When I moved to Western Loudoun 14 years ago, you couldn’t buy a stitch of clothing anywhere this side of the outlet mall in Leesburg. Not so much as a tee shirt or a pair of socks. And if you wanted rain gear, or a headlamp, or a water bottle, or any piece of equipment conducive to outdoor life on the Blue Ridge, you had to go all the way to Reston. I looked and looked, and then I hoped and hoped that someone would see the mercantile connection between the Appalachian Trail, which is ten miles west of Purcellville, and the rapid influx of people who might want to buy stuff to use on the trail, or on the Shenandoah River, or in the woods behind their houses. Wasn’t that why many of those people had moved to the country? Years passed. Eventually, I quit hoping and started spending my equipment money in Winchester.
Well, thanks to Chuck and Cindy Izzo, — many thanks! — I don’t have to do that anymore. They’ve tucked a first-class outfitter into a charming space under the old mill by the railroad tracks — their upstairs neighbor is Magnolias.
I hadn’t thought to look there.
Among other things, Appalachian Outdoor Readiness & Essentials offers the largest selection of Kuhl clothing I’ve seen anywhere except online. They sell plasticized topographical maps, solar chargers that fit in your pocket, and carbon-fiber hatchets that are light enough to carry in your pack and heavy enough to cut through your car door. Parachute cord that doubles as fire-starter if you un-weave the outer sheath? They have that. They also have water purifiers, sleeping bags, and essential oils. And socks.
Chuck and Cindy come to the outdoor equipment business from a background that’s not what many people naturally associate with boots and backpacks: the army. Both of them are veterans who saw tours of duty in Iraq, where their knowledge of Arabic made them especially valuable. They came to the Washington area to put their language skills and service experience to work in the intelligence industry. After Chuck’s employer was acquired by a large conglomerate which wanted him to spend most of his time on Capitol Hill, he and Cindy decided to turn their passions into an unusual business venture: not just gear for outdoor recreation, which is basically a way to have fun, but also supplies and suggestions for enduring circumstances that are the opposite of fun.
“While some stores focus only on selling outdoor products, Appalachian Outdoor Readiness & Essentials adds the emergency readiness and disaster preparedness factor to the mix,” their website explains. Cindy sees their store as an endeavor in yin and yang “because Chuck’s side deals with being prepared in the physical sense while [my] side takes care of preparedness in terms of health and wellness.”
The Izzos have found that many people who enjoy outdoor activities are also interested in natural wellness techniques, such as the use of essential oils. “That also applies for people who are into emergency preparedness,” Cindy says, “because the essential oils enable them to truly manage and be in control of their own wellness. It’s really been a great fit.”
In addition to courses in wilderness first aid and survival, Chuck offers disaster readiness assessments. “We look at sources of water available, the structures on the site, as well as the location of the site in relation to risk variables like flood plains, major evacuation or migration routes, potential hazardous areas, etc. We then make recommendations designed to enhance emergency preparedness for either evacuation or sheltering in place.”
And in June, Chuck and Cindy will begin serving as GCF’s newest Public Group Site — the only site west of Catoctin Circle in Leesburg.