What was your first job?
I started working at 16, mopping floors at JC Penney. After college, I was teaching, because that was what I was trained to do. I taught music—first in Woodbridge Township District in New Jersey, then I moved to Washington, D.C. and taught at Sidwell Friends until 1973.
Why did you move to Northern Virginia?
I ended up moving here after my divorce. My daughter is a show jumper, and we were always in and out of Northern Virginia for her pony competitions. After spending a lot of time in Virginia, I fell in love with the state. I loved the lifestyle, the topography. I felt welcomed here, and it was beautiful. I decided to start my new life. I was going to take a couple of years off, sit back. I bought the farm out here, renovated it, and just tried to get my footing again. As my mother said, “Get your power back.”
Do you live in NoVA today?
I do. My husband is the chief judge for Arlington [Circuit Court], so we split our time between Arlington and Middleburg.
What are your favorite places to shop and eat here?
One of my favorites is The Whole Ox in Marshall, Virginia. It’s a great place to pick up organic meats and vegetables, and the staff is excellent. I love stepping into the place—it’s so welcoming. You can get wines, cheese, fresh produce—even though I grow everything on my farm, there’s always something they have that I don’t. Marshall is blossoming—there’s Field & Main, another favorite restaurant of mine, and Red Truck Bakery. In Middleburg, we have King Street Oyster Bar, Red Fox, Goodstone Inn, and, of course, Market Salamander. I do eat a lot in my own resort.
What are your goals for Family Reunion, the big event that Salamander is hosting this month?
We want to build bridges with chefs in the DMV area, especially chefs of color. Many of their restaurants have been shuttered. There is inequality that happens with minority businesses; it’s hard for them to get back economically on equal footing. Most restaurants do not have the financial backing they need. I want to bring attention to the talent, not just in the DMV area, but across this nation.
What advice do you give young entrepreneurs who aspire to build an empire like yours?
They need to be patient and put together a good business plan. They have to learn to take small steps. They’ve got to be realistic, and in that reality check, make sure whoever they’re bringing into their orbit are people they can trust. People with integrity. I cannot emphasize enough about character building. Your character and integrity, it’s everything.