An initiative kicked off by the Hillsboro Town Council is gaining interest from a variety of businesses in northwestern Loudoun.
Hillsboro may be one of the smallest towns in Virginia, but it’s surrounded by an area that boasts a sizeable number of rural and professional businesses—wineries, breweries, B&Bs, crop and vegetable producers, pig and horse farms, craft artisans, photographers and musicians, to restaurants, insurance companies, Realtors, web and marketing professionals.
Organizing those businesses into the Greater Hillsboro Business Alliance is part of the town’s larger endeavor to make Hillsboro the economic hub and tourist destination in northwestern Loudoun.
Two dozen business owners participated in a May 3 meeting to introduce the idea. It was a good first meeting, according to Hillsboro Mayor Roger Vance, who with Councilwoman and Bed and Breakfast owner Amy Marasco Newton, sat down with Loudoun Now for an interview on the project.
“It greatly exceeded my expectations for enthusiasm. They see the need; they like being in at the beginning and defining it,” Vance said.
A week later, at a reception at Donny Virts’ CEA hydroponic farm on Rt. 9 east of Hillsboro, between 70 and 75 people showed up.
“We looked at the Rt. 9 corridor, but we had people from all over. We told them ‘pass the word with all the businesses you work with.’” That business network idea appealed to both small and larger entrepreneurs, Vance said. So far, more than 100 businesses have expressed interest in the idea.
During the first meeting, Vance said the group agreed to think big. “We selected the July 2 Independence Day celebration, to raise $10,000 to hold the annual fireworks show and to showcase as many of the businesses as possible.”
The alliance saved the fireworks—led by Old 690 Brewing Company, that made a significant donation and then challenged others to contribute. By the second meeting, on May 10, everyone was on board with the business showcase idea.
What struck Marasco Newton was that at both meetings, “people really connected and networked.” Pig farmers talked to B&B owners, someone needed a bookkeeper, a preservation construction builder wanted an engineer, she said.
“It was amazing how many did not know those businesses existed in the area,” Vance said.
A big concern for the group is to get the Hillsboro postal identity back. It has been more than a decade since the Postal Service absorbed the town’s 20123 ZIP code into Purcellville’s 20132.
“Everyone shared their frustrations,” Marasco Newton said, noting that Breaux Vineyards, for example, in Neersville, is identified as Purcellville. And that’s confusing to visitors, particularly to her B&B guests. On her Facebook page, her B&B is listed as being in the historic district, but visitors think it’s in Purcellville.
That is an issue the two raised with Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Congresswoman Barbara Comstock (R-VA-10), who are exploring options to restore Hillsboro’s mail identity. Also, the group is assessing the viability of reopening the original post office building—which dates back to the 1880s and most recently housed Hunt Country Jewelers.
Vance stressed the need to unify in order for the community to have a strong voice in issues affecting it—such as the current controversy over the AT&T facility on Short Hill Mountain.
“For the first time, we’re looking at western Loudoun businesses—how to promote them and network—for residents, businesses and visitors,” Vance said.
The next meeting is planned for Monday, June 6, starting at 6:30 p.m. at the Old Stone School. The focus will be on organizational topics and the specifics of the Independence Day initiative. All are welcome. The group also plans to hold quarterly social network meetings.
“There’s an extraordinary pool of talent here,” Vance said. “How can we make a model to bring those people together, so we can accomplish a lot more—that’s the motivation for us. We’ve got all these projects—water sewer and road improvements—that we desperately need support for, and unity to help garner political support.”
For Marasco Newton, the infrastructure project ties back to the alliance. “We need to coordinate with existing businesses. On the other hand, once it is all implemented, they’ll see it will attract business and provide economic sustainability.”
Looking back on the first “three amazing weeks,” Vance acknowledged the help he received from county sources, including Visit Loudoun, Agricultural Development Officer Kellie Boles and Supervisor Tony Buffington (R-Blue Ridge.)
“They were wonderfully supportive,” he said.
Editor’s note: The original article stated the incorrect brewery led the donation effort for Hillsboro’s fireworks. Old 690 Brewing Company made a significant donation and then challenged others to contribute. Loudoun Now regrets the error.