City Paper is not for tourists
Alexandria’s Society Fair has been a social hub for epicureans since it opened in 2012. But now the one-stop-shop where you can have a meal, build an edible gift basket, shop for meats and cheeses, and throw a party is in financial trouble.
Current proprietors Dan Fisher and Nadine Brown have started a GoFundMe page, hoping to raise $50,000, which they think amounts to “enough breathing room” to prevent Society Fair from closing on Feb. 6. The memo on the crowdsourcing website is bitingly honest.
“This is a[n] unforgiving business at times and we have made mistakes,” it reads. “Many mistakes over the years. But we believe we have a great product and good will left in the community and many more coconut cakes to share with the world.”
It also notes that the restaurant lost key staff and suffered from the government shutdown.
Brown tells City Paper about other pain points: “The menu didn’t change enough; there’s a new Taco Bell Cantina around the corner that’s selling $6 slushies that’s packed; and there’s an identity crisis.” She explains that Society Fair tries to do so much under one roof. “We do weddings and cakes and catering, wine bar, wine shop, butcher counter … Some of that has to change.”
Neighbors first learned of the possible closure when the restaurant and market turned up on an auction site. Brown says she’s in the process of putting a stop to the auction, should they raise enough money to continue operating and make necessary changes. The sudden potential closure stems from from an unnamed investor who Brown says pulled out of his restaurant investments.
Brown says the high rent and high square footage are also problematic especially because much of the space is dedicated to the kitchen; Society Fair makes a good deal of its products in house.
Brown and Fisher bought Society Fair from EatGoodFood Group about a year ago. The pair are married. Brown, who serves as the general manager, comes off a long stint as the sommelier at Charlie Palmer Steak, and Fisher is the head chef and butcher.
Original proprietor Meshelle Armstrong of EatGoodFood Group explains that she and her husband Cathal Armstrong opened Society Fair after guests from Restaurant Eve were calling hoping to purchase items like breads and charcuterie. “So it made sense, to create a little fair for food lovers,” Meshelle says. “Alexandrians loved it and supported it from the onset and still do.”
Brown agrees. “There’s a lot of good will in Old Town.”
Society Fair, 277 S Washington St., Alexandria; (703) 683-3247; societyfair.net