On New Year’s morning, Luke Shlagel of Shlagel Farms was among a handful of vendors at the weekly Del Ray Farmer’s Market. Some customers asked why he wasn’t hanging out with his family and taking the day off, and he had a simple answer.
“If I hadn’t come on New Year’s Day, that would have been 20 days since the last market,” Shlagel said. “Christmas was on a Saturday, New Year’s Day was on a Saturday, and if I waited for the following Saturday, the eighth, that’s too long for the community to be without us.”
The Waldorf, Maryland, farm raises approximately 150 acres of fruit, vegetables, meat, dairy products and flowers through a variety of avenues. Their bread and butter has been a 29-year-long contract supplying vegetables to Giant Food with vegetables, followed by directly selling their products to consumers at half a dozen farmers markets in Maryland and Virginia.
Del Ray is their biggest market, and customers can pick up pre-ordered boxes or shop in-person every Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon. Getting to this point, though, took a lot of work. Farmers markets were not deemed essential in Virginia at the onset of the pandemic in March 2020. Within weeks, though, Shlagel Farms was back in Del Ray with a new e-commerce site, and selling pre-ordered and boxed products for pickup.
“Maryland deemed farmers’ markets as essential, but not Virginia, and that hit us like a ton of bricks,” said Russell Shlagel, the company patriarch. “But now, thanks to our online sales, we have surpassed 2019 numbers. We were able to pivot, and we get emotional about it, how people said they needed us to supply them with fresh fruits, vegetables, and meat.”
More than half (54%) of Virginia farmers market vendors started or expanded an online platform after the onset of the pandemic, according to the Virginia Farmers Market Association.
“The COVID-19 pandemic had far reaching effects on farmers market managers, vendors and customers during the 2020 market season,” the association reported. “Amidst supply chain shortages and panic buying, farmers markets were deemed non-essential infrastructure by the state during the pandemic.”
Sales are good, but there’s a catch, Russell Shlagel said.
“Within the last year, fuel costs have gone up drastically,” he said. “Crop protected costs, fertilizer, and labor have gone up drastically.”
Luke Shlagel said he compiled a customer email list before March 2020 in Del Ray, and that the company was ready. After all, his mother, sisters and wife are all ER nurses, and they warned the family of what was coming. For many Saturdays after Covid hit, the vendor was alone at the Del Ray market.
“We has a notebook and we asked customers to jot down their emails for us,” Luke said. “Then it was unbelievable. All of a sudden we have more than 300 orders coming in, and all of a sudden I’m in the position of shopping for your family, making sure that the product that I’m putting in these boxes is the very best. Really, it was the support of the people of our people in Alexandria that made the whole thing successful and made it come together and work well.”
How farmers’ markets adapted amid pandemic — “Every Saturday, the Old Town Farmers’ Market, located at 301 King St., teems with people looking to fill their grocery bags and socialize with friends… A trip to the farmers’ market, year round and regardless of weather, is a natural part of the weekend for many vendors and consumers alike.” [Alexandria Times]
First Night events canceled in Alexandria due to COVID-19 — “The fireworks show will go on, but other First Night events are canceled.” [Alexandria Living Magazine]
Two Alexandria firefighters struck in hit-and-run incident — “Alexandria police are investigating a hit-and-run incident that left two firefighters in the hospital.” [Local DMV]
One Afghan woman’s struggle to resettle in America, help her fellow refugees — “She is now one of 12 Afghans working for LIRS full-time in a paid role from a new office space inside Lutheran Peace Church in Alexandria, Virginia.” [ABC]
Vacant lot in Eisenhower could become pop-up events and market space — “At 2425 Eisenhower Ave., there’s more than 18,000 square feet of open, grassy space. Until recently, the lot, which is owned by Rubenstein Partners LP, has remained unused except for the occasional dog romping with its owner. The Eisenhower Partnership is working with the site owners to bring fresh life to the lot by creating a pop-up space that could be used for food trucks, markets, arts, musical performances and other recreational uses according to a recent application filed with the City.” [Alexandria Living]
There’s a new mural in Old Town — “When Erik Muendel took over the ESP Tea and Coffee Shop at 1012 King Street, he not only revitalized the hip location with a new spin on the name and increased offerings, the wanted to make a splash on the outside as well.” [Zebra]
Catholic Charities plans café for Alexandria headquarters — “Catholic Charities USA filed an application to add a café in 2,088 square feet on the ground floor of its headquarters building located at 2050 Ballenger Ave. in Suite 400. According to the application, the space was formerly occupied by the Carlyle Club restaurant.” [Alexandria Living]
Today’s weather — “Cloudy skies (during the day). Slight chance of a rain shower. High 81F. Winds E at 5 to 10 mph… Overcast (in the evening). Slight chance of a rain shower. Low 66F. Winds E at 5 to 10 mph.” [Weather.com]
New job: Personal assistant — “I am the owner of a luxury men’s clothing store and am seeking a personal assistant/IT adviser . You will not only be working for me but working with me towards a common goal. If you are a self starter with a ton of different talents and all you have been waiting for is an opportunity, this may be for you.” [Indeed]
Animal Welfare League gets 50 cats from Texas shelters — “Among the lingering effects of the winter outages is the strain on animal shelters. According to AWLA, the Texas shelters are seeing a surge in surrendered pets. The animals come from eight animal shelters in Texas. By transferring animals to Virginia, these shelters can better address the continued needs of homeless animals.” [Patch]
School Board public hearing on renaming of T.C. Williams High School and Matthew Maury Elementary School on March 18 — “There will be a School Board Public Hearing on March 18 at 5pm, where community members have their final opportunity to sign up to speak or submit comments about the renaming of schools.” [Twitter]
Police advise alertness as schools reopen Tuesday — “The remainder of ACPS students participating in hybrid, in-person learning head back to the classroom. Keep alert for kids walking, stop for kids getting on school buses, and slow down in school zones. Slow down, eyes up!” [Twitter]
Community meeting set for McArthur Elementary construction updates — “The Douglas MacArthur building at 1101 Janneys Lane is CLOSED! It is an official construction zone. Please do not utilize the playground or trespass on the premises. A community meeting will be held on Wednesday Mar. 25 at 6:00 via zoom with construction updates.” [Twitter]
Del Ray Vintage and Flea Market returning in April — “The Del Ray Vintage and Flea Market is set to return Saturday, April 10. Founded by Lauren Fisher and Amy Eggers in 2019, the market will occur monthly until December.” [Zebra]
Today’s weather — “Cloudy skies early. A few showers developing later in the day. High 44F. Winds SSE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 40%… Cloudy. Slight chance of a rain shower. Low around 40F. Winds ENE at 5 to 10 mph.” [Weather.com]
New job: Pastry Chef/Baker — “Seeking a full time pastry and/or bread baker for high quality artisan bread and pastry company. We are looking for a creative self starter who has attention to detail and a variety of skills from cookies and brownies to cakes, ice cream, mousses, desserts and pies- laminating skills a plus but not necessary.” [Indeed]
Beyer Says Trump Should Not Reject Strict FDA Guidelines for COVID Vaccines — “Political interference with vaccine development and an open feud with FDA can only further damage the public’s already growing safety concerns. Once again, lives may depend on Trump shutting his mouth and letting scientists do their jobs.” [Twitter]
Pizzeria Paradiso Closing in Old Town — “Like many restaurants in Old Town, Pizzeria Paradiso closed when the coronavirus pandemic reached Alexandria. Unfortunately, the beloved pizza restaurant will not be reopening, the owner announced this week.” [Alexandria Living]
Carlyle Farmers’ Market Today from 3-7 P.M. — “Free to the Public; Produce, Meats, Food, and Beverage sales are welcomed. What to Bring? Face Mask and your Social Distancing Etiquette.” [Facebook]
Lee-Fendall House Hosting Virtual Speakeasy Fundraiser — “Enjoy a night of speakeasy-style fun , without leaving your living room! Join us for this special night to support the Lee-Fendall House Museum’s vital work in historic preservation and education – one where you can keep on dancing, break out the booze, and have a ball.” [Visit Alexandria]
Alexandria Sheriff’s Deputy Reads ‘Lost And Found’ — “Chief Deputy Candra Callicott offers her encouragement to young students and the sweet story “Lost and Found” about a boy and a penguin.” [Facebook]
Alexandria Country Day School Hosting Virtual Open House — “ACDS’s small-size and ability to adapt quickly allowed us to open in September with in-person learning under a hybrid model. Join our Head of School, Division Heads, current parents and middle school students to learn more about our student-centered program.” [Patch]
Free Drive-Thru Flu Shot Clinic on Saturday — “This clinic will be open to adults and adolescents age 12 and over, with a maximum of four people per vehicle.” [City of Alexandria]
Today’s Weather — “Overcast (during the day). High 74F. Winds SSW at 5 to 10 mph.Rain showers in the evening will evolve into a more steady rain overnight. Low 63F. Winds light and variable. Chance of rain 70%.” [Weather.com]
New Job: Alexandria Assistant City Manager for Public Private Partnerships — “As a member of the City Manager’s Senior Leadership Team, the Assistant City Manager for Public Private Partnerships reports to the City Manager and a Deputy City Manager and is responsible for leading the overall public private partnership (P3) initiatives for the City primarily via capital project planning and financing, leveraging of City assets and resources to implement City infrastructure and facilities, economic development related public sector and private sector projects, as well as facilitating the development and implementation of alternative service delivery strategies.” [Indeed]
Mayor: Council to Accelerate Sewer Capacity Projects — “Our ’16 Storm Sewer Capacity Analysis identified 90 areas where the system does not meet our CURRENT design standard of a 10-year storm. Our Stormwater Utility Fee was implemented in ’18 to fund capacity and environmental compliance. Council will now discuss how to accelerate.” [Facebook]
Beyer Attacks Trump’s Environmental Stance — “Trump’s climate change strategy is the same as his pandemic strategy: play it down and pretend it isn’t happening. There are a record number of named storms in the Atlantic and the west coast is on fire.” [Twitter]
Anonymous Donation Helps Expand SNAP Double Dollars Program — “A $10,000 anonymous donation to help fight food insecurity during the pandemic will help the City expand SNAP Double Dollars program, which allows SNAP customers who visit participating Alexandria farmers’ markets to receive up to $20 in double dollars to purchase eligible food products at the markets.” [Facebook]
Environmental Council of Alexandria Decries Taylor Run Restoration Plan — “We’ve got our work cut out for us to make sure that the City doesn’t continue to promote so-called “eco” policies that actually come at the expense of the environment and efforts to reverse global warming.” [Facebook]
Tall Ship Providence Sails Away for Inspections — “And, they’re off… Bright and early this morning, Providence headed out on a voyage to Georgetown, MD for a scheduled haul out and Coast Guard inspection. They’ll inspect the hull, complete any necessary maintenance, and she’ll get a new coat of bottom paint. Please join us in wishing our Captain and crew “Fair winds and following seas.” Providence will return home by the end of September. We look forward to welcoming you back aboard for tours and cruises!” [Facebook]
Classic Car Show in Old Town September 19 — “This Saturday you can head to the parking lot of the Alexandria History Museum at The Lyceum for a classic car show featuring a variety of Packards and other ‘orphan’ vehicles.” [Zebra]
Today’s Weather — “During the day, mainly sunny. High 73F. Winds NE at 5 to 10 mph. At night, clear. Low 54F. Winds light and variable.” [Weather.com]
New Job: Spanish Language Teacher — “You must have previous tutoring/teaching experience, and minimum Bachelor’s degree.” [Indeed]
Arlandria Champion Kevin Beekman Passes Away — “It is with great sorrow that we announce that Kevin Beekman, an Arlandria hero and force behind the Four Mile Run Conservancy and Farmer’s Market, lost his battle with amyloidosis on August 24. Kevin was part of the fabric of Arlandria.” [Zebra]
Beyer Says Republican National Convention is Corrupt — “The White House is not the property of Donald Trump or the Republican Party, it belongs to the American people. These actions cheapen the office and degrade the nation. This convention, like the person at its core, is fundamentally corrupt.” [Twitter]
Coronavirus Cases Reach 3,333 in Alexandria — “Positive tests up 9 to 3,333 in the City 7-day Positivity Rate up to 5.9%. One new hospitalization.” [Twitter]
Live Outdoor Concert Tonight Honoring Anniversary of March on Washington — “A program of vibrant, meaningful and historic music, presented by prominent Washington Artists on the anniversary weekend of the March on Washington.” [Visit Alexandria]
ALIVE! Warns of Scam Calls — “Periodically ALIVE! seems to be the target of scammers. Please know that ALIVE! staff and leaders will never ask you to purchase gift certificates in specific amounts or at specific places, or make unusual personal requests. Please contact us directly if in doubt of any request.” [Facebook]
Today’s Weather — During the day, “More clouds than sun. A stray shower or thunderstorm is possible. High around 90F. Winds WSW at 5 to 10 mph.” At night, “Scattered thunderstorms during the evening, then cloudy skies overnight. Low around 75F. Winds SSW at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 50%.” [Weather.com]
New Job: Tour Guide — “We specialize in performing haunted pub tours. Think ghost tour combined with Pub Crawl and there you have it.” [Indeed]
How do you like your soufflé? There’s a new option for folks in Alexandria searching for those savory or sweet egg-based delicacies.
Alena Ignatysh and Cameron Hatam launched Oh La La Soufflé last month, and can be found selling their creations at the Carlyle Farmers Market on Fridays and at the Four Mile Run Farmers and Aristans Market on Sundays. They sell three varieties for $6 apiece — chocolate, orange liqueur, and cheese and spinach.
Ignatysh is an accountant, and she’s also vegan, so she seldom tries her soufflés, and leaves the tasting to Hatam. She says he’s her inspiration.
“I happen to have inspiration in my life, and he sits right here,” Ignatysh told ALXnow. “He was the person who told me, ‘I love soufflés. Can you make one for me, please?’ And that was the first time I made a soufflé in my life.”
Hatam, who owns four Virginia Family Chiropractic and Physical Medicine offices in the area, couldn’t believe the result. He ate all 12 of the chocolate deserts she made for him in less than 20 minutes.
Soon the couple were trying out new recipes and giving away the creations so that Hatam wouldn’t eat them all. Now that their kitchen has cleared health department hurdles to cook and sell their products, the arrangement is simple: She cooks, he packs the boxes, and they both go to the farmers’ markets.
“That first batch she made was amazing,” Hatam said. “I couldn’t believe it. Normally a soufflé from a restaurant deflates as soon as you put your fork in it. Not these.”
Ignatysh hopes to own a soufflé shop someday.
“Our goal was to make soufflés more popular and affordable for everybody,” she said. “That was our goal, and it has this reputation of being very hard to make. You need to use particular measurements for the ingredients and follow some steps, but it’s doable. So, we just decided to make it easier for people to bake at home.”
Image via Oh La La Souffle/Facebook
(Updated 8/7) Upcoming Scottish Christmas Walk Weekend Canceled — “The coronavirus has canceled one of Alexandria’s most beloved traditions this winter.” [Alexandria Living]
Beyer Blames Trump for Coronavirus Response Failures — “The White House is simultaneously blaming state governments for Trump’s failed pandemic response and blocking federal assistance to support state and local governments.” [Twitter]
Fire Department: Use Flashlight, Not Candle if Power Goes Out — “Tropical Storm #Isaias is expected to bring heavy rain and wind gusts that may cause power outages. If you experience an outage, use a flashlight for emergency lighting instead of candles to prevent a possible fire. Be prepared. Be informed. Be ready.” [Twitter]
City Suspends Trash and Recycling Today — “Due to expected impacts from Tropical Storm Isaias, the City of Alexandria has suspended its curbside trash and recycling collection for Tuesday, August 4.” [Zebra]
Ebbin Pledges to Fight for Marijuana Legalization in 2021 — “In 2020, six years of hard work paid off in major reform to our criminal justice system by decriminalizing possession of marijuana. In 2021, I’m ready to do the hard work to legalize cannabis in Virginia the right way.” [Facebook]
Silver Diner to Open August 12 — “The 6,500-square foot restaurant is part of West Alex, a new $185 million mixed-use community at the corner of King and North Beauregard streets, anchored by an in-the-works Harris Teeter grocery store and Array, a 278-unit apartment building.” [Alexandria Living]
New Farmers Market in Carlyle Starts Friday — “The Carlyle Vitality Initiative is hosting a new Farmer’s Market at John Carlyle Square Park, starting on August 7th! We can’t wait to see you this weekend!” [Facebook]
Today’s Weather — “Thunderstorms. Potential for heavy rainfall. Low 71F. Winds SE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 100%.” [Weather.com]
New Job: Activities and Volunteer Coordinator — “At Sunrise, our Activities & Volunteer Coordinator is responsible for leading the day to day activities and programs for a Sunrise Senior Living community.” [Indeed]
City Official Dies in Car Crash — “The City of Alexandria is devastated by the loss of Robert Bloom, Public Safety Systems Administrator in the Department of Emergency and Customer Communications (DECC), in a vehicle crash on the morning of July 20, 2020.” [City of Alexandria]
Alexandria Man Dies in D.C. Shooting — “Homicide detectives from the Metropolitan Police Department are investigating the fatal shooting of an Alexandria man that occurred Sunday night in the Shipley area of the city, according to a police release… MPD identified the decedent as Rayfone Gassaway, 37, of Alexandria, Virginia.” [Patch]
COVID-19 Cases Jump by 23 in Alexandria — “Positive tests up 23 to 2,582 in the City… Still safer at home, wash hands, wear masks and support our essential workers.” [Twitter]
Beyer Calls Out Trump Directive to Census Bureau — “A clear violation of the United States Constitution, which spells out in the 14th Amendment that ‘Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States.. counting the whole number of persons in each State..'” [Twitter]
National Coin Shortage Hits Alexandria — “At Alexandria stores like The Home Depot in West End Village and dozens of grocery and other retailers, customers are starting to see signs at checkout (like the one below) pleading with them to use a credit or debit card, or use exact change.” [Alexandria Living]
New Job: Youth Soccer Coach — “Prior soccer experience is not required. We only require the passion for positively impacting children’s lives through the love of sports and fitness. Valid driver’s license and access to personal vehicle Must be at least 18 years of age.” [Indeed]