Virginia Cafe A Finalist In U.S. Chamber Of Commerce Awards

The Hideaway Cafe on the Loudoun Street Mall in Winchester, Virginia is owned by Victoria Kidd and is a finalist for the US Chamber of Commerce award for LGBTQ-owned businesses. (Jeff Taylor/The Winchester Star via AP)
The Hideaway Cafe on the Loudoun Street Mall in Winchester, Virginia is owned by Victoria Kidd and is a finalist for the US Chamber of Commerce award for LGBTQ-owned businesses. (Jeff Taylor/The Winchester Star via AP)
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WINCHESTER, Va. (AP) — Victoria Kidd said she is always humbled when thinking about the reputation that her Hideaway Cafe has earned since opening its doors in downtown Winchester in 2015.

That reputation, she said, has always been one of inclusivity and service. And that has helped earned Hideaway Cafe a spot among the finalists of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Dream Big Awards in the LGBTQ-owned business category.

“It’s very humbling. We were kind of the little rascals on the corner down here,” said Kidd, Hideaway Cafe’s owner and general manager. “We’re a strange little business, but at the same time we’re so invested in our community and providing people from all walks of life a place to be themselves and feel like they’re really cared about in this environment. It does validate a lot of the work that we do here.”

The Dream Big Awards program includes nine different Business Achievement Awards to recognize the excellence of leading businesses in each of the following categories: community support and leadership, emerging, green/sustainable, minority-owned, LGBTQ-owned, veteran-owned, woman-owned, young entrepreneur, and small business of the year.

The LGBTQ-Owned Business Award recognizes the success of one small business and honors its contributions to the growth and diversity of the American economy. This award recognizes a LGBTQ-owned small business that has attained outstanding business achievement and exemplifies the significant contributions made by the LGBTQ-owned businesses in the country.

There were over 1,000 applications submitted from small businesses across the country. Award winners will be announced at the virtual Dream Big Awards program, which is part of the Big Week for Small Business event, at 5 p.m. Oct. 21.

Kidd said she’s been applying for the Dream Big Awards for years but knew something was a little different this year.

“One of the questions wanted to know what we’ve done to pivot and get through COVID. So the narrative there was a little more interesting for us,” she said. “This was a year unlike any other. Really, it was a matter of seeing what the state would allow us to do, what were the specifics of how much capacity we could have and how we could serve and then to change our operations to meet those restrictions.”

Kidd and company built an inset into the front door to allow a “pass-through” for people to pick up orders, utilized curbside services and delivery services and continued to keep customer service levels high, which included dressing up in costumes.

Through all of that, though, Kidd said what she learned the most was how special the community is.

“I was aware that our community was amazing, but I was not fully aware of the level of generosity until this past year,” she said. “We had people who literally had reminders on their calendars to come every single week and make purchases. We had people who took their stimulus checks, cashed them, put them in an envelope and put it in our mail box — and more than one. Without those people, it would have been very difficult to get through.”

On the flip side, serving the community is something Kidd and her staff take pride in.

Since opening in 2015, the cafe has raised and donated more than $50,000 and continues to host events like food drives. In the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, Kidd even spearheaded a team in the region that helped about 25,000 restaurant servers get tips from a new app.

There are countless other service opportunities, too.

“It’s inherent in our identity,” Kidd said of helping. “A regular of ours named us ‘the community’s cafe.’ We’re humbled by that title and try to live up to that. That allowed us to gain a reputation as a place that would be worthy of support. We’re not just going to say, ‘This is our identity and this is who we are.’ We’re going to live up to that identity of being open and inclusive of everyone and for finding opportunities to serve.”

Kidd and her staff are also active within the LGBTQ community. She said she’s been thrilled to see how the communities have embraced each other and have come together to serve.

“Small towns like this get a reputation for not being very inclusive, but I’ve not found that to be the case at all here,” said Kidd. “Our community has, in equal parts, embraced the mission to serve the underserved and to serve the community at large. We really came out of the gate putting our money where our mouth is, saying ‘Where can we serve?’”

Kidd said the cafe gets calls all the time from people telling them that their son or daughter just came out as gay and they didn’t know what to do or someone telling them they needed a place to stay.

“There’s no one else serving some of these individuals,” she said. “But that’s completely in our mission even though it’s not on the menu.”