From a former Marine opening a craft brewery on the family farm in Hillsboro to a couple of code breakers running luxury tours into DC’s Wine Country®, Loudoun is home to several talented veterans who have opened innovative and inspirational businesses in the community. This Veterans Day, we highlight five veteran-owned businesses to support not just on the holiday, but throughout the year.
Harvest Gap Brewery
The Virts family has farmed in western Loudoun since the 1700s. In 2020, US Marine veteran Mike Virts, who grew up in the county and did two tours in Iraq between 2006 and 2010, turned a section of the family’s farm in Hillsboro into Harvest Gap Brewery. It’s been an instant success. A Navy veteran helped build the rustic timber barn-style tasting room, several veterans work as farm hands on the land and there’s reserved parking for veterans in the lot. Aside from the beer, the highlight is the enormous corn maze on the land which, this year, is carved into the shape of the iconic image of Marines raising the American flag over Iwo Jima in World War Two. Which beer to drink? “Try the Devil Dog, a German style Helles lager,” said Virts. “Devil Dog has been a nickname for the Marines since World War One.”
Bleu Frog Vineyards
In a short space of time Bleu Frog Vineyards of Jan and Joe Kernan on Route 15 north of Leesburg has gained a stellar reputation for its bold red blends, delicate rosés, superb food and gorgeous hillside setting – popular with wedding parties for ceremonies in the vines. What is less well known is that before he turned his interests to growing grapes and making wine, Joe Kernan served as Navy Seal “frogman.” In fact, the winery name combines that popular nickname for the Seals with Jan’s career as a cordon bleu chef. Toast the Seals and their armed forces brothers with a bottle of the 2019 Bullfrog Meritage – a bold fruit-forward blend that’s the perfect winter warmer.
Cannabreeze CBD Hemp Farm & Co
“There’s a direct line between me growing up on a farm in Oregon to working in a Navy research lab in Maryland to this,” said Jeff Boogaard, founder-owner of Cannabreeze CBD Hemp Farm & Co in Lovettsville. At Cannabreeze, Boogaard and his team grow, produce and sell a wide range of premium CBD and CBG hemp products, from oils, soaps and balms to edibles and gels. “Farming is chemistry and the combination came together in the fields here and in the lab on site.” Boogaard spent eight years in the Navy including two as a chemist in the hyperbaric medicine department of Navy Medical Research Institute in Bethesda. While Cannabreeze is open to all, with a stylish tasting room on site where visitors can sample and purchase products, Boogaard says any veteran can get a free 600mg bottle of CBD Oil to try.
Navy veteran, Jeff Boogaard (center) & Cannabreeze team
Many couples planning on getting married or hosting showers in Loudoun are turning to Leesburg-based floral and balloon design catering company Lucy Blossoms for décor arrangements – everything from elaborate flower garden walls to decorative organic balloon garlands. What they probably don’t know is that talented Lucy Blossoms owner-founder Jami Switzer and her husband Jonathan are both military veterans. Jami spent nine years in the Pennsylvania National Guard from 2008 to 2016, reaching the rank of sergeant, while Jonathan is a Marine veteran who was deployed to Afghanistan from 2012-2013. Jami, who tends to the clients and design and oversees front of house, was inspired to get into custom displays after seeing the Instagram designs of a Houston floral decorator. “I thought – I can do that!” So, she did. As for Lucy Blossoms, it is named for Jami’s deaf French bulldog Lucy.
Veteran couple Jami & Jonathan Switzer
Cork & Keg Tours
Renee Ventrice and her husband Don met in Spain in 1993 where they were both working as cryptologists – code breakers and signal analysts – for the Navy. Twenty years later and they live in Loudoun where they’ve cracked the code on luxury wine tours into DC’s Wine Country®. In 2016 they founded Cork & Keg Tours, inspired by bespoke wine tours they experienced on trips to California wine country. “No one was offering what we experienced in Sonoma, so we decided to bring a luxurious version of that here,” said Ventrice. A certified WSET2 wine educator, Ventrice guides most of the tours herself, selecting which wineries to visit and vintages to recommend based on the personal preferences of her clients. The tour, which typically stops at two or three wineries, takes place in a Mercedes Sprinter outfitted with two HD TVs and a sparkling wine bar. Renee and Don have also added concierge-level services such as photo slideshows, decorations and even karaoke sessions between wineries for party groups. The couple also supports the non-profit Veterans Moving Forward, an organization that trains and provides service dogs to wounded veterans.
Veteran couple Renee and Don Ventrice