The Chamber ALX wants to turn things up a notch and increase their influence in Alexandria. That’s according to new Chamber Board Chair Angela Hartley, who thanked members for their support at the annual Chair’s Gala on Tuesday night (April 19).
“We want to make sure that the Chamber really is representing all parts of this city, all types of businesses,” Hartley said. “And by the way, nonprofits are businesses, too. Then we represent all of the people that live in the city, all of the age groups, all the diversity that we have here.”
The event was held at The National Industries For The Blind (3000 Potomac Avenue), where Hartley is the executive vice president and chief program officer. The Chamber also conducts a number of events throughout the year, including the 40 Under 40, the Valor Awards for first responders, and networking mixers.
Hartley was named chair in January, has been on the Chamber board for six years, and her term as chair expires at the end of the year.
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.
Cortado Cafe opens in Alexandria’s West End — “A new coffee shop has opened in the Shoppes of Foxchase shopping center in Alexandria’s West End.” [Alexandria Living Magazine]
Council amends, renames Transportation Master Plan — “City Council approved an amendment to the Alexandria Transportation Master Plan during Saturday’s public hearing that aimed to expand the city’s focus on alternative modes of transit while addressing concerns such as congestion, accessibility and equity.” [Alexandria Times]
Voting starts for Del Ray Halloween contest — “Voting is now open for the People’s Choice Award for Del Ray’s Best Decorated Halloween House” [Visit Del Ray]
The Chamber ALX hosts business awards — “Tonight was epic! Best in Business 2021 did not disappoint with 200+ attendees and 14 restaurants.” [The Chamber ALX]
School Board forum yields big turnout from District B constituents — “Alexandria City School Board candidates gathered in the second of two virtual forums last weekend to prepare for the Nov. 2 general election.” [Alexandria Times]
The Chamber ALX is hosting a wine and chocolate get-together for local businesswomen — “We’re excited to be back in person for our annual Evening of Perfect Pairings: Wine + Chocolate, Women + Business event! Join us in the beautiful back (heated) garden of Sonoma Cellar for a curated wine tasting/food pairing, networking and celebration of the year.” [The Chamber ALX]
City of Alexandria observes bullying prevention month — “In recognition of National Bullying Prevention Month in October, the Mayor’s Campaign to End Bullying encourages Alexandrians to learn more about bullying, what to do about it and how to prevent it.” [City of Alexandria]
Caribbean-Spiced soul food coming to Springfield — “Caribbean-leaning soul food spot KitchenCray opened its first Virginia location over the weekend, taking over the former Walker’s Grille space at 6909 Metro Park Drive…” [Eater DC]
Alexandria chooses historic trolley as 2021 holiday ornament — “The City of Alexandria is now taking orders for its 2021 Trolley ornament, depicting Car 303 of the Mount Vernon Alexandria & Washington Electric Railway. The fleet of art deco cars were purchased in 1918 for the essential trolley line that connected Del Ray commuters to DC and tourists to Mount Vernon. Car 303 ran until the railway’s closure in 1932. It became a diner in 1936.” [Zebra]
Missing 83-year-old West Ender found safe — “Mr. Navia has been located.” [Twitter]
Early voting starts Friday — “Early voting for the Nov 2 General Election begins Fri, Sep 17. In Alexandria, ballot includes contests for VA Governor; Lt. Governor; Attorney General; House of Delegates; Commonwealth’s Attorney; Sheriff; Mayor; City Council & School Board.” [Twitter]
Chamber ALX sets legislative agenda — “Over the last decade we have been an outspoken voice for the completion of Potomac Yard metro, redevelopment of Landmark Mall, streamlining small business regulations and a champion of countless issues directly impacting the business community. We are proud to be entrusted with amplifying the voice of the diverse businesses in our city…” [Alexandria Living]
Today’s weather — “Mostly cloudy skies early will become partly cloudy later in the day. Hot. High 92F. Winds SE at 5 to 10 mph… A few clouds (in the evening). Low 71F. Winds S at 5 to 10 mph.” [Weather.com]
New job: Chef De Cuisine at The Alexandrian — “Sage Hotel Management is currently seeking a Chef De Cuisine for our King & Rye restaurant located inside The Alexandrian Hotel, in Alexandria, VA.” [Indeed]
Scott Shaw named Chamber’s 2021 Business Leader of the Year — “For the last six years, he has served as a partner of Alexandria Restaurant Partners (ARP). ARP operates nine restaurants including The Majestic and Theismann’s Restaurant… Outside of the restaurant industry, Shaw established Founders Hall and co-founded ALX Community. His community involvement includes serving as Chair of the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership. In this position… In 2017, Shaw founded the Tall Ship Providence Foundation, which is dedicated to preserving Alexandria’s rich maritime history through educational programs and entertainment.” [Zebra]
Rep. Beyer says he’s working on securing stormwater management funding for Alexandria — “I’m also working to secure more federal funding for storm and sewer projects in ALX in upcoming infrastructure legislation.” [Twitter]
Alexandria accountant pleads guilty to tax fraud — “An accountant from Alexandria pleaded guilty Wednesday for his role in filing false tax returns that led to over $250,000 in federal tax loss.” [Patch]
Recent T.C. Williams High School graduate dies at 18 — “Tommy Lacey was a towering figure. At 6 feet 5 inches tall, he was a gentle giant with a passion for sports and hanging out with friends at Al’s Steakhouse in Del Ray. A standout lacrosse player, the 2021 graduate of T.C. Williams High School was preparing to attend James Madison University in the fall when he died unexpectedly on Aug. 4.” [Gazette]
Today’s weather — “Partly cloudy. High 91F. Winds WNW at 5 to 10 mph… Scattered thunderstorms during the evening becoming more widespread overnight. Low 72F. Winds light and variable. Chance of rain 80%.” [Weather.com]
New job: Crew member at Trader Joe’s — “If you have a passion for people and a fervor for food, we’d love to meet you. We can teach you the rest.” [Indeed]
The Chamber of Commerce launched the locally-themed board game last year, a riff on a “popular board game” that they can’t name for legal reasons. Players take pewter replicas of local icons like the Old Town Crier or a construction hat around a map littered with Alexandria streets — like King Street or Mount Vernon Avenue — or local landmarks like George Washington Masonic National Memorial and the Carlyle Lions.
The board game was officially released earlier this year, but had only been available for bulk purchases. The game is $40 and available at the Chamber of Commerce website for pick up or to be shipped, though that comes with a $22 fee.
School Board vice chair condemns City Council elimination of School Resource Office program — “Without surveying the larger community, they made a decision that frankly their backgrounds don’t qualify them to understand the ramifications of their actions. It’s still puzzling, even after a 2.5-hour exchange by council, what problem council was trying to solve, as the SRO program has not only been highlighted to be a successful partnership, but also there was no evidence to suggest otherwise.” [Alex Times]
Investigative journalist Nick Horrock dies — “Perhaps the best example of his courage came in 1968 when he was trying to expose problems in the prison system. His head shaved, he went undercover as an inmate at the Maryland State Penitentiary. With only the warden and the governor aware of why he was truly there, there was no special protection from either the inmates or the guards. He survived unscathed, he wrote, he won accolades and prizes but he was awash in fear when he was doing it.” [Gazette]
Animal Welfare League ‘Cover the Cruiser’ event on Saturday in Del Ray — “Join us this Saturday from 10-2 to help us Cover the Cruiser! We’ll be out in front of The Dog Store in Del Ray along with @Twitter]and @ to cover their vehicles with donated pet supplies to help animals in need!” [
Chamber ALX hosting City Council candidate meet-and-greet on June 1 — “The Alexandria Chamber of Commerce will gather members and friends for a “speed networking” type of event where Candidates for Alexandria City Council and Mayor will hop from virtual table to table to have micro conversations and targeted discussions with each group of attendees. Attendees will be seated by areas of interest to better focus the small group conversations.” [Chamber ALX]
Today’s weather — “Sunshine and clouds mixed. High 89F. N winds shifting to ESE at 10 to 15 mph… A few clouds. Low 56F. Winds SE at 10 to 15 mph.” [Weather.com]
New job: Entry level appointment setter — “We are hiring for individuals who have a background in either customer service, finance, or sales. If you are searching for a company that pays well, and takes care of all members, feel free to apply. We are looking to add 4 new members to our team. We fully train, so experience in our industry is not required. If you work hard and show that you are serious, we do have advancement opportunities. We truly care about helping our associates succeed and we have the tools.” [Indeed]
Elo’s Italian pop-up opens in Live Oak space — “The owners of Live Oak in Del Ray have opened a pop-up Italian restaurant in the Live Oak space in Del Ray. Chef Justus Frank is offering family Italian fare Tuesday through Saturday from 4 p.m. – 9 p.m. Brunch is ‘coming soon’ according to the owners. The menu includes a variety of appetizers, flatbreads, paninis, seasonal pasta dishes, fish, chicken and more. A kid’s menu is available.” [Alexandria Living]
Police asking for help finding robbery suspects — “APD is following active leads and working with neighboring jurisdictions on the investigation into 2 armed robberies that occurred on May 5. One happened at 12:15pm on E. Oxford Ave. The second happened at 12:40pm in the 3900 blk of Courtland Cir… Witnesses and anyone with security video should contact Det. Stephen Riley at [email protected] or 703.746.6225. Even the smallest details can be significant.” [Twitter]
Chamber ALX releases City Council candidate survey results — “The Alexandria Chamber of Commerce recently asked all announced candidates to complete a survey of critical business issues facing our city. In order to ensure our members are informed prior to entering the voting booth, the Chamber is providing the candidate’s responses.” [Chamber ALX]
Alexandria resident Brian Hooks named to Time100 Next list — “Brian Hooks wants to change the country – but not by himself. An Alexandria resident, Hooks was named one of Time Magazine’s next 100 most influential people in the world in February for his work as the chief executive officer of nonprofit Stand Together.” [Alex Times]
City seeks input on American Rescue Plan Act funding — ” The City will host virtual meetings on Saturday, May 8 at 10 a.m. and Monday, May 10 at 7 p.m. to review the funding guidelines and discuss project proposals. The input will be used to inform a spending plan, and the deadline to provide feedback is Thursday, May 13.” [City of Alexandria]
Resurfacing work temporarily closes portion of Mount Vernon Trail — “In a step to prepare for an upcoming $6.5 million Mount Vernon Memorial Highway Trail Project on the south end of the Mount Vernon bike trail, a portion has been blocked off to bicyclists while crews resurface a portion of the trail between the Mount Vernon Plantation and Richmond Highway.” [Gazette]
Today’s weather — “Partly cloudy skies during the morning hours will give way to cloudy skies and rain in the afternoon. High 66F. Winds SSE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 100%. Rainfall near a quarter of an inch… Rain showers early with clearing later at night. Low 44F. Winds NW at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 80%.” [Weather.com]
New job: Temporary COVID POD vaccinator assistant — “Are you a hardworking individual who is eager to join our efforts to augment and expedite vaccinations in the community? Does your passion drive you to commit to a cause that could have a positive impact on many? If this is you, we invite you to apply to one of our temporary City of Alexandria Vaccination site opportunities. One of which is the Vaccinator Assistant who assists the Vaccinator in efficiently dispensing COVID-19 vaccine according to existing protocols at PODs (Points of Distribution).” [Indeed]
Virginia Tech Innovation Campus gets $50M commitment from Boeing — “Boeing’s multi-year gift will help the campus provide scholarships to students and recruit faculty to the Innovation Campus.” [Patch]
Coalition launches video series to encourage youth to be alcohol free — “The Substance Abuse and Prevention Coalition of Alexandria (SAPCA) has launched a prevention campaign featuring a series of short videos created by T.C. Williams High School students that encourage youth to be alcohol free.” [City of Alexandria]
Chamber ALX announced 40 Under 40 honorees — “We are looking forward to celebrating these individuals at our 40 Under 40 Awards celebration, presented by Beyer Subaru, on July 15.” [Chamber ALX]
Alexandria-based podcast breaks boundaries and builds connections — “Two local women start a podcast to tackle tough issues and find community and transformation along the way.” [Alexandria Living]
Alexandria Commission on Persons With Disabilities seeking award nominees — “The Alexandria Commission on Persons with Disabilities is seeking nominees for various awards and a scholarship.” [Zebra]
Today’s weather — “Thunderstorms likely (during the day). Gusty winds and small hail are possible. High near 75F. Winds W at 10 to 20 mph. Chance of rain 70%… Some clouds early will give way to generally clear conditions overnight. Low 48F. Winds NW at 15 to 25 mph.” [Weather.com]
New job: Temporary environmental educator — “In pursuit of service excellence, the Recreation Leader II/Environmental Educator will greet and assist Nature Center patrons; deliver impromptu programs for visitors; conduct nature-based programming; assist in the care of the Nature Center’s live animals and plants; and support the administrative needs of the organization. The candidate will work under the supervision of the Recreation Leader IV. This position is located at the Jerome ‘Buddie’ Ford Nature Center, 5750 Sanger Avenue in Alexandria, VA 22311.” [Indeed]