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Faced with a drastic disruption in foot traffic, Alexandria-based Comfort One Shoes had to pivot. The pandemic forced the company to focus its energy on online sales, bringing in more casual merchandise and closing the Union Station location in D.C.

Company President Garrett Breton says the efforts made 2021 sales higher than the pre-pandemic year of 2019.

“The Old Town locations (200 and 201 King Street) are on fire right now,” Breton told ALXnow. “People are wanting to go out and do stuff. They want to see their friends, and they need new shoes, because if you try to put your old dress shoes back on and go to the office, even if it’s one day a week, you’re pretty miserable.”

Comfort One Shoes sells brands around the world like Mephisto, BeautifeelEcco and Dansko at its 14 locations in Maryland, Virginia and D.C. The company’s Dupont Circle location has been the most successful of the stores for years, but the reduction in Metro traffic has changed things.

“Before we went into the pandemic Dupont Circle was our number one volume store,” Breton said. “It won’t be for a really long time, maybe never again. It’s based on downtown commuter traffic. People have to walk from the metro to their jobs. I don’t know when offices are coming back. It is what it is.”

Breton became president in January 2020 after the retirement of his father, Maurice, who opened the first Comfort One at 201 King Street nearly 30 years ago. A lifelong Alexandrian and 1998 graduate of Bishop Ireton High School, the younger Breton says that, in the early days of the pandemic, he was challenged to temporarily lay off staff he’d known most of his life. The company employs just under 100 employees, and all its stores closed between one-to-four months in 2020.

During those first months of the pandemic, Breton said, more focus was put on internet sales and he’d have to shift from buying dress shoes to casual shoes and sneakers.

“The online business grew at around 40% at the end of that crazy year (2020), and by last September we exceeded 2019 numbers,” Breton said. “That’s with tons and tons of athletic shoes, and that was not even a part of our business 10 years ago. Nobody is buying dress shoes right now. We’re selling lots of athletic shoes and a lot more slippers — shoes you just slide on to run out quickly.”

Via Comfort One/Facebook

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There will soon be a second Chewish Deli bagel shop in Old Town, as the company officially announced it is working to open at the former Dunkin’ Donuts space at 1640 King Street.

Chewish Deli opened its first brick and mortar at 807 Pendleton Street in the Braddock area in October 2020. It began seven months before that as a food truck selling bagels, hot pastrami and Reuben sandwiches.

The new location is blocks from the King St-Old Town Metro station.

“In this new location you’ll be able to sit down and enjoy your bagel, sandwich and coffee. With much more space in the front area than at Pendleton, we will be expanding out our traditional deli offerings,” the company announced on Facebook. “We will be offering more cold options and a few less hot items than Pendleton since there isn’t the option for a grill there.”

The company said that it is working on getting new equipment, renovations and hiring staff.

Owner Gregg Linzey, in a previous interview, told ALXnow the secret to making the perfect bagel.

“It’s simple, but not necessarily easy,” Linzey said. “You have to get every part of the equation right for all of your ingredients, like making sure the dough has the proper hydration. You need the perfect percentage of water, salt, flour, and we use malt syrup as our sweetener. That’s the key to getting a good New York-style bagel. No sugar, no brown sugar, no honey. Just malt syrup.”

Via Facebook

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(Updated at 1:45 p.m. on Jan. 5) The new owner of 628 King Street is shopping the property around, and wants it to remain two retail spaces.

Douglas Development now owns three of the four buildings at the intersection of King and Washington Streets. The D.C.-based commercial real estate firm owns the adjacent properties at 700 (Lululemon) and 701 King Street (the now-closed Le Pain Quotidien), as well as 610 King Street (Anthropologie), 614 King Street (H&M) and 615 King Street (the former Walgreens) and 700 King Street.

Douglas Development bought the property on Dec. 10, and representatives of the firm say there has been some interest from prospective tenants, although nothing definite. The building was previously owned by the family of Wellington Goddin, and was appraised for $6.2 million last January.

GAP Inc. has leased the three-level, 20,000 square-foot building at 628 King Street since 1986, where it has long been home to a Banana Republic and Gap Outlet store, which will permanently close on Jan. 24. Staff at both stores said Gap Outlet was underperforming at the space, with most business coming in on weekends.

Commercial real estate firm KLNB’s represented Douglas Development in the purchase of the building, and is managing its next steps.

The owners plan on splitting the property into two units, keeping the uses as retail and renting them out as soon as possible.

The firm says their 652 retail transactions this year is a 39% increase over 2020 and 15% over 2019, but that property values have stayed relatively flat over the last two years.

“Brick and mortar retail also remains extremely relevant regardless of what folks may say about it being dead, as evidenced by KLNB’s transaction volume,” KLNB President and Chief Operating Officer Marc Menick told ALXnow. “All this being said, transactions are well up over 2019 levels, but value is basically flat.  More deals, less value.”

The property, which has 158 square feet of frontage on King and S. Washington Streets, was originally developed as a 600-seat theatre in 1854, was converted to a Union hospital during the Civil War, changed hands through the decades and even burned down.

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With the City of Alexandria closing off the 100 block of King Street for good, it’s looking to make some permanent additions to the street to signal that it’s closed to car traffic.

The city is applying to the Board of Architectural Review at the Wednesday, Jan. 5, meeting for approval of traffic-blocking bollards that will close off the ends of the 100 block of King Street. The city will be using the same type of bollards already in place along the Waterfront.

“These bollards are already approved as part of the Waterfront Common Elements Plan and used in the Waterfront Area,” the city said in its application. “This approval would extend that approval one block to the east to include the 100 block of King Street.”

In addition, the city is seeking permission to use existing types of furnishings on the waterfront — like benches, trash cans and water fountains — on the 100 block.

Waterfront furnishings, via City of Alexandria
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With all due respect to Mount Vernon Avenue, King Street is probably Alexandria’s most iconic roadway — but it wasn’t intended to be.

Today, King Street is synonymous with Old Town and runs out to the northwest corner of the city, where it becomes Leesburg Pike. According to Historic Alexandria, the office that oversees the city’s museums and historic sites, back in 1749 city planners had intended for Cameron Street to be the main avenue in Alexandria.

“Cameron Street, named for the Baron of Cameron, was meant to be the city’s main thoroughfare, but King Street has since taken that crown,” Historic Alexandria said in a Facebook post. “This unintentional change was likely because King became more passable than Cameron.”

Historic Alexandria said there were likely two reasons Cameron Street’s popularity never took off the way King Street did.

“First, the head of Oronoco Creek used to make the intersection of Cameron + Pitt Street marshy,” the post said. “Second, Christ Church, built-in 1773, essentially cut off travel on Cameron, making King Street the new main east-west route.”

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After decades at the corner of King and Washington Streets in Old Town, national retailers Banana Republic and Gap Outlet are closing their doors forever on January 24, 2021.

All merchandise is currently marked between 20% and 40% at Banana Republic (628 King Street), and up to 70% off at Gap Outlet (622 King Street).

Both stores belong to The Gap, Inc., and staff at both locations said that Gap Outlet was underperforming, with most business coming in on weekends.

Banana Republic and Gap Outlet have long been anchors near the “Middle King” intersection in Old Town. The block has seen a number of businesses close down in recent years, including La Tasca in May 2020, Wallgreens last year, and Java Grill last summer. Burke and Herbert Bank at 621 King Street is also closed.

The original building at 628 and 622 King Street was constructed as a 600-seat theatre in 1854. During the Civil War, the building was named Washington Hall General Hospital, and contained 100 beds for Union soldiers. The building would become a laundromat and insurance firm before burning down.

“The two lots were then combined and a new structure on the site was built for retail purposes, a Lerner’s store which prospered well into the mid-twentieth century when downtown Alexandria was the center of shopping in Northern Virginia,”according to the Office of Historic Alexandria.

The building is owned by the family of Wellington Goddin, and was last appraised for $6.2 million in January 2021.

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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

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1001 King Street (photo via Google Maps)

A Tysons coffee shop specializing in Turkish blends is planning to move into a former chocolatier space in Old Town.

Turkish Coffee Lady is a cultural and coffee/tea kiosk in Tysons Corner Center that is applying to open a store at 1001 King Street, Zebra first reported. Owner Gizem Salcigil White has filed a special use permit (SUP) for a change of ownership for the building that once housed Blüprint Chocolatiers and, more notoriously, white nationalist Richard Spencer.

The Tysons Corner Center location opened 2017.

“The new business will be a Turkish coffee and dessert shop offering traditional Turkish coffee, tea, desserts and pastries,” the SUP said. “We will also have cultural gift items and coffee artwork items.”

No live entertainment or ticketed events will held at the venue and the application said there won’t be food preparation in the store.

“Turkish Coffee Lady is an authentic speciality coffee business continuing a 500-year-old tradition of bridging cultures,” the application said. “It is the first and only Turkish gourmet coffee business in the U.S. with the mission of empowering women.”

Photo via Google Maps

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Bethesda-based Fresh Baguette is planning to open shop at 1101 King Street in Old Town by January or February 2022.

The bakery, which was founded in 2013 and has two bakeries in Maryland and one in Georgetown, recently a request for an alteration at the Alexandria location, which sits at the corner of King Street and Henry Street (southbound Route 1) in Old Town. The move is part of an expansion plan that will see a number of the bakeries popping up around the region.

“We need to pass inspections, but we’re confident that we will open at the end of January or beginning of February, Fresh Baguette’s Retail Manager Jérémy Touchard told ALXnow. “We want to open more locations. In 2022, we will open in Alexandria and we are looking for another location to open in Northern Virginia. We also plan to open a few more locations in 2023.”

Fresh Baguette celebrates its bread-making process with the following description on its website:

Our obsession with quality is part of the passion here at Fresh Baguette. Take, for example, the process of making our signature baguettes: a cold-dough process that produces unique flavors, homemade “levain” (leaven), and made using state-of-the-art equipment imported from France. The end result is a baguette that is authentic with moisture and just the right crunch. In addition, it takes two days, 11 steps, carefully selected ingredients, and the skill of a pastry chef to make our soft and flaky, mouthwateringly tender croissant.

Our master baker leaves nothing to chance and uses the best French techniques in everything we create for our guests.

Via Google Maps

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After more than four decades at 113 King Street, Silver Parrot Jewelry is closing by the end of the year — or as soon as the shop sells out of its heavily discounted merchandise.

Store manager Megan Vail told ALXnow that the decision was made when the landlord doubled the rent. She says store owner Peter Dunn hasn’t been able to find a new location for years, and instead the business is looking to liquidate its existing stock.

“The landlord always negotiated in the past,but not this time,” Vail said. “We also rent the store next door and sublet it to the America! store, which left a while ago, and now we suspect that someone came in and made an offer for both spots.”

All jewelry at the Silver Parrot is marked 25% to 50% off. The shop carries silver jewelry from around the world, ranging in price from $20 for silver earrings to $3,200 for intricate necklaces inlaid with colorful stones.

“We’ve been very busy this week,” Vail said. “If it stays like this we may not last all through the holidays with the stock that we have.”

The Silver Parrot is open Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and on Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

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