Small Businesses Play a Critical Role in Reston

What do 'Little Boxes' offer patrons, how do they do it and what do they need to thrive?

From the shops and stores at Reston Town Center to those in the nearby village and shopping centers, Reston offers opportunities for both big national chains and small independent retailers. Yet, how do the Little Boxes compete with the mega-retailers; what's it like to own and operate a small local store; and what do privately held businesses want the public and local governments to know?

The Connection reached out to owners of five locally owned small businesses in Reston, David A. Eisele Sr., Davelle Clothiers at 11904 Market Street and Dawn Devaney Gammon, OD, FAAO, The Eyewear Gallery at 11900 Market Street, both in Reston Town Center; and Chef Basir Ahadi, Chef on Wheels Tacos & More at 1810 Michael Faraday Drive, Brian Li, J-Petal at 2260 Hunters Woods Plaza and Bud Burwell, Reston's Used Book Shop at 1623 Washington Plaza North at Lake Anne.

The small business owners answered the following six questions:

  1. Why did you decide to open your business in this location?

  2. What has been your most difficult or challenging struggle in owning this small business and how did you overcome it?

  3. What do you want people to know about you as a person and/or about your small business?

  4. Give one word or sentence to describe operating your business.

  5. What can the local governments do to help your business thrive?

  6. Is there anything else you would like included?

David A. Eisele Sr., Davelle Clothiers at 11904 Market Street: "I lived in Reston, and they made a pitch that I couldn't refuse 26 years ago. We are the last remaining independent at Reston Town Center [from those here 26 years ago]. [The most difficult struggle or challenge] in the early days, was Reston Town Center awareness; now it is everything about paid parking. We give free parking.

"I have a high level of integrity, a great taste level, and a love for my clients. [As for the business, it is] cutting-edge, with quality, and fit and focus. [To operate the business, I work] seven days a week at 18 hours a day. My first born son is my right hand, Dave II.

"[The local governments can help my business thrive through] lower taxes – Business, Professional and Occupational License (BPOL) Tax and [calming the] congestion with traffic. [I'd like others to know, I'm] very thankful and honored to be here so long in such a great community; [that I] give to all local charities and focus on training and skill development with goodwill incentives."

Dawn Devaney Gammon, OD, FAAO, The Eyewear Gallery at 11900 Market Street: "Our corner boutique location has been optical since Reston Town Center opened over 25 years ago. I previously worked as an employee before purchasing the practice. I loved the vibrancy of the Town Center and our spot was in the middle of all the action! In Optometry School, they teach us how to be good doctors, but not how to own and run a business, so there was a huge learning curve for me in the transition from doctor to business owner.

“The most difficult struggle was last year when Reston Town Center implemented a paid parking policy. The whole community was outraged and many boycotted the Town Center. Although we agreed to validate parking for those who came to see us, Reston Town Center was a ghost town for months. Many businesses struggled and some have left. It was frustrating to have worked so hard to build our reputation and to have a circumstance completely beyond our control affect us so negatively. Fortunately, Reston Town Center has made some positive changes including the first hour free, free parking after 5 p.m. weekdays, and free parking all weekend long.

"I put 100 percent of myself into everything I do. As a single mom of two teenagers, I want them to set goals and work hard but also realize that it’s just as important to relax and enjoy life. …I have been practicing optometry since 1996 and love working with my patients to solve their vision care needs. When I opened The Eyewear Gallery in 2008, my vision was to create a practice to provide professional eye care services in a comfortable, friendly environment. With a passion for fashion, I also wanted to offer the unique eyewear to my clients. I have been lucky enough to travel to the fashion capitals of the world like Paris, Milan, Chicago, Miami and New York City to bring the...fashion-forward eyewear back to Reston. Our motto is ‘Like a fine work of art, every face deserves a fabulous frame!’

"I’ve read that some cities have a Business Diversity Ordinance to ensure that independent, neighborhood-serving businesses don’t get crowded out by chains. It’s getting more and more difficult for small businesses to survive competing with large chains and internet options. The Optical industry is no different. In fact, in some states, you can even take a vision exam online! Maybe I am old-fashioned, but I believe that having a relationship with my doctors is important. At the Eyewear Gallery, we offer eyewear that cannot be found online and in chain stores and personalized experience. We offer eyeglasses and sunglasses for those who want to stand out in a crowd, make a statement with their eyewear, or who just want top quality expertise and customer service."

Chef Basir Ahadi, Chef on Wheels Tacos & More at 1810 Michael Faraday Drive: "I went to South Lakes High School and grew up here. The reason [we opened at this location] is that we don't have a lot of mom and pop restaurants in Reston. The rent is less than Reston Town Center, and Reston Town Center does not allow start-up restaurants; you have to have ten years experience. There are no challenges in owning {this small business] because I am an accredited chef. I went to college and got a degree in Culinary Arts; I knew what I was getting into. 2017 was the worst year for my food [business]. I lost my [previous] location because of zoning changes.

“[I'd like people to know this is] honest food and I provide it. I create recipes in my spare time. I’m going on vacation and I'm taking a book about sauces. [One word to describe operating my business is] focused; my business is only secondary to my family which comes first.

"I've been very happy with Fairfax County government. They make it [business forms and regulations] very easy in comparison to Arlington, the District of Columbia and Loudoun County. We donate a lot [of food] to school PTAs, and we take our leftover food to the Embry Rucker Shelter."

(As for saying anything else), “…six months ago, I had only $36 left when I opened the restaurant. I could not tell my wife. Now five months later, on Yelp I have 63 5-star reviews, on Google 103 4 1/2-star reviews. That's because everything is made from scratch, it is fresh and local, much from the Farmers Markets."

Brian Li, J-Petal at 2260 Hunters Woods Plaza: "My friend recommended Reston, and I did a little research. There is a huge population here, and they are still building up the transit system, so that makes it prosperous for businesses. I like to talk with the customers and get to know them. [One of the most difficult challenges] was going through the Design and Renovation stages. The permits were easy to get. (I'd like people to know) that it takes a lot of time to own a small business. I'd like to promote my business on calendars or profile it and get together with other small businesses so we can learn from each other."

Bud Burwell, Reston's Used Book Shop at 1623 Washington Plaza North at Lake Anne: "This location is the original location of Reston Used Book Shop, and at the time we picked up the business, we had a chance to purchase the dry cleaners next door. It was all about keeping the Book Store going. (As for challenges), as much as the Plaza is a draw in itself, in the colder weather there is not enough foot traffic, and we have not solved that yet.

"Reston is one of the most well-read communities in the world, and the books we get reflect that. (Operating the business) is a joy. Kids come in here, and they know they are going to find something. I never get tired of people saying, ‘Don’t you ever close?’

“I would like to see local government follow through on the redevelopment of the Lake Anne District. It was 15 years of planning, and it POOFED and is gone. (I'd like people to know) to come on down and enjoy Lake Anne this season. It's gorgeous."

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