New business promotes artists with autism

An array of Zenaviv’s products featuring artwork created by people with autism

Brightly colored paintings decorate the home of Harish and Sandhya Bikmal, an Ashburn couple with two teenage sons.

Their older son, Saket, 17, is a rising senior at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria. Himal, 15, who will attend Briar Woods High School in the fall, was diagnosed with profound autism when he was 2.

As Himal’s parents came to terms with his diagnosis, they worried about his future.

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The Washington Post, June 18, 2017

Randall: Exciting times in Loudoun

In her annual State of the County presentation, Board of Supervisors Chair Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) described Loudoun as strong, thriving and “standing on the cusp of an exciting future.”

A standing-room-only crowd that included business leaders and public officials from across the region packed the Board of Supervisors’ meeting room Wednesday, as Randall recapped the county’s successes of the past year. She also pointed out some of the challenges associated with Loudoun’s high cost of living, including the lack of workforce housing and an inadequate pay scale for public safety workers.

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The Washington Post, May 28, 2017

Leesburg Vintner withstands competition

Owner Mike Carroll in his shop, Leesburg Vintner

Although Leesburg Vintner was closed Monday, owner Mike Carroll was working in his shop while a ribbon-cutting for Delirium Cafe was taking place across the street.

“I think it’s going to be a game-changer,” Carroll said as he peered through the blinds at the growing crowd outside the cafe, a franchisee of a popular Belgian beer company. “It’s created a buzz unlike anything I’ve seen since I’ve been here.”

Carroll has been selling bottled wines at the northwest corner of King and Loudoun streets in Leesburg for almost three decades. During that time, he has withstood increasing competition from big box stores and local wineries.

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The Washington Post, May 21, 2017

Purcellville Library observes 60th anniversary of desegregation

In the early 1950s, Reggie Simms mended damaged books so they could remain in circulation at the Purcellville Library. But he was not allowed to check them out for personal use.

For two decades after it opened in 1937, the library was open only to white patrons. Simms and other African Americans were excluded until the library was desegregated on April 9, 1957.

On Saturday, the library will mark the 60th anniversary of that milestone with “Cross the Line,” a day-long program focusing on the desegregation of public facilities in Loudoun County. Simms will join other African Americans from that era in sharing memories of the cultural shifts in Loudoun as segregation died a slow death in the 1950s and ’60s.

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The Washington Post, April 2, 2017

B. Doughnut is drawing crowds

Pin and Brian Chanthapanya, co-owners of B. Doughnut in downtown Leesburg 

The line outside B. Doughnut is already starting to form at eight o’clock Saturday morning, even though it won’t open for another hour. Some of the customers sit in chairs outside the shop on Loudoun Street in downtown Leesburg, reading a book or swiping at their phones to pass the time.

By 9 a.m., when the door opens, the line has grown to more than 40 people. Greeted by the mingled aromas of roasted coffee and fried dough, the customers begin placing orders for doughnuts with their favorite fillings and toppings — vanilla bean, lemon curd, cinnamon sugar.

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The Washington Post, March 5, 2017

Loudoun proposes $2.5 billion budget

Loudoun County Administrator Tim Hemstreet kicked off the county’s annual budget review process Wednesday by presenting a proposed spending plan for fiscal 2018 that funds almost all of the school system’s request and provides staffing for several new facilities while holding property tax bills steady.

The $2.5 billion budget complies with the Board of Supervisors’ demand for a plan that avoids increasing the average homeowners’ tax bills. It would boost local funding by $61 million for the school system and $27.7 million for the general county government.

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The Washington Post, Feb. 19, 2017

Dancing for fun

Adam King demonstrates the tango

As the holidays were winding down, about a dozen people showed up at Dance King Studios in downtown Leesburg on Monday evening to socialize and learn some new moves.

They stood along the mango-colored walls as owner Adam King demonstrated the Argentine tango. Then they moved hesitantly onto the dance floor, some staring at their feet as they practiced the steps.

As the evening wore on, the dancers grew more relaxed, buoyed by King’s infectious smile and words of encouragement. Before long, they were laughing and moving more confidently to the music’s rhythms.

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The Washington Post, Jan. 8, 2017

Piano Company is thriving downtown

Transporting more than 100 pianos across town last spring, from Battlefield Shopping Center to Market Street in downtown Leesburg, was no easy task. In fact, Robert Purdon, general manager of the Piano Company, described the move as “a logistical nightmare.”

But after 16 years at the store’s previous site, Purdon is happy with the shift to the current location, near the Loudoun County Government Center.

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Washington Post, Jan. 1, 2017

Autographs of Herbie Hancock, Randy Weston, and others can be seen inside the $250,000 Fazioli concert grand on display at the store.

Banquet facility in horse country draws fire

A plan for a banquet and events facility in the middle of horse country sparked an outcry from residents of western Loudoun County who attended a public hearing in Leesburg this month to voice their objections.

Nearly 30 people spoke against the proposed business at Catesby Farm, about five miles west of Middleburg, arguing that the noise and traffic it would generate would disturb neighboring farms and overwhelm the narrow roads in the area. Some said that the traffic would also disrupt nearby Willisville, a small village settled by freed slaves after the Civil War.

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Washington Post, Oct. 23, 2016

Exit Plan: Leesburg’s Escape Room

The intrigue plays out several days a week in a studio apartment in downtown Leesburg, accessible only through a small parking lot and up a steep flight of stairs. It is a “safe house” for a spy — a Russian agent now cooperating with the U.S. government.

Across the hall, several wayward students are hatching a plot to escape detention from a classroom with furnishings straight from the 1980s.

The safe house and the classroom — in a suite of rooms above MacDowell Brew Kitchen — are not real. Nor are the scenes that unfold there. They are the “escape rooms” run by Exit Plan, a locally owned business that creates puzzle-filled adventure games for groups of people to solve.

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Washington Post, August 28, 2016