JV’s: Ageless charm without yuppie bastardization

Few bars in Northern Virginia have as long a history as JV’s.  Located in what might be the oldest  standing strip mall on the Virginia side of the beltway where Annandale Road intersects Arlington Boulevard in Falls Church, JV’s was founded in 1947 by owner Lorraine Campbell’s father George Dross and his brother Bill.

The pair founded the restaurant (then known as “Jeffferson’s”) after serving in World War II for Greece and because of the family’s military heritage, the restaurant has a long tradition as a haven for military veterans.  Under Campbell’s direction, the bar is continuously raising money for homeless and wounded veterans, and launching drives to mail care packages for troops in Iraq. She also is passionate about suicide prevention for patriots and others. She has assisted the U.S. Veteran’s Affairs Department with distributing informational pamphlets to veterans.  And if you’re not sure how to donate, you can always throw money in the donation box.

A lot of the tradition was started by George. During World War II, George and Bill relied on international co-operation to get through the war. George assisted British paratroopers and hosted American troops while stationed in Greece and was rescued by American troops during his two stints as a prisoner-of-war. In that same spirit, George and Bill would always welcome other veterans at their establishment and do what they could to welcome camaraderie.

“He was very thankful to be alive and be free and thankful to the U.S. military and that’s where the camaraderie came from. His whole family felt that way. They would hide the American soldiers during the war and nurse them back to health,” explained Campbell.

Lorraine took over operations in 1985 upon the death of her father with her sister Pauline Anson-Dross as a silent partner. She has continued the tradition of welcoming veterans. On Memorial Day Weekend, JV’s has been an unofficial home for Rolling Thunder’s Ride for Freedom since its inception. During the weekend, JV’s throws a free buffet for the veterans and for people who want to honor them.

The other claim to fame for JV’s is their live music. Lorraine and Pauline grew up with Hank Williams, Chubby Checker, Elvis, Fats Domino and swing as their primary influences and Lorraine curates a roster of artists that consists primarily of classic rock, blues, country, and bluegrass. She used to play there with Roy Dixon.

In the past year, JV’s musical has expanded both their floor space and their calendar. Since 1990, the establishment has had live shows seven days a week but now the venue does thirteen to fourteen shows a year. Another difference is that the bookings have gotten a lot easier on Lorraine.

“Now, the talent comes to me, they know who we are and it’s a lot more nationally-known artists,” said Campbell.

Guests who have come to JV’s include the Clintons, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, with performers that have included bluegrass legend Tony Rice, actor Dan Aykroyd, Allman Brothers band member Michael Allman, and Johnny Rawls. Additionally, 1950s pop singer Eddie Fisher (best known as part of the love triangle between Debbie Reynolds and Elizabeth Taylor and as Carrie Fisher’s father) used to stop by daily and have his breakfast with George when he was stationed at Fort Myer in the 1950s.

One of the highlights for Lorraine is sister Pauline Anson-Dross who performs regularly at JV’s in the six-member women’s band “Wicked Jezabel” with wife Davi Anson-Dross.

For Lorraine, however, the most rewarding guests are the long-time clients who have watched her grow up along with the restaurant through multiple generations of management. She went to college for computer science but feels, because she is a “people person,” that this restaurant is her version of “the American dream.”

The restaurant’s unofficial slogan is “Ageless charm without yuppie bastardization” and Campbell is careful to note that that distinction is not an attack on any age group.

“It doesn’t have to do with people. It’s just who we are. It’s more of a corporate thing. We’re not like a Ruby Tuesdays or Chilli’s or Applebee’s. We’re the real deal,” she said.

Whether it’s as a place where younger veterans can glean the wisdom of older veterans or as a musical scene where people of all ages can appreciate oldies, Campbell believes JV’s thrives as a place where multiple generations come together.

More information about JVs can be found at http://www.jvsrestaurant.com/index.php.

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