Alexandria, VA

Feeling stressed? Momma’s Hemp at 1314 King Street carries $2 lollipops infused with CBD that are supposed to calm you down, give you energy, make you creative and focused.

Jennifer Bright and her eldest son, Devin Pullen, opened the shop on Tuesday. The pair also opened a location in their hometown of Culpeper, Virginia, in 2019.

“Old Town is kind of like coming to a foreign country, but I’m getting used to it,” Bright told ALXnow.

Before going into business for themselves, Bright said she was wrongly fired from her job as a customer service representative for a retail store in Culpeper for bringing in CBD edibles to the office. The products won’t get customers high since CBD, or cannabidiol, is a completely legal cousin of the marijuana plant and has no psychoactive effects.

“I wish we had opened my business sooner, but being the single mom of four boys, I depended on that money and just felt comfortable in that position,” Bright said. “I feel like it happened for a reason, even though I didn’t understand it at the time. But now that I look back at it, it inspired us to do this, to push ourselves.”

Bright said that Pullen was experiencing anxiety, and that prescription medication wasn’t helping. So, they ventured into CBD. Products at the store include coffee, teas, candies, lotions, bath bombs and vapor cartridges.

“We’ve been watching him crawl out of the shell that he’d been in for quite some time,” Bright said. “It’s wholistic healing, and I’m using it, too. I’m not on any heavy medication. I feel better now than I have in my entire life. It just provides a great body relaxation. If you deal with anxiety or have pain, it’s gonna just help take that edge off. “

Bright said that she and her son are waiting for marijuana to get legalized in Virginia so that they can sell it.

“That’s kind of what we’re waiting for,” she said. “The plan is to keep these two open, and then open more locations down the road.”

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The intersection near the George Washington National Masonic Memorial is a mess, and city staff are hoping to give the traffic-logged crossing an overhaul to make things run a little more smoothly.

There are three alternative plans presented for the access street that runs parallel to the west of Callahan Drive. Staff’s recommendation is to convert the lane into a one-way, southbound street that allows traffic headed down to Duke Street a left turn before the main intersection.

Staff said the proposal would remove some pedestrian/vehicle conflicts at the intersection and hopefully cut down on congestion.

Currently, the lane is a two-way street, which is one ongoing option. Another is to make the lane accessible to emergency vehicles only, which would be one less crossing for pedestrians, but would increase traffic at the main Callahan Drive and King Street intersection.

Part of the project will be optimization of the signal timing. The project will also hopefully improve the pedestrian and cyclist experience at the crossing, with upgraded crosswalks and pedestrian signals, a curb extension for shorter crossings, and bicycle facilities through the intersection. Currently, the bike lanes down King Street end abruptly near the bottom of the hill.

The proposed change is headed to city review at the Tuesday, Feb. 23 City Council meeting.

Map via Google Maps

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A new women-focused athletic wear chain Athleta could replace the now-closed tapas restaurant La Tasca at 607 King Sreet.

According to a filing at the Board of Architectural Review for the March 3 meeting, Athleta owner Gap Inc. is seeking permits to restructure the store to better function as retail. The storefront windows would be replaced with larger, aluminum framed ones and the front door replaced with a new glass one.

The store primarily focuses on athletic attire for women and girls, though it also sells dresses, jackets, and now masks.

Athleta would be the third Gap-owned store on the block, with a Gap Factory at 622 King Street and a Banana Republic at 628 King Street.

Image via City of Alexandria

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What a news-filled week in Alexandria.

Things got off to a snowy start on Monday and Tuesday, as the city was under a winter weather advisory.

Our top post was a poll regarding the proposed Heritage Development in Old Town. Nearly 1,500 people voted, and 52% don’t have a problem with it. The development was approved unanimously by the Planning Commission and now goes to City Council for consideration.

One of the most important stories of the week was the decision announced Thursday to resume in-person classes at Alexandria City Public Schools on March 16.

On the coronavirus front, there has been an additional death since Monday’s weekly COVID-19 update. The death toll from the virus now stands at 105, and the number of cases is 9,630. That’s more than 500 cases since Monday. The city’s seven-day moving average is now at 41.1 cases, which is down 14 cases since Monday. Additionally, there are more than 30,000 city residents on the waiting list to get the vaccine.

This week, Alexandria Police mourned the loss of parking enforcement officer Edward Bonds to COVID-19. This is the department’s first death due to complications from the virus.

In case you missed them, here are some important stories from the week:

  1. Alexandria Boxer Troy Isley Goes Pro With Big Fight Next Week
  2. Psychologist Lauren Fisher Elected Del Ray Business Association President
  3. Overhaul of Eisenhower Baseball Field Up to Bat at Planning Commission
  4. From Layoff to Liquorice: West End Business Owner Creates Candy Store Amid Pandemic
  5. Just In: James Lewis Files Paperwork to Enter City Council Race

Here are our top stories this week in Alexandria:

  1. Poll: What Do You Think of the Proposed Heritage Development in Old Town
  2. New West End Residential Development Headed to Planning Commission
  3. Heritage Project Now Goes to City Council After Unanimous Planning Commission Approval
  4. BREAKING: Councilman Mo Seifeldein Running for Alexandria Mayor, Hatch Act Conflict in Question
  5. Poll: Should the City’s Taylor Run Stream Restoration Project Go Forward?
  6. Revamped ‘ESP’ on King Street Ditches Old Ownership and Controversies
  7. Stream Restoration in Alexandria Attracts a Deluge of Controversy
  8. ACPS: Community is Generally Opposed to Affordable Housing at T.C. Expansion
  9. Just In: ‘QAnon Shaman’ from Capitol Siege Transferred to Alexandria Jail
  10. Weather Alert: Up to Eight Inches of Snow Expected in Alexandria
  11. Photos: The Regal Potomac Yard Movie Theater is Being Torn Down

Have a safe weekend!

Image via City of Alexandria

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Some unscheduled bridge repair has led to a section of King Street near the eponymous Metro station being temporarily closed.

“Unexpected bridge repair work has closed King St. between Callahan Dr. and Commonwealth Ave,” police said in a tweet. “It’s unknown how long repairs will last. Follow detours and traffic direction in the area.”

Traffic is currently being diverted to Duke Street. Officials said the closure was partially the result of debris seen falling off one of the bridges over King Street.

Image via APD/Twitter

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Erik Muendel wants the new ESP Tea and Coffee to be what the old Killer E.S.P. should have been.

The coffee shop at 1012 King Street was a beloved, hip hangout spot in Old Town featuring sorbet, pie and espresso, that latter from which the bistro derived its name. Behind the scenes, however, its controversial owner Rob Shelton clashed with staff who alleged inappropriate behavior toward women and minors working at the shop. The conflict culminated with the entire staff quitting in early 2020 followed by the replacement staff quitting just months later.

Muendel, a local tech entrepreneur, was one of those customers who was a fan of the coffee shop but was disheartened by last year’s revelations. He’s taken over the space and the equipment and looks to reopen to the public on Monday, Feb. 1.

“There was a little fanbase, myself included, so that’s why I got involved,” Muendel said.

Landlord Ian McGrath confirmed that Shelton has left the business entirely, and said that the shop will maintain its boho vibe.

Now, Muendel said the challenge is to create the kind of coffee shop those who were regulars at the old place wanted it to be. It starts with a minor name change.

“I worked with the name to get something that was familiar but different,” Muendel said. “It was something I loved when I first started going there; I thought it was a cool name before I realized it stood for ‘espresso, sorbet, and pie.'”

The new name is ESP Tea and Coffee with a third-eye motif to represent paranormal “extrasensory perception.”

“I personally have a passion for tea,” said Muendel. “I loved the selection at Killer E.S.P. but I specialize in a special kind of tea from the Hunan Province of China called Pu-erh.”

Pu-erh, as Muendel explains it, is a type of fermented tea that comes in a cake form rather than loose leafs. ESP will be an exclusive provider of Pu-erh tea in the region, selling both the cakes and offering mini-cakes for single servings. Like wine, Muendel said Pu-erh is aged and fermented, with a bold taste and varying notes of flavor.

“It’s very high end, very exclusive, and there’s no shop in the Metro area that sells it,” Muendel said.

Almost nowhere: Blueduck Tavern in D.C. (1201 24th Street NW) also has pu-erh tea on the menu, as does Ching Ching Cha — as of 2018 at least..

The old Killer E.S.P. tea selection will be narrowed down to around 30 loose leaf teas and six Pu-erh options.

Along with the rebooted tea selection comes a return of some of the old staff.

“I was a long time customer and I got to know many of the managers and baristas over the years,” Muendel said. “[Contacting them] was one of the first things I wanted to do. I’ve run several small businesses in Old Town but I’ve never done restaurant/retail. It’s a new space for me, so it was important to get connected with past employees in the leadership position.”

Two former Killer E.S.P employees will work as the new general and assistant manager.

“I’ve put a lot of trust in them and am learning a lot from them,” Muendel said.

Muendel is planning to do a soft opening for the new cafe starting on Monday, Feb. 1.

“I’m excited to reconnect with the community,” Muendel said. “I’ve kept the core interior pretty similar, so it will be pretty familiar. It will almost feel like a parallel dimension, familiar but different and cool.”

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A manager who led 2020’s second walkout from Killer E.S.P. told her full story to Mother Jones.

The site included a writeup of Mary Gmaz’ exit from Killer E.S.P. in a series of profiles on people who quit their jobs in 2020.

Gmaz quit in early November, and within a few days the rest of the coffee shop staff decided to quit with her. The staff alleged various types of inappropriate behavior from the owner, Rob Shelton, from sexual comments made to women and minors to opposing COVID-19 health restrictions.

Gmaz’s concerns about Shelton’s behavior were backed up by other staff members who said they experienced similar harassment.

Shelton did not respond to requests for comment from Mother Jones or ALXnow earlier, but told Washingtonian that the claims were “outrageous.”

Signs in the window of the cafe say that the location is currently closed, but could return with new management.

Staff photo by James Cullum

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With the Old Town Theater getting a makeover as a Patagonia, the building next-door could be getting a visual overhaul as well.

According to an application headed to the Board of Architectural Review next month, 815 King Street owner Asana Partners is hoping to restore the building’s original limestone facade — at least in color.

“We would like to request your approval to paint the exterior of 815 King Street,” the applicant said. “We found that brick was placed over the limestone upper floors of 815 King Street at some point of time and we would like to bring the natural color back to the building.”

The building’s upper floors are currently covered in tan bricks, visually similar to the buildings on either side of the

The application is scheduled to be reviewed by the BAR on Wednesday, Jan. 6.

Photo via Google Maps

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Women’s clothing and jewelry store Francesca’s (631 King Street) has permanently closed its store at the intersection of King Street and Washington Street.

The store replaced sushi restaurant BumbleFish in 2013. The store is one of 140 across the country being closed as the company files for bankruptcy. The Francesca’s was on the ground floor of the Alfriend Building — constructed in the late 18th century.

On Twitter, locals noted that the business is one of a handful of stores that have closed near the King Street and Washington Street intersection — leaving the block “looking grim.” Nearby women’s clothing store LOFT also closed within the last month.

H/t to @Oldtowndogwalks. Photo via Google Maps

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(Updated at 1:20 p.m.) The Alexandria Police Department said a portion of King Street is closed due to a gas leak.

“The Alexandria Police Department is assisting the Fire Department with a road closure in the 2500 block of King Street due to a gas leak,” police said in a press release. “Expect police and fire activity in the area.”

The fire department said callers reported a gas line was hit by a contractor in someone’s yard. Homes near the scene were not evacuated.

The portion of the street that’s closed is near Taylor Run, just north of the George Washington Masonic National Memorial.

Image via Google Maps

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