New Businesses Are Starting, Growing Across the Region


(Saturday, November 11, 2006 3:03 PM EST)

New businesses opened recently in Middleburg and The Plains offer customers everything from stylish clothes and portrait photos to custom framing and vintage artworks.

The True Studio

Janie Stockton has excelled at photography ever since she was a young girl. She took 30 rolls of film on a family trip to Africa when she was in the eighth grade and won a national prize for one of her images.

The Leesburg native, who moved to Middleburg two years ago, studied elementary-school education in college and taught kindergarten and first grade for five years. After she had children and quit teaching, Stockton resumed taking photos.

Stockton opened The True Studio on Sept. 29 at 100 E. Washington St. in Middleburg. She specializes in portraits of families and children.

“I'm passionate about children and photography,” she said. “You will always see me rolling around on the floor with the kids, so I can't spend much money on my clothes.”

Stockton focuses on the artistic side of the enterprise while her husband, Heath Stockton, handles its administrative tasks.

She uses digital cameras and often relies on gentle lighting, which either is supplied by a softbox-covered electronic flash or natural window lighting. For outdoor shoots, she often sets up her camera at scenic locations around town.

“Middleburg is so beautiful,” she said. “You just walk down the street and you have a great background.”

Portrait shoots are by appointment only, as Stockton must discern clients' needs and expectations.

Clients come to Stockton's studio, but she often travels to see them.

“We travel up and down the eastern seaboard and as far west as Chicago,” she said. “Families know we're coming, so they book the appointments. We try to get in 20 to 30 families in a four-to-five-day period. We proof the same time we're there and mail them the photos.”

Stockton also is photographing families for Habitat for Humanity in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. This work is supported by Oprah Winfrey's Angel Network.

The True Studio is open Mondays through Fridays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with some weekend hours. For more information, call (540) 687-6414 or (703) 304-9014 or visit

Pryba Fine Art

Dennis Pryba II also found his calling early in life. Raised in a family of art and antique collectors, he began collecting stamps as a young boy and started buying and selling art during law school.

Pryba in March opened Pryba Fine Art at 6487 Main St. in The Plains. The gallery is open Fridays through Sundays from noon to 6 p.m.

The store also holds “Artful Evening” events, featuring local artists and including refreshments, from 6 to 8 p.m. on the third Friday of each month.

The gallery mainly sells artworks from between the 19th and 20th centuries, with a special focus on 19th- and 20th-century French and American paintings, prints and sculptures.

“I've always gravitated toward that era, the Gilded Age,” he said. “You can see the beginnings of taste in classical art in America. I also like early Modernism a lot. My philosophy is to put out anything that's beautiful, has merit and will stand the test of time.”

Besides buying and selling artworks, the gallery offers consultation and conservation services. Pryba will pay cash up-front for artworks that customers do not wish to sell on consignment.

The gallery sells artworks for as much as $50,000, but offers affordable prints and some original engravings starting at $100, Pryba said.

“I try not to scare people away,” he said.

High-quality art tends to appreciate in value over time, making it a good hedge against inflation, said Pryba, who has a solo law practice and lives in Alexandria.

“Art is probably like any other investment,” he said. “It should be a small piece of people's portfolio. It would give you diversification.”

For more information about Pryba Fine Art, call (571) 236-2534 or visit

Clothes Minded

Katie Rowand wants women of all ages to come out of her store, Clothes Minded, looking their best.

“It's for young, sophisticated girls and modern women,” she said. “I have a lot of 15-year-old girls come in who can shop with their 50-year-old mothers. I try to put things in that make women feel sexy, but that are also comfortable to wear.”

Rowand on Oct. 1 opened the store at 3 N. Liberty St. in Middleburg. She runs the shop with two other employees.

“I studied fashion in London and have a passion for it,” she said. “I can't walk out of the grocery store without a fashion magazine in my hand.”

Rowand sells today's hip fashion items, such as leggings, chunky belts, and punk-rock-style accessories, but also offers classic items such as tailored pants, wrap dresses and cashmere sweaters - “things that make practically anyone look good,” she said.

After many people told her she should become a personal shopper, Rowand decided to take a risk and open her own store.

Rowand is asking her customers to fill out Christmas lists, from which their family members may purchase items. She lives in Ashburn, but is looking for property in Middleburg.

“It's become a destination for shopping,” she said of the town. “We have something to offer every customer out there.”

Clothes Minded is open Mondays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. For more information, call (540) 687-4774.

The Farm Store

This longtime fixture in The Plains was bought in August by Bundles Murdock, a member of the Middleburg Town Council.

When Murdock reopened the store in September, she kept the shop open seven days per week and placed greater emphasis on sandwich and coffee sales.

“People have to have their caffeine fix,” she said.

The store also offers a selection of teas, wines, cheeses, locally made honey and candies, and small gifts.

The shop is run by manager Marilyn Edwards and her daughter, Elizabeth Wright, who supervise a few part-time employees.

The store, Murdock's first business, adds another chapter in her varied career. Murdock served on Middleburg's Planning Commission and Board of Zoning Appeals before being elected to the Town Council two-and-a-half years ago.

Murdock also did investment banking in Switzerland and was deputy chief of protocol for the U.S. State Department, special assistant to the ambassador at the Kuwait Embassy and a diamond buyer for Tiffany's, she said.

Murdock now works for Middleburg Real Estate Sotheby's International Realty and bought The Farm Store from its former owner, Christopher Malone, who also works at the same real estate office.

After hiring all the staff that The Farm Store needs, Murdock said she hopes to branch out into catering and offer wine-tasting evenings every other month. For now, she'll go with her strong suits and let her experienced employees handle the rest.

“I'm not any good at making sandwiches,” she said. “I work the cash register. It's much more fun taking people's money.”

The Farm Store, located at 6458 Main St. in The Plains, is open weekdays from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sundays from 9:30 to 4 p.m. For more information, call (540) 253-5456.

The Cottage Gallery

Carolyn Casey had a part-time framing job in California years ago and liked the work so much that she decided to do it for a living. The Chicago native went on to frame Muhammad Ali's boxing gloves and other unique items.

“What I really like is framing the unusual,” she said. “I'm a quilt collector and frame those, too.”

Casey opened The Cottage Gallery, a custom-frame shop and art gallery in Middleburg, during the second week of September. The Middleburg resident operates the shop with one other employee.

Besides framing, the shop also carries original art “with a folk-art feel to it,” Casey said.

These items include paper-cutting art, acrylic works, papier-mache sculpted birds from an artist in Iowa, and hand-crafted mohair teddy bears and rabbits from a Chantilly artist.

The shop, which is the third she's opened, lets her keep her artistic streak alive while helping others.

“I like being creative and I like the positive reactions from customers when they come to pick up their artwork,” she said. “I like to enhance whatever they have.”

The Cottage Gallery, located at 12 E. Washington St. in Middleburg, is open Wednesdays through Saturdays from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. For more information, call (540) 687-4774.

The French Hound

John-Gustin and Marny Birkitt, owners of the French Hound which opened in August, looked at the restaurant scene in Middleburg and decided locals needed something a little different.

The only French restaurant in town, the French Hound is bistro-inspired and offers traditional foods from France such as steak frites (Marny Birkitt's favorite) and pot-au-feu. All the food is cooked under the knowledgeable eye of New England Culinary Institute graduate, John-Gustin Birkitt, who is the chef de cuisine. Many items on the menu are changed seasonally.

“We want to change seasonally because we don't want locals to get bored!” said Marny Birkitt.

The wine list will also rotate seasonally, and anything that strikes your fancy can be found at the Birkitt's other business up the street, The Wine Cellar.

The Birkitts got a real taste of French country culture when they worked as private chefs in South Provence by the Mediterranean, and they are excited to share their experience with their Middleburg customers.

“We're here for the locals,” said Marny Birkitt. “And so far we've been very well received, for which we are very appreciative.”

The French Hound is located at 101 S. Madison St., Middleburg. Hours are limited, call (540) 687-3018 to make a reservation.

Mystique Jewelers

Elizabeth Mandros Miller has owned Mystique Jewelers in Old Town, Alexandria for 16 years, and just recently decided to expand to Middleburg. She opened the new branch with her husband, John Miller, in late September.

Mystique Jewelers strives to have something for everyone.

“We want to bring fine, unique jewelry for every price point,” said Miller. “We don't want people to be afraid to walk in.”

In addition to selling jewelry, the store offers appraisals, repairs, free cleanings, and a master goldsmith is available for custom fittings.

Mandros Miller and her husband, along with their three children, moved to Middleburg three years ago. Miller grew up in the area and Mandros Miller loves polo, so Middleburg has been a great fit, and opening a store in the area made sense. Although Mandros Miller will visit the Old Town shop two times a week, the family will get to spend the majority of their time together.

Mystique Jewelers is located at 100 E. Washington St., Middleburg. For more information call (540) 687-8707.


Stepping into Blue hair salon is like stepping into a chic urban hair studio - a very blue one! Owner Paula Miller's attention to detail in the decoration, from blue tissue boxes to leather couches, gives the space a very high-class feel.

“The walls are painted Tiffany blue,” Miller said. “It should appeal to every girl!”

Despite some complications in construction around the building, Blue opened in mid-October.

Miller has 20 years of experience in the hair business and co-owned a salon in North Carolina. This salon, however, is completely her own undertaking. She and stylist Natalie Shores offer hair cuts, dyes, highlights, waxes, you name it.

Miller believes strongly in close relationships with her clients and wants to be an integral part of the Middleburg community.

“We are a very personal and friendly shop with the best of everything, but not pretentious or snobby,” Miller said.

We like that clients sometimes like to just stop by and say hi, she said.

Blue is located at 10 N. Pendleton St., Middleburg. To make an appointment, call (540) 687-6020.


“Our mantra is ‘a little something for everyone,'” said Whippoorwill owner, Mert Cook.

The store, located in The Plains, sells items ranging from children's art supplies, to furniture, to fishing and hunting antiques, and more.

Cook, who has worked in retail and interior design for all her professional life, opened the store in May this year. Her goal is to provide affordable merchandise for locals that they would have had to get outside of The Plains in the past.

“It's about finding things people want and making their lives a little easier,” Cook said.

The store also sells fresh flowers on Fridays, throws birthday parties and hosts a summer craft program.

Whippoorwill is located at 6488 Main St., The Plains. For more information, call (540) 253-9911.

Pampas Corner

This cleverly named store (since “pampas” means plains in Spanish) opened in The Plains in mid-September and features exotic leathers.

All the merchandise is imported from Argentina, and includes leather goods made from capybara (a large jungle rodent) and cow, fur purses made from guanaro (a member of the llama family), and blankets made of llama wool and baby Alpaca.

Owner Anna Barreiro is particularly proud of the capybara products because Argentina is the only county that has the permits and know-how to make anything with the animal.

“Argentina is the only place that knows the leathercraft,” she said. “It's a gaucho thing.”

The leather is special because capybaras partially live in water, so the material doesn't stain when it gets wet.

Barreiro moved to The Plains area four years ago and enjoys the calm lifestyle. She also is an owner of the nearby Fb Art Gallery, which sells antiques and European paintings.

Pampas Corner is located at 6482 B Main St. The Plains. For more information, call (540) 253-5798.

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