At the heart of every community are its small businesses. Within that sphere, family-owned businesses play a special role.
Perhaps surprisingly, according to the U.S. Bureau of the Census, about 90% of American businesses are family-owned or controlled. They range in size from small partnerships to Fortune 500 firms. And they account for half of the nation’s employment and half of the Gross National Product.
Loudoun County certainly has a strong tradition of family-owned businesses over its more than 260-year history. That continues today.
In this special section, we invited the founders of some of our local family-owned businesses to share their stories in hopes of shining a light on the special passions that keeps them going—perhaps even to the next generation.
Abbey Design Center: Shiva Etessam
Shiva Etessam and her late husband opened the Abbey Design Center on Jan. 10, 1989, with the goal of giving their customers quality products at a fair price while taking care of them as friends.
“After 32 years, I can honestly say that owning your business is not the same as any other experience,” Etessam said. “With care and attention, it grows over time and you will worry about your business, struggle with it, and celebrate every achievement.”
In addition to the other wonderful feelings that come with owning a business, she noted the great deal of satisfaction that comes with knowing that your business is something your employees can rely on.
The turning point for Etessam came with the invitation to join the Abbey group in 1994. “Being member the of Abbey organization positioned us in a different category in our market. It opened so many doors that it was surprising to us,” she said. Aligning with a national chain allowed them to take advantage of Abbey’s buying power to offer better prices to their customers. They also learned of better ways of serving their clients and gaining access to the tools and knowledge that was essential to their success.
The next generation already is jumping into this family-owned business. Both of her sons are involved and their tremendous energy and education have had a great impact on growing the business, Etessam said.
Bramhall Trucking: Mike & PJ
Mike and PJ Bramhall started their trucking business in 1995 and have been serving Loudoun County for 26 years.
They say the most rewarding aspect about running their own business has been the relationships they have formed with their customers, really getting to know them. “Our family and their families have grown together over the years,” they said.
While there have been many memorable experiences over the past quarter century, some of the longest lasting memories occurred during emergencies. PJ recalls the phone call they got from a customer who was worried about Mike when a plow truck driver was hit along the road.
“She actually was crying as she was worried about him and our family. It was very touching,” she said. Many times customers have called after their driveway culverts totally washed out and they were trapped at home. “It has been our pleasure to rush to their rescue and quickly get it repaired so they can get in and out. They are so grateful and we feel good to have been able to help them in their time of need,” the couple said.
Theirs already is a multi-generational family-owned business. Mike got his start trucking for PJ’s dad, Cliff Bullard. They bought the truck from him in 1995 and now their oldest son, Jake, works full time for them. Their son Jarrett helps out during the winter plowing snow. All the kids have worked for the business over the years, whether it’s labor, filing, answering phones or shoveling snow off trailers. And with Jake’s son joining in, the third generation is in training.
Clegg Chiropractic: Charles Clegg
Dr. Charles Clegg opened Clegg Chiropractic four decades ago.
“It is wonderful to look back at where we started in 1978,” Clegg recalled. “I was a small practice in a very small town, and it has been such a joy to watch the office as well as the town of Leesburg grow around us.” Today, the practice has three doctors.
“We feel very lucky that we get to help our community. There is nothing more rewarding than hearing how you have changed people’s lives for the better,” he said.
He said of the biggest things that has benefited his business was having his son, Dr. Bradley Clegg, join the practice in 2008. “It has been such a blessing to have my son working with me every day and see him flourish as a highly skilled and capable doctor,” Charles said. “When I started Clegg Chiropractic in the ‘70s I could have only dreamt to have one of my children working alongside me.”
And Charles doesn’t rule out having another generation join the family business, as Brad has three young children.
The Reynolds Team: Debbie & Sarah
Debbie and Sarah Reynolds are the mother-daughter force behind The Reynolds Team. Debbie founded the business in 1988 and Sarah joined her in 2006, shortly after graduating from Liberty University with a business management degree. Sarah was elected to lead The Reynolds Team in 2009.
Most rewarding for the duo is being able to serve their clients during the most stressful time in their lives and impacting their family tree by helping clients and team members build their wealth through owning real estate. Over the years, they helped more than 2,000 families sell their homes, offering several guarantee programs designed to take the risk out of selling or buying a home. Giving back to the community also is import; they contribute a portion of the commission from every referral to worthy causes like The Fisher House Foundation and Children’s National Hospital.
The relationship with Children’s National Hospital began after Sarah’s oldest daughter, Olivia, was diagnosed with having bilateral enlarged aestibular aqueducts, and could only hear about 50% of the time.
“We began searching for the most specialized doctor to treat her on the East Coast and came across Children’s National Hospital in Washington, DC. They have been doing a phenomenal job at treating her condition ever since,” Sarah said. “I had wanted to give back to Children’s National Hospital for a long time, because of how much they have put my family at ease, knowing that my Olivia is in great hands. So, a year and a half ago, we decided to add Children’s National Hospital to our list of Worthy Causes we give back a portion of our commission to. This helps families who can’t afford treatment get the best care of their child, which is a peace of mind I think every family deserves.”
Already a multi-generational family business, and both Debbie and Sarah would love for that to continue for future generations. They are passionate about growing the business so they can increase their impact on the community they serve and say their family shares that passion.
Rouge Boutique & Spa: Anita Henry
Anita Henry opened Rouge Boutique & Spa in Leesburg’s historic district in 2002.
In addition to a full line of bath and beauty products and spa treatments, Henry’s training as a perfumist allows her to offer custom fragrances. Providing customization for everything from body butter, sugar scrubs, lotions, serums, bath fizzies, shave oils sets Rouge apart from other boutiques and make the business a reginal destination.
She said the most rewarding aspect of the business is the close relationship she has built with her clients over the past 18 years. “We have seen the kids grow up, graduate and then come in shop for their parents,” she said.
And those long-term relationships play a critical role in Rouge’s success. Henry notes that during good times the business would give out spa gift cards to help community organizations with their fundraisers. “Now come and shop to support us in these times of need—when the business needs any and all support,” she said.
Rouge already is a multi-generational family business, with Henry’s daughter, Tanya, involved in running the South King Street store and well positioned to take care of it into the future.
RugNet: Emmert Elsea
Emmert Elsea founded his Oriental rug import and retail business in 1976 after traveling to the Middle and Far East in 1966 and seeing hand-made rugs being made. He opened Xanadu Oriental Rugs in Leesburg and ran it for more than 20 years. When he retired, Emmert sold that business to his manager. Then he started an online wholesale Oriental rug site, rugnet.com which he operates today.
After 45 years in the business, Emmert still loves rugs. And he still loves the opportunity to travel.
“Having a good manager for my store allowed me to spend a lot of time on buying trips, 15 trips to the Middle East and Asia over the years with travels to over 50 countries, always overland,” he said.
Among his most memorable experiences was having a private audience with the Dalai Lama at his home in Dharmasala, India.
“I spent a lot of time with the Tibetans in India, Nepal, and Tibet—my favorite people,” he said.
When it comes time for retirement once again, it is unlikely the business will continue in the family, as his three grown daughters haven’t been involved.
“I hope to find someone who would like to take over as I have a unique system with little in the way of work and very profitable,” he said.