlie Buettner, brewmaster and CEO of Fair Winds Brewing Company in Lorton, Virginia, hopes Collaborator will demonstrate that, “There is unity in craft beer…[It will] show everyone we’re in this together.” ML

This article originally appeared in the October 2022 issue.

What’s Old is New Again at Another Blue Moon

Written by Shayda Windle
Photos by Callie Broaddus 

If Hunt Country is anything, it most certainly is not a place lacking in things to do or see. In addition to pastoral views of the Blue Ridge and Bull Run Mountains, famed foxhunts, and steeplechase races, there is also a vibrant shopping district in the town of Middleburg that keeps visitors coming back for more. With its tree-lined brick sidewalks and 18th-century buildings, historic Middleburg has rows of lively restaurants and boutiques that attract people from all over. This intriguing mix of old and new can be found at Another Blue Moon, a luxury consignment shop in the heart of town. The unique secondhand store offers an assortment of antique and vintage furniture, decorative accessories, collectibles, and home goods.

What started out as a pop-up founded by six friends in 2018 has evolved into the brick-and-mortar retail store you see today on Washington Street. The store is co-owned by longtime friends Kerry Dale and Jennifer Andrews. As people began cleaning out their homes and looking to recycle possessions during the pandemic, Dale and Andrews saw an opportunity to continue the venture. At Another Blue Moon, you’ll find beautiful furniture, vintage mirrors, lamps, tables, rugs, tea sets, and so much more. What makes this boutique so special is that most items come from local homes and friends of the owners. So, when you buy a piece from Another Blue Moon, you’re not only supporting the local economy — you’re also giving back to the community of contributors who have decided to consign their goods here. You’re buying something special from another person’s sanctuary and continuing that treasure’s story.

“We take things that we know customers are looking for and are complementary to our design style and inventory.”


Dale says, “Because of our community and the nature of it, and as the real estate market has exploded, our business has grown too. We added space this year and now have barn space in the basement of the Middleburg Professional Center.” During the pandemic, Dale adds, “Instagram saved us. We would take photos and post them to social media. People would claim their goods online then come pick them up in-store.” Andrews chimes in, “Instagram not only provides an outlet for home shopping and dreaming, but continues to offer comic relief even today. What else could make you laugh about a needlepoint pillow, a Herend cat, or a shapely French chest? We learn something every day about the business and there’s always a fresh challenge around the corner.”

Left: A stack of books perfect for a home office. Center: Dale surrounded by the shop’s many treasures. Righ: Hunt Country accents are in no short supply.

“Many times, people will send me twenty pictures of what they want to consign, but we must curate what we take,” Dale explains. “We take things that we know customers are looking for and are complementary to our design style and inventory. We carry anything from antiques to contemporary to transitional and more traditional goods.” Another Blue Moon also considers whether items are on-trend, the condition they are in, and seasonality as they curate their collection. They will generally hold items for about 90 days, but Dale says they try very hard to sell with a quicker turnaround.

“If you don’t love what you do, then why do it?”


It’s clear how much these two women enjoy the process of building a business together, and their passion for “finding a new life for something that still has life in it” is even more inspiring. But perhaps Andrews puts it best. She says with a laugh, “I feel like I’m in an episode of the Beverly Hillbillies, driving through Loudoun with a van full of old furniture to drop off at a barn. If you don’t love what you do, then why do it?” ML

Another Blue Moon is open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and by appointment. Be sure to stop by the basement area of the Middleburg Professional Center on 119 The Plains Road for more from Another Blue Moon. You can also check them out on Instagram @anotherbluemoon to see what’s available now. New inventory is added regularly.

This article first appeared in the June 2022 Issue.

Wisdom Gallery: A Valentine’s Day Jackpot

Story and Photos by Katie Johnson

Tucked away on Middleburg’s quiet, tree-lined Madison Street, the Wisdom Gallery has stood the test of time.

Full to the brim of carefully selected greeting cards, artwork, unique furnishings and lighting, jewelry, and all manner of interesting collectibles, this little shop makes for a cozy retreat from the cool winter weather.

Owner Pauline Wisdom says business has always been good in her corner of the town, though with a few empty storefronts on the street these days, things have gotten a bit quieter. Still, she loves her job. “I’m meeting wonderful people,” she says. “I really am, and I have for thirty years.”

Pauline Wisdom

When Pauline, a native of East London who speaks with a distinct and charming British clip, initially visited Middleburg as a tourist, she thought the town could really use a good English tea shop. She chose a storefront and signed a lease, but when her plans for a tea shop fell through, she opened the Wisdom Gallery instead.

Having operated an antique shop of the same name when she lived California, it felt like an easy choice. Soon after that, she acquired a papery and stationery shop in town. To consolidate the two locations into one and simplify her business operations, she eventually purchased her current building, and set about turning the one-time dress shop into the eclectic business it is today.

A stroll through the Wisdom Gallery’s first level will lead customers to a showcase in the back full of beautiful chocolates. “I just love it,” says Pauline of this sweet collection, and smiles as she remembers how choosing the chocolates she carries was “the roughest job I ever had.”

She features confections from two suppliers, one specializing in a more home-made, simple style, and the other in giant, decadent truffles. These, she advises, are very rich, and can be cut into four pieces and enjoyed with friends. Her personal favorites are the coconut creams, but it’s the sea salt caramels that fly off the shelves. So quickly, in fact, the she has to double order them to keep them in stock.

“I’ve always had good luck with my chocolate,” she says. Upstairs, Pauline keeps an assortment of fine stationery, supplied by Crane and William Arthur.

She notes that people do still send handwritten letters, and she’s happy to be of service to those looking for special announcements and invitations. When she began selling personalized stationery and cards, she was nervous. She knew that she wanted to get everything just right for her customers, and she’s been successful.

Her stationery business really picks up during wedding season, she says, particularly for June brides, who generally come to her six months ahead of time. “You have to be so careful to do everything correctly,” she says. After so many years in business, though, Pauline is confident.

“People have come to me because I know what I’m doing,” she confides. She pauses for a moment and jokes, “Sometimes I know what I’m doing.”
Over the years, Pauline has seen many vendors come and go, and she’s always sad to say goodbye to her favorite lines. Now, it’s her shop that’s on the market.

“I have fun,” she says, “but I’m having to give it up because of a wonky knee.” Her building has been for sale, on and off, for about two years, and she would love to find a buyer who could carry on the business as it is. Her customers have asked for the same. She’s willing to help for a few months, once the right buyer comes along, to ensure the transition goes smoothly. Then, she says, she’ll focus on “just being here, and taking care of my one puppy that I’ve got left.”

In the meantime, Pauline is glad to be part of the Middleburg community. She speaks highly of the businesses in town and often recommends other shops to her customers, especially if they’re looking for something she doesn’t carry. “We’re all here in the same community,” she says. “We need to work together and not against one another.”

It’s that sense of collaboration and impeccable customer service she’d like people to remember after they visit the Wisdom Gallery. Her goal is simply to offer customers a pleasant, peaceful, and fun experience when they stop in to look around.

“We all get to work and we’re lucky if we get out and do anything else,” she says. “I don’t like to pressure people. That’s not what I’m here for.”

This article first appeared in the February issue of Middleburg Life.