On October 1, I was happy to attend the ribbon cutting celebrating the partnership between Chefscape and LoudounGO. This partnership is incredible and bring together Loudoun County farmers, wine and beer makers, and other "makers" with folks looking to buy from them and have them delivered to their home. I'm so happy to see this business anchor here in Leesburg. Check out the LoudounNow article below:
LoudounGo, ChefScape Team Up for Local Food Hub
A partnership among several area businesses looks to make it easier to get locally sourced food to local residents.
LoudounGo will make its debut inside ChefScape’s Village at Leesburg space this week. What it brings to the Loudoun marketplace is a food distribution hub, located in the commercial kitchen space, that will provide a physical and an online market for Loudoun-based and other food vendors.
Founder Luke Baldwin also started sister company LoudounStay, which pulls together a network of Loudoun-based bed and breakfast establishments. But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit stateside, Baldwin shifted his focus to LoudounGo, which has been in operation since May.
“We’re not going to be having people staying in our places now,” Baldwin realized upon COVID’s stateside landfall. “Let’s support and if we can help people move their product to people’s homes so they can keep their business and the marketplace going.”
Baldwin teamed up with EatLoco founder Dan Hine and Courtney West, owner of Chariots for Hire, to bring the idea to life. The group found an ideal location in a distribution center with ChefScape, which had the needed infrastructure already in place. Many relationships with area food producers, chefs and caterers were already forged, thanks to Hines’ role in the partnership as well as those who were already located within ChefScape.
“ChefScape is the infrastructure for a lot of these food and beverage businesses that need a location to operate out of, in a food incubation environment,” ChefScape COO Ginny Grivas said. “A lot of farmers market vendors that Dan manages are members of ChefScape. A lot of consumers Luke can deliver to or provide a platform for are our members. There’s a very natural partnership between the three of us.”
ChefScape also is providing space for assembling and distributing for the orders that LoudounGo receives for customers within a 100-mile radius, Grivas said. It will also have a marketplace area dedicated to LoudounGo products near the building’s entrance.
Also in that partnership is Chariots for Hire, which has had to shift its own transportation business, with proms and weddings mostly canceled or postponed because of COVID. Baldwin had planned to work with West on his LoudounStay business, providing a transportation option for those visiting Loudoun. When he called West with his idea to use Chariots for Hire to deliver the food products to consumers, he said West was all in. Having the familiarity with Loudoun’s road network, including its winding country roads, makes the company an ideal partner, Baldwin said.
“COVID has had a significant impact on our business and has left much of our fleet sitting in our parking lot and our drivers sitting at home. Our partnership with LoudounGo has been great because not only does it provide work for our drivers but it’s also a fantastic service for our community,” West said.
Grivas pointed out how many food vendors now have to depend on delivery for a significant source of their business income. The service offered by Chariots for Hire, at a lower cost than some of its food-delivery competitors she pointed out, cannot be understated.
In addition to offering food delivery to local residents, LoudounGo also boasts itself as the only ecommerce site that can broker online sales of wineries, breweries and distilleries straight from the source to someone’s house, Baldwin said.
LoudounGo also is working with JK Community Farms to encourage farmers to donate any products or prepared meals left over from farmers markets to local food pantries. A pickup spot for these donations will be housed at ChefScape, along with donation centers in Purcellville and Round Hill, Baldwin said.
Another special piece of the partnership puzzle is ChefScape’s relationship with Chef Erik Fox-Nettnin, who recently left Magolias at the Mill restaurant in Purcellville. Fox-Nettnin is set to join ChefScape as a member soon, Grivas said, and he will offer guidance to chefs on how they can pivot their businesses during the pandemic. Fox will also offer services as a mobile chef, where he can be hired to cater private meals, and even will provide Thanksgiving pick-up meals through his Polished Foxx catering company.
Baldwin is hopeful that the success of both LoudounGo and LoudounStay will be tied together, and will draw attention to the county as a special food and tourism destination.
“What my personal goal is for this is really helping people in the Washington metro area find a great experience in Loudoun County, find those nooks and crannies and special places in Loudoun County. Those that want to sell through us will have the platform. Additionally, it’s also educating folks that you can really buy local and don’t have to go to 30 different places. The more we can get people to commit to local, when they feel comfortable enough to come out, they’re going to come out and visit,” he said.
Grivas called the new company, “an incredible thing for our local economy.”
“LoudounGo is providing additional lines of revenue where there weren’t before,” she said. “Food trucks, farmers market [vendors] are displaced seasonally, some don’t know how to do online, or how to change and pivot their channel. With LoudounGo you can do this year round. We’re giving you a way to operate 12 months a year. Even before COVID a lot of these businesses didn’t have that.”
On Wednesday, September 16, I participated in a forum with the candidates for Leesburg Mayor and Town Council hosted by the Loudoun County League of Women Voters. The forum was an opportunity for Leesburg residents to hear the candidates on the ballot this November. The forum was very well run and Mr. Norm Styer, from LoudounNow, acted as the moderator.
I enjoyed answering questions on a range of issues from my priorities if elected--helping our small businesses--to Westpark all the way to our town plan. As I said many times, Leesburg is growing and the opportunities our town has cannot be pushed aside. Our town council must look at every option and act accordingly. We were asked about our priority if elected, my priority is to help our small businesses survive the current health crisis and thrive after we come out on the other end.
We discussed the WestPark opportunity, I said that I support the green space and that the council needed to do their homework to find out how to pay for the land and work with the community to determine what type of park it should be. We're seeing a need for green space with more families looking for social distanced activities.
The discussion came around to ending the gridlock on town council. I believe that we will see a change on council with fresh blood coming on in January--no matter who wins! Additionally, our elected officials have to do a better job of communicating and disagreeing without being disagreeable.
Finally, we discussed the town plan. The town plan is our governing document that highlights the town vision for the next five to ten years. The town council and planning commission use the town plan to analyze development proposals as they come in front of the these bodies. Under state law, the plan must be updated every five years. We're currently re-writing the town plan and the new council will vote for the final draft next year. We must re-evaluate our town plan more often than every five years or more. Our town is growing quickly, COVID-19 has changed the needs for green space, office space, and housing. Our town cannot wait to adjust our plans especially when so many decisions rely on the town plan.
The main takeaway from the forum is that there are many folks running that care about our wonderful town. Again, I had fun engaging and answering questions. I look forward to answer more questions! Feel free to email email@example.com with your questions.
On Thursday, September 10, I was invited to tour the Leesburg Airport. I was given a tour and background by Dennis Boykin, Airport Commission Chair, and other members of the commission. I learned a great deal about the incredible opportunity Leesburg has with the airport. The airport is an asset to our town with its revenue generating capacity, as well as the airports economic development aspects. Our airport sees individual owner planes, corporate jets, and flying school aircraft using the airport. Our town, thanks to the focus of the Airport Commission, has grown a small airport for hobbyist into a professional, revenue generating operation.
The Leesburg Airport staff and commission work with the Federal Aviation Administration, U.S. Customs, and local pilots to keep those flying and our residents safe. I was incredibly excited to hear about how the Airport staff went above and beyond to work with the Mayor, town council, and our elected representatives in Washington, D.C. and Richmond to get funding to help grow the Leesburg Airport.
There are some incredible things happening at the airport. As a candidate for town council and, if I win in November, as a councilman, I will work to continue growing our airport. Additionally, I believe the staff work to generate revenue and funding from state and federal sources is a model for other departments in the town of Leesburg. As the commonwealth's largest town, we need to go and get our fair share of funding from state and federal sources.
On Wednesday, September 16, the League of Women Voters will be holding a virtual forum with the candidates for Leesburg Town Council and Mayor. As of today, this is the only opportunity for voters to hear from all 5 candidates running for town council on one "stage." I'm really looking forward to the opportunity to answer questions and talk with voters about why I'm running for Leesburg Town Council. You must RSVP for the virtual forum by clicking here.
Last night, the Leesburg Democrats sponsored a town hall focusing on the southeast and southwest of Leesburg. The town hall was held virtually on Zoom with all the Democratic candidates for town council and Mayor Kelly Burk. I was incredibly impressed with the questions poised by the residents that attended the virtual town hall. It was a great opportunity to discuss the development happening in SE/SW Leesburg, as well as the Westpark property, and the overall vision for the town of Leesburg.
I enjoyed the opportunity to discuss what smart growth is for me. I know a lot of time people complain about candidates using platitudes and buzzwords to discuss issues. Smart growth can sound like a buzzword, but for me smart growth is growth that is a net positive for the town of Leesburg financially and in regards to our town plan. I hope to see more re-development of Leesburg to fit the current and future needs of our residents. An example of smart growth is the Ketterman's Jewelry building on Catoctin Circle. The building used to house one business and then sat vacant. The Ketterman family purchased the building and redeveloped it to house four businesses, including their jewelry shop. These three or four businesses will create tax revenue for the town. Additionally, there was no need for the town to build a road, sidewalk, or lay new water/sewer lines to the building. This makes this re-development a net positive for the town of Leesburg. As I look throughout the town, there are opportunities like this to re-develop. As a council, we must ensure our entrepreneurs and property owners have the ability to redevelop their space to maximum use.
Another issue that came up was our how our town can help our small businesses. I'm always happy to talk about our town's economic development role. The town of Leesburg has staff with the specific role of economic development and they work incredibly hard to promote Leesburg and our businesses. As a member of town council, I will work to ensure they have the resources to continue their important work, and I will fight to help get them even more resources. In addition to resources, I believe the town of Leesburg needs to create our own Leesburg Economic Development Authority. An authority allows the town to pursue private, state, and federal funds to assist our Leesburg-based businesses and promote the town of Leesburg. In addition to creating an authority, I will urge our town staff to continue to partner with the Small Business Development Center located in Leesburg and ensure our businesses know about the resources the SBDC offer. Finally, I want our economic development team to focus assistance for our residents that are starting their businesses in their basements, backyards, or garages. We don't know how successful a business could be when they start, so we must work to help as many businesses as possible succeed.
Finally, we discussed the Westpark property and the town's option to purchase. I don't believe the council could make a decision to purchase or not purchase the property because there was no due diligence performed. The majority of town council members didn't believe the town staff could focus on guiding the town through COVID-19 and performing careful study of the Westpark property. This inability to study Westpark is very frustrating to me because we don't know what type of opportunity this purchase could have been. We should have at least studied the purchase, performed an appraisal, and then made an informed decision. The reality is at this point Westpark is off the table.
Overall, this was a great opportunity to answer questions from residents and layout my reasoning for running for Leesburg Town Council. I will be posting a link to the recording of the town hall here shortly.
Earlier this evening, Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan joined a virtual rally with supporters and friends to discuss the 2020 election for President all the way down to Leesburg Town Council. Ryan discussed how Vice President Joe Biden is fairing in Ohio and across the country. He also gave the attendees an update on what's happening in Congress with the most recent COVID-19 relief legislation. We also discussed how to cut through gridlock and work with elected officials of the opposite political party. We had a great question and answer session. I am honored to have Congressman Ryan's support.
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PO Box 1515
Leesburg, VA 20177
Paid for by The Committee To Back Zach