Today, Marshall is experiencing something of a renaissance. New businesses draw locals and visitors alike to the town’s historic Main Street, and 350 new homes are in the works. Despite these changes, Marshall has retained its appealing, yet quirky, rough-around-the-edges character. After all, if a place is trying to be cool, by definition, it isn’t. Marshall is definitely cool.
In fall 2015, two businesses set up shop on opposite sides of Marshall’s main drag. In September, Red Truck Bakery opened in the buildings that once housed the Marshall Pharmacy and the Old Salem Restaurant. The following month, The Whole Ox, an independent butcher, opened across the street in the old post office. Almost immediately, a buzz about Marshall began to sound.
Actually, the buzz started before they opened, because both were already well known in the community. Red Truck Bakery started in nearby Warrenton in 2009. Its original Warrenton location is still going strong, but the Marshall store is larger and offers dine-in seating. On any given Saturday, there is a steady stream of visitors and locals through the shop for their now world-famous pies, cakes and other goodies.
The Whole Ox, owned by husband-and wife team Derek and Amanda Wyne Luhowiak, bounced around the area before settling in Marshall. They started a food truck, then opened a meat counter in Marshall’s old IGA before moving to The Plains’ railroad depot, and finally landed back in Marshall.
Amanda’s family has been in Fauquier County since 1796. She remembers going to the Old Salem Restaurant with her grandfather and sitting at the counter.
“My goal for The Whole Ox is to be a long-term fixture in the community, a gathering place,” Amanda says.
As its name implies, The Whole Ox offers a full range of meats and meat products that utilize the whole animal. In addition to steaks, chops and roasts, they offer house made sausages, bacon and charcuterie. Working with 65 to 70 sustainable and humane farmers, their meat is locally sourced from the Mid-Atlantic region.
“You’re not just buying a steak for dinner,” Amanda notes. “You’re supporting your neighbors, too. I am super proud to own a business in my hometown.”
The store boasts a small dining area with a seasonal menu and a carefully curated selection of cheeses, wines, coffee, breads and other grocery items. The freezer case is stocked with house-made soups and prepared meals (the cottage pie is highly recommended). Amanda and Derek also collaborate with the other businesses in Marshall. The Whole Ox’s sausage is featured in Red Truck Bakery’s sausage scones and farmhouse muffins.
Before Red Truck and The Whole Ox opened, another culinary business was already in the planning stages. In 2014, Neal and Star Wavra purchased a former tavern built in 1830 and spent more than a year converting it back into a restaurant. Since opening in September 2016, Field & Main has garnered glowing reviews in The Washington Post and Washingtonian magazine. As a result, the restaurant’s clientele comes from a much-larger area than the 45-minute drive that Neal first envisioned. “We’ve had overseas visitors who were staying with friends in the area who brought them here,” Neal says. A farm-to-table restaurant, Field & Main stays as local as possible with its food, purchasing directly from the producers.
“The flavor of the meat changes with the seasons, depending on what the animals eat,” Neal explains. “Most of our suppliers are small producers, so we have to be flexible with our menu, depending on what and how much they have available. I want Field & Main to be a place where my suppliers are also my customers, a place that farmers come to eat.”
When asked why they chose Marshall, Neal responds that he and Star live in Warrenton and were working at The Ashby Inn in Paris, so they drove through Marshall frequently. The town’s easy access to Washington, D.C., was a key factor. Two exits off Interstate 66 lead to Marshall.
“Marshall seemed ripe for opportunity,” Neal says. “I think Marshall will continue to grow, and I hope we grow with the community.”
Rounding out Marshall’s burgeoning culinary scene is Gentle Harvest, which opened in the former Marshall National Bank building in October 2016. Part of Sandy Lerner’s food business empire grounded in sustainable, organic and humane practices, Gentle Harvest is primarily a grocery store. It features certified humane meat and poultry from Lerner’s Ayrshire Farm and other partner farms, along with a full range of organic grocery items, including wine and beer.
“The community has been very welcoming,” says Sheree McDowell, Gentle Harvest’s vice president of operations. “Even so, the success of the café was a surprise. We’ve become an eatery where you can shop, rather than a store where you can get a bite to eat.” Like Neal at Field & Main, Sheree notes Marshall’s access to Interstate 66 as a plus.
Down the street, interior designer Daniel Moore acknowledges that Sandy Lerner’s purchase of the bank and Red Truck Bakery’s opening were catalysts for him to buy 8393 West Main Street. The building now houses his interior design business, along with his home furnishings store, Domestic Aspirations, and an event venue, The Drawing Room. But, according to Dan, the best thing ever is The Rooms Up There, a three-room guesthouse.
“The guest rooms already existed, but we took them to the next level,” Dan says. “We put a tremendous amount of thought and research into every detail. The rooms had to feel good, sound good, and smell good.” The beds are so comfortable that guests frequently want to buy them — headboard, mattress, pillows, linens and all.
Both Amanda at The Whole Ox and Dan think that Marshall is ripe for more retail. Currently, non-food retail is mostly limited to a handful of antique stores.
One exception is Big Dog Pots, located at the east end of downtown. Owner and potter Lori Langford opened in 2014, as studio space for herself with a small retail gallery. When Lori first began selling her pottery, she donated her profits to the Middleburg Humane Foundation and became known as the “dog pot lady,” which became the inspiration for the name of her business.
“The business really took on a life of its own,” Lori remembers with a laugh. “Almost immediately, people started asking if I offered paint-your-own pottery or classes. And I thought, well, I guess I should!” Today, Big Dog Pots offers classes in clay-making, wheel throwing, fused glass, stained glass and canvas painting, along with an expanded gift shop and paint-your-own pottery.
Lori sees great potential for future development at her end of town, where there are more vacant lots. Demand for retail and restaurants is certain to grow, with 350 new homes coming soon.
According to local Realtor Anne Michael Greene, Marshall’s growth has been in the planning process for years. Anne Michael grew up in Fauquier County at a time when there was only one high school in the county.
“You got to know everyone,” Anne Michael remembers. “Farm kids, town kids; we all went to school together.” Anne Michael served on citizen committees to develop regulations that guide Marshall’s growth. In addition to an Historic Overlay District, a new zoning district ― tailored to the small, urban lots of the downtown ― was adopted recently. Anne Michael says the vision is to encourage entrepreneurs to adapt historic buildings to new uses.
Of course, not all older buildings are historic. Part of Marshall’s charm is the mix of old and not so- old. The former IGA building now houses Commonwealth Classics auto dealership. Owner Bill Desrosiers imports and restores classic vehicles from Europe and South America.
“We focus on models that were never offered for sale here in the United States when new, like two-door Range Rovers,” he explains. Bill deals mostly in vintage Land Rover, Toyota and Mercedes 4x4s. The surrounding horse and wine country is a big reason why Bill chose to locate in Marshall.It’s a good fit for the vehicles he sells.
Starting in April, at 8 a.m. on the last Saturday of every month, vintage car enthusiasts can hang out at Commonwealth Classics, enjoy a cup of coffee, and talk shop. In addition to these “Cars & Coffee” days, Bill is planning a “Touch the Truck” event this June, hoping to raise $50,000 for children’s health and wellness in Fauquier County. The event will feature 20-plus pieces of equipment, ranging from firetrucks to military vehicles.
Marshall’s renaissance is buzzing along. If you’re ever in the area, don’t hesitate to detour off the interstate. You’ll be glad you did.