Alexandria, VA

Parent-teacher conferences can be a stressful situation for both parties, but a donation from a nearby pizza shop helped ease that stress last week at Cora Kelly School for Math, Science and Technology.

A manager at Toppers Pizza (3827 Mount Vernon Avenue) in Del Ray said they received an order for 185 pizzas from someone in Alexandria City Public Schools, in preparation for parent-teacher conferences.

“One store did half, and we did half,” the manager said. “It was just so many pizzas.”

Because it was going to the schools, Toppers ended up donating roughly 50 of the pizzas.

“We like to do that for the schools,” the manager said. “We’re constantly getting calls from the school, so we try to help as much as we can.”

Jasibi Crews, principal of Cora Kelly School for Math, Science and Technology, said the pizzas helped out with busy day.

“We are so lucky at Cora Kelly to have such a supportive local community,” Crews said. “We thank Toppers Pizza for their kind and delicious donation of pizzas. They were very much appreciated.”

Photo via Toppers/Facebook

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Nighttime temperatures may be hitting the freezing mark, but that hasn’t stopped Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams from opening at 102 S. Patrick Street in Old Town.

The restaurant opened this past Wednesday (Nov. 13) in the former Misha’s Coffee space, while the coffee shop has moved down the block to 907 King Street.

The ice cream shop was not particularly crowded as of this morning — which, granted, is not peak ice-cream hours — but Twitter was abuzz with excitement.

Jeni’s is an Ohio-based artisan ice cream producer with a cult following and a chain of about three dozen stores nationwide. It advertises that it uses no artificial flavors or colors, and has dairy-free options available.

In addition to ice cream, the shop carries assorted Jeni’s related books and paraphernalia.

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Deli, News & More at 1406 King Street in Old Town sells, as the name may suggest, deli sandwiches, news, and more. But it’s the “and more” that got the shop in trouble earlier this year.

The shop opened in 1994 as a newsstand, and in 1995 got authorization to operate a carry-out restaurant in conjunction with the newsstand. But as any one of the 150 patrons a day at the store may have noticed, half of the shop is a convenience store it was never authorized to operate.

A staff report on the zoning issue said that the unauthorized convenience store attracted patrons from nearby office and commercial buildings, hotels, and residents of the surrounding neighborhood.

During a routine inspection in June, inspectors cited the business for violation of its Special Use Permit for sale of alcohol. Further inspection found that the restaurant had expanded substantially beyond the carry-out restaurant and newsstand it was authorized for.

Deli, News & More is on tomorrow’s (Saturday) City Council docket as a consent item, meaning it will likely receive approval that will bring the store into alignment with its zoning, and locals can continue buying beer and necessities along with their news and deli sandwiches.

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Morning Notes

Virginia Tech Holding Community Forums — “Community engagement in Alexandria, Virginia, took on an exciting form last month with the debut of Tech on Tap at Port City Brewing Company’s headquarters. The free event on Oct. 17 was the first in a regular speaker series intended to engage the local community in the types of issues and problems Virginia Tech’s Innovation Campus in Potomac Yard will explore.” [Virginia Tech]

City Hosting Opioid Abuse Discussion — “On November 18, the City of Alexandria will host ‘A Community Conversation: Strategic Plan to Eliminate Opioid Misuse and Its Harmful Effects in Alexandria.’ Residents are invited to learn more about the local effects of the national opioid crisis and the City’s strategy to address it. The event will be held from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. in the cafeteria of T.C. Williams High School at 3330 King Street.” [City of Alexandria]

Small Business Saturday Coming Up — “On Alexandria’s Small Business Saturday, Nov. 30, shoppers will be treated to free parking at parking meters and special in-store activities at more than 40 independent boutiques in Old Town and Del Ray… New this year to Small Business Saturday is Caroling & Candy Canes, presented by the Alexandria Arts Alliance at the Alexandria Visitor Center from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., and a Small Business Saturday Scavenger Hunt.” [Alexandria Living]

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Morning Notes

Most City Facilities Open on Monday — “City of Alexandria government offices, libraries and recreation centers will be open on Monday, November 11.” [City of Alexandria]

Veterans Day Ceremony Planned — “The City of Alexandria and Friends of Rocky Versace will host the 18th Annual Veterans Day Ceremony on Monday, November 11, 1-2 p.m. at Mount Vernon Recreation Center (2701 Commonwealth Ave.).” [City of Alexandria]

More Details About ‘The Mill’ — “A restaurant partner has been announced for The Mill, a southern market and kitchen slated for a historic warehouse on the Alexandria waterfront. Builder Murray Bonitt of Bonitt builders announced James Beard Award-winning Chef John Currence will lead the restaurant concept.” [Patch, Zebra]

Del Ray Mom Has Tasty Business — “Heather Stouffer, who lives and works in Alexandria, launched Mom Made Foods from a card table at the Del Ray Farmers Market in 2006. The company is now helping parents nationwide and is on the cusp of launching a new option for lunch boxes.” [Alexandria Living]

Hazmat Scare Was Just Flour — “Scanner: Alexandria firefighters and hazmat team dispatched to a local trail for a report of a suspicious white powder. Arriving units determined the substance to be flour, used by local runners to mark the trail.” [Twitter]

Backups on King Street Due to Chicken Sandwich — “Around lunchtime today, the sandwich was causing a traffic jam in front of the Popeyes at 4675 King Street… One lane was effectively blocked along westbound King Street approaching the Walter Reed/Beauregard Street intersection as drive-thru customers waited over 40 minutes to get their hands on the savory combination of bread, fried chicken and sauce.” [ARLnow]

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Mumbai Darbar, the Indian restaurant at the end of a long line of international restaurants in the Van Dorn Station Shopping Center (512 S. Van Dorn Street), is looking to add beer, wine and some new dishes to its menu.

Staff at the restaurant said the restaurant has recently filed an ABC permit and, if approved, the restaurant will hopefully be able to serve beer from India.

One staffer said he particularly hoped to serve Taj Mahal, a lager from India that’s a popular beverage pairing with Indian cuisine.

The restaurant is also planning on adding a variety of new dishes starting in November. Staff said the restaurant is planning on bringing in chicken wings, dumplings, and a new set of around six new foods. The restaurant currently serves an array of traditional Indian offerings, with a sizable selection of vegetarian and vegan options.

The restaurant also delivers, with a $20 minimum order and a three-mile delivery radius.

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A new noise ordinance could impose Old Town’s decibel limits citywide, but one local restaurant isn’t taking the news lying down.

Lost Dog Cafe, a popular restaurant at 808 N. Henry Street near the Braddock Metro station and part of a regional franchise, expressed frustration at the proposed limits on Twitter.

The ordinance would limit noise in public places citywide to 65 decibels (about the volume of a normal conversation) in a public place within 10 feet of a structure, and nothing louder than 75 decibels (about the volume of an average dishwasher) in a public place within 50 feet of a structure.

Other proposed limitations include new nighttime measures from 11 p.m.-7 a.m. that would prohibit audible noise from one residence that reaches another and commercial loading or unloading.

Lost Dog Alexandria owner Matthew Sisk told ALXnow that his main frustration was that many of the plans seem already predetermined by the time they reach public input.

“I think, in general, a lot of what the city puts out for changes to regulations… they don’t do a very good job of circulating that through the business community,” owner Matthew Sisk told ALXnow. “We get caught off guard by these changes with very little time to respond or [offer a] rebuttal.”

The city is currently collecting input on the changes, which are scheduled to go to the City Council for a vote early next year.

Sisk said he appreciated the need for noise ordinances, but said excessive noise complaints can sometimes lead to frustrations for businesses with any nighttime or outdoor activity. Noise was cited as one of the reasons for an outdoor dining ban in Old Town that lasted until 2000, according to the Alexandria Times. In Vienna, hookah bar Bey Lounge has been in a long legal struggle with nearby residents over noise complaints.

“I think the base reason for a noise complaint is good,” Sisk said. “Nobody wants people next door blasting music. But at decibel they’re putting out as the threshold it becomes a weapon for disgruntled residents to use against the city as a whole or specific businesses.”

If the new noise ordinance moves forward, Sisk said the city needs to work to balance managing legitimate noise complaints with the nuisance caused by frivolous noise complaints.

A few years ago, Sisk said he might not have been hopeful of that happening, but recently there have been signs of change.

“I’m happy to own a business in Alexandria, but Alexandria isn’t business-friendly,” Sisk said. “But I will give [City Council] credit, that’s changing slowly.”

Sisk praised responsiveness from city leaders like Mayor Justin Wilson, who responded to his complaints on Twitter.

Sisk said he is still worried that too much work has gone into putting the noise ordinance together for the city to be willing to make changes, but that the direction the city government has been moving gives him hope for some responsiveness.

“You have people who still see it as a quiet town, but it’s an urban environment,” Sisk said. “The city is making advances and it’s getting better by the year. It’s better than it used to be.”

Photo via Lost Dog Cafe/Facebook

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Lotus Blooms has lingerie in the windows, but the store is about more than that. Owner Teal Dye says the store’s goal is to help people love their bodies and explore outside their comfort zones.

“Sex in our society is not something we talk about,” Dye said. “Since most people aren’t super comfortable having intimate conversations, it’s important to create that opportunity for people to do so, to [have a place] to have questions and ask them.”

Lotus Blooms opened in 2009, initially in Georgetown but moved to its current location at 1017 King Street in Old Town later that year. Dye has been with the company since 2014 and took ownership a couple of years ago.

Dye’s background was originally in counseling. During her work with teenagers, she says she learned more about how few resources people had to have frank discussions about sexuality.

She picked up a job at Lotus Blooms as part of a class assignment while getting a master’s degree in human sexuality studies.

“It’s been a very different experience,” Dye said. “I fell in love with the vulnerable, intimate conversations we have with adults. Teenagers who don’t know about their bodies turn into adults who don’t know about their bodies.”

Dye described sex as a double-edged sword, where adults are expected to know all about it but with no one to teach them. What education there is, Dye said, is entirely focused around safety and preventative measures.

“We don’t set people up for a wonderful experience in our society,” Dye said.

When Lotus Blooms first opened, Dye said there was some pushback from the community. Some retailers and fashion boutiques have said they don’t want to be associated with the store, and Dye said she understands their concerns. As with the other parts of her business, Dye said the store is very careful about navigating comfort zones with her retail neighbors.

It hasn’t all been hostility. Dye said Danielle Romanetti, owner of nearby yarn store Fibre Space, has specifically been welcoming and a “great example of a supportive business leader.”

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Pending litigation for a halal slaughterhouse in Alexandria just off Duke Street has put plans to open early next year on the chopping block.

Saba Live Poultry overcame a series of hurdles this year, starting with approval from the City Council in March in spite of backlash from neighbors and most recently a lawsuit from nearby businesses, which was dismissed.

But the landlord for the property and Abdul Alyamami, an agent for Saba Live Poultry, said the judge’s ruling in the lawsuit is being disputed and has stalled work on converting the industrial property to a slaughterhouse. The complaint was amended to address the grounds of dismissal, according to WUSA 9.

Opposition from neighbors ranged from concerns about the smell from the slaughterhouse to its impact on property values for other nearby businesses.

Alyamami said the owner of Saba Live Poultry was ready to immediately start work on the property but said that while the appeal is being considered no work would be done. While the project initially had a goal to open in January, Alyamami said when the slaughterhouse will open is entirely up in the air and dependent on when the court returns with a ruling on the appeal.

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Getting your nails done can be a time-consuming experience, so the newly opened Cavalry Nail Bar at 4104 Mount Vernon Avenue lets you sip wine as you’re getting your nails done.

Technically, manager Aivy Ho said you could also order beer, but so far the orders have been exclusively for wine. Customers seem to be responding positively to the new business.

“It’s been good,” said Ho. “We’re in a really open area and with our lights, you can’t miss us at night.”

The nail bar had been located in Crystal City for ten years, but the company decided to move to the border of Alexandria and Arlington. The new location opened late last week.

Ho described the Arlandria area as up-and-coming, with plenty of parking, which was an issue that plagued the Crystal City location. She said the Arlandria location is also currently hiring for nail technicians and cosmetologists.

The salon has the same ownership as Cavalry Salon and Nails Spa, just off Dupont Circle in D.C., according to Ho.

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After 33 years, birding and nature store One Good Tern (1710 Fern Street) near Fairlington is closing as longtime owner Charles Studholme faces a grim kidney failure diagnosis.

“It’s doctor’s orders,” Studholme explained, then with a chuckle. “Well, the doctor’s orders were to stop three years ago.”

Studholme said the plan is to close the store “when the inventory runs out.” Initial plans were to do so by the end of October, but he said that will likely run into November with closure before the end of next month.

Virtually everything in the store outside of bird feed is marked with an at least 25 percent discount. The walls are lined with birdwatching paraphernalia, from telescopes clocking in at several hundred dollars to bird-themed socks and earrings at $10.

But One Good Tern is more than a store. Like a busy bird feeder, customers come and go, chatting and chirping at each other. As the store comes into its final stretch, there’s a constant flow of people in and out. It’s a gathering place for a niche community, with Studholme at its heart.

“I don’t know what we’re going to do once he goes,” one customer said.

Studholme didn’t found the store — a man named Mark Farmer founded it in 1986. Studholme started working there part-time in 1999 and two years later, bought it from the woman who’d replaced Farmer. Studholme, who’d previously worked in other retail jobs, described himself as a shopkeeper through-and-through who has had a longtime passion for birds.

He was born in Massachusetts and his father worked in fish and wildlife. Studholme recalled that all of his father’s friends also worked in that field and talk of nature filled his house. One friend went on a walk on the beach with Studholme when he was five and while most adults tended to ignore children, she talked to him and really listened to his questions.

“I knew about birds, but that was really the extent of my five-year-old knowledge,” he said. “She pointed to the sanderlings running down to the water’s edge and coming back to avoid getting wet, and it really anthropomorphized them. I found out later that was Rachel Carson, who wrote Silent Spring and ignited the eco-movement in America.”

Studholme said that beach walk with Carson helped to shape his passion for birds and nature, though he didn’t it until later. But since then, Studholme has passed that passion for nature onto visitors to the store. It’s mostly birds, but customers come into the store and ask Studholme about things like hibernation patterns of chipmunks and other nature questions.

“I was able to feed the robins the cranberries like you suggested,” a customer told him.

“He’s got all the knowledge,” another said.

One customer came in to ask whether he should take a position in a rare-bird focused organization.

“It’s a thankless job,” Studholme said, “but when has that ever stopped you? You worked at the Pentagon.”

Studholme doesn’t hide from his customers that he’s facing the end stage of kidney failure. A transplant could extend his life for ten years, and he said he’s keeping his options open, but Studholme said many of the treatments involve a great deal of pain and his preference would be to spend his final years in comfort.

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Danielle Romanetti, owner of Alexandria yarn store fibre space (1319 Prince Street), is ready for the colder weather.

Even as the store celebrated its ten year anniversary, it faced an unusually difficult summer, with Metro closures and unseasonable warmth leaving business hanging by a thread, so to speak. But now, she’s hopeful that the recent dip into sweater weather heralds the return to wool season.

“Coming off of the Metro closure we needed things to pick up,” Romanetti said. “The end of September and early October was not what it should have been. It was 95 degrees. You bring in a fall inventory then it’s 95 degrees, which is not the most helpful thing ever. I’m hoping things are getting better since this is the kick-off of the fall season.”

With new activities and events lined up for the next couple of months, Romanetti said her store is ready to bounce back.

First up is Slow Fashion October, a celebration tonight (Wednesday) from 5-8 p.m. spanning three local stores: fibre space, Threadleaf, and Stitch Sew Shop. The celebration is focused on clothes that endure for more than just a season.

“It’s about investing money in pieces that are long-lasting and not really a quick disposable item,” Romanetti said. “Investing in the longer-lasting items over time, so our three shops are doing that to help everyone make their own sustainable clothing.”

At fibre space, the focus is on a new breed-and-ranch specific yarn, which Romanetti said is a big deal in the yarn world. It’s yarn sourced from one specific ranch and breed of sheep, which is unusual given that the United States doesn’t have a particularly strong wool market.

Each of the stores is planning to have a special gift with each purchase. Romanetti said any purchase over $50 at fibre space comes with a lanolin bath bomb — a wax secreted from wool-bearing animals that is frequently used in moisturizing products.

“It’s about trying to celebrate all of the ways in which wool and sheep contribute to our livelihoods,” Romanetti said, adding that she’s also excited for a new unique, hand-dyed yarn coming to the store in November.

“It’s a yarn that has two plies, each of a different color,” Romanetti. “It’s dyed in the wool, then plied after that into a two-ply [line].”

The launch party for the unique yarn is scheduled for Saturday, November 9, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

Outside of the events, fibre space regularly hosts classes for knitting and crocheting, ranging from beginners to advanced levels.

“If you knit, you know we exist,” Romanetti said. “We have the knitters, but we need to make more knitters.”

Romanetti said the classes help get people who haven’t tried knitting involved in a new hobby and offers people a chance to meet others outside of their usual social circles.

“It’s a great opportunity to meet people,” Romanetti said. “You see people you might no overlap with, like people who are teachers and people who are federal employees. People who are not part of your social structure.”

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