small business

Terrific Toys at the PLAYroom

Written by Sarah Hickner
Photos by Callie Broaddus

On West Washington Street, just a few doors down from Middleburg Common Grounds, is an unusually PLAYful store. Even for an adult, a step inside feels like walking into a magical place.

A wall lined with books beckons young readers to take a seat on the bench and dive into a new tale. Wooden cars beg for little ones to zoom them around. A rideable toy horse stands proudly, greeting customers. Whimsical pendulum clocks ping back and forth on the wall behind the checkout counter. And, for the holiday season, adorable fabric animal ornaments adorn lit Christmas trees and colorful stockings hang in every corner of the shop. 

Chris, Michelle, and Maverick.

Keep going, and customers will find a mini theater set, ready for whatever productions a kid can dream up, a book tree, a busyboard fire truck, a magna-tile build area, and a huge Lite-Brite!

“We want to have things you can’t get at the big box stores.”

– McNaughton

More than just the quantity of toys, it’s their quality that adds to the appeal. Years ago Michelle McNaughton, owner of the PLAYroom, read an article explaining that when toys are aesthetically pleasing, adults are more likely to get involved with playtime. The retro wood kitchen and toy rotary phone sitting next to a display of eccentric fabric dolls proves that the article’s argument rings true. 

One of McNaughton’s favorite things about her business is watching the families she serves grow. “We’ve only been here a year and a half,” she shares. “But even in that time, we had ladies come in who were expecting, and now their kids are a year old!” 

Vilac Vintage Car.

In owning a toy store, McNaughton has become a toy expert. One thing she has learned is that kids don’t need a large collection. Instead, a handful of good toys is plenty because it encourages children to exercise their imagination more. Often people will hold up a toy and say, “What does this do?” She responds with a big smile and a twinkle in her eye: “Whatever you want it to!” 

Most items in the store are made from wood, fabric, or paper. McNaughton works hard to provide products made of sustainable and natural materials. “When we do carry plastics we try to make sure they’re healthy plastics, so mostly food grade,” she says. McNaughton also loves to support small vendors and stock plenty of American-made toy options. “We want to have things you can’t get at the big box stores,” she says.

When asked about her favorite toys in the store, McNaughton made a beeline for a set of car tracks called “Way To Play Roads.” They are simple pieces of black silicone that can be pieced together to make a track for toy cars. Her face lights up as she talks about her son playing with them every day. “We play with them in the snow. We’ve made monster mud pits, and I just hosed them off when we were done. We brought them to the beach and played in the sand!” 

Hanging ornaments.

McNaughton is undeniably passionate about play. She dreams of her store being a place for people in the community to read, play, and imagine. “Our goal is really to be a part of the community. We’ll have folks come in on a Wednesday and read and play for thirty minutes. We want to be a resource for those families to come in and think of new things they haven’t seen before…and think about play a little differently than just ‘how do I entertain my kid?’”

“The key to buying a gift for someone is your own excitement about it”

– McNaughton

With the holidays around the corner, McNaughton shares her advice for gift buying. 

“The key to buying a gift for someone is your own excitement about it,” McNaughton explains. “If you’re not excited about it, I say just put it back. Then get the item that excites you.” If you are still on the fence, give the staff the chance to do what makes them come alive — helping you choose the perfect gifts for the kids in your life. You won’t be disappointed and neither will your child. ML

The PLAYroom is located at 108 West Washington Street in Middleburg, Virginia. Hours are Monday through Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

This article first appeared in the December 2022 issue.

Reuben Bajaj (left), owner of The Shoppes at Main and Maple - White Star Investments, with Pop Culture owners Joel Rogozinski and Holly Bagwell.

Pop Culture Craft Pops Is Loudoun’s New Cool Kid

Pop Culture Craft Pops of Purcellville is Loudoun’s new kid on the block.

Open for less than a month, Pop Culture is attracting customers from throughout Loudoun, Clarke, and Frederick Counties, and as far away as West Virginia.

Reuben Bajaj (left), owner of The Shoppes at Main and Maple - White Star Investments, with Pop Culture owners Joel Rogozinski and Holly Bagwell.

Reuben Bajaj (left), owner of The Shoppes at Main and Maple – White Star Investments, with Pop Culture owners Joel Rogozinski and Holly Bagwell.

Owners Holly Bagwell and her fiancé, Joel Rogozinski, have built a unique popsicle brand that is deeply resonating with customers. Pop Culture offers fruit- and milk-based popsicles made with all natural ingredients, primarily using fruit as a sweetener. Fruit flavors include strawberry honey balsamic, basil lemonade, and pineapple jalapeño. Milk flavors include banana cream pie with Nilla Wafers, birthday cake, hazelnut banana pop, and chocolate milk.

With the exception of Oreos and Nilla Wafers in some pops, the popsicles contain no other artificial additives. The menu also includes gluten- and dairy-free popsicles. Designed to make popsicle-eating simple for young children, the new business offers options with extra-long sticks and no added sugar.

Pop Culture is committed to partnering with local farms and businesses and is working with Loudoun’s Department of Agriculture to source fruit from local farms. For a beverage, they serve nitro cold brew from Cascade Coffee, a company based in Lorton, Virginia. Far more than just a popsicle stand, the shop’s primary mission is to bring people together. “Our vision is to be a place where families can come in, not just for the popsicles,” said Rogozinski. “We have backgammon, cards, puzzles, and people use them every day. We want to be a place where people can relax.” Every other Saturday, they host patio parties and show popular movies. The owners plan to offer activities like karaoke or trivia night for teenagers, storytime for toddlers, and special events themed around holidays.

Customers are greeted by the store’s whimsical and fun décor, designed to inspire and uplift. With turquoise blue and bright orange seating and a purple mural of Purcellville on the wall, it’s hard not to feel happy inside Pop Culture. The menu is painted on a chalkboard backdrop, along with an inspirational quote from Earl Nightingale: “Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.” The quote mirrors the journey Bagwell and Rogozinski have walked – or more appropriately, sprinted at full speed – over the last few months.  “All we did was build a really cool lemonade stand. At the end of the day, it’s not the most complicated business,” Rogozinski said. “You don’t have to come up with something nobody’s ever thought of…come up with something good that people want.”

Bagwell and her 10-year-old daughter, Kinley, moved to Northern Virginia from Alabama five years ago. While in Alabama, they frequented a popsicle shop called Steel City Pops. As a lover of popsicles, Bagwell realized how much Northern Virginia needed a popsicle shop. When she met Rogozinski, she told him about her dream, but it wasn’t until early 2018 that they decided to make it a reality.
While both working full-time jobs, they began planning Pop Culture. They rented a space in Ashburn’s Chefscape, a shared kitchen incubator, and started selling popsicles out of a mobile trailer. In June, they signed the lease on their Purcellville space, and the rest of their success was carried by a “snowball” effect, according to Bagwell. The storefront is located at 737 E. Main St., Purcellville. “You can innovate in the way you run it. You can still make a really neat company,” Rogozinski said. “I want to show you what we can do with just popsicles.”

Pop Culture's best selling pops are milk-based cookies and cream and fruit-based blackberry lemonade. Photos courtesy of Pop Culture Craft Pops.

Pop Culture’s best selling pops are milk-based cookies and cream and fruit-based blackberry lemonade. Photos courtesy of Pop
Culture Craft Pops.

Since April, they have worked 18-20 hour days, seven days a week, to bring their dream to life. The day before Pop Culture’s grand opening, Bagwell left her full-time job to manage the popsicle shop. Their goal is to open more Pop Culture locations in the area. The owners have already taken their product on the road to Twilight Polo at Great Meadow and made a pretty big impression. The shop’s interior was entirely handmade by Bagwell and Rogozinski, who designed and made the store’s benches and countertops. Together, they painted the shop and murals. “We both love building things, from physically building things, to building brands and products,” Rogozinski said. “We haven’t hired a single contractor. Everything is handmade, from our trailer, to our store, to our popsicles. “We know every inch of our business,” he added. “I would love to say we are these skilled people, but really it’s YouTube.”

One of their most frequently asked questions is: What about making boozy pops? Rogozinski said the current focus is to create a family friendly place, not in creating adult popsicles at the store in Purcellville.

“I’m not in the alcohol business,” he said. “I’m in the popsicle business.” While serving adult popsicles at their storefront is not currently in the business plan, they’re open to partnering with local wineries and selling them at wineries or restaurants.
As kids head back to school, Pop Culture Cafe owners are thinking about plans for cooler weather. They expect to offer fall and winter specific flavors like pumpkin spice and roll out a hot cocoa bar mid-season. The store is open seven days a week. Check Facebook for seasonal hours.

This article first appeared in the September 2018 Issue.