Meet Your Neighbor

Meet Your Neighbor: Rachid Saad, Owner of Middleburg Gourmet

Written by Lia Hobel / Photos by Michael Butcher

Food connoisseur and businessman Rachid Saad has adored Middleburg ever since he first visited the town. And, for the last three years, he’s been on the hunt for a location to launch his next food venture. Finally, the timing was right, and Middleburg Gourmet came to fruition in December of 2022. “Who doesn’t love Middleburg?” Saad says about his East Federal Street food boutique that offers teas, spices, oils, and other worldly and local culinary products. 

Originally from Morocco, Saad came to the U.S. in 2007 to work in IT but has always been a foodie at heart. Like any dedicated cook, Saad had a desire to find the best saffron in the Washington, D.C., area. When he could not locate one to his liking, he saw a business opportunity and launched Moroccan Saffron in 2014. Under the brand label, Saad created spice mixtures and carefully chose food products that would appease the toughest food critic’s palate. The brand is carried at D.C.’s Eastern Market, and Saad also sells his products at farmer markets. Now Moroccan Saffron is sold at Middleburg Gourmet, his own brick-and-mortar store, which received a warm welcome from the community right from its launch. “I’ve been in the food business for over 10 years, and I would say this community in Middleburg is crazy amazing,” Saad says. “People are supportive. They discuss our products. They take the time to write a review on our Google page.” 

With a bright yellow interior, Middleburg Gourmet has a happy ambiance. Comfy chairs by a window invite customers to relax and enjoy their shopping experience. Often, Saad will offer guests a free espresso as they look around the shop and he makes himself available to offer up a wealth of product knowledge or make suggestions. “When they walk in, we want them to try some of the products,” Saad notes, who is not shy about opening a package for a customer to sample before buying. “That’s part of the business and marketing,” he adds. Being able to try products before purchasing is also a way that he sets  his boutique apart from large, corporate chains. Saad says he had a customer who tried every single energy bite that he carries in the store and then purchased every single variety. 

Saad also focuses on importing items right from the source, such as caramel and nougat from a bakery in France and truffles from Italy. The shop also supports local artisans, including a pasta made in Virginia. Saad also has an ongoing partnership with a Shenandoah-based farmer who supplies honey. He says the honey is a popular purchase. Teas are another specialty at Middleburg Gourmet. He works with organic suppliers as well as small vendors to assure only the best tea is sold. “I make the [customers] smell the teas and I tell them the benefits of some of the herbs themselves,” he says.

Over the next few months, Saad plans to add cheeses, a fresh bakery that includes French baguettes and croissants, as well as ice cream. “I want to have a place [where] customers and neighbors can get a gift, grab a pasta and a sauce, and cook an easy dinner.”

In the spring, Saad plans to make his brand a fixture at markets around the DMV area and says he will employ individuals who enjoy chatting with customers and the outdoors so he can focus on Middleburg Gourmet. As for his new brick-and-mortar, he says, “I wanted a store for many reasons; for people to know where we are and to visit us Monday through Sunday.” ML

Middleburg Gourmet is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday; 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Middleburg Gourmet
10 East Federal Street
Middleburg, VA 20117

Published in the March 2023 issue of Middleburg Life.

Meet Your Neighbor: Taylor Thistlethwaite

Written by Lia Hobel 
Photos by Michael Butcher 

Thistlethwaite Americana, an antique gallery on Washington Street, has an inviting atmosphere with a gracious host. The proprietor, Taylor Thistlethwaite, loves to offer up stories that delight novice and established antique collectors alike. The traditional “don’t touch” mentality is not what you’ll find here. “Let’s sit down at an 18th-century table and have a cup of coffee,” he says. Thistlethwaite wants to get to know his customers, share stories about the items in his collection, and help potential patrons discover something that makes them happy. “I always say, you should be able to sit in a room at night and an object should speak to you.”

Everything displayed on the walls and showcased on the floor is hand-selected by Thistlethwaite and is a reflection of his personal taste. His collection includes elegant furniture, folk art, mid-century items, and belongings that are perfect conversation pieces. At age 35, Thistlethwaite has earned a reputation in the antique world for his fine eye and exquisite taste. He is the youngest dealer to ever be accepted to The Winter Show, a prestigious art, antiques, and design fair held in New York City. He also participates in some of the country’s top antique shows including the Delaware Antiques Show and The Philadelphia Show.

“The piece behind you was designed by a guy named Paul Evans who was the father of American Brutalist furniture and on top we have a Harriet Frishmuth bronze. She was one of the greatest Art Deco American sculpturists. Then above that is a painting from the 1970s by Ernie Barnes who is one of the most seminal 1970s African American artists that we have right now,” he points out with excitement. Without skipping a beat, Thistlethwaite continues to exhibit his expertise and rich historical knowledge of every furnishing in the space. He points out an easy chair made in Philadelphia around 1750. “It’s one of the earliest known easy chairs of this form,” he says. “You look at the crazy lines and kind of spookiness of the arms compared to the brutal edge of the Brutalist piece next to it, and you see that this stuff doesn’t go perfectly together but it relates.”

Connecting the pieces to historical timelines and interpreting an artist’s logic in designing their work is just one of many facets of Thistlethwaite’s job. It’s not a skill you develop overnight —  it has to be acquired over time and through formal training. Thistlethwaite’s parents and grandparents were all collectors. He credits them for instilling his appreciation for antiques during his childhood. He grew up in Bethesda, Maryland, and moved to Glasgow, Kentucky, when he was around 13 years old. His family has had a farm in Glasgow since the late 1700s. “I fell in love with treasure hunting as a kid,” he says reminiscently about antique road trips with his father. “We used to go to Middleburg and then out to the [Shenandoah] Valley and hit all these antique shops and old estates. I remember him throwing me up in the attics and telling me to go find something up there.” That passion for treasure hunting never dwindled. 

His father, a surgeon, collected antiques as a hobby. Thistlethwaite knew early on that a medical path was not for him. “I made a C in freshman biology so I knew I had to find something else,” he explains. He attended Centre College and earned a degree in American history with an emphasis on the colonial period. He then went to the University of Kentucky for a master’s in historic preservation. During this time, Thistlethwaite gained a wealth of knowledge as an intern for Sumpter Priddy, one of the foremost scholars on southern antiques. “I was doing work for him in the summer while I was in college and then when I went to grad school. I even helped him at The Winter Show, so it kind of came full circle that I was able to come back and do this on my own.”

In 2013, Thistlethwaite and his wife, Rebecca, opened a showroom on the first floor of his Alexandria home to display his inventory for collectors. In the midst of COVID-19, when many antique shows were canceled, Thistlethwaite was eating dinner in Middleburg and saw the for-lease sign in the space where Thistlethwaite Americana now lives. “What makes Middleburg so unique is the fact that we have so many people coming through from different areas and there’s already a strong collector base.” As Thistlethwaite explains, having a physical storefront is wonderful because he can serve everyone who walks in the door  — not just dealers. 

The furnishings in his showroom are all unique to their place of origin. “Little markers” on the pieces help Thistlethwaite trace each object back to the individual cities in which they were made. This is all part of the allure of collecting antiques. “You have so much history combined into one piece. Maybe we don’t know who owned it initially, but these pieces have been treasured for hundreds of years so at least we can get some points,” he says.

As opposed to previous decades when people may have wanted a house entirely full of antiques, Thistlethwaite says people are shifting toward having just a few individual accent pieces. “You got to have fun with this stuff,” he says. “I have things in here for the novice collector or somebody who just is interested in getting started, all the way up to museum and collector grade.”

Given the passion that Thistlethwaite has for his inventory, one might wonder if it is difficult for him to part with the items. However, Thistlethwaite says discovering, photographing, and living with the items before passing them on to collectors is gratifying. “It’s not even about a sale, it’s more about adding to the next generation of the history [of the object].”

Thistlethwaite now lives in Upperville with his wife and their new son, William, who was born in April. He hopes to pass down his love for antiques and treasure hunts to his son. In the backroom of his shop, Thistlethwaite has an antique highchair waiting for William once he is old enough to sit at the table. 

For Thistlethwaite, love of his profession stems from the joy his clients experience as new owners of his preloved pieces. He says, “As long as it’s something that captures your fancy or makes you smile, that’s what it’s all about.” ML

Thistlethwaite Americana is located in Middleburg at 116 Washington Street. For more information, please visit

This article first appeared in the June 2022 Issue.