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Discover Western Prince William April 2019
6
Shortly after they began
cooking and selling
crabs out of a trailer in
Dranesville, VA, Rodney
and Cora Stringer
decided they wanted to
make a true business
out of it. They found
a former mom-and-
pop eatery called Blue
Ridge Farm Restaurant
on southbound 29
in Gainesville. The
Stringers took on
ownership, refurbished
it, and renamed it
Blue
Ridge Seafood. The
couple had never run
a restaurant before, and when they first
opened, they thought they'd be lucky to
last five years.
Fast forward four decades...
That's right. This summer marks the 40th
anniversary of Blue Ridge Seafood, now
managed by the Stringers' daughter,
Donna Donovan, and her husband Mark.
It remains a true family business since the
Donovans' son Kyle also works there full-
time as well as their nephew Stephen--
that's three generations--and there's a
fourth generation in training!
Donna has been involved with the restaurant
for nearly its entire existence--38 years.
As is common with most family businesses,
she has served in every capacity--cooking,
serving, managing, and more. She met
Mark at Napoleon's, a former Warrenton
restaurant, while both of them were dining
with their own friends. She told Mark
that she worked at "Blue Ridge," but not
knowing there was a restaurant with that
name, he initially sought her out at Blue
Ridge Hardware--formerly on Main Street
in Old Town Warrenton--before eventually
finding her at Blue Ridge Seafood. Even
before they married in 1986, Rodney asked
Mark to come on board at the restaurant,
and he has never looked back.
When the restaurant first opened, there
were five items on the menu. Today, there
are 20 appetizers, several soup and salad
options, more than a dozen sandwich
and taco choices, tons of "surf" and "turf"
entrees, and homemade desserts--truly
something for everyone. Although the
menu has expanded over the years,
some things don't change--like their clam
chowder and crab cake recipes, and hand-
breading items to order.
The Donovans continue to be picky about
what is served, seeking out domestic
products as much as possible. The local
blue crab season just began, but when
they're not in season here, they obtain
them from Texas, Louisiana, and Florida.
Shrimp are wild caught in the Gulf of
Mexico, and Alaskan crab legs, sourced
from Dutch Harbor, are just a couple
customer favorites. In fact, the restaurant
serves about 36,000 pounds of shrimp and
40,000 crab legs each year! If seafood isn't
your thing, don't worry. You'll find steak,
chicken, ribs, and even quail and frog legs
on the menu, and Donna is seeking to add
vegetarian options too.
Blue Ridge Seafood is known for more than
its delicious food. It's a truly welcoming
environment for everyone, with seating
in the main restaurant, the T.V. room
(complete with paper-covered picnic tables
for kids to draw on), and during warmer
months, outdoors at the tiki bar. It has a
dedicated following of customers who
know that the staff cares for them and will
go above and beyond to make their dining
experience an outstanding one.
Rodney and Cora retired 20 years ago,
but during visits back to the restaurant
they launched 40 years ago, they are
amazed that it's still going strong and love
when they occasionally run into a longtime
customer. "We're grateful for the loyalty of
our great staff and lovely customers," Cora
says.
"We're looking to be around a lot longer,"
Mark says. "We have amazing community
support." Mother's Day is right around the
corner, and it's one of the restaurant's
busiest days--treat your mom to a special
meal. In addition to dining in, their menu
items are available for pick-up and coming
soon--food trailers! To learn more, call
(703) 754-9852.
B u s i n e s s
Profile
Blue Ridge Seafood:
A Tasty Catch for 40 Years!
~ Nancy Griffin-Bonnaire
Kyle, Mark & Donna Donovan
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