Archive for July, 2020

COVID-19 recovery priority one for local agency

Small businesses are the heart of the Nation’s economy. More than 28 million entrepreneurs employ 57 million workers in firms with less than 1,500 employees, often dramatically less. They are the country’s leading job creators.

Yet the failure rate of these small companies is 20 percent in their first year of operation. By year five, 50 percent have failed, and a decade after opening their doors, 70 percent are no longer on the scene.

This gauntlet was the norm before COVID-19 hit. Today survival is the paramount goal of millions of small business owners who are the pulse of the Nation’s economic heart.

Christine Kriz, director of the Lord Fairfax Small Business Development Center, has never been busier as she and her part-time staff of four provide a plethora of skills to help assure the viability of the region’s small enterprises.

The charter
Kriz’s turf covers eight regional counties, including Fauquier, and the City of Winchester. Her charter assists any firm with less than 100 employees and under $50 million in revenue.

In quieter times, the Lord Fairfax SBDC helped aspiring entrepreneurs start and run a business. Such assistance would include creating marketing plans, preparing loan applications, helping manage day-to-day operations, and even providing support for selling a company.

Disciplines included accounting, human resources, marketing, operations, distribution, and virtually any aspect of creating and running a company.

Before the pandemic, Kriz’s team assisted about 420 clients a year. Today, she is on track to helping some 1,200 local firms recover and thrive from the impact of the national lockdown.

While all of the previous support is still in place, two issues regularly surface from businesses struggling to find a path back to normalcy: e-commerce and cash flow.

E-commerce is poised to play a more significant role in the months and years ahead. Initially, many of her clients were eager to embrace a more substantial digital role to survive. Now their focus is shifting back to the conventional strategies, especially for retailers.

“But we are still emphasizing e-commerce because there are people who prefer to buy that way. We don’t know if the economy will shut down again if a second virus wave hits later this year. Companies need to be prepared to sell both online and in person.

“Among the many things we offer is free consulting, paid for by tax dollars, to help people meet with Google and other e-commerce experts.

“These are people who can help them get their websites up and running. We also offer free website evaluation, social media expertise, and overall online marketing strategies to drive people to those sites,” said Kriz.

When the pandemic first hit, businesses were seeking her out for immediate assistance in building their e-commerce skills. Now that Phase 2 recovery is in place, many firms are shifting their focus back to former sales strategies.

“We are preaching the message that ‘you cannot forget about your online presence. Don’t lose the momentum you’ve begun to establish.’”

The advice she provides companies is to reach out to their customers and continuously ask them, “How do you prefer buying from us?” She knows there are a majority of buyers in the marketplace who still do not feel comfortable going out shopping.

The second important issue is creating a cash flow plan. When Kriz encounters owners who eschew working with numbers, she urges them to have a bookkeeper do it or meet with her. She has numerous free tools available to help achieve sound budgeting practices.

“I can’t overemphasize how important it is for companies to know their numbers today and to know their cash flow,” emphasizes Krix. “In normal times, 80 percent of firms go out of business because of cash flow problems. We want people to make rational decisions, not emotional ones when it comes to their finances.”

LFSMDC receives funding from the Small Business Administration, which is matched by at least 50 percent from local economic development groups. The funding is vital because federal funds will not be forthcoming unless local judications contribute too.

“If there is anything positive that has come from the pandemic, it’s the response from our economic development partners. They have been fantastic,” said Kriz.

Since March 17, Kriz and her team have been both telecommuting and meeting via Zoom with businesses in need. She operates out of three Fauquier Enterprise Centers located in Flint Hill, Marshall, and Warrenton.

The future
If the economic ship of state rights itself and the country begins to return to prosperity, how long will it take to see good times return? “I follow a lot of top-level economists who are predicting it will take three years to make a complete comeback.

“Seven percent of all jobs will not return. For small business owners who are doing well, it’s because they are pivoting their businesses based on what their customers are telling them. An owner cannot rely on a ‘this is the way we’ve always done it,’ business model.

“The key is communication with customers. Finding out what they want and how they want to buy it is her relentless mantra. If you cannot adjust to the reality of these demands, you will not be around two years from now,” said Kriz.

The Lord Fairfax Small Business Development Center is a rich resource for small firms in need. Help starts by simply visiting

Firms can also sign up for a free no-obligation business consultation using its COVID-19 recovery website

Categories : HAGARTY TALES

Safely seeking fresh air

Posted on Jul 21 2020 | By

Seniors and campgrounds make for healthy fun

You can run, but you can’t hide. Or can you?

The origin of the timeworn expression dates to 1941 when boxing legend Joe Lewis was describing his impending fight with light heavyweight champ Billy Conn. Conn was attempting to become the first light heavyweight champ in history to win a World Heavyweight title.

Regretfully for Conn, he was knocked out in the 13th round. He acquitted himself well enough and avoided the Brown Bomber for most of the fight, but ultimately, he couldn’t hide.

Today, our silver-haired cohort is running in place, trying to hide from COVID-19 while retaining some semblance of sanity. But playing it safe in the confines of one’s home can grow weary.

And while things have eased up, fear of public places with multiple faces still dictates caution. Perhaps seniors simply need to open their front doors and breathe deeply, triggering memories from yesteryear. Like camping.

Camping in well-maintained campgrounds is something even medical professionals are endorsing. They posit that when exercising and recreating outdoors, there is no compelling reason to wear a mask if one is practicing social distancing.

Dr. Henry Chambers, a professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of California, San Francisco, says, “There is a lot of air space and airflow outside. If you are outdoors and appropriately distanced from other people, then it is highly unlikely you will be exposed.”
His description defines a campground.

Camping today encompasses everything from luxurious RVs to simple two-person tents with a table and chairs. Even starting from scratch, primitive camping is not only fun but inexpensive.

A tent, sleeping bags, chairs, grill, and a portable table can be purchased for less than $400.

One popular brand of gear marketed by Ozark Trail offers a 22-piece camping outfit for $149. True, it’s not high-end, but it’s satisfactory for occasional outings.

Area campgrounds
A quick scan of your favorite search engine will reveal numerous local opportunities to stake a tent and fire up a grill less than an hour from any point in Fauquier County.

Venues like: Sky Meadows Campground, Greenville Farm Family Campground, Lake of the Woods Campground, Outlander River Camp, Cedar Mountain Campground, and Rappahannock River Campground, to name a handful, are open and providing healthy getaways for seniors and young folks alike.

Brenda and Edward VanKeuren are the owners of Mountain Lake Campground in Paris. The campground has been in operation since the 1960s and personifies “down-home”.

The venue is small with a blend of primitive, and electric and water sites totaling about 20.

“Everybody wants to get outdoors today,” said Brenda VanKeuren. “Weekends are our busier times. We don’t offer Wi-Fi, cable TV lines, and other fancy stuff. Just camping. What we do have is a lot of peace and quiet.” Campsites cost $25 per night.

Pam Marcon manages Gooney Creek Campgrounds in Front Royal. There are about 30 sites at the facility, also dating to the 1960s.

“I cater to tent campers who simply want electricity and water. I’ve been spatially- acceptably packed during COVID. People are chomping at the bit to get outdoors and camp.

“At night I watch all the unhappiness on TV, and then I look out at my campground and I see all my happy campers sitting next to their little happy campfires. My customers are well behaved and always having a great time,” said Marcon.

She describes her campground as a “landing pad.” People arrive, set up their tents, and then head to the river for canoeing or kayaking, or go up to the Shenandoah National Park for hiking. More laid-back pursuits such as antiquing or flea market shopping are also popular pursuits.

“What surprises me is I’m finding more local people coming to camp nowadays,” mused Macron.

Heading south on Route 340 toward Luray is the Shenandoah River State Park located near Bentonville. The park consists of 1,619 acres of recreational opportunities. It has over five miles of frontage on the South Fork of the Shenandoah River and miles of open and forested hiking trails.

“Everyone is happy to be out here, and they appreciate us being open,” said Tony Widmer, park manager.

The park has 11 primitive campsites costing $25 per night and 33 RV sites with water and electrical hookups that run $47.
“Our overall attendance is much higher than it would normally be. Most weekends, we are full. We have hikers, bikers, horseback riders, river floaters, and more, but they spread out nicely, making it safe for everyone,” said Widmer.

“All our staff practices social distancing and wear face masks whenever needed. We disinfect and clean the bathrooms twice a day.”
The message all area campgrounds are conveying to guests is, “Come. Enjoy. Be safe.”

Indeed, besides the confines of one’s own home, the great outdoors is where you can run but also hide.


Published in a July 2020 edition of the Fauquier Times.

Categories : HAGARTY TALES

Amish country arrives in Old Town

Posted on Jul 18 2020 | By

This n’ That Amish Outlet offering handcrafted furniture

On June 16, a local businessman opened his eighth regional Amish store at 10 S. Fifth Street in Warrenton. If the past is prologue, quality workmanship will soon be gracing even more Fauquier County homes.

Steve Payne is the force behind the venture. And the word force is not used lightly. Payne is a serial entrepreneur, having built four successful businesses over the past 31 years, including parking lot striping and signage companies, a construction safety supply firm, a consulting traffic safety business, and his Amish empire, with multiple locations throughout Northern Virginia.

This n’ That Amish Outlet began with a love for all things Pennsylvania Dutch. After multiple trips to Amish County, buying goods, and seeing the pride and quality in the products, Payne and his wife Michelle thought the local community would also appreciate the Amish artistry as much as they did.

The company opened in 2012, featuring outdoor buildings. It began with stock structures like sheds, garages, chicken coops, and barns. Today, it offers an array of standard buildings as well as built-to-order custom facilities and a full line of home furniture.

Amish artisans build the desired structure to specific needs, including, but not limited to, roofline, materials, color, and interior design.

“Many people know us for outdoor structures, from sheds to full-sized barns. The Old Town location will focus on interior furnishings,” Payne said. Residents traveling toward Warrenton on Route 29 pass his other local Amish outlet in the New Baltimore area.

He started the Amish chain thinking he’d retire to a more relaxed business. It remains to be seen if the dream materializes. “I’m not one to sit still, and we’ve grown because of it. I’m a go-getter.”

Payne, 58, is the father of seven children and seven grandchildren and bears a resemblance to the late actor Brian Dennehy which might help explain his action-oriented lifestyle. “I started over three decades ago with just one man. Today I employ some 150 people in all my businesses.”

The source
Over the years, Payne has established multiple relationships with the Amish in Pennsylvania. It started with one firm specializing in building structures. His arsenal of woodworkers today total over sixty, enabling him to offer a wide range of furniture and buildings.

What does his furniture catalog showcase? “You will see an array of hardwoods, including maple, cherry, walnut, and pine. We primarily deal with dining and bedroom furniture as well as miscellaneous home furnishings.

“Most people order from our catalogs. Depending on the items ordered, delivery will take four to 10 weeks. It’s all handcrafted,” said Payne.

The lineup also includes outdoor furniture. Prices for an Adirondack chair are in the $250 range, and a large dining room set could go for $10,000.

It’s likely anything purchased from him will become part of the buyer’s estate and be inherited by their family.

The Amish are known worldwide for working with wood. Their culture centers on quality, and it’s integral to their ethic to take their time and produced exceptional lifelong furniture and structures.

“If anyone has an issue with a product, we will honor our pledge of quality. Buyers pay a good price for a piece of fine furniture. Our craftsmen know that, and we know that. It’s what the consumer can expect to receive from any of our products.”

Moving from home furnishings to the great outdoors presents no limitations for This n’ That. While the Old Town shop focuses on the hearth, its portfolio ranges from doghouses to multiple car garages, large build on-site barns, and riding arenas.

His four-man Amish work crews are working in Fauquier County and other northern Piedmont areas every other week. An average size barn takes about a week to build. Prices range from $3,000 for a backyard shed to $100,000 for a full-size barn.

Payne underscores his Amish business fulfills a need in an area that reflects urban, suburban, and country living. “There is a need for quality. This furniture is not like buying at a discount store. It’s all-natural, finished wood with no veneer.

“We are testing the waters at our Fifth Street location for what we believe is true; that consumers need and want handcrafted, high-end furniture. We have a 10,000 square foot furniture-only building in Leesburg, and it does exceptionally well. We thought we’d try and see if there is the same demand here in Fauquier County.”

When asked what go-getter Payne does to relax, he unhesitatingly smiles and responds, “Work.” Dedication and commitment of his caliber bode well for anyone purchasing one of his numerous works of art.

For full product line descriptions of the This n’ That’s catalog, visit 


Published in a July 2020 edition of the Fauquier Times.

Categories : HAGARTY TALES

From junk springs jewels

Posted on Jul 04 2020 | By

Remix Market: rediscovering, reimagining, repurposing

Mark Harrington is a man of vision. He sees value where most see rubbish. In a world that uses, discards, and moves on, this energetic entrepreneur prides himself on creating an eco-friendly community by giving used household items a second life.

Harrington initially launched Junkluggers two years ago. The service is simplicity tucked into colorful green trucks. The company contracts to haul used household goods and recycles almost 100 percent of the items.

When a truck full of former life stuff leaves a customer’s home or office, its destination is either partner charities or recycling centers. The customer receives a tax-deductible receipt for their donation.

Now there is a third stop for the supposedly worthless items: Remix Market in New Baltimore. “Frankly, the term junk is a misnomer. Often, it’s simply things that have run their course within a home and need to start life anew elsewhere,” Harrington explains.

Junkluggers found that despite their best efforts, the donation centers and charity partners they work with were not always able to accept every item brought to them. Recognizing a need for extending the recycling process, Remix Market was born.

The airy and open feeling of its 5,000 square foot facility, located at 6632 Electric Avenue, is stocked with gently used and affordable items, including antiques, home décor pieces, quality furniture, outdoor equipment, artwork, and more.

Beyond helping the environment, a portion of sales from Remix Market go to the franchise’s two charities of choice: Mikey’s Way Foundation and Inova Children’s Hospital.

There are numerous junk companies, but virtually none offer previously treasured items an opportunity to live again. Many pieces are scratched, missing a knob, discolored, or have other modest imperfections. Harrington and his staff are skilled at waving their repair wand and revealing the original beauty and functionality.

“There are two terms in play here: recycling and upcycling. Recycling is lowering the value of an item. Upcycling is improving its value,” said Harrington. “We upscale and recreate the original piece and sell it at a very affordable price.”

There is no standard profile of customers engaging Junkluggers. It includes people who are moving, empty nesters downsizing, senior citizens transitioning to condo living, and even younger couples moving out furniture to accommodate new purchases. Many of the items find a temporary rest stop at the Remix Market before finding a new home.

The business strategy realizes today’s population lives in a world of abundance and excess. “Once people realize they have too much stuff, but don’t want just to throw it away, they call us.”

One enjoyable aspect of the business for Harrington and his staff is taking worn items and bringing them back to life. “One time we took a broken lamp and a silver-plated tray, painted it and turned it into a stylish birdbath. We also repainted an old dresser draw, cut off five old golf club heads, and made a unique hat rack.

“That’s the fun part of Remix. Looking at an item and asking yourself, ‘what can we turn this into’?” I periodically give my drivers a break from lugging and let them learn new skills by refurbishing.”

Beyond the fun and unique articles for sale, there is a preponderance of serious furniture that would enhance the beauty of any discerning homeowner’s abode.

To peruse Remix’s Facebook is to be impressed with the quality and volume of items for sale. Recently a solid wood rolltop desk in fine condition was going for $150; a similar new desk would sell over $2,000.

An all-metal wrought iron type five-piece patio set was priced at $139, a third less than a new purchase. And with its large showroom, social distancing is comfortable.

Join in
Another unique feature is tilted toward the Do-It-Yourself crowd. Customers who elect to purchase an item that needs some finishing touches can use space in Harrington’s workshop. “If they don’t have space at home or have a cluttered garage, they can do the work at Remix.”

He also offers classes on a variety of restoration projects. Recently, a session was held on how to work with the various paint products sold at the store. “It’s become a very creative community, in addition to the sales.”

“After people visit us, we often hear comments like ‘I didn’t know you were here. This is my new favorite place to shop for home furnishings.’

“We are trying to be a different kind of junk company. With the opening of Remix it has lowered the number of items we are taking to the landfill. The only thing going there now is truly trash,” said Harrington.

Remix Market is opened Monday through Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. To view numerous items for sale, visit its Facebook page at


Published in a July 2020 edition of the Fauquier Times.

Categories : HAGARTY TALES