- Women-Owned Businesses (March)
Women-Owned Businesses (March)
March 4, 2021 | Dragonfly Yoga Studio | Anne Kemp
19 years ago, Anne Kemp took her first yoga class which would begin her journey as a dedicated yoga practitioner and eventually a studio owner in downtown Fredericksburg. She bought Dragonfly Yoga Studio as an instructor in 2018 and has dedicated her time to spreading the benefits of yoga and serving the surrounding community ever since. We had the opportunity to interview Anne in her yoga studio (and try a few yoga poses too!).
When and how did your journey with yoga begin?
Anne: My journey began in 2002. I just popped into a yoga class not knowing what to expect and immediately fell in love. It was like, “This is it! I love how this makes me feel, I love what this is doing for my body, I love what this is doing for my mind.” It has been a journey ever since.
How did you come to own the Dragonfly Yoga studio?
Anne: I did not ever picture myself being a business owner or owning a yoga studio. My passion has always been to practice yoga. My husband is active duty Marine Corps and we were living in Germany. When I moved back from Germany, it just so happened that the previous owner of the studio was moving to Germany, so we started talking and I said, “Well, if you’re ever thinking of selling the studio, let me know, I might be interested!” It’s something that just kind of happened. It wasn’t planned and here we are almost three years later and it’s been quite an experience, quite a journey. I wanted to create a space as a practitioner of yoga where I would want to come and practice, and I think we’ve accomplished that.
Can you talk a little bit about the community service programs that you do with Dragonfly?
Anne: One of the programs that we created after I purchased the studio was our Veteran Sponsorship program. That is where individuals in the community can nominate active duty personnel, retired personnel, dependents, whether active duty or retired, for a year of yoga at the studio for free. The studio has always had a community outreach program with different organizations that we’ve continued with. We don’t have any specific ones that we’re always focused on supporting, but we look at one individually and we give back however we can, whether that’s promoting on social media, having a fundraiser here at the studio, giving free classes, or a free private group session, it’s part of always wanting to give back because there’s just so much reward in this profession.
What do you enjoy most about being a business owner in Fredericksburg?
Anne: The community itself, the people. It’s just all about the people that are here in this community and they’ve been so supportive, especially over the past year with everything that we’ve had to endure as a community, as a small business. We couldn’t have done it without the support of the community. We like to think of this as a family coming in. We get to know our students, we get to know what’s going on with their lives, we get to inquire about births of children, marriages, or people going off to school, and it’s just fascinating. It’s all about the community.
What are some of the changes you have had to make since COVID?
Anne: We had to shift really quickly because we had to be closed, so we switched to a virtual offering and we’ve continued with our virtual offering as well as in person now. That’s an area that we never thought we would be exploring, the virtual world. We have many students who love the virtual practice, they love that they can stay in their homes and have their practice and still be part of our community because they are live classes. We also have many people who travel and are still able to join in with their class or have moved away and can continue to join in. So there are definitely some good things that have come from this.
For someone who has never done yoga before, because it is more than just a form of exercise, how would you explain the benefits of practicing yoga?
Anne: There’s countless benefits to it. Obviously you are going to have a physical benefit from just movement of your body, but you’re also going to have a mental benefit. There’s a point where things can become a little more clear because you are taking this time to pause and reflect, you’re conscious more of how you’re breathing, and you’re conscious more of what’s going on with your body. We often talk about the mind being in motion all the time, the monkey mind is constantly moving, and in the practice of yoga, that’s one thing that you learn: to calm and settle down. All the thoughts you have going, all of the quick quick quick movements, we learn how to slow those down, have a point of focus, bring yourself back to that point of focus.
What do you enjoy most about being a business owner?
Anne: Being able to share this with everybody and sharing it in a way that I’m really passionate about. Sharing my favorite products, helping the environment, supporting local organizations, promoting different businesses downtown that I love, promoting local artists! That’s really the advantage of being a business owner that I never realized- I can share all of these things!
March 10, 2021 | Freedom Society | Nicole Robyn
Nicole Robyn’s journey as a business owner began with a life changing trip to India 11 years ago. After meeting with anti-human trafficking organizations that expressed the immense need for employment options for survivors, Nicole took matters into her own hands and began two businesses, Polished Pearl and Freedom Society, both aimed at providing freedom to human trafficking survivors. We had the opportunity to interview Nicole in the Freedom Society tea room, and learn about how her businesses and customers fight for freedom around the world.
What’s the mission behind Freedom Society?
Nicole: We are a gift shop and tea room, and our whole focus is on bringing sustainable freedom from human trafficking. All of our gifts are made by survivors of trafficking, both from companies here in the United States and around the world that employ survivors, so we have over 20 different freedom brands in our shop, and our tea room supports child survivors. We do high teas within an hour’s notice, but we also do tea and coffee with treats and lunch. It’s not Victorian-style, so it’s a great place to comfortably sit and have a conversation and just relax. We can also do our food and teas to go, curbside, or delivered through Grubhub; at the same time you get to help bring freedom from human trafficking.
You have another business, Polished Pearl, which you mentioned along with Freedom Society, were both products of a trip you took to India. Do you want to talk about what you learned from that trip that pushed you to starting these businesses?
Nicole: It was about 11 years ago, I took a trip to India with a group of women. I had never been to India before, but we went with the expressed purpose of meeting anti-trafficking organizations and understanding what human trafficking looked like. The largest trafficked population in the world is in India, so we went to five different Indian cities and met with all sorts of different organizations and asked the same question: “What is your greatest need?” Now you can imagine with somewhere between 14 and 16 million people enslaved, the needs are incredibly great. We estimate currently that about less than one percent of the 40+ million that are enslaved have a way out, and of that less than one percent, about 80% are re-trafficked because of a lack of employment opportunities. So the consistent thing that we heard was, “We need jobs.” If people were going to be sustainably free, not just out of a brothel or out of a labor trafficking situation, but actually be able to sustain themselves long term and have a life, they needed sustainable employment.
So I started Polished Pearl which does bridal accessories, we work really closely with Ava Laurennne here in town but we’re in bridal stores across the U.S and UK; I’ve done that for almost 13 years now.
What are some other ways in which an average person could be a freedom fighter?
Nicole: I say to everyone when you’re looking at slavery currently, actually being the most enslaved then there’s ever been, it’s an issue that really needs everyone. So, there’s lots of ways, from looking at choosing companies and where you spend your money at companies that pay people well, I’m not talking about their sales people in America, but their producers, to volunteering with different organizations, to helping share awareness. I always say to people, “Awareness is really just the first step. It doesn’t set anybody free if all we do is become aware.” There’s also programs that are really great at training online that give you an understand of what human trafficking looks like in your area so you can spot it.
We here at Freedom Society launched in January a Freedom Society membership. The intention of that was to be able to take that next step of engagement and so together with their membership fees and the profits from the company, we give to a different anti-trafficking organization every month, and we do a monthly community event together where we’re either learning something together about the issue of trafficking or about an organization so that we can develop a modern take on an abolition society.
What do you find most rewarding about being a business owner in the Fredericksburg community?
Nicole: We had lived here almost four years before we opened the shop and I just always loved the downtown community. I love the dynamic that there’s regular customers you get to know, that you’re waving at people walking by. I think part of it is having a walking community. Because you think most shops are places you drive to, so it’s wonderful when you’ve got a walk-in community and the community that just naturally develops around that, and we love that. We love our regulars, we love getting to know people in our community, we love the community between other businesses in downtown Fredericksburg. So we were customers and lovers of downtown before we even opened the shop, and now we love to be down here very day.
What do you see or hope for Freedom Society within the next 5-10 years?
Nicole: Our big dream is to develop this into a sustainable model that can be franchised and that ideally, survivors could become franchise owners. So whether that’s actually a tea room paired with retail, or just some sort of restaurant paired with retail, our hope is to see many more Freedom Societies, so that when people become more aware and have a way to engage with this issue, but also it creates a really special space where you get to enjoy being together as well as bringing freedom at the same time.
March 13, 2021 | Kickshaws Gluten-Free Bakery | Kathy Paz-Craddock
Going gluten-free changed Kathy Paz-Craddock’s family forever. After making the dietary change to improve her family’s health conditions, the next challenge was learning to cook and bake all over again with a new range of ingredients. Somewhere along the way, Kickshaws Gluten-Free bakery was born. We had the opportunity to interview Kathy about her business-owning journey in her new Central Park bakery.
Where did this idea for a gluten free, allergy friendly bakery come from?
Kathy: It started off almost 19 years ago. My son was born prematurely, he was born at 25 weeks and we went through problem after problem. He was hospitalized back and forth for about four years and he ended up on a feeding tube for about seven years and with all those issues they never really tested him for Celiac disease. We were kind of at a point where we didn’t know what else to do, so we thought, “Let’s try to do gluten-free and dairy free and see if it makes a difference and within three months he was eating on his own. I was actually suffering from a number of autoimmune issues myself, but I started getting healthier and better and so that’s when I really started baking gluten-free. It’s been 10 years that I’ve been baking gluten-free now. Then we opened the business downtown and had the restaurant that was exclusively gluten-free. The base is definitely in our personal family and the issues that affected us directly.
Did your passion for baking begin when you made that dietary change, or have you always loved it?
Kathy: I was actually a professional baker before I went gluten-free. I spent about two years [with a] blog called “Cake Cooks Gluten-free,” learning how to cook, learning how to bake again using totally different materials. But I had a bakery in Springfield a few years before that.
Did you know you wanted to take your gluten-free baking and turn it into a business when you came to Fredericksburg?
Kathy: No, not at all. When we came to Fredericksburg we were still working on a lot of our health issues, so we were eating really clean, and we didn’t have a lot of places we could go to to find the things we were looking for. So I thought it would be a really cool idea to open a grocery store. In 2014 we opened Kickshaws Downtown Market and I told my husband, “I’m not going to bake again! I’m not making cupcakes,” and one holiday, I think it was 4th of July, I was like, “I’m just going to make some cupcakes.” People just went crazy about them, so it kind of spurred everything that came after that: developing the restaurant, developing the bakery.
What would you say is the most rewarding about being a business owner of your own bakery?
Kathy: One day I hope we’ll have this place packed with happy families enjoying various breakfast items and coffee. For right now it’s on a one by one basis. The kids are always the ones that touch me, because they can’t go anywhere, they can’t walk into a restaurant sometimes because of their allergies. We have small children that walk in here and their parents say, “You can have anything you want!” That’s unique and it’s special and I know that we’re helping these families.
You previously located downtown and now in Central Park, so what do you enjoy most about owning a business in Fredericksburg?
Kathy: Fredericksburg isn’t small, but it is small at the same time. We just have such a tight community of customers and friends that live in the area and that support our business. Over the last few years, with the closing of our original location, and then rolling right into COVID, the community support has just been amazing. The only reason we were actually able to open this location is because of that support through the COVID pandemic. The amazing support, donations we received were really what gave us the ability to move forward and without that, I’m not sure that we would have. That’s what we get out of Fredericksburg.
What is your favorite item on the menu?
Kathy: That’s a hard one because I think it changes every day! Right now I’m having a really hard time not eating chocolate chip cookies, but I love our cinnamon rolls too, and those are hugely popular. I do have a favorite cupcake flavor. It’s like the only one my family knows I’ll always be happy with, the German chocolate.
March 17, 2021 | Wildflower Collective | Joanna Mendelsohn
When the perfect storefront on William Street opened up, Joanna Mendelsohn’s spontaneity landed her the opportunity to start the business she’s always wanted to own: a sustainably focused retail shop that has a blend of vintage, consignment, and new clothing from around the world. We had the opportunity to interview Joanna in Wildflower Collective, to learn about her journey to becoming a business owner, her process of acquiring new pieces, and her philosophy on fashion.
How did you come to own Wildflower?
Joanna: My daughter and I actually used to shop here when it was Forage. My husband and I have been in the area for 30 years and my children went from Yamaha to UMW. I was looking for a downtown location to open a store, so when I saw the ‘For Lease’ sign go up, I called and we signed the lease that day.
What does your year look like in terms of acquiring new pieces?
Joanna: Our thought is to get things from all different countries and local. We source from different areas, and in a normal year we travel and bring back a lot of fun vintage as well as current styles. I’m from L.A originally and I actually had a store with my mother back in the 70s and 80s, so we have all that connection and buy from that area. We bring in things from our own trips as well. We do have a few ladies that bring in their things- one lady has an amazing amount of vintage and so she brings in some here and there all through the year for us. Our sources have just been great and even with COVID we still get boxes in from different people. We’ve got new lines in different sizes for people, something super unique that’s one of a kind, and the vintage that’s really hard to find, but with Bridgerton and Queens Gambit, those shows bring that love of those vintage pieces back. People love to see that, love to have it, and love to wear it.
With the shutdown and everything we went to online, so that’s something that has been really great. I have close to 1,000 things online. They can jump from Instagram or Facebook and go right to it, see it, click on it, and for the most part I am able to deliver it that day, and I do it free.
You mentioned you helped your mom at her Los Angeles store in the 70s, did you learn from that that you wanted to be a business owner?
Joanna: I started that with my mom in high school and actually did that for 10 years. We had a gift and candy store and in my mind I kept thinking, “Well when I do it my way, it will be a clothing store!” So it gave me a view of retail and a love of meeting new people. So we moved to Fredericksburg, loved downtown, raised our kids, and I was kind of looking for a storefront when I saw this was available, so it was like “OK! Next chapter!”
What is the most rewarding thing about owning the business you always envisioned in your head?
Joanna: I love meeting people everyday and bringing creative spirit to the store. It’s surprising how many have never been in the store, so there’s always new people. Setting the tone is a great thing as an owner, setting our hours and saying “Ok we’re closing- we’re going to go to Paris!”
So then you can fill it with all these beautiful clothes!
Joanna: That’s been fun- to be able to set your work schedule, set your tone, and be able to choose our path, as well as listen to what’s working.
You raised your family here and you’re on William Street which is a major vessel downtown, so what does it mean to you to serve and be a part of this particular community?
Joanna: I had friends that were here even though I was in L.A. I married my husband and moved back east and really loved the iconic historic old buildings. Being from L.A, if it was old it was maybe a Mission, but for the most part it was all new build. For me, all the historic buildings, all the history, I love that part and that’s my favorite thing to do when I go somewhere- find a little old town, walkability, and great coffee shops!
It’s very important, the clothes you put on everyday and how that makes you feel and take on the day, but what is your philosophy on the power of fashion or style?
Joanna: I grew up making my own clothes, so I love construction and look for details and the fun things about clothes. I love the unique things and I look at construction, wearability, movement, where you’re going to wear it, and that sort of thing. With style and fashion, it’s fun to see how it keeps coming back. A lot of my clothes from the 80s are super popular now and yet if you look at that, it was from a different era before that. You can see that with shows that feature vintage clothes. So just seeing that cycle of fashion, the history of it, is really fun.
March 23, 2021 | 25 30 Espresso | Maureen Bartosh
It’s no secret that downtown Fredericksburg, Virginia is home to a unique coffee shop community. 25 30 Espresso lives near the VRE train station and has been roasting their coffee in house since 2007. Their robust menu and cocktail offerings make it the perfect cozy corner for breakfast, coffee breaks, or happy hour! We had the opportunity to chat with owner Maureen Bartosh about the importance of where coffee beans are sourced, the roasting process, and her journey to being a business owner in Fredericksburg.
I don’t know much about the coffee roasting process and you roast your coffee in house, so could you explain the beginning of that process with where you source your beans from?
Maureen: We buy our beans from a broker in New York, but we source through all over the world. Right now we have coffees from Tanzania, Ethiopia, Columbia, Peru, Honduras, Brazil, we have like 10 different coffees right now. We try our best to source from women-owned farms. I learned a few years back that women were taken advantage of terribly in these countries. They would be taking their beans to the wash station to be sold and they would be robbed, they would go home with nothing. Fortunately there have been a lot of different associations that have supported, not that it’s gone away completely because it hasn’t, but there are resources now for women, there are wash stations that are only for women-owned farms. Their quality is excellent, there’s education programs and different things like that, so we tend to pay a little bit more for those beans, which is fine, I don’t have have a problem with that, because they’re getting the benefit of community centers in their village, the wash station is designed to accommodate them, and things like that. We will eventually be nothing but women-owned farms. A lot of the farms are organic as well!
Once you have the beans, how does it become a drink?
Maureen: We get in a pallet of coffee in green bean form. From there, we do continued research on elevation and the countries that it comes from. Some beans have more moisture in them than other beans, so we determine a roast level. Temperature, time, the temperature for when it comes out, all different kinds of factors are involved in it. So we will roast at maybe three or four different levels to determine which beans have the most flavor, because the goal is to bring out the natural flavor in the bean. So some beans have spicier notes, some beans have more nutty, some are more chocolatey, so we want to find out what that bean has in it, and bring out the best inthat. Not over-roasted or under-roasted. From there, we’ll cup, we’ll taste several times after 24 hours, after 48 hours, after several days to determine that what somebody is going to go home with is going to taste like the way they would have it here, and the best of the coffee. After that’s done we will bag it, for example whatever we use in house, from there we will determine the grind setting which is mostly the same if you’re doing a batch brew for the big pots. From there, we brew!
When did you first start to get into the business of coffee?
Maureen: I’ve had a restaurant and I’ve had a catering business back in Arizona. I’ve always had a passion for coffee. I used to ditch high school and hang out in coffee shops, so it goes back a long long time. Coffee has always been very fascinating to me, from the way it’s grown to the way it’s roasted, I’ve just always loved the whole process about it, and of course, drinking it! That’s always been a driving force.
Years ago back in Arizona we were going to open a coffee shop, before Starbucks was huge and for several reasons that didn’t work out, I had twins so those thoughts were put on hold for a while. My husband got relocated out here with the government and he was a commuter and he kept bugging me about not having coffee on his way.
He was a commuter on the train?
Maureen: Yep! He had lots of friends and they all walked with no coffee. This building came up for rent, he bugged me about it again, and I had three little kids, I really wasn’t super excited about doing it, but I started doing my homework and different things and the dream came around. We went through the process of meeting with the city officials and we opened in December of ‘07 and we’ve been here ever since! We’ve seen some ups and downs but we have a very loyal following and we try and give our customers the very best.
What’s the meaning behind 25 30 Espresso?
Maureen: 25 degrees north and 30 degrees south is the growing region of coffee around the world, so it’s called The Coffee Belt. Coffee really doesn’t grow outside of those areas.
What would you say is the most rewarding aspect of owning a coffee shop?
Maureen: When somebody absolutely loves our coffee! So many customers have been coming in since we opened our doors and have become friends. It’s always great to come in and be welcomed by people who know you and know what you stand for and know how hard you work. Those are my favorite things.
What do you enjoy most about this community in Fredericksburg?
Maureen: COVID has taught us a lot of different things. The biggest thing I think is what we lost by not being together anymore. It’s just not the same. My goal for this year is to do anything and everything I can think of to rebuild the community and let people know that they’re cared for, that they belong here and we belong here. Those are my aspirations for 2021.
March 27, 2021 | Foode and Mercantile | Beth Black and Joy Crump
Foode has been a beloved restaurant in the downtown Fredericksburg community for a decade. In 2016, Foode expanded and moved into the historic National Bank Building on Princess Anne Street. Ever since the first bite of Rosie’s Fried Chicken, Fredericksburg was hooked! We had the opportunity to interview owners Beth Black and Joy Crump about their journey to opening a restaurant and the importance of community, now more than ever.
Joy, you had limited experience in the food industry prior to Foode and Beth, you previously had a background in journalism. What called you both to take the step to opening your own restaurant?
Joy: Momentary lapse of reason, right?
Beth: Joy is my best friend and sometimes when you believe in something so much, it’s easy to jump, and I believed in her food so much that it was very easy for me to switch from my background in journalism to becoming a small business owner and restaurateur.
Joy, was it your idea then, to open the restaurant?
Joy: I think sometimes things converge in the right way at the right time. I was always daunted by opening a restaurant because I think that so many really really good restaurants don’t make it, and that leads me to believe that it doesn’t just take a talented chef, it takes a lot more than that. I never had that other thing that it takes and then I met Beth. Then my father passed away, which kind of makes you wake up and go, “What are we doing? Let’s make sure to live every single day and not be afraid of the things I was previously afraid of.” I just decided to jump and Beth said she wanted to try something different at the same time and it felt like a really cool thing to do.
Neither of you are from Fredericksburg, so what is it about this city that attracted your business, Foode?
Beth: Joy grew up in Pennsylvania and was a young adult in LA, and I left Virginia and went to Atlanta. When we wanted to open a restaurant, it was the height of the Recession, and we knew that we’d get crushed in LA, and we’d get crushed in Georgia. Virginia felt safe to me, my background is in journalism and I definitely studied the trends here. I brought her to Fredericksburg and put her at the corner of William and Caroline during the Great Train Race and I just said, “Look at the people! Watch the people, watch the community, watch how they interact, and tell me if you think this is the right place for us.” I knew she’d be suckered.
What does the Fredericksburg community mean to you now that you’ve been here for ten years?
Beth: That question almost brings me to tears because it’s been so challenging lately and I’m so proud to be part of this community. This community has always shown us our road to growth. They’ve accepted us, they’ve told us what they wanted us to change, they’ve been honest with us, they’ve allowed us to employ their children, they’ve invited us into their homes when they’ve lost loved ones, they’ve allowed us to celebrate with them during graduations and weddings, and now during the pandemic they’ve been so supportive to make sure that our staff is ok, the business is ok, and they will reach us personally and say, “What do you need?” There’s no place like Fredericksburg.
Joy: You dropped the mic on that one, that’s pretty perfect!
It seems like it’s been a long journey to get to where you are today as partners and restaurant owners. What do you enjoy most about the work you do now?
Joy: For me, what COVID has done is it has stripped away everything that we don’t need to survive and left us with only the things we do need. As it turns out, to me that feels like it’s a place to gather as much as we’re allowed to gather. Sometimes that was just the two of us, or just the two of us and one or two other team members, and now we’re back to at least half capacity, but it’s a place to gather every day and it’s a place to share experiences. That’s the root of what we had in our hearts when we started the restaurant anyway, so COVID took all the craziness out of that and brought it to this real basic thing. There’s just nothing more community-minded than just sitting around a table and sharing a meal. That’s what I feel like I’ve been reminded of the nth degree over the past year- is how important that is to everybody.
What would you like to see for your business in the next 5 years?
Joy: I think that it’s no secret that the hospitality industry is built on people whose means are really fragile and having that taken away or reduced during COVID, in other words having their paycheck to paycheck lifestyle reduced, it was a monster reality check for us. We’ve always fought to exceed the living wage and give people a place where they feel like they can build a career and support their lives. What I would like to see is less fragility in this industry because so many things are interconnected in the hospitality industry. There’s almost no other means of commerce that somehow the hospitality industry doesn’t touch in one way or another. It’s not just farmers and growers, it’s not just restaurateurs, it’s hotels and uniformed supplies, and the list goes on and on and on. Everybody is connected, so when you take away one, two, three, four paychecks from them or reduce them by great amounts, it just leads to immediate turmoil. I’d like to see that really tender thing strengthen. More should happen to strengthen this industry that feeds so many people.
Beth: I love the way that the community, whether that’s the retail community or the restaurant community, is fighting everyday to make Fredericksburg a really fun place to be and that we’re getting more and more cars pulling off 95 to enjoy this city versus going and spending their money in Northern Virginia and D.C or Richmond. I hope that we continue to work together to grow that.
I hope one day we’re mentioned in the same breath as Carl’s or Allman’s or Hyperion, just as a place that belongs to Fredericksburg and is special here.
March 31, 2021 | Wren & Sparrow | Lisa Benoit and Amy Gardner
Wren & Sparrow is downtown Fredericksburg’s latest Caroline Street newcomer. Amy Gardner and Lisa Benoit’s deep passion for birding led them to open their own business which is for the birds! The store caters to beginners in birding to lifelong experts, and plans to host a variety of birding events for the community. We had the opportunity to interview Lisa and Amy during their grand opening week to chat about their birding journey, store offerings, and future plans.
Can you start by explaining what the hobby of birding entails, for those who are not familiar?
Amy: Birding entails something as simple as putting some feeders out there, attracting birds to your yard, being aware of what’s native to our area, and enjoying that commune with nature. It can go as far as to having a life log and going to different countries to find different species. So everything between setting up a simple feeder and having it engulf all your time is what birding can be.
When did your passions for birding begin?
Linda: My father was a birder so I naturally fell into it. I’ve been birding for about 45 years, worked at bird stores, always carried that feeder around with me wherever I moved. Amy and I met working in a bird store and decided that since we had such a nice camaraderie amongst ourselves, we would like to work together. We decided to put together a business plan last year in 2020 and the result is what you see here today!
Amy: My husband and I, before we were married, went to a cabin in Deep Creek, Maryland and there were these trays out on the deck and I couldn’t figure out what they were. He put bird seed in there and said, “Let me show you!” I didn’t want to do anything the rest of the weekend- I was hooked! I just watched the birds all weekend. When I was getting my MBA, I started working with Lisa 5 or 6 years ago, and it became all encompassing that quickly.
What made you want to take the step from working in bird stores to actually owning your own?
Linda: When the passion rules everything, you decide that it’s the right time to start a business. You always hear people say, “My hobby is my work, so it’s really not work” and that’s exactly what this is. When your hobby becomes what you do every single day, we don’t consider it work at all. We come here 6 days a week, we wake up in the morning and we’re ready to go, we don’t really want to leave in the evening. Tuesdays are our day off, so we’re closed on Tuesdays, but we do bird walks and other community events on our day off, so it’s in our blood!
Can you talk a little bit about what you sell here in the store and what events you do in the community?
Amy: There are a number of different ways to feed the birds and we try to provide items in the store that keep it easy to clean and fill, because we want your hobby to be fun, we don’t want it to become a chore. We get our seeds from an Amish farm in Ohio and there’s no fillers in the bag at all, so the birds will eat everything that’s there, there will be less mess, you won’t have weeds growing, all those things that make people really frustrated we try to address.
Linda: On Tuesdays for the whole month of March, we’ve been going to Old Mill Park and taking folks on bird walks. It’s been popular and a lot of fun, but unfortunately we can’t continue it in the summer because once the trees leaf out, you can’t see the birds. You can hear them and you know a certain bird might be in the location, but to get them on binoculars and teach people where they are is virtually impossible. Once COVID restrictions become lifted a little bit, we’d like to have some in-store presentations. For example, if you want to attract Bluebirds to your yard, how to safely feed hummingbirds through the summer, we can do presentations on that. We’d love to have the Virginia Living Museum come up and bring an owl or bring a hawk, so people can come and see these animals up close and personal. We’d love to get children in here and do some pinecone and seed rolling for them and teach them what nature is all about. They’re coming up right behind us and hopefully conservancy will follow as well. Once Riverfront Park opens we’d love to get out there and do some outside talks and things like that. We’re just waiting to see how things will progress over the summer but those are some of the things we want to do!
Your ribbon cutting ceremony is coming up soon, which is a huge full circle moment. Why did you choose downtown Fredericksburg for your business?
Linda: We looked everywhere. Most of the areas we looked at were cold, flat, didn’t have any personality, any history, or any local camaraderie. We came to Fredericksburg and looked at several locations and then one day we came in here with a realtor, and Amy actually sat on that wall and said, “I feel it. I feel it here, I think this is going to be perfect.” There was some work that had to be done, but we shook on it and said, “this is our location.”
Amy: This was the best decision. We have been absolutely and completely embraced by the downtown community. We have had positive feedback from other shop owners, our customers come in and say, “We need you down here, we’re so glad you’re here.” We feel like we’re already part of the community, even before our grand opening. It’s been a wonderful reception!
Can you finish us off by telling us your favorite bird or favorite birding fun fact?
Linda: In the fall, a Chickadee, a Titmouse, even Bluejays, they do what’s called “caching.” They know that the winter is coming, and if you feed sunflower seeds, they can hide (caching means to hide) upwards of 250 seeds a day for the winter when it gets lean and mean and very cold out. They can remember almost all of the places they have hidden those seeds. So in times of need, if they’re cold and hungry, they just remember where they hid food.
Amy: When we were planning the name for our store, Lisa’s favorite bird is the Carolina Wren and mine is the Titmouse. The Titmouse is my favorite because it’s the bird that comes to my feeder first. Anytime I put out something new, the Titmouse is so brave and will pick up half a peanut and fly away with all the other birds watching and thinking, “What’s in there?” The Titmouse doesn’t care, they just go! But, can’t really call it Wren and Titmouse because that just doesn’t work, so we settled on Wren and Sparrow.
April 5, 2021 | Strentz, Greene & Coleman | Stacey Strentz, Brenda Greene, Tara-Beth Coleman
Stacey Strentz, Brenda Greene, and Tara-Beth Coleman have dedicated their services to the Fredericksburg area for their entire careers. Now, their law office sits at 620 Princess Anne Street in downtown Fredericksburg. We had the opportunity to interview them about their experience practicing law, the importance of community, and the women who have inspired them along the way.
There are many fields of law to practice, so what made you decide to choose family law or criminal law?
Stacey: The reason I went into family law is because I love the stories, it’s a human interest. I was interested in psychology and sociology, and oftentimes I feel more like a therapist than a lawyer. For me, family law integrates all of those great aspects of getting to know my clients, knowing their story, helping them overlay the law, making a plan, and strategizing. That’s my love for family law.
Brenda: I came to practice law in this area through Legal Aid, and the opening that I took was a family law position. Family law was natural, it made sense to me. There is always an emotional component. Every family is different, all their needs are different, and I just naturally flowed into it. I also had the pleasure, before I worked with this fascinating woman over here [Stacey], to have cases opposite of her. I always said that Stacey made me a better lawyer, because there is not a lawyer who would go against her and not be prepared. There was no doubt in my mind that if I was going to have a case with Stacey Strentz that I was going to be prepared twice as much as any other case.
Tara-Beth: I don’t know if it was the generation I grew up in, but I bought into the ideal of the United States, the form of our country, the Constitution, and the battle that we fought to get the amendments to the Constitution. When I was in the 8th grade, we had a Youth of Law class, and we had to be lawyers. They stressed the ideal that it was better for 12 guilty people to go free than have one innocent person go to prison. I was young and I was impressionable and I believed in that ideal. I’ve always been very patriotic. I believe in our rights and I believe they should be defended. I’m in court all the time and I’m good on my feet. There’s poor people out there that deserve good representation and they need good attorneys to look out for them.
How did you all come together?
Brenda: We became partners [Stacey and Brenda] because she saw something in me.
Stacey: We just work really well together, our personalities really compliment each other. It’s been 13 years in different roles, different firms, different iterations of she and I being partners.
Brenda: As far as Tara-Beth was concerned, she was a natural fit: her personality, her skill set, and the way judges, clients, and the legal community respond to her. She’s just phenomenal! If you need criminal defense, Tara-Beth should be the only person you call.
Stacey: You are! You’re a phenomenal criminal lawyer. Tara-Beth is just amazing.
It’s very sweet to see how supportive you are of each other!
Brenda: One of the reasons that Stacey and I built this firm was because we wanted to have an opportunity for working women, mothers, in different stages of our lives, and build each other up in this career. It’s still not necessarily the norm to have a female-dominated law firm. We do a lot of encouraging one another and making sure we’re building each other up. With this job, you get beat up a lot, so it’s important for us to have a group, partners, paralegals, associates, that all build each other up, regardless if they’re a man or woman.
Stacey: We’ve hired women right out of law school, we’ve hired women with a few years of experience, and what happens in some women’s lives is they go in and out of law. I think law has been a nice field for me especially, I was able to take a couple years off when I had my son. It’s nice to have that flexibility and be able to give that to other people, because when I had my son, the firm I was at was not so great about when I wanted to come back. I had that stinging experience where you’ve been with a firm for over 10 years and they were really not willing to carve out any non-traditional role. I don’t ever want a talented young woman to feel like, “If I have a child or choose to take some time off, I can’t carve out a more creative role for myself.”
Who are your role models or heroes that help you push through your challenging days?
Brenda: She’s sitting right over here [points to Stacey]. We also had a female judge, Judge Hutcherson, and the way she handled people and her courtroom was the epitome of class. That was certainly an inspiration, but day to day, I want to be her [Stacey]. If I could be as good as her, I have accomplished something.
Tara-Beth: Ruth Bader Ginsburg is awesome. It just brings tears to your eyes, the things that she’s done for women and men in the workplace. Judge Kelly and Judge Deneke: Judge Deneke was a prosecutor and Judge Kelly was a criminal defense attorney. Partially I’ve also got to say my grandma, I just recently lost her this year. She was a huge hero for me. She started working when she was 18, and worked every day until we had to put her in a nursing home three years ago. My grandfather died in 1987 and she spent every day after that waiting to go to heaven to meet him. She’s a wonderful woman.
Stacey: Ann Hunter Simpson. When I was a young lawyer working for Joe Ellis, he sent me to watch Anne Hunter Simpson and Georgia Sutton practice law. They had a case against each other the first time I watched them and they’re both amazing female lawyers. The second time I had the honor to watch them, I was the guardian in their case, and one was representing the father and one was representing the mother. I was 27 years old and I was so stressed out because here I have to make a recommendation as the guardian and both of these women I just idolized!
Brenda, I just have to say, you’re a lot better at numbers than I am. You’re my idol when it comes to numbers, you can make sense of some of the worse cases!
Brenda: I have my skill set but I’ve never been told when I litigated a case it’s like watching poetry! More than one person has said that about Stacey!
What does the Fredericksburg community mean to you?
Brenda: It’s our role to collectively represent the people in this community. Stacey, Tara-Beth, and I still represent clients in pro bono cases. It’s important for us to bring the services we offer to everyone in the community, not just the people that can necessarily afford our services. We are part of the fabric and fiber of Fredericksburg. All of us have pretty much practiced our whole careers here or in the surrounding area. We are Fredericksburg attorneys.