Here’s one sign the economy is coming back: Sheila Johnson’s long-awaited Salamander Resort & Spa is nearing reality.

Work on the $100-million-plus super-luxury resort near downtown Middleburg, smack in the middle of Virginia horse country, went into hibernation after the financial crisis. It’s currently scheduled to open next Labor Day weekend, we are told.

Exterior work on the 23,000-square-foot resort is nearing completion, while the interior work on the restaurant, culinary studio, wine bar and spa continues apace.

There is enough progress that Johnson, who co-founded Black Entertainment Television, is giving escorted tours — by appointment — of the 340-acre spa and surrounding grounds over the holidays.

This is no budget accommodation; peak season rates will range from $425 to $575 a night, and more for suites. (Special group and corporate rates are available.)

Salamander spokesman Matt Owen said the resort has already signed contracts to host meetings and weddings, and it will begin to take orders for its 168 rooms next year.

In the meantime, model rooms are open for viewing at Salamander Touch gift shop in downtown Middleburg.

The Buzz hears:

Eastham’s Auto Servicecenter, the former Exxon gas station located on Wisconsin Avenue in downtown Bethesda, has a new lease on life — without the gasoline tanks.

The 83-year-old business has negotiated an 18-month to two-year extension from landowner Washington Properties, which plans to build on the location.

Eastham’s, which re-opened Dec. 7, will only repair and service vehicles. The fuel tanks are closed. Meanwhile, Eastham President Ellen Eastham Zinkler, General Manager Steve Embrey and Service Manager Tom Lake are looking for a new location.

The MdBio Foundation named Brian Gaines chief executive. Gaines most recently served as executive director of the Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation. The MdBio Foundation works with the Technology Council of Maryland to support the bioscience industry in Maryland.

Ris Lacoste of restaurant Ris in D.C.’s West End last week hosted 15 seventh grade students from the Washington Jesuit Academy, a small private all-boys middle school serving low-income students in the District. The purpose was to let the students practice the etiquette they had learned in the classroom through a three-course lunch at the chef’s table. They each received pocket squares, donated by Brooks Brothers in Georgetown.

Washington Jesuit Academy students receive breakfast, lunch and dinner at school, provided by D.C. Central Kitchen.

Venga, the District-based start-up, has a newly designed Web site. Venga, led by Sam von Pollaro and Winston Lord, provides restaurants with analytics on their guests, servers, menu items and operations through a cloud-based dashboard.

Factoid of the week

$1.6 million. That’s how much the netsuke collection of the late diplomat Jack Mang and his wife, Helen, sold for at the Dec. 7 auction at Quinn’s Auction Galleries in Falls Church.

Netsuke are miniature sculptures made from ivory and wood, created in Japan between the 17th and 19th centuries. The Mangs, who lived in Alexandria, reportedly had one of the largest netsuke collections in the world — if not one of the most valuable.

One rare ivory figure (see photo) from the 18th century is of a Baku, the mythical beast known as the “eater of bad dreams.” Helen Mang purchased this item in the 1950s for $65. It sold at the auction for $53,000.

Netsuke were prominent in the 2010 family memoir, “The Hare With Amber Eyes,” by Edmund de Waal.

Quinn’s sold more than $2 million in items during a three-day sale starting Dec. 6, including a 30-volume leather bound set of Charles Dickens works that went to a buyer in the United Kingdom for $70,800.