Leesburg, through Economic Development Director Marantha Edwards, has been chasing the hottest burger chain on the East Coast, Five Guys Burgers and Fries, for more than three years.
If everything goes according to plan, Edwards’ long Five Guys hunt will come to an end April 15, when Five Guys opens its first Leesburg branch in the Battlefield Shopping Center on Edwards Ferry Road, next to Shoppers Food Warehouse.
Five Guys, arguably the restaurant that set off the latest trend in the food business of restaurants focused almost exclusively on the American staple of the hamburger. In and around Leesburg alone, the past year has seen the opening of three different burger joints, all of which have enjoyed bustling popularity.
In the spring of 2012, MELT Gourmet Cheeseburgers opened, and was promptly filled to the brim. Later that summer, Kraze Burgers opened its doors in Lansdowne, and its unusual, Mediterranean take on the burger has inspired its own cult following. Finally, last month, BurgerFi in the Village at Leesburg started business and immediately became the “it” restaurant in town among young people.
Five Guys, however, is its own burger powerhouse. The chain started in Arlington in 1986, grew modestly around the Washington, DC, area until 2001 when it started rapidly expanding nationwide. To date, there are more than 1,100 Five Guys branches open nationwide and 1,500 more in development, including the Leesburg location.
Although each new burger place has its own niche, Molly Catalano, Five Guys’ director of communications, said her company, along with the West Coast chain In-N-Out Burger, were really the pioneers.
“We’re the two burger restaurants that have been around the longest,” she said. “We’re flattered by the [recent growth in burger restaurants], but we do feel like we have been the trendsetter.”
Edwards said she had tried and tried to attract Five Guys to Leesburg, using any avenue possible.
“I’ve been after them for three years,” she said. “I was trying to reach their franchise director, the real estate company that places them in centers, their marketing firm…I’ve been trying fast and furious to get them out here.”
Catalano said the company “has always been interested in Leesburg,” but was waiting for the right situation.
“For us, there are a number of factors deciding a location and timing,” Catalano said. “It’s kind of a perfect storm to determine when and where we’ll open. This location seemed to be the right fit.”
Five Guys’ 3,200-square-foot location, unusually large for the burger chain, Catalano said, occupies the corner space that used to be home to a makeup boutique and a tile store. Construction started in late January, according to construction manager, Tony Pelz, and should be complete by March 28.
The restaurant will have a 121-person capacity and, like most Five Guys locations, figures to have quite the line during peak hours.
“We are very excited to open in Leesburg,” Catalano said. “Northern Virginia is where we started. We’ve been opening so many locations in other parts of the country. It’s always nice to open so close to us, it feels like we’re coming home.”
To Edwards, it signifies that persistence pays off, and that Leesburg could see the arrival of some more popular businesses people feel it’s lacking.
“It’s satisfying knowing when you work hard to try to attract someone, sometimes it takes a while,” Edwards said. “There are people asking all the time. They say, ‘why don’t we have this, why don’t we have that?’ It has to be based on the market evaluation those companies are doing, but the Leesburg market has steadily been getting better and better for these folks.”