Story and photos by Elaine Anne Watt
Sheila Johnson has had a very good month. As part owner of Monumental Sports & Entertainment, she shared the Washington Capitals’ thrilling Stanley Cup Victory with friends and rabid fans throughout the area. The Ford’s Theatre Society bestowed their prestigious annual Lincoln Medal upon her, recognizing her outstanding achievements and personal attributes as best exemplifying the courage and legacy of President Abraham Lincoln. The Trust for the National Mall formally announced her as a Board member.
But for those of us in Middleburg, perhaps the most significant win has been the reopening of our beloved Market Salamander, stocked with more goodies, offering a tantalizing array of new food-on-the-go options, and with a redesigned interior and exterior that feels spacious and more intimate at the same time.
As with many successful individuals, Johnson has a knack for attracting and surrounding herself with great teams. At Market Salamander, Jacob Musyt, director of food & beverage for Salamander Resort & Spa, Ryan Arensdorf, executive chef for Salamander Resort & Spa, and the newly appointed chef for the market, Anthony O’Connor, worked together to effect the transformation.
After Reggie Cooper, general manager of Salamander Resort & Spa, welcomed the festive crowd thoroughly enjoying the complimentary food and champagne at the reopening party on June 14, Johnson waxed a bit reflective on the history of the market and why it was time for a change.
“This building used to be an old gun shop, and before that it was a home. There was a confederate flag hanging in the window, and it was offensive to me,” said Johnson. “So, I bought the building, and I knew just what I wanted to do with it. In those days, there was no place to go after soccer with the kids to pick up some chicken and macaroni and cheese.”
Market Salamander became a local venture into the hospitality industry for Johnson with its opening in 2004. Now with its renovation complete, it is intended to be a part of the Salamander Resort & Spa, with one seamless operation to offer food and beverage services to resort guests, residents and visitors alike. With a full array of catering services, making arrangements for tailgating, day-trips or a grand affair fits comfortably within their capabilities.
“We wanted to offer more grab-and-go options, more creative offerings,” said Cooper. “We wanted an attractive space for corporate meetings or special dinners which we now have up above [on the second floor].”
Johnson emphasized that though it’s been “a very long haul. I’m so happy to have brought this project to fruition to show everyone how amazing this town is. We had to show what can be done with all these empty storefronts by investing in the town and bringing it even more to life. My hope is that it will inspire people to do other things in town.”
Looking around at all the locally sourced items and the cases brimming with healthy but satisfying selections, you can be assured of finding something appealing to your taste. I grabbed a friend so that we could each have half of a Virginia Gent, bourbon-pecan chicken salad with bacon, lettuce and tomato on toasted multigrain bread, and a Low & Slow BBQ Pulled Pork delight, with tangy sauce and Commonwealth Coleslaw on a sesame seed bun. A scrumptious Red Velvet cupcake topped off the meal.
And in case you were worried, the mac and cheese is still on the menu. ML