Not even a surprise downpour on an outdoor dinner party can dampen the enthusiasm of Kirsten Nafziger ‘89 Moore, recipient of the Community Engagement Award for Eastern Mennonite School 2019.
That dinner–a flora and fauna themed event with native and foraged foods–took place on 834 private acres in George Washington National Forest in late July with the Sub Rosa Supper Club. Moore and her business partner host the themed dinners in unique venues about once a month; only 30 guests from a list of more than 1,500 hopefuls are lucky enough to attend by being the first to respond to Facebook announcements.
“It didn’t go at all as we had planned, but in the end it was what Sub Rosa was always meant to be: a gathering of beautiful people around a dinner table,” she wrote in a blog post about the event.
It’s that kind of attitude that makes Moore an obvious choice for EMS’s first Community Engagement Award. She has used her gifts in food, writing, art, design, and business for nearly three decades to bring people together.
“Food breaks down barriers,” she says. “You engage in different ways and ignore differences when you’re sharing a meal in a beautiful place.”
Business with a flair
Sub Rosa Supper Club — featured in the June 2019 issue of Virginia Living magazine — is just a side gig for Moore.
Her connections and respect throughout the community set her up to launch a new venture in downtown Harrisonburg, Magpie, opening early 2020. Approached by local developers to join their efforts to revitalize property at the intersection of Liberty and Gay Streets, Moore decided to dive in.
The two-floor cement block former Big L Tire flatiron building offers just the space for Moore to do her magic. The lower level will house a breakfast and lunch “modern interpretation of the corner diner” along with an in-house bakery making artisanal bread, pastries and pies.
Magpie will feature simple, locally-sourced breakfasts, a creative lunch menu and weekend brunches. “I want it to be a place where people meet and are comfortable no matter what. I want to create an environment where both employees and customers want to come every day,” Moore says.
The second floor will house The Perch at Magpie, a new location and brand for The Hub Coworking, which Moore launched at 128 W. Bruce Street in downtown Harrisonburg. Opened 2015, the membership-based workspace provides a professional office space for entrepreneurs, small businesses, and remote workers encouraging connection and collaboration for people who are typically working in isolated environments like a home office or bouncing between coffee shops. The Hub was the winner of the Outstanding Business award by Virginia Main Street in 2016.
Magpie has turned into “a complex social animal,” laughs Moore as she summarizes all of the moving parts. Not only will it be a beautiful workspace and restaurant, but it can also be used for gatherings and events of various sizes–from workshops and seminars to art openings to larger evening events. An on-site coffee roaster tenant will “keep the whole place caffeinated,” she says. While the diner will close at 3 each afternoon, the bakery doors will stay open longer for customers to grab coffee and pastries and even take home organic roasted chicken, bread and salads so families can be home having dinner together. “I also want to be home having dinner with my family and I think that’s an important piece of connection that we want to encourage.”
Moore credits family roots for her love of sharing food. Her mother, Helen Steury Nafziger, threw parties when her father, Ken J. Nafziger, long-time music professor at Eastern Mennonite University, brought musicians to the house. “She had a habit of making 10 times more food than she needed, but what that showed guests was that there was plenty and all were welcome.” Moore also has fond memories of family trips to Ohio with an abundance of simple, fresh food from the garden at her grandparents’ farm table.
“I love planning Sub Rosa dinners… the progression of a menu, learning a cuisine or a new technique, sourcing ingredients and, ultimately, seeing people enjoy it together,” she reflects. “There’s a fine line between pushing people’s boundaries and making them completely comfortable at the same time.” She hopes the new Magpie space will also encourage guests to be “a little adventurous without really realizing it.”
Moore was a liberal arts major at Eastern Mennonite University with minors in English and art.
In addition to Sub Rosa and The Hub, Moore’s professional and community engagements include:
– Designer and marketing team leader at EMU
– Founding member, Woodland Montessori School
– Freelance design and marketing consultation
– Founder of Taste, a farm-to-table catering company
– Founder of Rocktown Bites food tours
– Business development and marketing for Blue Ridge Architects (now Blue Line, owned by Randy Seitz ‘82)
– Author of Rocktown Food: Stories from Virginia’s First Culinary District about Harrisonburg becoming the first (and only) Virginia Culinary District in 2014
– Contributor, Shen Valley Magazine
– Founder of The Project Studio, a creative and strategic services firm
– Board of directors for Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance and Shenandoah Valley Technology Council
This is the first year EMS has honored an alumnus with the Community Engagement Award. “We want to recognize alumni who are doing exactly what Kirsten models, using their gifts and talents to build community,” says Paul Leaman, head of school.
“‘Community’ is a word we use a lot here,” Leaman continues. “We are deliberate about creating a culture of connection and care. Our alumni often stay in touch with one another long-term. We are proud they are going out and doing the same in churches, neighborhoods, workplaces and other settings as well.”
Moore will be honored during EMS Homecoming Weekend, Oct. 18-20. Participants will enjoy a Homecoming Breakfast Saturday morning featuring a menu created by Moore. She will share with students about her personal and professional journey during chapel on Friday, Oct. 18.