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  • Writer's pictureRobert Currer

History of Service: Military & Military Family Businesses Continue to Serve in Modern Occoquan

Updated: Jul 8, 2023

At the far end of Mill Street stands a humble house built of rough-cut mortared stone and a shingled roof. Outside, the Stars and Stripes wave proudly in the breeze running up the river. Standing since before a time when there were only thirteen stars on the flag, the Mill House remains a testament to a small town that once fed the Revolution on grain and saw action in the Civil War.

Today the mill stands no longer, but the town has continued its grand tradition of service in the multitude of military-owned and military family-owned businesses which have made their homes in Historic Occoquan.

Community Service

“Mayberry by the river,” joked George Reilly when asked what he loves most about the town. George, the founder of Safe Harbor Financial Advisors, LLC and Reilly Law, PLC, is a retired veteran of the United States Navy with over two decades of service. His businesses offer estate planning services, but he prefers to think of it as “peace of mind planning” which focuses on an integrated approach to financial, legal, and tax program services to ensure all aspects of his clients’ estates are cared for. “I wanted to return to… comprehensive client work aimed at average folks, not just high net worth clients.”

This sentiment of service is echoed by Christina Enstice, local business owner and the spouse of a retired Marine Corps officer. Her business, Be Always Beautiful Boutique, provides permanent makeup services focused on highlighting the natural beauty of her clients. When asked what excited her most about her business she said, “The happiness it brings to [my clients] … They often see themselves in a new and improved way which is extremely rewarding to me.”

Merial Currer also emphasized the importance of service to the community. “The Navy has been good to us, and we wanted to give something back,” she said. Merial owns Patriot Scuba, a scuba diving shop on the river, with her husband, a retired submarine officer. “My husband learned to dive while at the Naval Academy and my background is business. When he retired, we wanted to do something we could build together so a dive shop seemed like a natural fit. It wasn’t until after we opened that we realized how much diving programs benefited injured veterans and over the last ten years, providing that benefit has become central to our business.”

Through their focus on service to the community and their customers, businesses like these have become pillars in the Occoquan community, building the sort of place where both new and established can come together.

Putting Down Roots

One of the sacrifices of military life is the constant transition from duty station to duty station, often resulting in uprooting one’s family and replanting in a new and unfamiliar place. In Occoquan, many military and military family-owned businesses make up for that by actively rooting themselves in the community.

“Our focus is on forming relationships with our customers, listening to their stories, and hearing what they are trying to overcome physically, spiritually, or emotionally,” said Petra Carden. Petra moved to Occoquan in 2018 with her husband, an active duty soldier in the United States Army. After falling in love with the town, she opened her own business, Leaf & Petal, in 2021 which focuses on loose leaf tea and natural healing remedies. When asked about the best part of her business, Petra effused, “My customers! Seriously, I have met so many amazing people… Having a peaceful place to serve the community has been amazing and I am always excited to walk through the doors [of Leaf & Petal].”

Twenty-year Marine Corps veteran Traci Hoffman and active-duty spouse Garrett have continued the legacy of another military family in the form of their vintage treasures store, Glory Be. Traci and Garrett bought the store from the founders, an Army family, and have kept the dream running. When asked why Occoquan, Traci answered, “We love the small-town atmosphere and the way everyone works together to make Occoquan one of the best little towns in America!”

Army veteran Denise Ormsby also waxed nostalgic about her dreams of putting down community roots. “On my husband and my first date, we talked ‘what if?’ … Both of us said, we wanted to own a neighborhood hangout. Fast forward 10 years later and we’ve made our dream come true.” The Spot On Mill Street, the culmination of their dream, opened two-and-a-half years ago as an impressively stocked bar, award-winning coffee shop, and relaxing eatery all in one.

Past and Present

Occoquan's proud history of military support lives on today in businesses like these. Some, like Patriot Scuba, have been serving the town for over a decade while others, like Leaf & Petal, are moving into their second year. Yet, the cycle of military members and their families supporting the community continues in one of the Occoquan’s grandest, oldest traditions.

If you too would like to support one of America’s historic communities, consider stopping by any of these military-owned and military family-owned local businesses:

Stop in today to show your support for those who have given so much to this historic community.

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