Business Briefs: July 2017

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Carl Zovko of ZSP Crossfit, newly opened in Crozet Shopping Center. Photo: Theresa Curry.

CrossFit comes to Crozet

Those wishing to get in shape, stay in shape or balance their athletic performance welcome Carl Zovko as the owner and coach of ZSP CrossFit, which opened last month in the Crozet Shopping Center. With a doctorate in physical therapy, Zovko works at PT Plus full time. “So, for now, our open hours are set before and after work: 6 and 7 a.m.; and 6:30 p.m.,” he said.

ZSP is in the west end of the shopping center, the old home of BB&T. The space still has the bank vault in the corner, but the rest of the space has been freshly painted, carpeted and outfitted with appropriate fitness gear.

Zovko used the initials ZSP (for Zovko Sports Performance) once he found that “Crozet CrossFit” was already taken. “Maybe that business is in France, or maybe it will show up here later,” he said.

Right now, his clients are mostly new to CrossFit, a patented brand of functional fitness. “Because the training is so hands-on, most people who start with a gym develop a loyalty and stick with it,” he said. “That’s as it should be.” He was surprised from the first when more than twice as many clients as he expected showed up.

How did they know about him? “Well, remember, this is Crozet,” said Zovko, who lives here in Bargamin Park. “My landlady knew about it before I even told anyone.” The interdisciplinary nature of the training is a big part of what he finds appealing. “Every day is different,” he said. “In each hour-long session, we spend a long time warming up; from 15 minutes to a half-hour in intense exercise, and then a stretch and cool down. Athletes can track their workouts electronically at the studio.

Most important, said Zovko, is that people don’t have to be at a certain level to begin. He’s always there, ready to modify, demonstrate or assist. He asks that someone in doubt about their physical ability, new to fitness, or with certain disabilities come a few minutes early so he can consult with them.

Other clients typically choosing CrossFit are athletes who excel in one discipline. “For instance, you can be an ultra-marathon runner and be too stiff to tie your shoes,” he said. “We can help with that.”

The weeks before and after his opening have been long ones for him. “Obviously, someone who takes on a venture like this has to have the support of his family,” he said. He said he owes a lot of thanks to his wife, Lindsey––a professional photographer––and daughters Lily, 7; and Harper, 5.

From his practice as a physical therapist, Zovko has a deep interest in the impact of movement on fitness and happiness, and is concerned about the nation’s trajectory of poor health. “If you can’t come here, I hope you will go somewhere or do something: just move,” he said.

Vines in late June at King Family Vineyard. Photo: Theresa Curry.

Local Grapes Thrive After Soggy Spring

There’s a saying among Virginia winemakers that it’s no harder to make wine in Virginia than anywhere else, except for the frost, humidity and hurricanes. To some degree, all three of these challenges were factors in the 2016 season.

Late frost is the worst, said Sarah Craun of Stinson Vineyards in White Hall. “It damages the buds to the point where you lose the grapes.” Brooks Hoover, vineyard manager of Pippin Hill in North Garden, said several varieties were lost to last year’s late frost, which followed weeks of early spring rains.

Humidity’s not easy to contend with either: it’s usually the culprit behind diseases caused by mold and mildew, and although few hurricanes hit here with full force, the heavy rains that reach Virginia during hurricane season cause grapes to swell and bloat.

“It’s a nightmare when this happens,” said Bill Tonkins, Veritas vineyard manager. “The grapes swell and actually split.” It’s the water saturating the grapes, rather than the uptake of water from the earth, that’s the danger, he explained. At Stinson last year, Craun said, grapes were harvested early under threat of rain, with their lack of maturity causing a dilemma for the winemaker.

Luckily, though, said Hoover, every year is different. In spite of the mild winter, which encourages the grapes to bloom early, most local vineyards weren’t too badly affected by central Virginia’s April frost. “We saw a little loss,” said Matthew Brown at King Family Vineyard, “and there were a couple of close calls later, but generally we came out okay.”

Like other vineyards, he said, his vineyard acknowledges that they’re working in a distinctly non-Mediterranean climate and tries to choose grapes that work within that reality. “We’re doing more with Petit Verdot, which does well here,” he said. State wine experts are always on the lookout for grapes more suited to our humid, changeable climate. “We experimented with Petit Verdot years ago as a good Virginia choice,” said Enology Professor Emeritus Dr. Bruce Zoecklein of Virginia Tech. “In my opinion, it’s been rather slow to catch on. King Family and Veritas are doing a good job with it now.”

At Pippin Hill, the very varieties that suffered last year at are doing great, Hoover said. “The vines appreciate a year off.” He specifically mentioned the Chardonnay and Viognier, which came back after last year’s challenges and are thriving better than ever.

At Veritas, Tonkins also mentioned the Viognier (after Chardonnay, Virginia’s most heavily planted white grape.) “This is a variety that’s sometimes a little dodgy, but it’s looking very good now, well ahead of schedule.” Tony Wolf, professor of viniculture at Virginia Tech, said that across the region, Viognier crop levels are notably good.

Vineyard staff acknowledge that it’s way too early to predict the quality of the harvest. Pippin Hill’s Hoover is keeping his eye on El Niño, which can greatly affect rainfall during the growing season and extend the hurricane season by weeks. King Family’s Brown says there are other factors besides the weather to worry about: squirrels, deer, raccoons and birds can be extremely destructive, especially during a drought. Tonkins said that Veritas will know more about the harvest about 30 days before.”This is agriculture, this is Virginia,” said Hoover. “Everything changes.”

Wolf summed it up: “The stage is set for a very good crop in 2017, but harvest is too far off to offer more than an optimistic suggestion that the 2017 season is advancing towards another very good season from a quality standpoint. Stay tuned.”

Zella Lund enjoys la paleta de fresa at Las Cabanas. Photo: Theresa Curry

Cold treats sweeten summer

No one need go hungry for a sweet bite of something cold this month. At Las Cabanas on Rt. 250, owner Maria Garcia has ample frozen stores of paletas, fresh and colorful treats several steps up from ordinary popsicles, with whole chunks of frozen fruit, infusions of chili, bright tropical flavors of lime, guava, mango, yellow cherry, mamey and coconut, many made in Charlottesville at La Flor Michoacana. Other frozen treats incorporate cookies, rice pudding and eggnog.

Maria Garcia offers many varieties of las paletas at Las Cabanas. Photo: Theresa Curry.

Across the road, Brianna and Austin Robbins, who operate the food truck Braised at Pro Re Nata, have whipped up a cold Whoopie Pie, a luscious homemade sandwich of cookies and cold, stout-flavored buttercream, providing`a sweet ending for dessert lovers at the brewery.

At Crozet Creamery, manager Erik Schetlick created a United States of Cream flavor for July 4, with red velvet chocolate providing a nice contrast with two shades of vanilla. By the end of the month, he hopes to be able to offer pints of Creamery ice cream, once he’s able to freeze the dessert cold enough for folks to transport it home.

A few miles away at the Batesville Store you’ll find a freezer full of Trickling Spring ice cream, a rich, small-batch brand the store imports from a specialty maker in Pennsylvania. “One bite and I knew I had to offer it here,” said owner Alex Struminger. Hard-to-resist flavors like salted caramel, fresh blueberry, chip and mint, and Indonesian vanilla are popular, but store employee Kim Eastep singled out the vanilla with grape nuts. “My grandparents used to sprinkle grapenuts on their ice cream,” she said. “I was amazed to find it already made that way.”

Tax break favors charitable farmers

Farmers now have another reason to make sure extra produce goes to deserving families. In 2016 the Virginia General Assembly established a donation tax credit for food growers who donate a portion of their crops to a nonprofit food bank. The amount of the credit is 30 percent of the fair market value of the donation, with a limit of $5,000. If farmers owe less than the amount of the credit they’re due, they can carry the credits over for as many as five years.

Abena Foreman-Trice of the Blue Ridge Food Bank, which oversees this area, said the Food Bank processed $10,000 in tax credits in 2016, and that so far in 2017, it’s processed $12,000, a healthy chunk of the state-wide total of $35,000 in tax breaks for growers this year.

To qualify, eligible taxpayers submit an application to the Department of Taxation. Foreman-Trice said the intent of the local Food Bank is to provide more and greater varieties of fresh produce to neighbors in need. She said the local office is glad to respond to questions about the process at 540-213-8421.

Chickapig board. Photo: Theresa Curry.

Chickapig Shows Up Here

The Chickapig van rolled through western Albemarle last month, making a couple of stops, its last before a national tour to introduce the game to a wider audience. Lovers of the game created by Rockbridge Guitar’s Brian Calhoun, and those new to it, gathered at Starr Hill, where they could sip the newly released “Chickapig pilsner” and learn more about the game from expert Judah Brownstein. The next day, Brownstein parked the colorful Chickapig mobile at the Batesville Store for a special Father’s Day promotion. Munching on chicken and pork quesadillas offered in honor of the game, families tested their strategies while Brownstein answered questions.

Chickapig van parked outside the Batesville Store for Father’s Day fun. Photo: Theresa Curry.

Brownstein’s summer plans coincided perfectly with plans for the popular local game’s market expansion. “I was going to travel out west anyway,” he said. The van is neatly outfitted with living and sleeping space, with plenty of storage for the Chickapig boards and T-shirts. Solar panels on the roof power the overhead fans and run the refrigerator. Brownstein has plenty of qualifications for his stint as a rolling game instructor and purveyor. He was the country’s national high school chess champion in 2000, and more recently lived in close quarters sailing a boat across the Atlantic. He likes the fact that Chickapig, unlike chess, encourages conversation and can engage family members of all ages. Brownstein will introduce the game at stops throughout the prairie states and the northwest and make a loop back again to return in the fall. He leaves behind 12 gardens he started in various places while moving around the Charlottesville area in the van.

Crozet Shopping Center Improvements

New sidewalk and ramps were installed to solve storm water drainage issues. Photo: Allie Pesch.

A great deal of work was recently completed in the parking lot of the shopping center to fix the drainage problem that has plagued the tenants for some time, said Sharon Plemmons, who helps manage the property for owners Mark Green and Kurt Wassenaar. She was referring to the flood-like conditions that have occurred in the past during hard rains, sometimes causing water inside the shops themselves. Extensive engineering and architectural work in advance of the improvement should ensure that the water now drains as it should, Plemmons said.

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