Like expert fingers knitting a long scarf, Danielle Romanetti is busy.
Romanetti’s yarn shop fibre space (1319 Prince Street) is prepped and ready for Plaid Friday, an alternative to Black Friday for shoppers who want to find local deals in Old Town. Back when she first opened in 2009, Romanetti was one of the first business owners in the city to recognize the holiday weekend as an opportunity to capitalize.
A dozen years later, more than 50 independent Alexandria businesses participate in Shop Small Week.
“When I first opened, I asked my neighbors about Black Friday,” Romanetti recalled. “I was told, ‘Oh, we don’t open that day. Everybody goes to the mall.’ And I said, ‘Well, it’s the biggest shopping day of the year, and we own retail stores. So, I’m gonna be open at 6 a.m.'”
Romanetti made waves this year by welcoming Vice President Kamala Harris to her shop. It was Harris’ first visit outside the White House since taking office, and Romanetti later appeared with her on a “Women Making History” special on Lifetime. Romanetti also hosted political events, and was featured on GMA3, an offshoot of Good Morning America.
Last month, after a long year of ups and downs, Romanetti’s shop tied with The Jen Walker Team and was awarded the Small Business of the Year award by The Chamber ALX.
A lot has changed for the Pittsburgh native over the last couple years, and except on Plaid Friday, Romanetti is hardly ever seen behind the counter of her own shop anymore. She can usually be found working behind her computer at local coffee shops, or sequestered deep in her office above fibre space, the latter of which was where she was recently interviewed by ALXnow.
ALXnow: How has your day-to-day life changed since you first opened fibre space in 2009?
Romanetti: I have more staff, for sure. I think I opened with only two employees, and I was working full-time at the cash wrap. My desk was one part of the L of the cash register, so that when customers came in, I could turn away from my own marketing, reordering and bookkeeping, and then turn to help them. So, that’s certainly not happening anymore.
ALXnow: Are you easy to work with?
Romanetti: I try to stay away from the team downstairs and let them do their jobs. I don’t want to micromanage them. I’ve done their job, I don’t want to do it. I have a great manager and a phenomenal team, and they manage the front of house, and they tell me what they need and what we should be pushing and marketing. They tell me what the trends are or what’s blowing up on Instagram. They tell me what I need to do. So, that’s off my plate now, because they’re really driving the front of the house and I’m managing the back of the house.
ALXnow: How would you describe your leadership style?
Romanetti: I like to have people understand their roles, like have them be very clear and mapped out, so that I stay in my lane, and they stay in theirs. I want to be hands-off, and I dip my toes in when I need to, or when I feel like they need help, but I don’t want to be micromanaging what they’re doing.
ALXnow: What’s the secret to making it in business in Alexandria?
Romanetti: There are a lot of businesses that have opened here and are now gone that tried to operate in a silo. They’re not tapped into information and people and community, and that’s a shame because that’s like 99% of the benefit of being here. Let’s be candid: Alexandria’s foot traffic is not where it could be. It’s not the same as other communities inside the beltway, where rents are significantly higher as a result of it. We know that the gross sales per square foot of retail businesses in Old Town does not match that of Georgetown or Capitol Hill, so the only way to really get a huge benefit out of opening a business here is to be tapped into the community that’s here, because our community is tighter and better and more diverse and more amazing than all those other places. If you’re not taking advantage of that community, then I guess I don’t think it’s worth being here.
If you just want to operate in a silo and not ever interact with the business associations, businesses around you or city hall, it’s going to be a pretty lonely ride full of fear and probably not very profitable.
ALXnow: Your business can’t stand alone on the strength of your products?
Romanetti: Right. Truly, the biggest draw that you have bringing in customers to Alexandria is selling them on Alexandria. None of us, no small business alone, is capable of bringing somebody from D.C. down the George Washington Parkway to come to Alexandria, but it’s worth it to them coming here to visit my business if they know that I have really great neighbors that they can go visit as well. It’s worth that drive.
You have to be tapped in, you have to explain to your customers or the people that you’re trying to get here that it’s worth the drive. There are amazing restaurants here. There are amazing other retailers here, there are adorable tree-lined streets with actual red brick town homes that have been here for hundreds of years. It’s authentic. There is an authentic vibe here that you don’t have in these other places. And so you’ve got to sell them on the entire experience of Alexandria. That’s always been my philosophy.
ALXnow: Who were your mentors?
Romanetti: I had a lot of mentors. One of the first business owners I met with when I was starting my business was Nora Partlow, who owned St. Elmo’s Coffee Pub. Her philosophy was the same. In Del Ray, bar crawls involve all of the businesses. It’s a community event. I was sort of raised by the Del Ray business community, and I’d been teaching knitting classes at St. Elmo’s, and Del Ray was initially where I wanted the business to be. I ended up in Old Town, but I was sort of raised by the Del Ray business community, and by folks like Nora Partlow and Pat Miller. We learn from each other and that’s how we become better business owners.
ALXnow: Are you ever going to expand to more locations?
Romanetti: I own this building. This was the goal — to own my building. So, I achieved what I was going for. I want to obviously continue to be involved and engaged in the local business community as much as possible, but I don’t want to replicate this business. It doesn’t make a lot of sense. Yarn shops don’t tend to have more than one location because they start to look like a franchise or a chain, which goes against the entire concept of your local yarn store, which is your small, independently owned yarn shop.
ALXnow: You’re a critic of the city government, but have a good relationship with public officials. How do you make that work?
Romanetti: I’m a giant pain in the butt to our mayor and our City Council, obviously. They love me because I’m actually participating, but when I need parking enforcement to show up to our block, you’re also going to hear from me, because I need them to do that work. I’m also one of the first business owners that they think of when they are thinking of actively engaged business owners, because I am willing to do the work.
ALXnow: Any other tips to business owners?
Romanetti: Stay informed. Even just being involved or engaged in what Visit Alexandria has going on, and reading AEDP’s monthly newsletter — those things can help. But really, I spent a good chunk of my 12 years just walking from my business up somewhere for lunch and stopping and talking to other business owners and making sure that I was connected with them. That’s how you get ideas for creative events, creative collaborations, or just inspiration, because you’re never doing everything well.
The Alexandria Health Department is advising residents to take COVID-19 tests before and after traveling this Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
“Everyone has a role in keeping COVID-19 out of holiday gatherings,” AHD said in a release, and advised unvaccinated residents to skip traveling altogether. “If travel is unavoidable, get a COVID-19 test 1-3 days before and 3-5 days after travel. Those who are fully vaccinated should still monitor themselves for symptoms after travel or large gatherings and get tested if needed.”
AHD continued, “During gatherings, take steps to increase ventilation and consider using masks or maintaining physical distance if unvaccinated individuals or people at high risk of severe illness are attending.”
Alexandria has experienced “Substantial” COVID-19 transmission since the week beginning October 17, before which the city saw “High” transmission for two months. The city saw “Low” and “Moderate” transmission levels from May to June this year — the lowest the city has experienced since the beginning of the pandemic.
There are still 37,404 unvaccinated residents, and AHD says they account for a majority of new cases.
COVID-19 in Alexandria
As of today (Wednesday, November 24), cases stands at 14,728, up 157 cases since this time last week, according to the the Virginia Department of Health. There have also been two more deaths since last week, bringing the death toll to 154.
The seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases for every 100,000 people is 11.3, up from 9.5 last week. That’s still much lower than in mid-September, when the seven-day average was 36 cases for every 100,000 residents.
The seven-day average of positive COVID-19 tests is also up — now 3.2% versus 2.9% last week.
There have also been 62 cases reported within Alexandria City Public Schools in November. There were 77 cases reported in ACPS in October.
About 38% of Alexandria’s 5-17-year-olds (6,735 people) have been fully vaccinated, according to VDH.
Additionally, 72% (94,456) of residents older than 18 are fully vaccinated, as are about 84% (16,195) of seniors. Additionally, 22,945 residents have gotten booster shots.
(Updated at 11:55 a.m.) A two-vehicle crash Wednesday afternoon (Nov. 24) shut down traffic on N. Van Dorn Street from Taney Avenue to Holmes Run Parkway earlier today.
The incident was reported to the public via Twitter at 10:55 a.m., the Alexandria Fire Department and police are at the scene. Police and medics were dispatched to the scene, according to scanner traffic.
Both drivers suffered injuries, and one of them is in critical condition, according to AFD. Both drivers have been transferred to Inova Alexandria Hospital.
The Police Department’s crash reconstruction unit was at the scene, but Van Dorn Street reopened around noon.
Alert:: Traffic on North Van Dorn St. from Taney Ave. to Holmes Run Pkwy is temporarily shut down in both directions due to a two-vehicle car crash. APD and @AlexandriaVAFD is on scene. pic.twitter.com/E7huRG48I8
— Alexandria Police (@AlexandriaVAPD) November 24, 2021
A 38-year-old Maryland man is being held without bond after a violent argument against his ex-girlfriend in her West End apartment on November 2.
The incident occurred at around 12:30 p.m. in the 5400 block of Bradford Court. The victim told police that she was driving home and talking with the suspect on Facetime, but that he was already waiting for her in the parking lot to meet in person. They met and went inside the apartment, where the victim allegedly told the suspect that she was starting a romantic relationship with someone else, according to a search warrant affidavit.
“At this point, (the suspect) begins to hit her in the back of the head and (the victim) falls to the ground,” according to the search warrant.
The victim told police that the suspect punched her in the face, arms, side and stomach, and then sexually assaulted her. Then, the suspect allegedly pulled out a container with three knives, grabbed the victim by the back of her neck and pointed a knife at her chest.
The victim reported to police that there was a knife on the ground at the time, and the suspect allegedly told her, “Pick up the knife and defend yourself. It’s either gonna be you or me.”
The victim told police that she was able to talk the suspect down, that he began to cry and that she was able to call a cousin on her phone. During the phone call, the suspect allegedly grabbed the phone and told the cousin that the victim fell and hit her head. He then left the apartment.
Tyno Whitehead was arrested the next day and charged with malicious wounding, abduction with intent to defile, object sexual penetration and aggravated sexual battery.
(Updated at 9 p.m.) No one was injured Friday night (November 19) after a two-alarm fire in a duplex in the heart of Del Ray.
The Alexandria Fire Department was called at around 6:16 p.m. after smoke was reported to be coming from the rear of a two-story duplex in the 100 block of E. Del Ray Avenue, according to Battalion Chief David Plunkett.
“There is extensive damage to both homes,” Plunkett told ALXnow. “Units will stay on the scene for a few more hours, and the nearby roads will be closed.”
Two adults and a child were displaced by the blaze, and were assisted by the American Red Cross.
Fire investigators are at the scene and the cause of the blaze and where it originated have not yet been determined.
Coincidentally, the incident occurred just days after the fire department performed drills at a residential building just a few blocks away.
— Richard England (@REnglandDC) November 19, 2021
This week, our first responders had the opportunity to train and run various drills in a residential building on E Del Ray Ave. They took a break for a bit to chat about fire safety and show off their gear and apparatus with some kids in the area. #traineveryday #stayready pic.twitter.com/0XJD8XKl5B
— Alexandria Fire-EMS (@AlexandriaVAFD) November 13, 2021
(Updated at 5 p.m.) A 26-year-old Alexandria man is being held without bond after allegedly shooting a man in the head in the West End on September 21.
Cornell Bangura was arrested on October 5, driving a maroon-colored Volkswagen Passat.
The incident occurred at around 1:15 p.m. in the parking lot at The Mason At Van Dorn Apartments at 251 S. Reynolds Street. Security video footage showed that a maroon-colored vehicle registered to Bangura pulled into the apartment complex property just four minutes before the 911 call, according to a search warrant affidavit.
A witness, who said he was cleaning his car, told police that the suspect knocked on the victim’s first floor patio window, and then saw the suspect and the victim yell at each other, according to the affidavit.
A witness told police that Bangura left the argument, walked to his car and then returned to the patio and fired five or six gunshots, according to the affidavit. The witness hid behind a trash can and said that the suspect got into a maroon-colored Volkswagen and drove away in the direction of S. Van Dorn Street.
A witness then heard the victim cry out that he was injured, and found the victim in the apartment with a handgun in his hand and a wound to his head. The victim threw down the gun when the witness walked in, and the witness drove the injured man to the hospital, according to the affidavit.
At the hospital, the victim told police that the suspect shot him “out of nowhere,” and that the apartment was not his, that it belonged to Bangura’s ex-girlfriend. After the shooting, Bangura allegedly boasted about it in text messages to the woman.
Bangura was charged with malicious wounding, use of a firearm in commission of a felony, and shooting into an occupied building.
NOTIFICATION: Police are in the 200 block of S. Reynolds St. for a shooting investigation that occurred around 1:15pm. Evidence was recovered. At least one person was injured. Injuries are not life-threatening. Anyone with information should call 703.746.4444. pic.twitter.com/YgCHkqWtfI
— Alexandria Police (@AlexandriaVAPD) September 21, 2021
A student was suspended last month at Francis C. Hammond Middle School for allegedly writing about ‘shooting up the school’ on Discord with another student.
On October 26, the school resource officer at Francis C. Hammond Middle School was alerted by school staff that the student was interviewed and suspended.
The incident occurred on October 26, according to a police search warrant affidavit.
In an anagram, the student first wrote, “nodt moce ot shcloo no wendsydya,” which, when rearranged, reads, “Don’t come to school on Wednesday.”
A classmate responded by writing: “bruh don’t be shooting da school dafuq.”
The student responded by writing, “I’m not [name] told me not to. But imma give it 2 weeks at the most.”
When asked to clarify what he was deciding, the student then stated “shooting up the school.”
The student, when interviewed at his home, admitted to police that he sent the messages and that he deleted them on his phone, according to the affidavit.
The male domestic short-haired cats are up for adoption with the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria. They’re both shy cats, but an inseparable friendship helps them feel more confident, said AWLA spokesperson Gina Hardter.
“Currently, the are running our Adoption office, but they would be happy to translate these skills into their new home, including closet reorganization, sorting out under the bed, checking on the tops of the highest cabinets – there’s no limit when they can do it together,” Hardter said.
Hardter added, “While this duo can be a bit shy, they also help each other feel more confident, and when you make friends with one of the boys, his brother is sure to come around soon.”
Learn more about how to meet Nugget and Lil Bit at AlexandriaAnimals.org/Adopt-
The four-story, three part development at 1300 King Street could be finished by this time next year, according to a partner in the joint venture.
The former homes to Pines of Florence and Aftertime Comics at 1300 and 1304 King Street (at the corner of S. Payne Street) are now shells of their former selves. The buildings were erected in the early 19th century and are in the process of being restored by developers The Holladay Corporation and The Foundry Companies.
Additionally, the partners are building a 31-unit apartment complex next door, complete with ground floor retail and below grade parking. The project will add about 6,000 square feet of new street-front retail to King Street.
“We expect it to be complete this time next year, or a little later,” Rita Bamberger, senior vice president at The Holladay Corp. told ALXnow. “It’s fair to say that these development projects take a long time.”
The Holladay Corporation’s most recent development in Alexandria was in 2012, with the Printer’s Row town house project in Old Town North.
Via City of Alexandria
The Alexandria Tutoring Consortium has chipped away at its $25,000 goal set in August, and can now offer literacy tutoring to students in 11 of the city’s 14 elementary schools for the remainder of the school year.
The most recent donation was made by the AT&T foundation for $16,000, which will help fund one-on-one “Book Buddies” tutoring sessions for 30 first graders at John Adams and Ferdinand T. Day Elementary Schools.
“After a year-and-a-half of interrupted learning, we’re seeing more demand for reading tutoring than ever before,” said ATC Executive Director Lisa Jacobs. “We’re trying to help more kids this year, and it’s donations by community supporters like the AT&T Foundation that put us in a position to run our programming now through May. We could not be more grateful for this investment in Alexandria’s children.”
During the 2020-2021 school year with kids studying attending virtual schooling, there were more than 7,600 “Book Buddies” tutoring sessions.
“We are delighted to be able to support ATC in its efforts to teach Alexandria’s kids to read,” Garrett McGuire, regional director of external and legislative affairs at AT&T, said in a statement. “Getting students on grade level before third grade has been shown to result in better graduation rates and a better chance for lifelong success.”