Alexandria, VA

(Updated at 5 p.m.) There’s no official word yet, but multiple sources have told ALXnow that British clothing and accessories retailer FatFace is looking at moving into the former Old Town Trading Post at 128 King Street.

A local commercial real estate source told ALXnow that FatFace is looking at moving into the location. Another source said FatFace was considering a lease but may not have signed one yet.

FatFace and KLNB — the commercial real estate service leasing the space — could not be reached for comment.

The retailer offers clothes designed in the UK with an emphasis on materials meant to last, as opposed to more cheaply-manufactured fast fashion. FatFace has a handful of stores in the United States, primarily located across New England, and other locations in partnership with department store Von Maur.

Signs for Old Town Trading Post remain on the building, but the souvenir shop closed in July 2017 according to Port City Wire.

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Descendants of the men who led the 1939 Alexandria library sit-in plan to meet tonight for a panel discussion examining how the event impacted their families.

At the Beatley Central Library (5005 Duke Street) at 6:30 p.m., relatives of protestors William “Buddy” Evans and Morris Murray are scheduled to discuss the event and some of the lingering impacts, followed by a question and answer session.

In 1939, five young black men entered the library separately and asked to register for a library card. When each was refused, they picked up a book, took a seat, and began to read. Library staff called the police, who arrested the men for disorderly conduct.

Samuel Tucker, a local lawyer who had helped plan the protest, contacted a photographer who documented the event. Tucker had the men released but used the case as part of a legal push for integration.

Charges were officially dropped this past Friday, after it came to light that the case was never adjudicated so the men had never been declared innocent or guilty. Copies of the judge’s order are planned to be presented by Mayor Justin Wilson to descendants tonight.

The case ultimately resulted in the construction of the Robert H. Robinson Library — today the Alexandria Black History Museum — though Tucker continued to fight for equal access to the library.

Photo via City of Alexandria

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While geofencing for scooters generally means blocking them from scooting through an area, new geofencing measures in Alexandria are aimed at keeping scooters parking in certain places.

New scooter regulations have blocked scooters from parking in a multi-block stretch east of N. Union Street, between Oronoco Street and Prince Street. The result has been an 80 percent decrease in scooter parking on the waterfront, staff told the Waterfront Commission at its meeting last week.

When users try to end their ride in the restricted area, a message will appear on their phone telling them to move the scooter elsewhere.

Before geofencing, staff said there were approximately 1,500 scooters parked on the waterfront every month. In September, that fell to around 250.

The city also tried to incentivize legal scooter parking by adding two parking corrals to the area, which have had roughly 400 scooters parked there per month.

This hasn’t stopped scooters from riding through the areas, despite signs encouraging visitors not to do so, but there has been a 50-65 percent decline in scooters riding through the waterfront, staff said.

Geofencing isn’t a fix-all solution. Staff noted that the geofencing can only cover large areas, with accuracy up to only about 20-30 feet. Despite the decline, neglected scooters littering the waterfront are still a common sight.

“It’s bad behavior and it’s going to continue,” said Mark Michael Ludlow, a member of the Waterfront Commission.

The scooter corrals have also become something of a victim of their own success. Staff noted that corrals have frequently been overflowing and scooters have been left on nearby sidewalks.

Staff is currently collecting feedback from the city’s boards and commissions, with Phase II of the scooter program going to City Council for approval next month, for implementation in January.

Map via City of Alexandria

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Taqueria Senora Lola ain’t the only new taqueria game coming to town.

In the West End, Taqueria Picoso (1472 N. Beauregard Street) is eyeing a December opening at The Shops at Mark Center, according to employees working on the building. The spot was formerly a Thai restaurant, according to Alexandria Living.

The taco-centric eatery comes from local restaurant vet Tom Voskuil, formerly of Chef Geoff’s, Tallula/Eatbar and Green Pig Bistro.

“We are in the process of opening a very authentic taqueria!” Voskuil says on his LinkedIn page. “We have approvals for our vertical al pastor roaster. Importing corn from Oaxaca for our tortilla machine, which will produce 720 tortillas/hour. $3 tacos that taste like true tacos from CDMX.”

Taqueria Picoso obtained an ABC permit and Voskuil said the restaurant will serve margaritas and micheladas.

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Del Ray Pizzeria (2218 Mount Vernon Avenue) is celebrating its nine-year anniversary with a pizza party this weekend.

The restaurant, which has previously hosted the Obamas and courted controversy with its “Grab Her By the Pizza” pie a couple years ago, is celebrating this Sunday (Oct. 20) from 2-8 p.m. in the lot behind the restaurant.

According to an employee at the store, the party will have face painting, pumpkin painting, cornhole and other games. They also plan on having a moon bounce that the employee assured ALXnow will fit adults.

The employee noted that in addition to soft drinks, the party will have craft beers available.

“We’ll have our cheese and pepperoni pizza, but also a few specialty favorites,” the employee said.

These specialties include Butcher’s Block — a pizza with pepperoni, sausage, bacon, ham and prosciutto — and Tropic Thunder — sausage, pepperoni, jalapenos, and pineapple.

Photo via Del Ray Pizza

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Getting your nails done can be a time-consuming experience, so the newly opened Cavalry Nail Bar at 4104 Mount Vernon Avenue lets you sip wine as you’re getting your nails done.

Technically, manager Aivy Ho said you could also order beer, but so far the orders have been exclusively for wine. Customers seem to be responding positively to the new business.

“It’s been good,” said Ho. “We’re in a really open area and with our lights, you can’t miss us at night.”

The nail bar had been located in Crystal City for ten years, but the company decided to move to the border of Alexandria and Arlington. The new location opened late last week.

Ho described the Arlandria area as up-and-coming, with plenty of parking, which was an issue that plagued the Crystal City location. She said the Arlandria location is also currently hiring for nail technicians and cosmetologists.

The salon has the same ownership as Cavalry Salon and Nails Spa, just off Dupont Circle in D.C., according to Ho.

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Update 3 p.m. — For the second week in a row, the correct answer is lighthouse related. The Mirror Mirror project is inspired by the Fresnel lens of Alexandria’s Jones Point Lighthouse, according to the City of Alexandria website.

We’re back with Friday trivia!

Like last week, we’ll post a trivia question at 9:30 a.m. Comments are disabled to keep people from posting the answers. Play fair, make your best guess, and check back in at 3 p.m. when we post the answer.

For today’s trivia question, we’re taking a look at the Mirror Mirror art display at Waterfront Park at the foot of King Street. The display was created by SOFTlab, a New York-based design studio led by artist and architect Michael Szivos. The interior’s surface is tinted with full-spectrum of color with lights that respond to sound.

The artists cited a specific influence on the design of the project. Was it a kaleidoscope, a zoetrope, a Fresnel lens, or a dispersive prism?

Staff Photo by Jay Westcott

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After 33 years, birding and nature store One Good Tern (1710 Fern Street) near Fairlington is closing as longtime owner Charles Studholme faces a grim kidney failure diagnosis.

“It’s doctor’s orders,” Studholme explained, then with a chuckle. “Well, the doctor’s orders were to stop three years ago.”

Studholme said the plan is to close the store “when the inventory runs out.” Initial plans were to do so by the end of October, but he said that will likely run into November with closure before the end of next month.

Virtually everything in the store outside of bird feed is marked with an at least 25 percent discount. The walls are lined with birdwatching paraphernalia, from telescopes clocking in at several hundred dollars to bird-themed socks and earrings at $10.

But One Good Tern is more than a store. Like a busy bird feeder, customers come and go, chatting and chirping at each other. As the store comes into its final stretch, there’s a constant flow of people in and out. It’s a gathering place for a niche community, with Studholme at its heart.

“I don’t know what we’re going to do once he goes,” one customer said.

Studholme didn’t found the store — a man named Mark Farmer founded it in 1986. Studholme started working there part-time in 1999 and two years later, bought it from the woman who’d replaced Farmer. Studholme, who’d previously worked in other retail jobs, described himself as a shopkeeper through-and-through who has had a longtime passion for birds.

He was born in Massachusetts and his father worked in fish and wildlife. Studholme recalled that all of his father’s friends also worked in that field and talk of nature filled his house. One friend went on a walk on the beach with Studholme when he was five and while most adults tended to ignore children, she talked to him and really listened to his questions.

“I knew about birds, but that was really the extent of my five-year-old knowledge,” he said. “She pointed to the sanderlings running down to the water’s edge and coming back to avoid getting wet, and it really anthropomorphized them. I found out later that was Rachel Carson, who wrote Silent Spring and ignited the eco-movement in America.”

Studholme said that beach walk with Carson helped to shape his passion for birds and nature, though he didn’t it until later. But since then, Studholme has passed that passion for nature onto visitors to the store. It’s mostly birds, but customers come into the store and ask Studholme about things like hibernation patterns of chipmunks and other nature questions.

“I was able to feed the robins the cranberries like you suggested,” a customer told him.

“He’s got all the knowledge,” another said.

One customer came in to ask whether he should take a position in a rare-bird focused organization.

“It’s a thankless job,” Studholme said, “but when has that ever stopped you? You worked at the Pentagon.”

Studholme doesn’t hide from his customers that he’s facing the end stage of kidney failure. A transplant could extend his life for ten years, and he said he’s keeping his options open, but Studholme said many of the treatments involve a great deal of pain and his preference would be to spend his final years in comfort.

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The City of Alexandria is once again preparing to shut cars out of the end of King Street and convert it into a pedestrian-only walkway.

A plan is currently in the works to close the 100 block of King Street to car traffic on weekends to turn the area near the waterfront into a pedestrian boulevard. At the Waterfront Commission meeting yesterday (Tuesday), city staff presented the timeline for when that closure could happen.

City staff said they are currently coordinating with stakeholders — like businesses along King Street that rely on the street not only for visitors but loading and unloading goods — to evaluate concerns about the proposal.

“We want to come back to the public in December,” staff said. “We want to come forward with solutions, not just identify that we know there are problems.”

The City Council is scheduled to review the pilot proposal in January. If approved, design and preparation work would continue through April, which is when the pilot would launch. The closures would run from April to October, after which staff would analyze the results of the pilot and determine next steps.

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Improvements and changes are coming to the Waterfront Park over the next few weeks.

Mirror Mirror, the circular art exhibit currently on display in the park, had originally been scheduled to remain on display through the end of next month, but at a Waterfront Commission Meeting on Tuesday staff said the installation will be removed the first week of November.

The project briefly went dark when the waterfront flooded but has since been re-lit. A new project from Brooklyn-based artist Olalekan Jeyifous is expected to replace it next year.

Staff also said a portion of the park will be closed for 3-5 weeks to replace lawn panels. Several light fixtures in the park will also be replaced with LED lighting. Lighting in the older section of the park south of King Street was noticeably darker than the area at the foot of King Street, staff said, so the new LED lights should equalize that.

Further south, the city is still struggling with debris at Windmill Hill Park. Some of the trash is brought in by the tides, but staff is laying some of the blame at the webbed feet of mischievous local geese.

The park is still within a one-year warranty with the contractor that built the project; staff said they are currently in discussions over the condition of the shoreline. Goose mitigation efforts are also in place to help hold back some of the debris.

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It’s no secret that there is a lack of equity in Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) and school staff are working to identify where staff and students say disparities are the most prevalent.

While the school system recently celebrated all ACPS schools being fully accredited, the announcement noted that achievement gaps continue to exist “particularly in math and English among Hispanic students, black students, economically disadvantaged students and students with disabilities.” Test scores over recent years have shown a narrowing gap among different groups but with room to improve.

Concerns about racial and socioeconomic hurdles in the school system were not just raised by disgruntled parents and students during the discussion over whether to split T.C. Williams High School, but by administrators like Principal Peter Balas and Superintendent Gregory Hutchings.

An audit report prepared by education consultant KickUp for last Thursday’s (Oct. 10) School Board meeting reported on an equity audit — a scheduled check-in following equity reforms initiated in 2017. The results of the survey seemed mixed, with students and staff praising many of the equity efforts but also pointing to several areas where more work needs to be done.

The audit said that of staff surveyed, 63% said they saw a noticeable relationship between student demographics and rigorous classes, while only 26% of students said it seemed like students were being placed in classes or groups based on race.

While the audit said that 80% of students surveyed said they believe their teachers help prepare them for to overcome education challenges, it said that “students at T.C. Williams Minnie Howard responded more negatively to a number of items in this category, relative to other schools.”

Students at T.C. ranked their school lower than other schools on items like “my teachers talk about things that are important to me” and “school is a place that helps me imagine my future.”

Nearly 40 percent of those surveyed at T.C. Williams High School indicated that it seemed like students were placed in classes and groups based on race, with nearly 60 percent of students at the Chance for Change alternative program saying they felt classes were grouped by race.

Concerns about the disparities in the school system were also present among school staff.

“While 79% of staff across the district agreed with the statement ‘efforts are made to foster respect between students from different backgrounds and identities,’ only 54.6% disagreed with the negative statement: ‘There are tensions in the school between students with different backgrounds and identities.'”

Concerns about equity were higher among staff in some schools. At Jefferson-Houston, a school that was plagued for years with accreditation issues, only 35.8 percent of staff said they believed students were being prepared to function as a member of a diverse society. Less than half the staff at the school responded positively to questions about physical integration at the school.

Nearly 60 percent of students agreed that there are tensions between students with different backgrounds and identities throughout the school system.

“Race is often an elephant in the room but is rarely addressed,” said Cheryl Robinson, Cultural Competency Coordinator for ACPS. “We’ve not had the conversations we need to have with our staff in order to help them think about and develop the skill and the will to want to do something different… We spend a fair amount of time talking about institutional racism and structural racism and how they are related to implicit bias because if you don’t name that, you can pretty much cancel Christmas.”

A second equity audit is planned for spring 2020 to check on progress over time.

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Danielle Romanetti, owner of Alexandria yarn store fibre space (1319 Prince Street), is ready for the colder weather.

Even as the store celebrated its ten year anniversary, it faced an unusually difficult summer, with Metro closures and unseasonable warmth leaving business hanging by a thread, so to speak. But now, she’s hopeful that the recent dip into sweater weather heralds the return to wool season.

“Coming off of the Metro closure we needed things to pick up,” Romanetti said. “The end of September and early October was not what it should have been. It was 95 degrees. You bring in a fall inventory then it’s 95 degrees, which is not the most helpful thing ever. I’m hoping things are getting better since this is the kick-off of the fall season.”

With new activities and events lined up for the next couple of months, Romanetti said her store is ready to bounce back.

First up is Slow Fashion October, a celebration tonight (Wednesday) from 5-8 p.m. spanning three local stores: fibre space, Threadleaf, and Stitch Sew Shop. The celebration is focused on clothes that endure for more than just a season.

“It’s about investing money in pieces that are long-lasting and not really a quick disposable item,” Romanetti said. “Investing in the longer-lasting items over time, so our three shops are doing that to help everyone make their own sustainable clothing.”

At fibre space, the focus is on a new breed-and-ranch specific yarn, which Romanetti said is a big deal in the yarn world. It’s yarn sourced from one specific ranch and breed of sheep, which is unusual given that the United States doesn’t have a particularly strong wool market.

Each of the stores is planning to have a special gift with each purchase. Romanetti said any purchase over $50 at fibre space comes with a lanolin bath bomb — a wax secreted from wool-bearing animals that is frequently used in moisturizing products.

“It’s about trying to celebrate all of the ways in which wool and sheep contribute to our livelihoods,” Romanetti said, adding that she’s also excited for a new unique, hand-dyed yarn coming to the store in November.

“It’s a yarn that has two plies, each of a different color,” Romanetti. “It’s dyed in the wool, then plied after that into a two-ply [line].”

The launch party for the unique yarn is scheduled for Saturday, November 9, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

Outside of the events, fibre space regularly hosts classes for knitting and crocheting, ranging from beginners to advanced levels.

“If you knit, you know we exist,” Romanetti said. “We have the knitters, but we need to make more knitters.”

Romanetti said the classes help get people who haven’t tried knitting involved in a new hobby and offers people a chance to meet others outside of their usual social circles.

“It’s a great opportunity to meet people,” Romanetti said. “You see people you might no overlap with, like people who are teachers and people who are federal employees. People who are not part of your social structure.”

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