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The owner of their favorite wine shop was battling brain cancer. This Virginia couple bought the store to keep it open

Former customers buy, reopen Ashburn Wine Shop to honor late owner

Brittany and Alan Alexander remember the first time when they walked into the Ashburn Wine Shop, in Ashburn, Virginia, about five years ago.

“Good vibes, great atmosphere 鈥 the owner, he was amazing,” Alan Alexander said. “People came in to see him, really, because he’d connect with everybody.”

His name was Sean Malone, the couple said.

The couple lived near the shop, in the Ashburn Shopping Plaza, so they visited often, and came to think of Malone as both a wine expert and friend.

“He got to know his clientele, and what they loved,” said Brittany Alexander. “He made a point to purchase things he knew people would love, including myself.”

One of the wines Malone suggested was a Cass 2020 Vintage Ted Red, from the central coast of California.

“Hints of plum, definitely some big, bold flavor,” described Brittany Alexander, saying she could tell it was made with organic methods. “It just tastes clean, and you don’t have that sulfate aftertaste.”

Two years ago, Malone was diagnosed with brain cancer.

“And from there, he was kind of more absent from the shop” as he dealt with his cancer battle, Brittany Alexander said.

Alan Alexander remembered when he learned that Malone was sick.

“We didn’t know what to do because it’s a very sensitive topic,” said Alan Alexander. “Do we come in, do we not come in? Do you want support? Should we talk about it when we see you.”

Brittany and Alan Alexander. (WTOP/Neal Augenstein)

Alan and Brittany Alexander weren’t sure how they could help Malone.

“He was such a big personality, and he spoke about everything, but he didn’t talk about this,” Alan Alexander said.

Once Malone realized he’d be unable to continue operating the shop, he approached the Alexanders.

“He came to us with the option of purchasing it, or they were thinking that they were going to have to close the business down,” said Brittany Alexander, who, at the time, was ready to leave her corporate job.

They had no previous knowledge of operating a brick-and-mortar store, much less a wine shop.

“When she left her corporate job, she was like, ‘You know what, let’s do this,'” said Alan Alexander. “I think we can do this, we can keep his legacy alive.”

Malone’s health continued to worsen.

“We were supposed to close (on the sale) on April 1, but he passed March 28 鈥 three days before the sale,” Alan Alexander said.

The purchase became official May 1. When the couple opened Ashburn Wine Shop Bar & Bistro, they made some minor changes.

“We gave it a fresh coat of paint, to kind of brighten it up a bit more,” Alan Alexander. “We changed the wine box d茅cor a little bit,” and added some new lighting.

“We just wanted to make small little changes,” said Alan Alexander, hoping to retain the essence that Malone had established. “He cultivated the community 鈥 everybody loved this place.”

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Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

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