The Hidden Gem Of Herndon

Don’t let the tin roofing, stucco, and cinder-block walls of this small business park fool you, the Sunset Business Park is one of the most happening places in Herndon, VA. Tucked behind office buildings at the corner of Herndon Parkway and Spring Street, you can pass it in the blink of eye without realizing it is home to some of the best local, family-run businesses in Herndon. Typically you find these highly-rated, unique businesses in a strip mall where there’s a lot of foot traffic, but this industrial park is an outlier with small businesses rooted in the community that bring foot traffic to them. It attracts local start-up businesses because of the lower rent and light mixed-use zoning which allows the venting and piping necessary to build out industrial kitchens, breweries, and coffee roasting factories. Add the advantage of all the foot traffic brought in by dance studios, Nextstop Theatre, and multiple restaurants and you have a very desirable location for local start-up businesses. Nextstop Theatre and Amphora Bakery have been in the business park a long time, but over the past five years, many of the businesses featured in this article selected the location because they saw the added benefit of all the foot traffic brought in by other tenants.

Located on the border of the Herndon and Reston line, this spot is a prime location for businesses to attract customers from both areas, as it is a convenient stop with lots of parking. You don’t have to fight the traffic lights of downtown Herndon or Reston Town Center to visit and it’s right off Fairfax County Parkway and the Toll Road. 29,000 cars pass the business park a day on Spring Street and close proximity to Target makes it a easy stop-off when shopping. Rowan Tree accounted for many of these factors when selecting the business park for their new co-working space and also liked that it was walking distance to the W&OD trail.

The park continues to attract some of the most creative local start-ups with Wooboi Chicken, a Nashville style hot chicken joint, and Rowan Tree, the first women-centered co-working space in Northern VA, opening earlier this year. Wooboi just made Washingtonian’s Best Cheap Eats and a handful of the other businesses are decorated with awards. Nextstop Theatre won multiple Helen Hayes Awards, Enatye Ethiopian has been rated a Top 50 restaurant in Northern VA three years running, Weird Brother’s Coffee was just ranked #1 on the WTOP ten best coffee shops in the DC area, and Aslin Beer Company has quietly become one of the most sought after craft brewers on the east coast.

While speaking to the many business owners in the park, I was blown away by the community and support they have for each other with many of the businesses promoting and collaborating on products and services. Rowan Tree serves tea from Elden Street Tea shop and coffee from Weird Brothers at their refreshment bar. Aslin and Weird Brothers collaborate on the “How Now Brown Cow” coffee beer, and they are constantly promoting each other on social media. People are drawn to Herndon because of the community and small-town feel and you even see that among the small businesses in the park.

You don’t expect to find some of the best local businesses in Herndon nestled away in a business park but that is what makes it such a gem. A handful of the businesses don’t show up on Google maps so unless you explore the park you won’t know what you are missing. Featured below are a few of the unique businesses in the Sunset Business Park that are well worth the visit. Many of those businesses have phenomenal Instagram pages that are a fun a follow, so I would highly recommend checking them out for the inside scoop on news and offerings. The Homebeat also has a Instagram worth checking out @herndonhomebeat if you’d like to see where we go next in Herndon.

Other businesses that weren’t featured but deserve a shout out are Skye Ballet Center, Homegrown Power Yoga, Scoop Of The Hill, Crossfit 286, Balaji Cafe, and A Taste Of The World.

Instagram: @weirdbroscoffee

  • Weird Brothers Coffee — Family run coffee shop and roaster. Hands down the best coffee shop in Herndon, and ranked #1 on the WTOP top ten best coffee shops in the DC area in 2019. Started by two brothers out of a truck who had a passion for great coffee, the company has grown to its current home with coffee bar and roasting factory. Veteran-owned and very involved in the community, Paul likes hiring local employees and partners with Eye of the Heart which helps to bring community non-profits and small business together. He selected the location in the Sunset Business Park as opposed to a strip mall almost four years ago due to the lower rent and light multi-use zoning which allowed them to build out a roasting factory requiring vents and piping. They have plans to open a second location in the Worldgate Metro Plaza this fall so be sure to follow them on social media for news and updates.

Instagram: @amphora_bakery

  • Amphora Bakery — European style bakery specializing in spectacular custom cakes, desserts, pastries, and coffee. Started in Vienna by two families in the late 1960’s, they chose Herndon as the location for their second diner (Amphora Deluxe Diner), and bakery because of the small town atmosphere that reminded them of Vienna. Their bakery supplies in-house pastries and cakes to the Vienna and Herndon diner as well as their Vienna bakery. It is also a popular spot for kids birthday parties as kids love watching all the sweets, cakes being made from behind the glass. You can see many of their mouth-watering cakes on Instagram, which is well worth the follow.

Instagram: @nextstoptheatre

  • Nextstop Theatre — Professional black box theater. Started 30 years ago as the amateur group “The Elden Street Players”, the group has grown into a professional theater company that draws the same performers you’d see on the big stages in DC. Their production of Catch Me If You Can in 2016 won the Helen Hayes Awards for Outstanding Lead Actor and Outstanding Choreography. The 114-seat black box style theater just started its latest season of shows which can be found here. The education side of the business is the fasted growing part of Nextstop with summer camp programs, theater appreciation, and production camps. This year kids in the camp put on a production of Peter Pan, Frozen, and High School Musical. The theater has a fascinating origin story that involves a town dump truck, real estate boom, and political change in Herndon that made it the private non-profit it is today. Its history is also an interesting perspective on the town of Herndon’s past 30 years. Here is it for those interested.

Instagram: @aslinbeerco

  • Aslin Beer Company — Craft brewery. This wildly successful local brewery that specializes in juicy IPAs started in the Sunset Hill Industrial Park. People come from all over the country on beer release dates to purchase their beer (they don’t distribute) and the lines have been so long that they wrap around the building. Celebrating its fourth anniversary this month, the brewery has quickly outgrown the space and opened a new tap room/production facility earlier this year in Alexandria and plans to build a pour house in old town Herndon off Elden Street. Their location in the industrial park still serves as a production facility, pickup location for beer cans and merchandise, and will become a smaller, experimental facility for the company allowing them to test new recipes. It may also become a small decanting bar that would serve bottle-age and vintage beers, according to a Washington Post article.

Instagram: @100bowls

  • 100 Bowls Of Soup — Fresh, nourishing soup and broth from scratch. Walk in around lunch time and you’ll see all the ingredients for future soups being prepped behind the counter. The owner Katharine intends it that way so you can see and smell exactly what they are making. She believes soup should be the most nourishing meal you eat so freshly harvested, local, organic equivalent vegetables (delivered June through November) are used. Originally started out of her home, Katharine began selling her soups at the Reston farmer’s market until the business grew to need a commercial space. She selected a space in the Sunset Business Park because it allowed her enough space to build a commercial kitchen and had a good amount of foot traffic from the other shops, restaurants, and studios. The location is not structured as a restaurant but will be opening a soup bar in the fall called a “nourish and go” station where you can select a soup and add toppings. You can also find their soups at the Mom’s Organic Market in Herndon or The Organic Butcher of McLean.

Instagram: @enatye_ethopian_restaurant

  • Enatye Ethiopian — Ethiopian restaurant. One of the top 50 restaurants in Northern Virginia three years running, according to Northern VA Magazine. Unassuming, family owned restaurant that serves traditional Ethiopian food, native wine, beer, and coffee. The owners started the restaurant with the sole focus of creating flavorable, authentic Ethiopian food from scratch. After replacing an Ethiopian restaurant that had been in the location for 12 years prior, the owners wanted to share their culture with more than just the Ethiopian community, which is why they selected the location over Chevy Chase or Arlington.

Instagram: @woobiochicken

  • Wooboi Chicken — Serves authentic Nashville style hot chicken. Recently featured in the Washingtonian as one of the 62 best new restaurants around DC and winner of the 2019 Cheap Eats, this hot chicken joint is quickly growing in popularity. Opened earlier this year by 24-year old Chief Minwoo, the restaurant’s secret is offering authentic Nashville style hot chicken from antibiotic free, free-ranged chickens. When scouting a location for his restaurant, Minwoo received a recommendation on the business park through mutual friends of his parents and after learning more about the area fell in love with the town of Herndon. If you love delicious chicken it is well worth a visit!

Instagram: @workrowan

  • Rowan Tree — Women-centered coworking and cogrowth community. Founded to provide wellness, creativity, and community for women in the suburbs. The first female focused co-working space in Northern Virginia it’s founders Amy and Kate wanted to provide a co-working space that also offers personal and professional growth workshops and classes for local women without having to travel into DC . Their airy, open-concept with private conference rooms offer a variety of workspace options, and a second-story loft serves as a quiet space for those who want to hunker down and get work done. Proximity to the W&OD trail and shops, along with easy access are big reasons why they selected the space, and the strong small business community in the business park has been icing on the cake. Their refreshment bar serves Weird Brothers coffee and tea from the Elden Street Tea shop.

Instagram: @nused_fashion

  • N’Used — Upscale consignment shop that offers designer and name brand women’s clothing. Started in 2011 by Rosemary when a house fire prompted her to donate many of the salvaged clothes, she settled on the Sunset Business Park after she saw the foot traffic from the neighboring dance and karate studios. She wanted to provide a place mom’s could spend an hour while kids attended class. It’s now a fantastic little upscale consignment shop where you can find quality name-brand clothing, jewelry, and accessories. Her business also serves the community through local events and provides a green way to reuse high end clothing in the affluent Northern Virginia area. Drop-in next time you are in the area and say hi to Rosemary and the ladies, the community is one of a kind!
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