Twenty years is a long time in the restaurant business. Brion Sumser, owner of Brion’s Grille in Fairfax, attributes a lot of his longevity, success, and luck to his old stomping grounds across the street, George Mason University.
As a former student-athlete for the men’s basketball team, Sumser made many connections with the Mason administration and staff that have steered potential investors and customers his way. Some of those supporters can even be found on his menu—a burger named after senior associate athletic director Jay Marsh, and a Reuben sandwich named after athletic director Tom O’Connor.
Although Sumser feels he has been the beneficiary of his long relationship with Mason, those who have supported him might suggest otherwise. Over the years, Brion’s Grille has grown into the de facto gathering place for Mason faculty, staff, students, and alumni, becoming the university’s unofficial off-campus hangout.
Sumser’s active promotion of the university is evident on the walls of his restaurant, which are covered with Mason memorabilia, particularly from the university’s athletic triumphs. But his contributions go beyond simple promotion, with Sumser giving back as much as what the university has given him.
He is a member of the Patriot Club Advisory Board, providing counsel to fund-raising efforts for the Athletics Department, and a member of the Green Coat Society, meaning he has pledged a minimum contribution of $5,000 annually for three consecutive years.
Sumser also has supported the university and its alumni through discounts on food for alumni receptions and Homecoming events, donating food to the hospitality rooms at basketball games and two university golf tournaments, and providing a space and food for the Green Machine Pep Band banquet.
With all his university connections, Sumser’s most recent involvement could possibly bring him the most pride: as of fall 2008, he became a Mason parent.
“To watch my daughter become a strong, independent, young woman at Mason has just been incredible. It’s the icing on the cake,” he says. Sumser’s daughter Madeleine also works in the family business. Last summer, she helped with the restaurant’s providing low-cost lunches to attendees at the children’s summer camps held at Mason.
While Sumser’s generosity to Mason’s athletic programs is substantial, he hopes to expand his interests in other areas in need of support. “My relationship with Mason is part of me every day. Mason is constantly improving, which keeps me motivated to constantly improve,” he says.
Alicia Duncan contributed to this story.