Alexandria, VA

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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That was fast.

Pizzeria Paradiso officially closed its doors at 124 King Street on October 4, and three days later Emmy Squared Pizza submitted a special use permit (SUP) application to start business at the prime spot in Old Town.

The Detroit-style pizza and burger joint would join eight other locations around the country, including in the Shaw neighborhood of Washington, D.C.

Howard Greenstone, a partner with Emmy Squared, told ALXnow that he jumped at the chance to rent the property from landlord Asana.

“Old Town is a great market, ” Greenstone said. “It’s a fantastic place for us to be. It has a tremendous tourist population, but it has a very neighborhood feel, and we’re not an opulent concept. We’re just a really delicious sort of square pizza and burger concept that seems like it would fit there perfectly.”

Greenstone hopes that the new restaurant will open in the spring or summer.

Photo via Emmy Squared Pizza/Facebook

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What a week it’s been in Alexandria.

Our top story this week was the report that Alexandria City Public Schools Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. sends one of his children to Bishop Ireton High School. In case you missed it, the story first broke in Theogony, the T.C. Williams High School newspaper.

Hutchings also presented his plan for a phased reopening of ACPS starting next month. The results of a survey over virtual schooling were also released, revealing that screen time and childcare were among the top concerns of students, staff and families.

On the health front, Alexandria exceeded 4,000 total cases of COVID-19 since the first case was reported on March 11.

Additionally, more than 200 people participated in our weekly poll on traveling this holiday season, and 56% reported they will not travel, 27% still plan on traveling, and 17% still haven’t decided.

Crime-wise, we reported that a woman was assaulted in Arlandria on October 11; an arrest was made after an attempted armed robbery in the West End; a West End gas station was robbed of $1,700 in tobacco products; a woman ended up not being charged after firing a warning shot at a man in the 4300 block of Duke Street; and the mother of a man whose truck was stolen in Del Ray received an unexpected phone call from the thief.

There was some good news.

The southern entrance of the Potomac Yard Metro station is really taking shape, at least on paper. This week, the final plans going to the city were made public. The Board of Architectural Review will look at them at their meeting on Wednesday, October 21.

And in recognition of Oyster Week, ALXnow on Thursday emceed the first-ever “Pearl of Alexandria Oyster Eating Contest” between rival Del Ray and Old Town business owners.

Here are ALXnow’s top stories this week in Alexandria:

  1. Report: ACPS Superintendent Sends Child to Bishop Ireton High School
  2. Police: Illegal Drugs Sold in West End Via Snapchat During Pandemic
  3. Republican Jeff Jordan Running Uphill Battle Against Incumbent Rep. Don Beyer
  4. BREAKING: Suspect Arrested for West End Murder
  5. ISIS ‘Beatles’ Held in Alexandria Jail, Charged with American Murders in Syria
  6. Here’s What the Potomac Yard Metro Station’s Southern Entrance Will Look Like
  7. Superintendent Proposing Phased Reopening of Alexandria City Public Schools Starting in November
  8. A Dozen Restaurants are Participating in Old Town Oyster Week
  9. VIDEO: West End Murder Victim Identified
  10. ‘Brewski’s Barkhaus’ is Opening This Saturday
  11. Old Virginia Tobacco Co. Moves Directly Across Street from Longtime Old Town Tobacconist

Have a safe weekend!

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There’s a new tobacconist on King Street in Old Town, and it’s right across the street from another tobacconist.

Old Virginia Tobacco Company unsuccessfully tried last year to buy the The Scottish Merchant/John Crouch Tobacconist at 215 King Street. The deal was in the works for months, and ultimately fell through. Instead, Old Virginia Tobacco moved across the street to the vacant storefront at 210 King Street.

“It’s been a longtime dream of ours to have a presence in Old Town, Alexandria,” Brian Ceres, Old Virginia Tobacco’s general manager, told ALXnow. “This is the heart of commerce in colonial Virginia, which has a great, historical tobacco culture.”

The new location has a soft opening last Saturday, October 10. The company plans on conducting a grand opening before the end of the year, which will include the unveiling an upstairs cigar lounge. Due to the pandemic, though, all cigars are handled before purchase by staff wearing gloves and face masks.

Old Virginia Tobacco has also hired staff from The Scottish Merchant/John Crouch Tobacconist, although Ceres says there is room for both companies to co-exist on King Street. A representative of The Scottish Merchant/John Crouch Tobacconist could not be reached for comment.

“We’re all a big family, and there’s room for us to play in the same sandbox,” Ceres said. “This won’t be our biggest location, but it will be our most scenic.”

Old Virginia Tobacco, which has locations in Arlington’s Fashion Centre at Pentagon City mall and in Seven Corners, was founded in 1971. The company is known for its lounge atmosphere, leather couches and big screen televisions. The company now has seven locations and is a member of the Tobacconists Association of America, which entitles it to special cigars from brands like Arturo Fuente and Padron.

Old Virginia Tobacco Company is now open Sundays from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Monday through Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Thursday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Photo via Old Virginia Tobacco Co./Facebook

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Morning Notes

(Updated 12:10 p.m.) Alexandria Nearing 4,000 cases of COVID-19 — “The latest update from the City on COVID-19: Positive tests up 6 to 3,938 in the City (84 in last 7 days) 7-day Positivity Rate down to 4.0% 0 new hospitalizations Still safer at home, wash hands and wear masks.” [Twitter]

The Majestic Reopens After 8-Month Hiatus — “Diners can expect an all-new menu offering seasonal dishes such as Roasted Parsnip Agnolotti with black truffle, bacon jam and parmesan ($12), vegetarian Preserved Smoked Beet Tartare ($9) with crispy capers, horseradish yogurt, shallots and almonds, and of course there’s the Majestic Burger ($17) or Rigatoni & Eggplant for $18.” [Alexandria Living]

Del Ray Halloween Parade Goes Virtual — “Kids and pets decked out in spooky costumes won’t line the streets of Mount Vernon Avenue for Del Ray’s annual Halloween Parade in 2020 due to the pandemic.” [Patch]

Fire Department Annual Wreath Laying Closed to Public — “Due to the pandemic, our annual wreath laying & memorial service at Ivy Hill Cemetery will be closed to the public and recorded for later viewing. AFD will make video of the ceremony available to the public on Oct. 10.”  [Twitter]

Friendship Firehouse to Open October 10 — “In honor of Fire Prevention Week, Friendship Firehouse Museum will be open October 10 from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. The Friendship Fire Company, established in 1774, was the first fire company in Alexandria, comprised of member volunteers across the community. Today the Friendship Firehouse, built in 1855, houses buckets, hoses, axes, and Friendship’s mid-19th century elaborately decorated suction engine.” [Facebook]

Today’s Weather — “A mainly sunny sky (during the day). High around 70F. Winds NW at 10 to 15 mph. Clear skies (in the evening). Low 48F. Winds NW at 5 to 10 mph.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Public Relations Manager — “The ideal candidate for this position will work with our marketing manager team to identify, evaluate, select and monitor the most relevant PR for our organization, including (but not limited to): press releases, articles, blog posts, video content, web content and marketing.” [Indeed]

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Alexandria’s Black residents have lived and worked along the Alexandria waterfront years before the city was founded in 1749, and a new African American Waterfront Heritage Trail helps to tell their stories.

The self-guided tour of the trail, which is a community initiative supported by the the city’s African American Heritage Trail Committee and the Office of Historic Alexandria, should take folks about 45 minutes to complete at a leisurely pace.

“In the 1820s, Alexandria became home to the largest domestic slave trading firm, which specialized in the sale and trafficking of enslaved African Americans from the Chesapeake to the Deep South,” according to the African American Waterfront Heritage Trail website. “The Civil War revolutionized social and economic relations, and newly freed African Americans found new job opportunities as a result of the waterfront’s industrialization. The Potomac River played an important role in leisure activities too, including picnicking, boating, and fishing, much as it does for Alexandrians and visitors today.”

The trail takes visitors to the waterfront at the foot of King Street and then to the corner of North Royal and Montgomery Streets.

“An amazing committee of community historians have put this amazing history trail together!” wrote City Councilman John Taylor Chapman on Facebook. “Who’s going to check out on the next sunny day?”

Participants can check out the 11 stops with a StoryMap.

An amazing committee of community historians have put this amazing history trail together!!! Who’s going to check out on the next sunny day?

Posted by John T. Chapman on Monday, October 5, 2020

Image via African American Waterfront Heritage Trail

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The Alexandria City Council on Tuesday will consider a proposal to further ease outdoor restrictions for restaurants, retail stores and health and fitness businesses.

Participants will be allowed to set up outdoor dining in parking spaces outside of their establishments, according to a staff report that Council will review at its monthly legislative meeting.

“The Old Town Business and Professional Association (OTBA) will coordinate the designation of parking spaces for outdoor dining use and communicate that to Planning & Zoning,” notes the report. “Participants must comply with modified guidelines of the Parklet Program, including the location of parking spaces for outdoor dining away from corners or on streets with a high traffic volume.”

Live entertainment is still not permitted.

If approved, the expanded rules would be in effect until March 31, 2021.

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