Each of Merrifield Garden Center’s three locations overflows with thousands of plants throughout the year, encompassing such variety that a reporter for CNN’s Eatocracy claimed “I might as well endorse my paychecks straight to them…because I always want to grow what they've got.” Knowledgeable garden experts, 25 of whom have been with Merrifield for 25 years or more, guide customers through row upon row of flowers, trees, shrubs, and other plants, or help them sort through an extensive selection of bulbs and seeds. Visitors may also bump into the founders themselves, or their children and other family members, 38 of whom still work at the thriving business that started 40 years ago. Merrifield doesn’t just proliferate plants, however; amenities such as cafes in Gainesville and Merrifield and a dog park in Gainesville make each garden center into a leisure destination as well. Three of its garden gurus run an hourlong TV show that's been going for more than two decades, and other staff publish gardening advice on the website and Facebook. The staff also work to protect the environment with a variety of eco-friendly initiatives. Besides stocking native plants and water-saving devices for their customers, they also compost more than 20,000 tons of soil and 25,000 cubic yards of brush left over from their comprehensive landscaping services every year. The Gainesville location also gathers old concrete, metal appliances, and rusted Optimus Primes for recycling free of charge.
Before Comfort One Shoes' sole experts are allowed to fit a single shoe to a customer's foot, they must graduate from Comfort One University and undergo a mentorship process. It's only then that they can help shoppers find their desired footwear, whether it be lace-up Ziera boots, On running shoes with CloudTec technology, or Thierry Rabotin shoes, handmade without uncomfortable, rigid components. Alongside men's and women's footwear, the shop stocks an assortment of bags and accessories such as colorful iPhone cases from Triple C Designs that protect phone exteriors and conceal scratches from the last time you transformed into a werewolf.
Comfort One Shoes also seeks to better the world through creative philanthropic efforts, such as collecting 25,000 shoes for those without and offering their employees half their pay and time off to volunteer in the community. Perhaps such initiatives are part of the reason Comfort One Shoes earned the National Shoe Retailers Association’s Retailer of the Year Award in 2011.
Founded by local track coaches Rob Dulin and Jason Grant, The Running Store combines professional service with a large stock of running and walking shoes to fit patrons with the footgear that best suits their needs. Knowledgeable staffers provide complimentary foot, shoe, and gait analyses to shoppers, including electronic foot scans to determine weight distribution and treadmill-based walk/jog investigations using special cameras and jumbo contact lenses. Equipped with new knowledge of their nether hands, patrons are then free to choose from a selection of shoes ($90+) or moisture-wicking apparel ($30+) built for bipeds of every variety.
Louis Papadopoulos discovered his passion for classic winemaking in 1961 in a centuries-old vineyard outside of Athens, Greece. His first barrels—a red inspired by the mythical homeland of Hercules and an Athenian white that has been made for thousands of years—inspired him to found his own vineyard on a 40-acre farm in Corinth, where grapes flourished alongside orange and apricot groves. When his family relocated to Northern Virginia in 1984, Louis left his farm behind, but he continued to practice Old World winemaking techniques.
Today, the Papadopoulos family shares their love of wines at Mediterranean Cellars Winery, where guests can tour their rolling hills lined with rows of twisting vines heavy with grapes or enjoy glasses on the picturesque patio. Their selection covers a wide range of Old World varietals and regional specialties. The Rechina evokes traditional Greek dinner wine, the Chambourcin uses 100% Virginia-grown grapes to make a full-bodied red, and the limited-release Calypso rose treats palates to a finish far smoother than Odysseus’ departure from her island.
The Barthelson family’s certified-organic farm has cultivated produce, raised chickens and cows, and shared its harvest with the surrounding communities for the last 7 years. Always looking to lower their carbon footprint and increase sustainability, the Barthelsons reuse glass bottles for their minimally processed milk, build their soil with organic compost, and graze Angus cows and bulls on grassy pastures and the now-overgrown stadiums used for pog tournaments. Through their CSA membership program, the farm distributes and delivers eggs, produce, herbs, and meat to residents in surrounding communities from early spring until the beginning of autumn.