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2024 The Love that Downtown Built

February 15, 2024 by Annette Williams

Happy Valentine’s Day downtown Harrisonburg! As you may have seen last year, we created The Love that Downtown Built feature as part of our twentieth-anniversary celebration at Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance. This year we decided to copy ourselves because we loved the feature so much, so if you get the chance to head on over to our Facebook and Instagram, you will some of the sweetest love stories that downtown was a part of. Check out the full collection of stories below!

Make sure you are following @downtownharrisonburg for more fun content throughout the year and more opportunities to share the love!

Kerry S. and Benjamin S.

When my now-fiancé and I were dating, I lived in a little apartment next to The Golden Pony with a window that overlooked its patio. During nice weather, we would walk down to Kline’s, bring it back to my apartment, and people watch out the window. In that downtown apartment we shared our first kiss and our first “I love you’s”. I was devastated to leave downtown when we moved in together, but when he asked me to marry him, we drove around to places that held meaning for us, and that apartment was one of them. Then we celebrated our engagement by going to Rocktown Kitchen, a restaurant neither of us had been to yet, to start off our new chapter!

Hannah G. and Anthony G.

Just like my parents love story, ours starts at JMU. I (Hannah) met Anthony on Bumble and within hours, we figured out we lived across the street from each other. We went for our first date at Bella Luna in September of 2016 – the place where we have celebrated our anniversary ever since. We got married in 2021 and had tons of fun JMU touches – streamers thrown during the ceremony recessional, a Mr. And Mrs. Duke Dog cake topper, and more. Unfortunately, we were living in northern Virginia at the time, and it never quite felt like home. On a whim, Anthony applied for a job at JMU in May of 2023, and by June, we were closing on a house in the city that we have started to make our forever home. We have loved being back as “townies” and can’t wait to show our baby – due July 2024! – around this great city we love so much.

My husband and I met rock climbing in Harrisonburg in 2006. We started dating on Halloween that year when on a date at the Dodger and had our first kiss on Main Street. He was dressed as a banana and I was a Smore. The night he proposed we went out to Dave’s Taverna to celebrate. These days we enjoy walking downtown for dinner at Cuban Burger or Mashita, when we can find a babysitter. We love downtown Harrisonburg!

Alexis O., Jessie I., Emma-Rose K., and Angelina U.

In the fall of 2013, four live collided at Kline’s Dairy bar! We were all broke college students trying to work our way through school and found ourselves on shifts together under the neon lights at the dairy bar. We spent countless hours laughing and dreaming together while we spun milkshakes and talked about our futures. Little did we know, we were forming bonds that would last decades! We have been through weddings and heartbreak, death and new life. We have evolved from late nights closing down Kline’s, doing our hair in the bathroom, heading out to Billy Jacks for drinks and prowling for boys. To afternoon lunch on the patio at Brothers Craft Brewery, sharing sticky nugs with our husbands and children. We have grown and changed alongside of our Friendly Little City, but 2 things have always remained true: good food and even better friends!

Kevin and Olivia Wheeler

While living in Charlottesville in 2017, I met my now wife in her hometown of Harrisonburg for our first date. We went to Cuban Burger for dinner downtown and got to know each other over a delicious meal, and then went to Ruby’s to have fun while we waited for our movie. Needless to say it went very well and we ended up hanging out in Harrisonburg as often as we could, whether it was dinner at Jimmy Madisons, exploring the farmer’s market on the weekends, or browsing the many local shops downtown. She agreed to move to Richmond me with while I was finishing law school, but we always hoped to move back here. We got married in 2021 and started actively searching for a way to make it happen. Luckily, we received the opportunity to move here in 2022. We’ve lived here ever since and still love exploring places around town that we haven’t been to yet, while revisiting our favorite places often. We just had our first child together and can’t wait for her to grow up here in the Friendly City.

Fiona K. and Kent D.

My fiancé and I met at JMU in 2016 we were friends for a little over a year until he asked me to be his girlfriend. Our first date was at the library downtown where I showed him all of my favorite books. We also went to Shirley’s popcorn and got the cinnamon bun flavored popcorn! We are now full-time townies and have an Instagram to share our favorite Harrisonburg activites. We are so excited to take our engagement photos downtown and spend another year attending downtown festivals, trivia nights, and sip & strolls!

Nortrivah H. and Todd M.

Our journey started with a scoop of ice cream at Kline’s Dairy Bar for our first date. We had many dates at Pale Fire, and celebrated special occasions at Local Chop and Grill House. We also enjoy walks downtown exploring local markets and businesses in the area. Two years later we got engaged, and we will be married this October! We still love our downtown date nights and we’re looking forward to spending many more years together here in the valley. Thank you Downtown Harrisonburg for bringing us together!

Jason S. and Amanda S.

I met my wife in 2018 at Finnigan’s Cove when she happened to be sitting at the bar with a co-worker I knew so I sat next to her. Our first date after meeting was brunch at the Artful Dodger. We got married in 2020, and when we learned our out of state officiant was legally licensed to marry us in Virginia, we got legally married the day before our wedding at the courthouse downtown. In our nerves, we forgot masks and realized it on our walk to the courthouse. When walking, we ran into Donna Finnigan, owner of Finnigan’s Cove, who sold us masks so we could make our wedding appointment. Over the years, Boboko and Pale Fire have remained our favorite date night spots. Now, we love taking our son to StoryTime at the Massanutten Regional Library Downtown and most recently to play at the Explore More Museum.

Delaney B. and Zach R.

My partner and I are high school sweethearts, and our romance bloomed over the backdrop of Downtown Harrisonburg. When we started dating in 2017, we spent lots of our time downtown watching live music at the Golden Pony, or getting dinner at local spots like Billy Jack’s and the Artful Dodger. During our later college years, we both got jobs at the Friendly City Food Co-op and continued to work there after graduating. We had Mashita cater our joint graduation party, and have celebrated many milestones there or at Bella Pizza. We’ve spent 3 wonderful years living and working in downtown. We have met all kinds of wonderful people, and really feel a passion for this special little place. It the end of 2023, we knew we wanted to be here permanently and after many months of searching and waiting purchased, we purchased a home in Downtown Harrisonburg. With lots of elbow grease and help from Heartworn Vintage, our little house has quickly become one home. We will celebrate 7 years together in May, and I’m certain you’ll see us celebrating with a lovely dinner at Bella or a drink at the Pony.

Sarah K. and Ben F.

Ben and I met about 10 months into the pandemic in early 2021. I was living at the Ice House and a friend invited me downstairs to Pale Fire to hang out with him and his friend (Ben). I was blind to it at the time, but there was apparent chemistry between him and I so our friend left us be. We ordered sushi to-go from Beyond and stayed there for a few more hours. I didn’t think much him after that initial encounter until a few days later when we all met up again and during that second meeting I knew Ben was the one. We quickly became official shortly after that. Our first real date we went to Magpie (and no shame in saying we went 3 days in a row) and now we love to take our sweet pup Hopper there for bacon and eggs. We know each other’s Beyond order by heart (we love you, Kim!) and Pale Fire is still our second home. We couldn’t be prouder to be apart of this downtown community!

But Wait There is More!

We love giving everyone opportunities to share their love so here are some amazing folks who submitted their stories as well!

Carrie Y. and Jansen M.

We had our first date at Bella Luna and we have continued celebrating all of our anniversaries and special moments there. We’re planning on hosting our rehearsal dinner for our wedding there as well. We live downtown and enjoy trying out different restaurants downtown whenever we get the chance. Our favorites include Bella Luna (obviously :)) Mashita, and Billy Jacks.

Claire W. and Adam W.

I moved from Washington to Virginia in 2013 for my boyfriend. After my boyfriend broke up with me, I had 6 months left on my lease. I had surprisingly met my husband (Adam) at my ex-boyfriends house because they had mutual friends. During my 6 month exploration of Harrisonburg as a single woman, Adam and I’s first awkward interaction happened at Billy Jacks where I offered to let Adam use my bathroom down the street if he would walk me home; However, we ran into my ex on the way and Adam dashed into Ruby’s to use their bathroom since they had “a good bathroom.” We didn’t have each other’s numbers, but thankfully, he had a brother, Seth, also known as body drama to you downtown folk. Seth got us together for a movie which turned into a first date back at Ruby’s where we talked for for five hours. Not too long after, I was working at a restaurant downtown, and Adam proposed.

Katie L. and Dustin S.

Dustin and I matched on Facebook dating in January 2022 and had our first date at Capital Ale House! We clicked right away and had our second date a few days later at Ruby’s Arcade and Jack Browns, and our first kiss at the top of the Water Street parking deck. We just celebrated 2 wonderful years together, and recently got engaged on Christmas Eve! Downtown is still one of our favorite spots for date night or meeting up with friends, especially at Jack Browns.

Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places?

If so, we hope we can help! While there are no guarantees, this list of downtown businesses seems to have served the folks in this feature well. We love to help in any way we can during this season of love, but always remember we have the downtown directory on our website with all you can ever need and more! So whether it is February or not, be sure to check out what downtown has to offer here.