In 2016, when Silas Redd opened Nostalgia Boutique, the vintage clothing and antiques store in Purcellville, it quickly became a community staple on Loudoun’s antique trail.
That all changed with the COVID-19 restrictions.
“Overnight our business dried up. We could legally take up to ten customers at a time, but people were too scared to come in.”
So, Mr. Redd adapted. Last week he started a Nostalgia Boutique “Virtual Yard Sale”, posting photographs of 50 furniture and home décor items from his store on Facebook and Instagram, giving them lot numbers, and adding dimensions and prices. Suddenly he was selling again.
“People can see the items, make an offer in the comments and pay me via PayPal or over the phone. Then they can pick up their item on our back porch or we will deliver locally.”
Redd has now been inspired to start another virtual campaign, PurcellvilleProud.com, a community website where local businesses can list their information and how they are staying open.
“I feel I’m laying the groundwork for what’s to come after this blows over,” says Redd. “Hopefully people who wouldn’t normally know about us will see us online and come visit when it’s safe.”
With COVID-19 devastating Loudoun, local tourism and hospitality businesses have turned to technology, creating videos and livestream talks, tastings, tours, happy hours, online sales and other virtual experiences to let the public know they’re still around and how they can support.
“We moved to digital programming soon after we had to close,” says Jackie Ly, Museum Engagement Manager at Morven Park, the historic Leesburg home and gardens not usually associated with nimble technology. Ly has been posting short video tours of the Davis Mansion rooms and décor – descriptions of a Buddhist screen from Japan; an antique Italian china cabinet – as well as a weekly children’s story time she reads in the gardens, all in lieu of the regular tours and school visits that have been cancelled.
“We’re trying to be useful to the community, so we have to think creatively about how to stay on the radar,” says Ly.
Morven Park International Equestrian Center has also got in on the act, with manager Samantha Franklin hosting a weekly #MondayswithMuffin video chat on Facebook, Muffin being a miniature horse. Young viewers who post pictures of their horses and write why they miss Morven Park can win a weekly prize.
Other shuttered attractions are also going digital. The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center (part of the National Air and Space Museum and home of space shuttle Discovery) is conducting a Facebook Live Chat every Thursday at 1 pm until the museum reopens, and the Loudoun Museum in downtown Leesburg has a weekly “History on Tap” live chat in which prominent Virginia historians drink local beer and discuss Loudoun-focused history.
Loudoun’s much-loved wineries and breweries have been especially innovative when it comes to virtual experiences. Nate and Sarah Walsh of Walsh Family Wines are generating national media attention for “Drinkwell”, their Facebook Live Virtual Blind Tasting that takes place on Fridays at 5pm. The Walsh’s invite prominent guests on to talk about four blind wines they have selected, and an informative and entertaining party ensues, with viewers able to weigh in.
On Thursday’s at 5pm Stone Tower Winery hosts a virtual Happy Hour on Facebook Live (this Thursday’s chat is about Easter dinner pairings), while 50 West Vineyards and Sunset Hills are supporting the local musicians who would usually be performing live at their venues by promoting their livestreams and suggesting wines to pair their music to.
As for breweries, Crooked Run is running a competition to design a label for their upcoming IPA, Harmonic Convergence (the winning label will be featured on 100+ cases of IPA), while Dirt Farm Brewery is promoting a Dirt Farm Bingo game online. Old Ox Brewery meanwhile is inviting fans to open a can of their aptly named Quarantine Canteen ale and take part in Drink N Think Trivia, a Facebook Live trivia evening on Thursdays at 7pm.
These may be tough times - but that’s no reason not to raise a glass!
To showcase these and all the other local businesses adapting to this brave new world, Visit Loudoun has established a Visit Loudoun @ Home webpage dedicated to virtual Loudoun events and experiences.
Visit Loudoun would love to share more of the innovative and creative ways Loudoun businesses are virtually showcasing their products and services. We are collecting videos highlighting experiences you can have in Loudoun and sharing them on our website. If you or someone you know works in or owns a business in tourism or hospitality, send us a video showing the great things they are doing! Details at: www.visitloudoun.org/virtual