After nearly a year of preparation and work, Cafe Colline opened its doors this June, in the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Amidst any and all challenges, this French Bistro has remained steadfast on its goal to bring French cuisine and elevated dining to the Lee Highway corridor.
LHA's Communications Manager spoke recently with prominent restauranteur Ian Hilton, one of Cafe Colline's owners, about all things French cuisine, COVID-19, opening a new business, and how the Lee Highway community can (safely) check out this new spot.
IH: Colline means "hilltop" in French. The location of the spot in Lee Heights made the choice of the name pretty easy. The layout of the space is (and was when the plan was Cassat's) typical of a bistro. Our strength is in French food concepts, so a French bistro was an easy choice.
MPH: What led you to open on Lee Highway?
IH: I live less than 1/2 mile away in the neighboring Donaldson Run neighborhood and had always wanted to open a restaurant that would cater to my friends and neighbors.
MPH: In that same vein, how do you home to impact the Lee Highway corridor with the opening of the restaurant?
IH: I want to give people an elevated dining experience in Arlington that doesn't require a trip to Clarendon - where parking can be tricky and you're sharing space with more of a party scene.
to offer on premise dinner dining to customers Wednesday through Sunday beginning at 5pm and brunch starting at 12pm Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. We spent a great deal of time refinishing the beautiful bar and reimagining the space, and we're thrilled that the community can now experience that first hand.
MPH: Moving beyond COVID-19, what is your vision for the future of Cafe Colline?
IH: As restrictions are lifted and the public becomes more comfortable with dining on premise, we see Cafe Colline becoming a go to spot for the surrounding area. Having such a long ramp to a return to "normalcy" is helping us fine tune the product and our approach to causal, yet elevated service.
MPH: What is the best way that the community can support the business?
French pesto called pistol. The Loup del Mer is a sea bass presented with a delicious fennel puree and a rich caper-laced butter noisette. It's easily our top seller. Top it off with Chef Brendan's decadent Pot de Creme and you'll be a happy camper. You can also never go wrong with our rotating Plat du Jour.
MPH: That all sounds delicious - I'll have to check it out for myself! Thanks so much for chatting Ian, and wishing you all the best.
IH: Thanks so much Maia, and it was a pleasure.
more about the work the local farm does, what customers can expect when signing up for CSA, and why growing and consuming fresh and nutritious crops is important.
Maia Potok-Holmes: Ryan, thank you so much for chatting with me today!
Ryan Pierce: Sure, of course!
MPH: So, I’ll just jump right in. Fresh Impact Farms is such a unique and interesting business. Can you speak a bit about the impetus of the business and how you got started?
RP: Before starting the business, I had come across what’s called indoor controlled environment agriculture. There are many benefits of this type of agriculture, including reduced travel time (from farms to consumers) and significantly reduced water usage. I loved the idea that this not only lowers the carbon footprint, but allows farmers to control how crops grow and play around with flavors – which creates the most optimal product. I also recognized that Arlington has become one of the fastest growing restaurant markets in the country over the last ten years. There was a clear opportunity to grow crops that chefs in the area were having flown in overnight. So, we started out with a small pilot system to try and gage interest, and that moved relatively quickly. It came to the point where the pilot system couldn’t provide what we needed so we had to build out a much larger space to be able to better serve these restaurants – some of the best restaurants in the city.
MPH: And you use what’s called hydroponic technology, correct? What exactly is that and what are the benefits?
the soil and into the water table in the ground, and it doesn’t evaporate off of the surface of the soil. Our farm uses less water per year than the average US household to grow hundreds and hundreds of pounds of crops.
MPH: That's awesome. And, I know Fresh Impact Farms is housed indoors. In addition to hydroponic technology, how do you grow the crops, especially without sunlight? Is there a difference in how crops grow and taste indoors vs outdoors?
RP: A plant is a plant. It need to go through photosynthesis to produce vegetative flowering and growth, so that process doesn’t really change. What we do change is how the plant gets the light. We have specially tuned LED lights that give the plants the proper spectrum that they need to be the best version of themselves. We also use the exact type and quantity of nutrients that the crops need which brings out more flavor. That’s what we really strive for: bringing out the most flavor in a plant while ensuring that it still has high levels of nutrition. And, of course, that it looks fantastic as well.
MPH: Pivoting a bit… when the pandemic hit and restaurants closed, your business was clearly impacted, but you switched things up and started selling directly to the community. Can you speak about what that was like and how you’ve had to adjust your business?
RP: We had had our best month ever in February and were on our way to another really good month in March as the pandemic started to hit. We started to see word that restaurants might shut down and over the course of the weekend of March 13, 100% of our customers had closed their doors. So, we lost 100% of our revenue source over the course of two days. That was obviously a huge punch to the gut especially when the business was hitting its stride and doing so well. We had to decide whether we should push pause on everything and hope for the best or see if we can try to sell directly to consumers and the community and we made a decision as a team to do the latter. We had never marketed to consumers though, and most of them didn’t even know we existed, because our whole business was geared towards chefs and restaurants. We had to figure out how to target a market that didn’t really have a need for our current crops - they’re rare crops that most home cooks don’t use. We realized it
started to have a lot of requests for salad greens, so we started growing more of that. We’ve been at it now for 5 months and we’re growing. While CSA is not at the point where it’s paying all our bills, it’s allowed us to stay afloat, for which we’re grateful. If we had not pivoted in this direction there’s no way we would’ve survived. But we still have quite a way to go. We’re still only at about 50% of our previous revenue. We’re just trying every day to find new ways to appeal to the consumer base and make sure they’re happy with what they’re getting.
MPH: How does CSA work? You have an upcoming deadline, right?
choose which crops they want because we grow to order. Once we know how many CSA customers we have of each level, everything is planned out based on that information. We seed based on what has to go out the door which helps us to reduce food waste and ensures we have the right quantity. Additionally, we’ve recently partnered with some other local producers. That helps us to support other local producers and allows our customers a more seamless way to get products that would be far more difficult (or impossible) to source on their own.
MPH: Now moving forward, post COVID, what does Fresh Impact Farms envision for the future? Are you planning to continue with CSA in addition to working with chefs and restaurants?
RP: Because we’ve received this support from the community, we don’t want to turn our backs on them once the restaurants reopen. We fully anticipate continuing with CSA and finding more ways to supply the consumer market. The eventual goal is to have the capacity to supply our restaurants and the community, so we’re currently trying to expand into the upstairs of where we are right now.
We love working with chefs, but we also love working with the community. Being their local farmers gives us an immense amount of fulfillment and pride in what we do.
MPH: What would you say is the best way for the Lee Highway and Arlington community to support Fresh Impact Farms?
MPH: What’s one of your favorite things you sell?
MPH: Sounds Delicious! So, as a local business owner paving the way during COVID-19, what do you view as the value of shopping local?
RP: #1 thing I’d say is the ability to support local jobs. The local economy and the vibrance of that economy really depends on the support of the local businesses. That’s probably what I view as the most important thing.
MPH:One final question. What is your favorite part of working a Fresh Impact Farms?
kind of tells you that you’re doing the right thing and that you’re doing it for the right reasons.
MPH: Well, that’s it for me Ryan. Thank you so much for chatting with me, and best of luck to you!
RP: Thanks so much Maia. It was a pleasure to speak with you.
“If I come to your shop, will there be anyone closer than six feet? Is everyone required to wear a mask?”
In recent months, that has become the first question asked of Company Flowers, rather than the usual “do you have any more of those lush pink roses with red tips that I love?”
Company Flowers’ unique floral designs are well known throughout the greater Washington market. “When COVID-19 struck, we lost more than a third of our business” explained manager John Nicholson. “No weekend home parties, no servicing caterers, no lobby flowers for smaller offices, none of the usual weddings, and several customers who enjoyed weekly flowers decided to move far out of town.” Fortunately, the business has been able to continue with a reduced staff, benefiting by its location relatively close to the DC bridges, and is looking forward to resuming growth of new business activity in the County.
The shop’s biggest drawback these days is the continued fear generated among customers about catching COVID-19. “Each day, at least two or three customers say they’ll come to our door but never venture inside” notes Nicholson. So long as that fear remains at high levels, he says, there’s no point to try to “drum up” corporate accounts from Arlington commerce because other businesses are confronting the same public fear.
of hand sanitizer upon entering. The Lee Highway business has lots to offer customers these days, from beautiful floral arrangements and greeting cards to classy reading glasses and quirky gifts for the special people in your life.
Company Flowers has been one of the stalwarts of the emerging Cherrydale commercial area. As other Arlington retail operations throughout the county have been shuttered by the COVID-19 crisis, the Cherrydale shops are growing from a local neighborhood shopping center into a broader Northern Virginia commercial enterprise. “Most everyone in Arlington and Falls Church knows about stores like Cherrydale Hardware,” Nicholson says; “Other Cherrydale shops are now becoming better known too!"
With the completion of a new, vibrant mural by local artist MasPaz comes the next stage in LHA’s recent Placemaking Project: designing a new outdoor space at Cowboy Café. The Café has partnered with LHA, Dominion Lighting, Potomac Paint, and Esoarc Architects to create a new design for the layout of the outdoor seating area, as well as the installation of new lighting and paint touch ups.
LHA’s Communications Manager chatted recently with Matthew Rowan, VP of Residential Lighting for Dominion Lighting and Beth Boggs, Design Manager from Potomac Paint and Design Centers about how they approach projects such as these, what they envision the final product to be, and how each business is faring during COVID-19.
Maia Potok-Holmes: Thank you so much for agreeing to chat with us about this project! We’re incredibly excited.
Mathew Rowan: It’s my pleasure, I'm excited about the project too.
Beth Boggs: My pleasure as well.
MPH: So, let’s jump into it. With a project as big as this one, there’s obviously a lot of preparation one needs to do. How do you each approach a project like this?
maximize texture while minimizing glare. After that, we'd look to add in secondary features with gentler, dimmer pools of light. And of course, all walkway areas would want to have sufficient ground lighting to prevent trips or stumbles. The end result is, when done correctly, the best example of that term used so often in lighting design: "layers of light."
BB: In terms of paint, we often start by holding a series of conversations with our clients. We listen to their vision and make suggestions based on the function of the space, the clients’ needs, and how they want to change the space.
MPH: Matt, what are some things a lighting designer might need to take into consideration when designing an outdoor space?
MR: Aside from waterproofing constraints, lighting outside spaces actually offer a great deal more flexibility than indoor environments. We have far more scale that we can leverage, and since there aren't necessarily opaque walls and ceilings, we can often take advantage of "borrowed" landscape and vistas to add to the illuminated experience. Along with abundant darkness at night, we can add far more drama by choosing what's brightly featured and what can recede into deep shadow.
MPH: Beth, what about paint? What are some common misconceptions people have about choosing paint for their space?
counter-top fabrics, and definitely pictures so we can see the space or room. I also always suggest that clients buy premium paint and paint the recommended coats. Your paint colors will have depth and be truer to the color chip.
MPH: What do you envision for the final product of this project? How do you hope to make an impact?
MR: I think there's a definite goal of creating something that reflects the best of European and South American street cafe culture, with the funkiness and distinct character that makes the Cowboy Cafe such a great part of the Lee Highway neighborhood experience. If we do our job right, we'll be able to make something that, while completely new, will also feel natural and like it's been a part of Cowboy Cafe for years and years. My favorite part of a project like this is that we can make a great impact in our own neighborhood. Being able to support a partner on Lee Highway is amazing, and anything we can do to help elevate the look and feel of the corridor will create a great experience for our neighbors and friends.
BB: Agreed! I love that we are improving our local area with color and art. Blank walls are now inspiring!
MPH: As exciting as this project is, it was, of course, triggered by the COVID-19 shutdown. How are both of your businesses faring during this time?
MR: We've been doing the best that we can - during the full quarantine, we were working with our customers virtually by leveraging Zoom, phone calls, and facetime. It's hard to substitute for the in-person experience of working together, particularly when you're working on something as experience-based as lighting. Now that we have our showrooms open on an appointment-only basis, we're able to have our customers back in to see, feel, and experience lighting and fixtures so that we can more easily speak to our goals and understanding of what we can actually achieve.
MPH: How might the greater Arlington community be able to support you both? Why is shopping local so important?
or their friends to rethink their lighting, they think of us.
BB: Potomac Paint offers a wide variety of design services and products - everything from reupholstery fabrics, wallpaper and window treatments to paint chips and in store or in home design consultations. We love and appreciate the support of our community. Keep it local and we will all be strong together!
MPH: Thank you both again, so much, for agreeing to chat about all this. We’re so excited about the next steps in the project and to be working alongside Lee Highway businesses to create something special! Best of luck to the both of you.
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explained. Encouraged and supported by his parents, MasPaz attended George Mason with the intention to study art and photography, but as technology grew and become more easily attainable, he worried photography was a dying art and went into 3D modeling.
After graduation, MasPaz moved to New York City to work for a design firm, but soon realized that the sedentary office life was not for him. Inspired to create and meet people, he went on to work in a printing shop in the city, sell t-shirts on the street, worked for Nike as a t-shirt designer, and was hired by the MOMA to work on a set of graphic design installations. He even, at one point, ran a graffiti gallery, called 100B, in the city where he met and befriended “old school artists.” It was in New York that he began his relationship with graffiti art – a relationship that continues to impact his work today.
time in Brazil learning new techniques and styles, collaborating, and sharing techniques and ideas with fellow artists. He later traveled across South America, putting these new skills to work.
Upon returning home to the DMV in 2012, the name MasPazwas officially born. He was inspired by a stencil he used in South America that said MasPaz,which translates to More Peace. “I liked the meaning and message of the name” said the artist. He made a website, got a trademark, and started promoting his Instagram.
street café and a place for the community to gather. Parklets have continuous benefits to not only the community, but to the businesses nearby. By allowing for moments of delight, serenity and respite, parklets bring the community together while allowing adjacent businesses to reap increased profits.
Utilizing space that was previously designated as a parking area has become popular as local restaurants begin to open up - while, of course, complying with the COVID-19 physical distancing requirements. This change allows restaurants to welcome their customers back safely, while encouraging future benefits for the community and surrounding businesses.
As Governor Northam allowed for restaurants to begin opening their doors, Jim Barnes, co-owner of Cowboy Café, jumped on this new trend, turning the parking lot adjacent to the restaurant into outdoor seating for the many loyal Cowboy Café customers returning. However, Barnes wanted to give his faithful customers something more than just tables in a parking lot. Inspired by the incredible diversity of Miami’s Wynwood murals, Jim, with the Lee Highway Alliance Placemaking Salon, implemented a mural by MasPaz for the parking lot wall, added dynamic lighting by Dominion Lighting, and installed other amenities such as plants and screening from the road.
Stop by Cowboy Café in the coming weeks to see how a little creativity can turn a parking lot into something so much more.
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Culbertson were selling the business, Barnes and his partners decided to purchase the beloved Café in 2011. Because they recognized the special history of this dive bar (one of the last ones in Arlington), they didn’t change much, in fact they still have many of the same employees that worked there before they owned it.
As with the rest of Arlington businesses, Cowboy Café closed its doors in March. However, with the passing of Temporary Outdoor Seating Area (TOSA) permits, the owners have been able to welcome customers to their new outdoor seating area, formerly known as Cowboy Café’s parking lot. “Arlington’s restaurants have made huge sacrifices to protect the health and safety our community. TOSAs are a way to help our small businesses welcome back diners and patrons consistent with state directives and public health guidance." said County Board Member, Katie Cristol. "We’re grateful for their partnership and all they do to make our Arlington, and Lee Highway, a special place”
The outdoor seating has been a successful addition to Cowboy Cafe. So much so, in fact, that it has inspired Barnes to move forward with an idea he had a few years ago - to transform the area into a welcoming and visually intriguing outdoor space for the Arlington community.
said Barnes, speaking about murals in the two cities and Panama. “The art has brought business, beauty, and positivity into the communities.” A few years ago, when visiting Miami’s Wynwood Walls, Barnes had the idea to create a mural on Cowboy Café’s empty parking lot brick wall. The idea has been just an idea since then, but, ironically, the COVID-19 shutdown and subsequent TOSA have allowed him to finally move forward and turn his idea into reality.
In recent weeks, Barnes and LHA have been working to put together a team of other Lee Highway businesses - Dominion Electric, Potomac Paint, and Esoarc Architects – to take on the project of creating an outdoor space and mural at Cowboy Café (those interested in following the process can visit LHA's Placemaking Page). Soon after, artist and Arlington native, MasPaz, was commissioned to create the mural. The mural design, inspired by MasPaz’ recent work with Arlington Arts’ Words to Art program, is called “Community.”
Follow Along to See What's Next:
Next week LHA will reveal the finished mural and explore the design process with Pamela Gillen, retail architect from Esocarc Architecture, Matt Rowan, lighting expert and designer with Dominion Lighting, and design manager Beth Boggs from Potomac Paint!
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one word expressing their feelings and perception of life in quarantine on Arlington Arts’ Instagram, Facebook or Twitter pages. Arlington artists Sushmita Mazumdar (Buckingham), David Amoroso (Douglas Park), Maribeth Egan (Ballston/Virginia Square), Kate Fleming (Maywood) and MasPaz (Arlington Ridge) then each selected a word, turned it into art, and shared it back.
Seeing the artists’ expression of our words allows us to ponder our shared experience while navigating the unknown territory of this pandemic. The finished Words to Artworks are posted here.
#WeKeepUsSafe.” The mural represents the important role we all play in building community. It depicts a community member holding the neighborhood in her hands, patiently awaiting the peace dove to arrive. MasPaz is a muralist, art educator and conservationist who lives in Arlington Ridge.
Words to Art is a program of Arlington Cultural Affairs, a division of Arlington Economic Development, which delivers public activities as Arlington Arts. Arlington Arts worked together with Lee Highway Alliance to install the mural this summer.
Earlier this month, Arlington County awarded 394 businesses with the Small Business Emergency GRANT (Giving Resiliency Assets Near Term). The GRANT program provides financial assistance to Arlington’s small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The GRANT funds were designed to bridge the gap to provide near-term relief for businesses and nonprofits, some of whom have experienced delays or limitations with federal relief initiatives.
Congratulations to the following twenty-two Lee Highway businesses!
American Nail Salon
Bob & Edith's
Chesapeake Bagel Bakery
Child's Play Toys and Books
Christine Reardon-Davis, D.M.D
Facets Fine Jewelry
La Moo Creamery, LLC
Moore's Barber Shop
Pamela Wright Interiors
Pastries by Randolph
Sterling Picture Framers, Inc.
Philippine Oriental Market & Deli
Time for a Walk
"The challenge of leadership is to be strong but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not a bully; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor, but without folly." Jim Roh
Tyler Wilson, Past President of WHCA, remarked after George’s passing:“Every successful community needs a few people with initiative, motivation and the energy to focus on the greater good and to create a sense of togetherness. George had all those qualities and much more, and all of us in Waverly Hills will miss his decency, his enthusiasm and his leadership.”
Other friends and neighbors, experiencing shock and heartbreak over his death, referred to George as "one of the most decent men I’ve known" and a "fine gentleman and wise and caring leader." “If Waverly Hills had had a mayor, there is no one who could have done it better than George.”
A graduate of Georgetown University and the University of Minnesota, George was active for decades in his neighborhood and led the fight to get a sidewalk in front of his house. In 2013, he was an advisor to the Waverly Hills Neighborhood Conservation Plan. He retired in December of 2014 from a long career in publishing. Every year after that, from 2015-2020, he worked tirelessly for his community, including maintaining the two traffic circles on Utah Street. In 2018, after serving as Vice President for two years, George became President of the WHCA.
the idea and Caroline Caterini for her beautiful art work), additional picnic tables, and colorful Adirondack chairs (picture above). When it came to participation, George didn’t just talk about helping – he tackled the issue immediately and everyone in the neighborhood benefited.
earlier this year. As Ginger Brown, LHA's Executive Director said: "George truly believed in housing for all ages and income levels."
In addition to his successful advocacy with the County, George had a keen sense of humor and liked to have fun. An expert on bourbon, he and Dave raised money for LHA by enthusiastically offering tastings at the Broadview fundraiser. Happy and hardworking, he and his wife, Ellen, volunteered for nearly every event that Waverly Hills has celebrated, including the Woodstock Park Festival, Pizza and Democracy in the Park, Election Day Bake Sales, Oktoberfest at the Marymount Farmers Market, Light the Night Halloween Festival, Halloween and Holiday Décor Contests, and Selfies with Santa, where George dressed as an elf.
George emailed nearly every week, and below are some quotes that express his concern for others and his volunteer spirit:
“Today I received the request below from Maggie Ryan, the school social worker at Langston High School Continuation Program located at Langston-Brown, to provide some financial support to five students in the program…I think that this is a worthwhile request for WHCA to consider. Therefore, I move to propose that WHCA offer each of these five students $50 supermarket gift cards.” (Of course, the WHCA strongly supported his idea.)
After the Waverly Bakers’ 2018 Election Day Bake Sale, where George and Ellen stood and sold baked goods for five hours in the cold November air in front of Glebe School, George wrote, with a twinkle in his eye: “What a great result. However don’t tell anyone how much fun the three of us had at the bake sale. We don’t want anyone to be jealous.”
Last December, George wrote a ‘State of the Neighborhood Report, thanking everyone for their community spirit. With regard to Plan Lee Highway, George wrote: “Having attended many of these meetings, I would urge you to become involved in this project…”
As we sat in George’s garden last week, enjoying lovely flowers and interesting conversation, with stories of heritage and history sprinkled into community lore, we looked at George and Ellen and thought: “What a wonderfully caring and supportive partnership.” Let us continue to think of Ellen and our community in the months and years ahead – that is what George would have wanted.
Farewell dear George, those special memories of you that we all share will always bring smiles, but if only we could have you back for just a little while. As George sometimes said at the end of an email: “Regards to all and go Caps (and Gophers)!”
Sandi Chesrown, VP, WHCA
Paul Holland, VP, WHCA
John Shortall, Secretary, WHCA