Yovanna Reiser opened Chimole in August, billing it as an art gallery that features authentic pieces of Honduran culture. Since then, her business has grown to sell organic Honduran coffees, teas, chocolates, cigars and books, becoming a one-stop shop in downtown Leesburg for anyone to get a taste of Honduras.
There’s no other store like it. Not in Leesburg, Loudoun County, Virginia or the entire United States, according to Honduran Ambassador Jorge Ramón Hernández Alcerro. Reiser, a former information technology professional who quit her job last year to open her dream business, isn’t done adding more layers to Chimole.
In April, Reiser plans to open a wine and tapas lounge just next door, an eatery that will feature local beer, local and international wines and flavors from all over Latin America. The art gallery’s backroom will be used for special events—particularly useful since her business is one of the favorites of the Honduran ambassador—and, someday, she hopes to turn the backyard of her business into a place where people can smoke the hand-rolled Honduran cigars she sells.
“Little by little, I’m going to put all this together,” Reiser said. “If I do it all at once, I’m going to go crazy.”
The next step for Reiser will be getting her licensing—including, she hopes, a liquor license so she can serve cocktails—before a planned opening in April.
In her brief time as the owner of Chimole, Reiser already has gained a high profile, thanks largely to her dedication to Honduran art and culture. Reiser is the daughter of a former Honduran dignitary, Juan Manuel Posse, who is well known in Honduras for nurturing young artists.
Reiser said she’s been featured in several Honduran news outlets, even giving a shout-out to Mayor Kristen Umstattd in some of the stories about Chimole, and pieces in the gallery have been featured in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian.
Umstattd described Reiser as having “limitless energy,” and gave a chuckle when she was called a celebrity in Honduras.
“I think Yovanna is the real celebrity,” she said. “She has brought a lot of very positive attention to Leesburg through her work and her family’s work.”
The lounge venture will, of course, feature art from the gallery on the walls, but it will not serve Honduran food exclusively. Many of the recipes—served on a small plates in traditional tapas style—will be inspired by Reiser’s Honduran upbringing, but she’s traveled all over Central and South America to hone the flavors that will be used.
In short, Chimole, the wine and tapas bar, will have a far larger area of influence than Chimole, the art gallery.
“I’m coming up with my own recipes with all the things I like from all different countries,” Reiser said.
The name Chimole won’t just appear on the door, either. Chimole is a traditional Honduran sauce, and Reiser has spent years perfecting her take on it. She calls it her restaurant’s “signature sauce.” She will even sell bottles of it to take home.
The tapas lounge will be the first of its kind in Leesburg, Umstattd said, which is fast becoming a destination for eclectic dining options.
“I think one of the great aspects of the historic district is the variety of entrepreneurial restaurants you wouldn’t find anywhere else,” Umstattd said. “We don’t have [a tapas restaurant], and I think it’s going to be a lot of fun, and I think she’ll do a great job.”
Reiser is not entering the restaurant business as a total novice. Although for years she was working in IT, managing the technology for several companies, before she went into that field, she studied hotel and restaurant management in college. Opening a business like Chimole has always been her passion.
“The idea is to bring the best Honduras has to offer here,” she said. “This place is something unique and special, and it didn’t exist anywhere before.”