One recent hot Sunday, the farmers market in front of the library in Arlington’s Westover neighborhood was humming.
Children in strollers held stuffed animals in one hand and ice cream in the other. Adults lugged canvas bags stuffed with local corn, tomatoes and bunches of wildflowers. Bicycle riders packed wire baskets with fruit, vegetables and even tacos.
With its 30 vendors, the Westover Farmers Market, run by a community nonprofit called Field to Table, is one of the neighborhood’s most popular attractions.
“Local residents tried for years to bring in a market, and finally last year we started with 15 vendors,” said Robert Orttung, 48, president of the Westover Village Civic Association, who has lived there for 15 years. “It took a critical mass of volunteers, foodies and neighbor enthusiasts to get it going.” Market rules require all produce to be locally grown — within roughly 125 miles — so that the neighborhood can support local farmers and producers.
“Now Realtors will put in their local listings that a house is near the market,” said Josh Kaplowitz, 34, a three-year Westover resident and board member of Field to Table. “I warned my friends to buy here before the market opened, because I knew the housing prices would go up after it did.”
Another selling point, residents say, is that Westover is close enough to Washington to make commuting easy, but far enough away to feel like a true suburb.
The neighborhood is characterized by gently hilly streets, tall maples and oaks, and red-brick Colonials with flowers in the front yard. Many of the retail establishments are accessible by foot. Taking a walk after dinner or running around the corner to replace a bulb at the local hardware store is a pleasure many enjoy.
“Everybody walks here, said Lisa Diconsiglio, a 12-year resident. “People are generally like-minded and healthy and want to have little impact on where they live.”
“We are a mix of everything,” added Orttung. “Rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, and we all seek high-quality living in a comfortable, safe neighborhood.”
Shops old and new: Washington Boulevard, the main shopping corridor, is lined with independently owned stores. Many are in the Westover Village Shops.
Ayers Variety & Hardware is a 65-year-neighborhood institution. “I call us the grandparents of Westover,” said Wilma Kaplan, 73, who owns the store with her soon-to-be-81-year-old husband, Ron.
Next door is the Westover Beer Garden & Market, a popular destination for groceries, beer, Sunday brunch and daily meals. This family business struggled to survive a few years ago and came up with the idea of opening an outdoor beer garden, which quickly became a community gathering place, said owner Devin Hicks.
The owners repurposed some of the indoor market space as a new bar that complements the outdoor seating area. Local artists painted murals on the walls, and there is live music several nights a week.
Trade Roots, specializing in recycled and sustainable products, opened late last year. It adheres to “fair trade” policy, which requires that only items made by artisans who are paid a fair wage can be sold.
Orttung says Westover’s most popular restaurant is probably the Lost Dog Cafe, famous for its pizza, sandwiches and root beer. Some of its profits go to a dog and cat rescue fund. “It brings people in from all over,” he said. There is now a sister establishment: the Stray Cat.
Living there: Westover, Zip code 22205, is bordered by North Lexington Street and 16th Street North to the north, North Jefferson Street to the east, Interstate 66 to the South, and North McKinley Road to the west.
It consists of pre-World War II single-family houses, many of them Colonials; two-story garden-apartment complexes; townhouses; and a sprinkling of duplexes.
Currently, 26 two-to-five-bedroom homes are for sale, ranging in price from $529,900 to $1.65 million, said Jessica Dennis, a real estate agent with the McLean Realty Group.
Sixteen houses are under contract, for $389,900 to $1.495 million. They range from two bedrooms and one bathroom to five bedrooms and five bathrooms.
From June 2012 to June 2013, 184 properties have sold, at prices ranging roughly from $409,900 to $1.15 million.
Schools: McKinley Elementary, Swanson Middle.
Transit: Westover is between the Ballston and East Falls Church Metro stations. It is served by Metrobuses and is a short drive from the District via Washington Boulevard and Interstate 66.
Audrey Hoffer is a freelance writer.