Extraordinary Alexandria Bios
The backbone of Extraordinary Alexandria are the residents who personify the word extraordinary by the level of commitment and pride they take in the city. Their local style, flavor and passion create the heartbeat of Alexandria and gives the city a pulse. In order to bring the brand to life more than 70 Alexandrians participated in the photo and video shoot, combining their unique talents and creative energy together for expressions that exude extraordinary. Some of those Extraordinary Alexandrians included:
Chef Cathal Armstrong - Culinary Genius
Chef-owner, Restaurant Eve, Eamonn's A Dublin Chipper, Society Fair and the Majestic
Alexandria boasts the finest in culinary experiences; however, Chef Cathal Armstrong brings to this vibrant city a unique epicurean flair entirely his own. Born and raised in Ireland, he had the good fortune to assist his father in the family's fruit and vegetable garden, which helped shaped his philosophy that nature embodies perfection. This ultimately inspired him to develop strong values for fresh ingredients and organic products; one could say Armstrong's fervent passion for healthy cuisine is innate. In April, 2004, he and his wife Meshelle found their niche in Alexandria where they opened "Restaurant Eve," a modern American restaurant with French, Spanish and Irish influences. This was followed in 2006 by "Eamonn's: A Dublin Chipper," a fish and chips shop, and PX, a cocktail-driven speakeasy lounge. The Armstrongs also restored the Majestic in Old Town Alexandria, featuring Virginia-inspired fare. As the proprietor of the Eat Good Food Group, Chef Cathal Armstrong was honored in 2006 as one of the "10 Best New Chefs" by Food & Wine Magazine and Star Chefs Rising Star by Star Chefs Magazine for his ardent commitment to respecting the land and sourcing locally, and his culinary accomplishments. In 2007 and 2008, he was a James Beard Foundation "Best Mid-Atlantic Chef" nominee. Chef Armstrong's debut cookbook, My Irish Table (available Spring 2014), chronicles his journey from Dublin to DC, and how he became an internationally-recognized four star chef and White House Champion of Change, as well as a leader in the sustainable food movement. To the city's credit, Chef Cathal Armstrong, a multi-lingual chef versed in five languages, is another name on its list of Extraordinary Alexandrians, bringing out the absolute best in dining.
Todd Thrasher - Master of Mixology
Co-owner-mixologist, PX Lounge
A Virginia native, Todd Thrasher is known for creating perfectly balanced libations and liquid art concoctions crafted with care. Starting in the restaurant business from the young age of 15, Thrasher, co-owner and mixologist at PX Lounge and sommelier at Restaurant Eve, knew that his home was in the restaurant industry. Taking a chef-like approach and leading with the "spirit" of innovation, this liquid savant often incorporates foams, hot and cold airs and savory techniques into his unique cocktails. The PX Lounge, a romantic and sophisticated 1920's speakeasy-style establishment, was born out of Thrasher's creative mind. The highly acclaimed lounge has received many awards and honors including a listing on GQ magazine's list of "Top 10 Cocktail Bars in America" and Food & Wine's "50 Best Bars in America" list. From brewing his own tonics and making homemade seasonal bitters, to hand-squeezing juices, Todd is passionate about creating a signature experience unlike any other. At Restaurant Eve, Thrasher leads a team of exceptional sommeliers focused on ensuring every glass of wine is perfectly paired with each dish while offering cocktails featuring his exclusive blend of ingredients. With over 24 years of bartending experience and a genuine passion for libations, Todd Thrasher is a relentless innovator, a master of his craft and an Extraordinary Alexandrian.
Jody Manor - Local Entrepreneur Extraordinaire
Owner, Bittersweet Catering, Cafe and Bakery and the Waterfront Market
Paving the way for renewal at the waterfront by opening the new Waterfront Market as a place for locals, boaters and visitors to congregate, lifelong Alexandrian Jody Manor is a modern legend in the city for creating dishes from scratch for the past 30 years at his café Bittersweet, building it into an Old Town institution. A charismatic and influential leader in the Alexandria community, Manor has worked in the restaurant business since the age of 14. He has learned how to be an innovator and to maintain consistent crowds at Bittersweet, successfully branching out from his original six-employee take-out to a full service café & bakery with more than 40 employees. He credits his company's success to the loyal customer base that appreciates the level of consistency the team provides and the use of recipes that are an amalgam of Bittersweet cooks past and present. Always focused on improving Alexandria and making a positive impact in the community, Jody's newest endeavor, the Waterfront Market, a combination market and restaurant, brings new life on the city's waterfront as it's on the verge of a major transformation. Taking advantage of Alexandria's prime location on the Potomac, his establishment offers outdoor seating, building a more usable and attractive waterfront. Manor's innate knowledge of Alexandria, as well as his ability to stay abreast with culinary trends, has made him a local favorite with loyal customers who return day in and day out. Extraordinary Alexandrian, Jody Manor, the Visit Alexandria 2013 Chairman of the Board, is dedicated to the city and to improving the experience of locals and visitors alike.
Eric Nelson - Chancellor of Chocolate
Owner, Artfully Chocolate
Creativity, determination and the desire to welcome change are the driving forces behind the successes of Alexandrian Eric Nelson. Formerly an international lobbyist with a bachelor and masters degree in Economics, Nelson embraced the dynamic, creative spirit of Alexandria and decided to pursue his passion of becoming a professional artist. He settled in the progressive and artsy neighborhood of Del Ray, a community that is extremely supportive of the arts and filled with unique shops and restaurants - the perfect venue for displaying his artwork. Having sold over 200 original pieces, Nelson has developed unique painting techniques, applying translucent acrylics to a mirrored substrate, creating the impression of light emanating from within the paintings. Also working with glass tiles to create the illusion of movement in mosaics, his artwork is vibrant and colorful, adding a vitality and light that has made his pieces a favorite amongst buyers. In 2006, Nelson opened Artfully Chocolate, an eclectic storefront featuring an amalgamation of delectable and award-winning blended cups of hot cocoa named for famous Hollywood actresses and beauties. With two locations, the cocoa bars, which have received national accolades for the best hot chocolate in America, are also galleries of his paintings and mosaics where each displayed piece as well as the hand-painted café tables are for sale to art lovers. Involved and passionate about his community, in 2012, Eric, a board member of Visit Alexandria, received the Visit Alexandria's Partner of the Year award for boosting tourism. Eric Nelson, President of the Del Ray Business Association and board member of the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce and the Torpedo Factory Art Center is an inspiration to the entire community and reminds others that it is never too late to follow your dreams.
Tameka Young - Empress of the Runway
Chairwoman and Model, Fashion Night Out Alexandria
Mom, model and entrepreneur, Tameka Young loves wearing heels and strutting her stuff on the catwalk. The wife of Alexandria's City Manager, Young served as the Honorary Chair of the first Fashion Night Out Alexandria (FNOA) in 2012. Embracing the urban sophistication of Alexandria, she and her husband are raising two sons and currently live in the Cameron Station neighborhood. Young has modeled for multiple national and international designers, including Kimora Lee Simmons, Kevan Hall, Farah Angsana, Tommy Hilfiger, Badgley & Mischka, DSW and various major department stores. Young has participated in Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in both New York and LA. With a strong passion for aesthetics and design, combined with an entrepreneurial spirit, Young, alongside members of the FNOA host committee, was applauded for her leadership in promoting the boutiques, restaurants, hotels and art venues in Old Town and Del Ray. Also as a staple in the community, she serves on the board of the Dunbar Alexandria-Olympic Boys & Girls Club, is the Director of the After School Program at Tucker Elementary where she's also a member of the PTA, and is very active in the DMV homeschooling community. Tameka Young is the epitome of sophisticated style, fashion, culture and lifestyle and an Extraordinary Alexandrian.
Elizabeth Todd - A Flair for Fashion
Owner, Shoe Hive
An innovative, trend-setting entrepreneur with a savvy fashion sense, Elizabeth Todd has transformed the boutique scene in Alexandria and put Old Town on the map as a boutique shopping paradise. After moving to the city with her husband in 1999, Elizabeth has since called Alexandria home, never foreseeing a reason to be anywhere else. Inspired by the vibrant neighborhoods filled with entrepreneurial spirits, Todd, who spent the first part of her career as a copywriter, decided to follow her ardent dreams of owning a shoe store. From the moment the doors of Shoe Hive opened, it developed a reputation for showcasing a fashionable collection of elegant designer shoes and providing impeccable service. Serious shoe-lovers throughout the district quickly hailed the Shoe Hive's location in Old Town as a must-see destination for serious shopping excursions. The boutique, which has become a favorite throughout the Washington, DC metropolitan area, is also recognized as an unsurpassed location for bags, jewelry and accessories. With an eye on the entrepreneurial community, Todd and shop owner Kim Putens of Bloomers co-founded the Old Town Boutique District, a marketing collective of locally-owned businesses featuring over 30 unique shops offering one-of-a-kind items and hard-to-find brands. Through her hard work and dedication, she has transformed not only her own shop but the entire Old Town Boutique District into a destination where serious shoppers come to satisfy their cravings. Taking pride in her business and the local community, Elizabeth Todd also is a mother of two who loves her family and Boston terrier, and exemplifies what it means to be an Extraordinary Alexandrian.
Anna Shakeeva - Tsarina of Art
Painter, the Torpedo Factory Art Center
Though she was raised in Russia, and her artwork is recognized across the world, Anna Shakeeva chooses to call Alexandria her creative home base, in a studio at the Torpedo Factory Art Center. Her work, often described as "surreal," reflects a fantastical dreamlike quality largely unrivaled by others in her field, helping upkeep the high quality and renown surrounding one of Alexandria's most respected art hubs. Often created with oil-based paints, Shakeeva's art bursts with dazzling color that calls attention to her keen eye for detail, giving personality and vivacity to the faces depicted in her work. Her portraits, bold in imagery yet wild with imagination, evoke a grandeur and supremacy as strong as her subjects' stature. Each day, visitors of the Torpedo Factory Art Center marvel at Anna Shakeeva's prints and the thousands of minute elements composing them, unknowingly stumbling upon a unique find they won't soon forget.
Torpedo Factory Art Center - Fine Art Powerhouse of Alexandria
A retired factory that once manufactured torpedoes for submarines and aircraft during World War II, the Torpedo Factory Art Center, obtained in 1969 by the City of Alexandria, is now a major hub for unique and exclusive art in the city. Officially opened in May of 1974, the world renowned art center, showcasing three floors of open studios and galleries, attracts approximately 500,000 visitors annually. Located on Alexandria's picturesque Potomac River waterfront, the Torpedo Factory Art Center is home to more than 82 artist studios, filled with those who invite visitors to observe their creative process, ask questions, learn about their art forms and buy original work. These artisans produce dynamic works of art in the forms of paintings, ceramics, photography, jewelry, stained glass, fiber, printmaking and sculptures. Among the artists are studio artists Lisa Schumaier and Chris Erney as well as The Art League's Kurt Schwarz who all participated in the Visit Alexandria brand launch ads. Schumaier specializes in sculpting, primarily ceramic work that is Raku-fired-an ancient Japanese firing technique using recycled materials. Erney, a sculptor as well, enjoys using a variety of materials from terracotta clay to stainless steel, and has sculpted for the U.S. Olympic Team and U.S. Treasury. As a realist painter, Schwarz exhibits his extraordinary skills in still life and landscape paintings. The art center also houses the Alexandria Archeology Museum, where volunteers and students work with citizens and developers to study and manage archaeological resources important to the community's past, as well as The Art League School, which focuses on artistic enrichment and offering classes and workshops in the fine arts to students of all ages and skill levels. With a rich, inviting atmosphere unlike anywhere else, the Torpedo Factory Art Center is the epitome of what makes Alexandria Extraordinary.
Saba Alene - Expert Eye for Art
Owner, St. George Gallery
As an expert in art embodying Ethiopian culture, Saba Alene adds flair to the thriving multi-cultural community that exists in Alexandria. Showcasing the best in Ethiopian art including paintings, crafts, textiles, antiques and furniture as well as interior and personal accessories, Alene brings her Ethiopian heritage to the heart of Old Town Alexandria. The owner of St. George Gallery, her eye for design and love of her native country's traditions brings a truly extraordinary and exclusive art experience to the city. Beginning in 1990 when she opened her first gallery in Ethiopia, Alene has always exhibited an entrepreneurial spirit and a deep commitment to art. She began her career with designing her own furniture line based on traditional Ethiopian style and later diversified by featuring contemporary paintings by local artists. Recognizing her contribution in promoting her country's art and culture, Ethiopian President Girma Wolde-Giorgis presented Alene with the World Intellectual Property Organization's (WIPO) Special Gold Medal Award in 2005. Driven by her passion for art and her desire to educate the international market on the culture of her motherland, she decided to open another gallery in the United States, choosing Alexandria because of its brilliant art scene and diverse culture. Set in an old 1930's home, St. George is now one of the most prestigious galleries of Ethiopian art and antique furniture in the country, drawing visitors such as former U.S. President Bill Clinton. By helping local Ethiopian artists receive exposure in her gallery and passionately advocating for her culture, Alene is an Extraordinary Alexandrian by any definition.
Mayor William D. Euille - Local Leader of Alexandria
Mayor, City of Alexandria
Mayor William D. Euille embodies the very fiber of Alexandria. A native Alexandrian, Euille's many years of untiring dedication, unwavering commitment and personal sacrifice have enhanced the lifestyle of Alexandrians and all who are lured to the ambiance the city exudes. Prior to becoming Alexandria's first African-American Mayor - a position he has held since 2003 - he served as Vice Mayor from 1994 to 2000. Before public office, however, his return to Alexandria after graduating from Quinnipiac University in 1972 resulted in a deep involvement in community affairs and service on numerous boards and organizations touching a wide cross-section of the city including the Alexandria School Board from 1974 to 1984. Through hard work and dedication, Mayor Euille established D. Euille and Associates, a general contracting firm, and created a foundation that annually made huge contributions to dozens of organizations. Throughout the years, Mayor Euille's civic involvement has included the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce, NAACP-Alexandria Chapter, Alexandria YMCA, Alexandria Boys and Girls Club and The American Heart Association. He is an appointed member of the Governor's Council on Virginia's Future and the Urban Policy Task Force. Given his outstanding record of humanitarian service for his city, Mayor Euille has received many accolades and commendations such as Alexandria Chamber of Commerce awards for Outstanding Young Men of America (1995), Philanthropist (2000) and Business Leader of the Year (2001). As an Extraordinary Alexandrian, Mayor Euille has truly made the city "a good place to live, work and raise a family."
Charlotte Hall - Queen of the Rivah
Vice President, Potomac Riverboat Company
Taking pride in serving as a vital part of Alexandria's business community, Charlotte Hall is ecstatic to call Alexandria her home. After moving to the city over 22 years ago, Hall immediately immersed herself in the diverse entrepreneurial community and has committed herself to working towards improving business in Alexandria ever since. For over 20 years, Hall has been the vice president of the Potomac Riverboat Company in Old Town, a family-owned business providing over 30 years of service. William Pollack, the founder and owner of the company, brought Hall to Alexandria and credits her with truly becoming absorbed in the community, beyond her position with PRC. She has served on multiple boards including the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce, Visit Alexandria and the Old Town Business Association, and stood as a voice for business owners throughout the Alexandria community. In 2010, Charlotte was honored at the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce Business Awards Dinner as "Business Leader of the Year" for her unwavering commitment to business improvement in Alexandria. She refers to her relationships with other companies, neighbors, volunteers and Board members as her greatest satisfactions. Known for her great sense of humor and a love for stylish sunglasses, Hall is embraced and respected for her strength and courage to lead others and for serving as an Extraordinary Alexandrian.
Benjamin Fiore-Walker - Town Crier
Town Crier, City of Alexandria
His clear, booming voice certainly helped as Ben Fiore-Walker auditioned to be Alexandria's Town Crier in 2011, but his dedication to the city's history is what sealed the deal. Fiore-Walker, already familiar with donning colonial garb as a volunteer tour guide at Gadsby's Tavern, reigned supreme against a stiff competition of 12 before government officials and heads of city history and tourism boards. His position upholds a longstanding tradition of Town Criers, which predates widespread literacy-it was men in his colonial shoes that would announce news and proclamations to the city, vital for keeping citizens informed. Now, Fiore-Walker's role is purely ceremonial, though an important one to a city that prides itself on its deep, rich history. As Town Crier, Ben appears at official city events like council meetings and holiday parades when he isn't teaching at Georgetown University's School of Medicine during the week. Fiore-Walker, who booked his wedding reception at Alexandria's Lyceum because of his deep-seated interest in the venue's history, represents a significant role in Alexandria's past, and in turn, with his unending devotion to his town, will almost certainly make his mark in the city's future.