One of Virginia's finest inns and restaurants, the historic Joshua Wilton House can be found in "Old Town" Harrisonburg, Virginia, in the heart of the
Shenandoah Valley. This Inn features five rooms furnished with restored period antiques and reproductions and a restaurant serving award winning meals that
change with the seasons.
Joshua Wilton, the original owner and builder of the house, was born in England and raised in Canada. He was the President of the First Virginia Bank and a pillar of the community. He was also instrumental in bringing electricity to the Harrisonburg area of the Shenandoah Valley. In 1888 Mr. Wilton completed the construction of the house for his family and it included hand carved mantels and faux-marble slate fireplaces. Today his portrait still hangs in the front foyer. The Wilton family occupied the home for about 40 years and in the 1970’s the house served as the TKE fraternity house until it was sold and converted into apartments. In 1986 restoration work began to bring the House back to its original grandeur while adding a restaurant kitchen, sunroom and brick patio. The Joshua Wilton House Inn and Restaurant opened for business in May of 1988 on the one-hundredth anniversary of the house’s construction. Over the last 20 years it has served as a fine dining restaurant and bed and breakfast; the first of its kind in Harrisonburg.
Ann Marie Coe, Mark Newsome and Sean Pugh first came to the Shenandoah Valley to attend James Madison University. After graduating from JMU Ann Marie began a six year career as a special education teacher while Sean and Mark pursued careers at the Joshua Wilton House. Then, in 2001, Ann Marie & Mark began to explore the possibility of developing a new restaurant in the area and were directed to the local SCORE office for help. There they met with a counselor, who in turn brought them to the JMU SBDC for intensive business planning. The couple had an excellent background in the restaurant business; Mark was an Executive Chef and Ann Marie had worked as innkeeper and host at the Joshua Wilton House.
The Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) and the Small Business Development Centers are both SBA resource partners dedicated to entrepreneur education and training. There are 10 SCORE Chapters and 30 SBDC centers located in Virginia.
Throughout 2002 and 2003, Anne Marie and Mark worked with the SBDC to turn dreams of owning their own restaurant into reality by first developing a business plan. The SBDC connected them with the Economic Development and Downtown Renaissance offices in Harrisonburg as well as several lenders. Several locations in the area were considered and tested for feasibility as their business plan was continuously revised and updated. At the end of 2003 the owner of the Joshua Wilton House decided to sell and they were in an excellent position to take advantage of the opportunity. At this juncture they decided to ask Sean Pugh, General Manager of the Inn, to join them in this venture.
In 2004 they successfully acquired the business and property with the help of a loan from Rockingham National Bank and a SBA 504 Certified Development Company (CDC) Loan for the building and land. The Certified Development Company Loan Program is a long-term financing tool for economic development within a community. The program provides growing businesses with fixed-rate financing for major fixed assets, such as land and buildings with an emphasis on job creation and economic development for the community.
Since the business acquisition the new owners have continued the tradition of old world charm and four star services, with locally grown food that has always been the Joshua Wilton House trademark. Mark stated recently that “it's nice to make these relationships in your local community and it keeps the local economy going as well.” In addition he said, “From an economic standpoint and a community standpoint we have a great area here for local produce. We get locally-raised chickens, eggs, beef and pork; it's a great farming area. I couldn't be in a better place, the quality is the best."
The journey to entrepreneurship for Mr. James T. Jefferson started behind a backhoe, laboring at opening and closing the final earthly resting places of community folks. He was hired mostly by local funeral homes. Honesty and hard work were his guiding ethics 16 years ago when he started on this journey as well as now as President of Southside Grave & Vault/Newsom Monument Company located at 3447 Wilkerson Road, Skipwith, Virginia 23968 (rural Mecklenburg County). Newsom Monument Co is located at 15450 Highway 47, Chase City, Virginia.
“We, my wife Willie Anna and I, started part-time and grew the business, one customer at a time” reflects Mr. Jefferson. Customer care and service are the
fundamental tools for their success and the company sought referrals from each completed job. Before long their customer list stretched to over thirty funeral homes in Southside Va. and North Carolina. In late 1999 he landed a Trigard burial vault franchise in Mecklenburg County Va. Trigard is one of the four major brands of concrete burial vaults. Mr. Jefferson currently installs the vaults he manufacture in ninety eight percent of the graves he opens and close as well as providing vault services to other areas.
An opportunity to purchase Newsom Monument Company surfaced in 2006 and Mr. Jefferson first sought help from the Longwood SBDC South Boston branch and was furthered assisted by Southside Business Technology Center. Longwood SBDC in coordination with federal, state, local and private-sector resources and through a cooperative agreement with SBA provides business counseling assistance. Their business clients in turn, promote economic development in local communities like Chase City and Mecklenburg County. Businesses served include Southside Grave & Vault Co. employing ten individuals. SBDCs meet the counseling and training needs of 650,000 start-ups or existing business clients annually. Based on the client needs, SBDC’s tailor their services to meet the evolving needs of the small business community.
South Boston Branch of Longwood Small Business Development Center first provided one-on-one counseling to Southside Grave & Vault Company in 2003
addressing concerns like reducing expenses such as escalating fuel costs, establishing a variety of suppliers and writing its business plan. This had to be done in a slowing economy while being sensitive to keeping costs down whenever possible. Ways to demonstrate how profitability can be improved were put down on paper. Through the assistance provided in the business plan, Southside Grave and Vault Company became interest in acquiring Newsom Monument Company in a neighboring town of Chase City. This business was purchased in 2007.
Southside Grave & Vault, Inc/Newsom Monument Company is a candidate for 2009 Minority Small Business Champion of the Year. It is a Trigard franchise dealer,
one of the four major brands of burial vaults, serving a 100 mile radius. The businesses currently employ ten.
Through planning initiatives, counseling, implementation, and despite hard times, Mr. Jefferson forecast is blossoming. “We obtain as much business as our current
resources allow.” Southside Grave & Vault Company/Newsom Monument Company continues to build relationships with new customers and other suppliers and the Longwood Small Business Development Company. James and Willie Anna Jefferson have volunteered from time to time to be speakers at “How to Start a Small Business” seminars sharing their first hand experience. Mincing no words, his list is short: “Do your homework. Know your service. Know how to reach the customer. And, very important, know your competition.” This list has paved the journey to success for Southside Grave & Vault Company.
Executive Protection Systems (EPS), of Winchester, Va. is a small, service-disabled, veteran-owned business and a provider of emergency preparedness solutions. Dedicated to providing the highest level of customer service and ensuring America’s businesses are kept safe during emergency situations, EPS turned the tragedy of 9-11 into a successful business.
The company, which began in 2001, was founded by Michael Guevremont, a service-disabled veteran, and Mark Miller, who also served in the military. They previously worked together in the White House and were involved in the protection of the President and his staff. In the beginning, the company started as a security consulting firm with only two consultants in a small office. EPS now has 26 employees under the umbrella of Executive Protection Systems (EPS), an all hazards emergency preparedness company providing equipment, installation and communications as well as training and consulting services. EPS is also the largest supplier of emergency escape hoods in the country. Although Mark has since retired, the business is still owned and operated by Michael and Darla Guevremont, as well as new owner Steve Howe, who joined them as CFO in 2004.
After the events of 9-11, Mike and Mark decided to start a company utilizing their previous military expertise and got off and running with the guidance of the Lord Fairfax Small Business Development Center (SBDC), and a $50,000 loan from United Bank utilizing the SBA 7(a) loan guaranty program. Under the SBA’s 7(a) Loan Program, the agency’s primary lending program, the SBA provides a loan guaranty for small businesses unable to secure financing on reasonable terms through normal lending channels. These loans are provided through a number of banks and other lending institutions. SBA guarantees a portion of the loan to the lender, reducing their risk and allowing them to make some loans they would otherwise be unable to make. The eligibility requirements under this program are designed to be as broad as possible in order to accommodate the most diverse variety of small business financing needs, including start up funding.
With combined experience of well over 30 years in Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and High-Yield Explosives preparedness and logistics planning, EPS has developed numerous strategic partnerships in defense, information technology, environmental, industrial and medical safety fields, all of which helped them to provide customizable leading edge safety solutions with workable plans and proven methods for most industries and businesses today.
EPS is quite unique in the field of Emergency Preparedness and Safety. While many other businesses may offer similar products and services, very few provide the full range that is provided by EPS. The EPS staff is not afraid of getting their hands dirty and actually doing the work bigger companies will not touch. When they see a need in the community and try to fill it. The business offers expertise in safety and security to help everyone from the President of the United States down to the homeowner, offering each the same level of customer service.
Success, however, did not come without its challenges. From the beginning, EPS consulted with Bill Sirbaugh of the Lord Fairfax SBDC in Middletown VA. The Small Business Development Center (SBDC), a resource partner of the U.S. Small Business Administration, is a network of 30 centers throughout the Commonwealth which provides guidance and assistance to help businesses grow and prosper.
Named to Inc. Magazine’s Top 500 lists for the fastest growing privately owned companies in the country for both 2007 and 2008, they were also ranked #5 on the Virginia Fantastic 50 list of fastest growing privately held companies. The EPS staff gives back to the community by participating in local school programs mentoring young men and women, and hosting career workshop forums for students and teachers. They are also active in local councils, boards and other clubs thus providing unique and helpful services to the community. Several staff members are volunteers for the local Greenwood Fire Department. Whatever the future holds, EPS stands ready to provide protection.