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Nearly two years after filing for bankruptcy, Seattle-based kitchenware retailer Sur La Table will reopen in Old Town on Thursday, March 10.

Sur La Table opened at 326 King Street in 2013, and closed half of its 121 stores around the country after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2020. It was acquired by Marquee Brands and CSC Generation for $89 million.

The company, which was founded in Seattle in 1972, is also the largest provider of non-degree cooking classes in the U.S.

The following cooking classes have been announced for the Old Town store:

Sur La Table is also looking to hire a general manager and assistant store manager in Old Town.

The store will be open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Wednesday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday and Friday; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday; and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday.

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After nearly two years of dining and shopping in parking spaces outside of local businesses, Alexandria wants to start charging rent.

City Council will review a staff proposal on Tuesday (March 8) to start charging annual rent to business owners for their use of parklets — converted parking spaces that have been used for outdoor dining, fitness classes and retail.

Council officially approved the parklet program in October 2021, but previously approved a temporary program in May 2020. The city was experiencing pandemic shutdowns at the time, and restrictions were eased on outdoor dining, curbside pickups, and selling to-go alcoholic drinks.

The City is proposing:

  • $150 per linear foot for businesses along King Street, or $3,000 per space
  • $50 per linear foot in Arlandria and the West End, or $1,000 per space
  • $100 per linear foot for all other area, or $2,000 per space
  • Short-term fees would be $100 application fee  and $30/$40 per day for reserved parking
  • Businesses would pay half of the proposed fees for the first year
  • If approved, fees would start July 1

While appreciative of the program overall, some business owners say that the proposed fees are too high.

Mike Anderson has four parking spaces in Carlyle — two in front of Sweet Fire Donna’s and two in front of Tequila & Taco. Every parking space is about 40 linear feet, which will end up costing Anderson about $8,000 a year.

“We are really appreciative of the fact that we’re allowed to have parklets,” Anderson said. “Pre-Covid, if we had gotten the city and said, ‘We want a couple parking spaces on the front to serve customers,’ we’d get laughed out of Hall.”

Anderson isn’t opposed to paying a fee, but said that restaurants are already paying a 5% meals tax, which he says more than makes up for the city’s lost revenue from spaces that would otherwise collect parking fees.

Charlotte Hall, managing director of Old Town Business, is working with the city and businesses on the project.

“It’s going to help us clean up or make our places look better,” Hall said. “And make them look more inviting, and that’s what we want, right? The money we put into those parking spaces, we want to make good money out of that. In order to do that, we have to make those spaces look sharp. No droopy plants, but a clean, crisp look.”

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Foxtrot in Old Town, photo via Foxtrot/Facebook

Corner store and cafe Foxtrot is opening today (Thursday) in Old Town.

The company announced in a release that their first Virginia location opened this morning at 701 King Street. The new Alexandria location is the trendy corner store’s 18th location, with others in D.C. as well as Chicago and Dallas. There are a handful of events and specials planned throughout this weekend to celebrate.

  • The first 500 shoppers at the store today will receive a custom tote bag with treats inside
  • Tomorrow (Friday), customers paying with the Foxtrot app can get 50% off select wines
  • Saturday, customers paying with the Foxtrot app between noon and 2 p.m. can get $2 off any cafe or grab-and-go item

According to an email from the store, the space has been rehabbed with a two-story storefront, with mezzanine seating and shopping areas and an elevated cafe. The release noted that the beer and wine selection will include Alexandria-based breweries like Port City.

“We’re thrilled to continue our expansion in the DMV area with our Old Town Alexandria opening,” said Mike LaVitola, co-founder of Foxtrot, in the release. “Alexandria is an active, vibrant and creative community that celebrates art, food and supporting local, which is what we’re all about at Foxtrot. We look forward to joining the neighborhood and inviting even more locals to dine and shop with us.”

Photo via Foxtrot/Facebook

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615 and 621 King Street, image via Google Maps

A pair of buildings on King Street, in the heart of Old Town, could be demolished and transformed into a new mixed-use development.

Owner Silverman Group filed an application to the city to redevelop 615 and 621 King Street as a single mixed-use building, the Washington Business Journal first reported.

The applicant is requesting a concept review and a permit to demolish. The new four-story building will include 26 multifamily units and ground-floor retail.

The building at 615 King Street was most recently a Walgreens and a pilates studio. The current building was constructed in 1929, which underwent several alterations over the years including a redesign in 2006.

The building at 621 King Street is currently a Burke & Herbert Bank. This building was constructed in 1906, and much of the facade remains the same.

“As part of the redevelopment, the Applicant proposes to retain, renovate and integrate the existing two structures into a combined mix-use building,” the application said. “The proposed building proposes to be set back the new upper floor addition and retain the massing and proportions of the existing facades along King Street.”

The project is scheduled to go to the Board of Architectural Review on Wednesday, March 16.

Image via Google Maps

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Bethesda-based Fresh Baguette is opening in Old Town on Tuesday (March 1). The first 20 customers in the door will also get free croissants for a year.

The bakery at 1101 King Street joins the companies locations in Maryland and Georgetown — all 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.”

All proceeds from the opening will go to Carpenter’s Shelter.

“Come by and get a Free Baguette and purchase a Fresh Baguette Sampler for $3 and all proceeds go to Carpenter’s Shelter,” Fresh Baguette said on social media. ” We are very excited to bring our modern French Bakery to Old Town.”

The first 20 customers in the door will get free croissants for a year (one a week for 52 weeks), and eligible customers will need to be 18. There can only be one winner per household.

Via Fresh Baguette/Facebook

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Noelie Rickey and Markos Panas have been busier than bees lately, and on Thursday (Feb. 24) their Beeliner Diner officially opened in the Bradlee Shopping Center.

The new family restaurant at 3648 King Street is the former longtime home to Atlantis Pizzeria & Restaurant, which closed early last year. Rickey, Panas and partner Dagmawi Abedje also own the Bread & Water Company bakery in the Belle View Shopping Center. They opened a Bun Papa pop-up at the King Street location in November, and the space has been expanded to include the BeeStreet Virtual Food Hall, which is a collection of pop-up concepts ALX Pizza, Boom Chicky (fried chicken) and Bun Papa.

Rickey was raised in the Wallingford neighborhood of Seattle, Washington, where there was the original Beeliner Diner.

“It was one of those places where you could go where they were very accepting and tolerant of everybody,” Rickey said. “I just grew up loving the place because it was pure diner food. They closed years and years ago, and I just always loved the name and I loved the vibe of the place, which was so welcoming.”

The 5,000-square-foot restaurant holds 130 seats, including 38 at the milkshake bar.

Panas said that the multiple concepts for the restaurant were the result of the pandemic, as they were forced to shut down a location at the Torpedo Factory Art Center and stop selling wholesale baked goods to local businesses. Their Bun Papa concept also expanded with a location in Capital One Arena.

“Things are moving along incredibly, and we had to scale back a lot,” Panas said. “We’re no longer doing wholesale, we’re no longer doing any farmer’s markets, and those were huge components of our business.”

Panas and Rickey opened Bread & Water Company  in 2013 in the Belle View Shopping Center, and had a serious shakeup after a six-alarm fire destroyed neighboring businesses in October 2019.

“The fire and the pandemic completely changed how we were going to do business moving forward,” Rickey said. “And now we have a full house. Everybody looks really happy, and I’m thinking maybe we’re just ready for this sort of thing at this point. Obviously the staff are wearing masks, but I think this is what people are ready for. People are ready to be together again.”

Courtesy photos

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Photo via Bob and Edith’s Diner/Facebook

Bob and Edith’s Diner, a hyper-local chain of five diners spread across Arlington and Fairfax, is planning to its sixth location in Old Town Alexandria early next week.

The new location at 1743 King Street — formerly Ernie’s Original Crab House — is planned to open on Monday, February 28 at 7 a.m.

“We are a family owned business that has been serving the locals for over 50 years,” said Alexander Bolton, director of marketing for Bob and Edith’s Diner, in an email. “We are opening up a new location in Old Town on Monday February 28th at 7 a.m.”

Bob and Edith’s offers the archetypal diner fare, like eggs and french toast for breakfast with burgers, soups and pies for lunch, with nearly everything on the menu at around $10 or less.

Photo via Bob and Edith’s Diner/Facebook

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Rendering of the unit block of King Street with street closure, image via City of Alexandria

Alexandria could be converting another block of King Street to a pedestrian-only zone this spring.

At a meeting of the Waterfront Commission earlier this week, city staff presented both plans for a pilot to close the waterfront end of King Street and examined the future of the 100 block of King Street, which has been permanently closed and converted into a pedestrian zone.

Transportation Planning Division Chief Christopher Ziemann said a pilot to close the first block of King Street — called the unit block — would be a three-month program and would run from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The closure would also hook around to close part of The Strand.

The closure would still allow for emergency vehicles and maintenance vehicles to access the block but would be closed to other traffic. The closure would also eliminate some park spaces along both King Street and The Strand.

During the pilot, Ziemann said staff would check in with stakeholders, monitor the closure’s impact, and collect public feedback.

Waterfront Commission member Nathan Macek led a vote to support the closure pilot, but with the refinement of some of the parking, deliveries and crosswalks sections. The motion passed with only City Council member Sarah Bagley abstaining because it would be headed to City Council for a vote.

Kayte North, division chief of Mobility Services, also provided an update on future improvements to the 100 block pedestrian zone.

“We’re working on implementing short-term improvements to make this block a little nicer while we wait to see if we can turn this into a capital project for the future,” North said. “We had some ARPA money allocated to this block, so we’re using that money for these projects.”

There are currently metal barricades along the block, but North said the city is looking at adding bollards in the future. Long term, North said staff are looking at putting future improvements together as a capital project to be budgeted accordingly.

A more short-term change, North said, is making the curbside pickup and loading zones on Lee and Union streets — currently implemented as a temporary measure — permanent. North said this change would also let the city put up more permanent signs to show that these are no parking areas intended for loading and curbside pickup only.

“In the past, we’ve had some problems with the signs we put up disappearing, so we’re working on different sign text to put up there,” North said. “Those would probably be installed in the next month or so.”

As the city refines the pedestrian zone, Macek said he hopes the city does more to push car parking further by a car length or two from the intersection of King and Union streets.

That creates a pedestrian visibility hazard at what are two very busy crosswalks on both the north and south side of King Street at the Union intersection. The more we can get rid of cars at that immediate intersection, the easier it becomes for people to cross and not feel like you’re trying to dodge out in front of a car parked right there… Let’s be realistic about this. We’re talking about space for one person to park their car versus hundreds of people who walk through that intersection. It’s not like we’re saying we’re getting rid of all the parking in Old Town by doing this. We have to be willing to say the benefit of one person being able to park their car there for a few hours is overridden by all of the people who cross there who would benefit.

While North said city staff is hesitant to recommend anything that could result in more parking loss, they would look into it. Waterfront Commissioner Gina Baum warned that Old Town residents could likely object to any further loss of parking in the area.

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A 43-year Loudoun County man was arrested last month for allegedly pushing his girlfriend and causing her fracture her elbow.

After being wanted for outstanding warrants for more than a month, Thomas Abernathy was arrested on Jan. 20 and charged with malicious wounding and domestic assault and battery. He was released that same day on $1,500 and $500 bonds.

The victim called police on Dec. 10, and accused Abernathy, her live-in boyfriend, of pushing her and causing her to fall and suffer a hairline fracture to her elbow. The incident occurred in her apartment in the 4300 block of King Street.

Abernathy allegedly declined to meet with police in person, and told them over the phone that he pushed her after she punched him twice, and that she did not fall, according to a search warrant.

The suspect then told police that he would turn himself in after getting a lawyer, but did not do so

Via Google Maps

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ESP Tea and Coffee, photo via ESP/Facebook

It’s been a year since Old Town coffee shop ESP Tea and Coffee (1012 King Street) reopened under new ownership following a spectacularly bad collapse.

Killer E.S.P closed in 2020 after its entire staff quittwice — after alleged misconduct from former owner Rob Shelton. New owner Erik Muendel said the last year has seen extensive menu changes and an effort at revitalization.

A press release from the coffee shop said the last year has seen them “prune” their coffee selections while expanding their tea offerings, along with opening a kava and herbal elixir bar.

“It’s about providing an opportunity for connections and creativity,” Muendel said in the press release. “Let’s slow down a little and build community.”

The shop has a mix of international coffees, like some from Guatemala, El Salvador and Ethiopia, along with local roasters like Blue Elk Coffee. The shop makes its own chocolate “Cacao Bliss Balls”, stocks pies and quiches from DC Pie Shop, and has saltenas and empanadas from Pan American Bakery, among others.

The restaurant also features a set of rotating wall art emphasizing surreal landscapes — fitting the rebranding of E.S.P from espresso, snacks and pie to “extrasensory perception.”

ESP has a rotating roster of events as well, including daily tea tastings Monday-Thursday from 2:30-6:30 p.m. and “ESP Evenings” from Friday to Sunday, 7-10:30 p.m. with Polynesian drink kava.

The shop is open Monday-Thursday from 8 a.m.-7 p.m. and Friday-Sunday from 8 a.m.-10:30 p.m.

“It’s been a great adventure since we re-launched last year with our new name ESP Tea and Coffee on Monday, February 1st, 2021,” General Manager Carl Cabading said in the release. “I remember it so well. It snowed early that morning. We were so concerned that we may have to open late or postpone. Fortunately, we still opened on time, and here we are now 365 days later.”

Photo via ESP Tea and Coffee/Facebook

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