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Mia’s Italian Kitchen has a permanent home in Alexandria.

Douglas Development Corp. sold 100 King Street to Alexandria Restaurant Partners for $8.6 million on October 28, according to city records.

That’s more than twice what the three-story building at the corner of King and S. Union Streets is worth for tax purposes, as its value was last assessed at $3.6 million in January.

Douglas Development Corp. bought it in 2009 for $2.5 million, and the assessed value of the property peaked at $4 million in 2020.

Mia’s Italian Kitchen has leased in the space since April 2018, becoming a success story in a previously troublesome property.

ARP also owns Vola’s Dockside GrillRiverside Taco CompanyJoe Theismann’s RestaurantThe Majestic, Ada’s on the River and Barca Pier and Wine Bar. The company also owns a Mia’s Italian Kitchen and Café Tu Tu Tango in Orlando, Florida.

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Mindy’s Catering (image via Mindy’s Catering/Instagram)

Mindy’s Catering, a catering company based out of the Berkley neighborhood in D.C., is moving to an industrial park just across the street from the Victory Center.

A special use permit filed with the City of Alexandria said the company aims to move into 4942-C Eisenhower Avenue. The permit says the Eisenhower location will serve as an off-premise catering prep kitchen for the company.

The catering company covers Northern Virginia, Maryland and D.C. and offers services for corporate and social events, weddings and more.

“Since 2000, our family-owned and operated full-service social and corporate catering business has delighted customers in the Metro Washington area with personal service and attention that amazes,” the company’s website said. “We have the resources of an industrial-size caterer, but pride ourselves on not getting ‘too big for our britches.'”

The catering company joins an eclectic mix of businesses along Eisenhower Avenue, from indoor climbing gyms to co-warehousing spots. One of the most defining aspects of the area though, the long-vacant Victory Center, could be coming down after the owner submitted plans for demolition and redevelopment in August.

Photo via Mindy’s Catering/Instagram

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(Updated 4:20 p.m.) Del Ray will soon have its own underground record shop, as Crooked Beat Records expects to reopen in a basement on Mount Vernon Avenue in February.

Owner Bill Daly has been looking for a new location for his new and used record store for more than a year, and found it in the basement of the same building that houses Cheesetique at 2411 Mount Vernon Avenue. The building is also home to to the Del Ray School Of Music and Piece Out Del Ray.

“It’s a perfect location,” Daly told ALXnow. “To afford something, this was our only option. It’s getting too expensive to operate on the street level. Everywhere we looked the rents were triple what we’re paying now.”

Residential redevelopment is forcing the record shop to close by net summer, but Daly hopes to have the final touches on the lease and the interior renovation finalized by early 2023.

“It’s about 400 square feet bigger, and I think it’s going to be better,” Daly said.

Daly said that the new shop will be fully up and running for Record Store Day on April 15.

“That means that we’ve got to have the store set up by late February to early March,” he said.

Daly founded the store in 1997 in Raleigh, North Carolina, and moved it to Adams Morgan in Washington, D.C. in 2004. He moved the store to Alexandria in 2016.

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If daylight savings has you down, a new spray tan salon is headed to Old Town to keep up appearances.

The Bronze Collective, formerly Spray Tans By Stefani at 1010 N. Glebe Road in Arlington, is being planned to open in mid-December at 100 S. Patrick Street.

Stefani Pierce just signed a five-year lease to operate in what she calls the “perfect” location in Old Town — directly above Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams (102 S. Patrick Street). The location is the former home to Pure Prana Yoga and YogaWorks.

“We love helping people feel confident in their own skin, especially after Covid,” Pierce said. “We’re going to have four salon rooms in (the new location), where we only have two now. We’re essentially doubling our footprint, and were excited about that.”

It takes 10 minutes to get sprayed, although appointments last 30 minutes. The $75-$140 tans can last up to 10 days if properly treated with lotion.

“It is an instant confidence boost,” Pierce said.

One popular option with brides is “full body contour tanning,” which is where a technician enhances muscle tones with a tanning brush.

“We’re enhancing your current muscle tone to make you look more sculpted, in a sense,” she said.

Pierce previously owned a Spray Tans By Stefani salon in Hawaii, and moved to the area several years ago with her husband, who is in the Marine Corps.

“We’re huge in bridal. We are the bridal experts of the DMV. We see about 50-75 brides monthly, which is insane,” she said.

Pierce opened in Arlington in July 2020, and says that the name-change will help take some of the weight from her shoulders.

“It was now or never for the name change, and I wanted to do it for a while,” Pierce said. “With ‘Spray Tans By Stefani‘, people only want Stefani. I wish I could service everybody, but it’s a little difficult. I already work 10-hour days in the salon.”

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Danielle Romanetti of fibre space at 1319 Prince Street in Old Town (via Sarah Marcella Photography)

Danielle Romanetti takes most of the credit for Plaid Friday.

It all started back in November 2009, just a few months after she opened her knitting shop fibre space (now at 1319 Prince Street). As the holiday season approached, Romanetti realized that no local businesses in Alexandria recognized Black Friday — the day after Thanksgiving and the first day of the holiday shopping season.

“I was always fascinated by the chaos of Black Friday,” Romanetti told ALXnow. “I contacted a bunch of neighboring businesses and we made a big deal about saying our fire code capacity was 40 people, so it was going to be tough to get in the door. We created this frenzy so that people would line up and be there at 6 a.m.”

The strategy worked, and Romanetti arrived to find a line of customers snaking around the block.

“It was so exciting,” she said. “We sold a ton and we we made a ton of money and it was a huge, wonderful success.”

Romanetti called a number of her neighbors, a handful of which joined her. More than 50 local businesses now participate in Plaid Friday, which was coined as a way to weave individual threads of small businesses together to create a unique fabric to highlights the diversity and creativity of independent shops.

“It’s my biggest single day of the year,” Romanetti said. “We sell about 10% of our inventory in the store on that day. That’s an enormous amount of product to move out.”

Elizabeth Todd, owner of The Shoe Hive (127 S. Fairfax Street), Yellow Jacket (301 Cameron Street) and The Hive (301 Cameron Street) declined the offer that first year, but has participated ever since.

“It’s definitely the biggest sales day of the year for me, too,” Todd said. “My Black Friday was nothing before 2010.”

Todd offers 30% off from 6 to 8 a.m., 20% off from 8 to 10 a.m. and 10% off the rest of the day.

“If you’re going to get up that early in the morning you should be rewarded,” Todd said.

Visit Alexandria now manages Alexandria’s Black Friday event, and lists dozens of participating businesses. Those businesses also participate in Shop Small Week.

“When I first opened, I asked my neighbors about Black Friday,” Romanetti recalled. “I was told, ‘Oh, we don’t open that day. Everybody goes to the mall.’ And I said, ‘Well, it’s the biggest shopping day of the year, and we own retail stores. So, I’m gonna be open at 6 a.m.'”

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As the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership works through programs aimed at helping to strengthen the city’s business communities post-Covid, some in the organization and partnering groups are working to ensure there’s a greater diversity of voices in the new order.

A new grant program, the ALX B2B Business Association Grant Program, aims to help prop up business associations across the city to make them more active and helpful for their communities. The city-funded grant program is in the process of distributing $535,000 in grant funding across eight associations.

AEDP Economic Recovery Manager Senay Gebremedhin and Kevin Harris, former City Council candidate and head of the new Alexandria Minority Business Association, said the goal of the grant program is in part to use the pandemic recovery to help address issues around diversity that predate and were exacerbated by Covid.

Gebremedhin said AEDP’s goal is to use the funding as a boost to business associations to get them to a place where they can be healthy and independently sustainable long-term, without relying on backing from pandemic recovery funding to provide higher levels of service.

“When we built out the program, we intentionally built out sustainability as a core purpose,” Gebremedhin said. “The funding was short-term, so applicants had an understanding that they needed to continue services beyond the funding period.”

The grant funding is going to eight different organizations, ranging from established groups like the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce to brand new organizations like Harris’ Alexandria Minority Business Association.

  • Alexandria Chamber of Commerce
  • Alexandria Minority Business Association, Inc.
  • Del Ray Business Association
  • Eisenhower Avenue Public-Private Partnership
  • Old Town Business Association
  • Old Town North Alliance
  • Social Responsibility Group
  • West End Business Association (WEBA)

Many of the organizations have been volunteer-led, and Gebremedhin said in the past they’ve struggled to sustain initiatives without proper funding or infrastructure support. Even among the more established organizations, Gebremedhin said nearly all of them have seen leadership turnover in recent years.

While the program distributes funding to regional associations like the Del Ray Business Association, the new Social Responsibility Group and the Alexandria Minority Business Association target specific issues within the sphere of local economic development. Gebremedhin said the Social Responsibility Group works with AEDP on communications with local business incubators.

“One of the priorities for our group is creating peer relationships,” Gebremedhin said. “The Social Responsibility Group has a much broader agenda, but our work is narrowly focused with them on one of the pillars of their agency… incubators and building resources for emerging businesses in Alexandria.”

According to Harris, not all businesses have been able to participate in influential policy discussions between the city and the business community. He said he hopes the Alexandria Minority Business Association gives new minority voices a similar chance to weigh in.

“When things are rolled out, there is some communication with other business associations to weigh in on how things are rolled out,” Harris said. “There is a need for that in the minority community.”

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Clay Queen Pottery officially closed its doors last Monday, October 24.

The shop at 2303 Mount Vernon Avenue in Del Ray is nearly vacant, and small renovations are being made to the building interior.

The business closed due to the retirement of owner Renee Altman, as first reported by Alexandria Living Magazine. Clay Queen Pottery sold pottery and jewelry, and provided pottery classes.

There’s no word of what will go into the space, but Paul Haire, owner of The Dog Store — next door at 2301 Mount Vernon Avenue, would like to use the space for an expansion.

“I would love to use the spce for an expansion,” Haire said. “I’d like to do that. Let’s see what happens with that in the future.”

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Alexandria land use attorney Cathy Puskar was named the 2022 Business Leader of the Year by the Chamber ALX at its annual Best In Business awards on Thursday night (Oct. 27), and restaurant Chadwicks (203 Strand Street) was named Overall Business of the Year.

Puskar, a well-known attorney with Walsh, Colucci, Lubeley & Walsh, thanked a packed ballroom in the Westin Alexandria Old Town, and said that it means a lot since she’s a native Alexandrian.

“I don’t just ‘Remember the Titans,'” said Puskar, a 1985 graduate of T.C. Williams High School (now Alexandria City High School). “I am a Titan.”

Alexandria land use attorney Cathy Puskar was named business leader of the year by the Chamber ALX, October 27, 2022. (staff photo by James Cullum)

Puskar frequently represents landowners in major development projects, like Inova Alexandria Hospital’s massive redevelopment of Landmark Mall.

She added, “I love living in a vibrant progressive city where I’m surrounded every day and tonight by family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances and ‘YIMBYs’ who share a vision for moving our city forward, championing economic development, supporting our public schools, celebrating our diversity, helping others, and bringing the fun back to Alexandria.”

Chadwicks owner Trae Lamond accepted the Overall Business of the Year award.

“Anyone that’s told you that a business starts from the top down is wrong,” Lamond said after receiving the award. “We’ve got dishwashers, busboys, servers — they’ve been there for  25 years. They’re the reason Chadwicks is standing here now.”

The Awards

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Black, indigenous and people of color-owned small businesses are about to get a small boost in Alexandria.

The Alexandria Economic Development Partnership just awarded $535,000 in grant funding for businesses, and to create two new groups — the Social Responsibility Group and the Alexandria Minority Business Association.

The funds were awarded to:

“We look forward to growing the energy in Old Town and Del Ray, increased prominence and participation for Eisenhower, Old Town North, and West End, and to better serving our minority businesses with the help of the Social Responsibility Group and the Alexandria Minority Business Association.” said Senay Gebremedhin, AEDP’s economic recovery manager.

Additionally, on Tuesday night (October 25), the Alexandria City Council unanimously approved releasing $500,000 in reserve funding for a new BIPOC incubator program.

The program will start in December, and award $5,000-to-$7,000 grants to businesses by this spring.

The legislation creating the program was brought forward by City Council Member Alyia Gaskins.

“This is a great start, but we’re going to need continued investment in these programs and in our businesses,” Gaskins told her colleagues on Council.

Gaskins and City staff agreed with the findings of a 2021 regional report, which shows that Northern Virginia’s 128,000 BIPOC businesses were severely impacted by the pandemic.

The Supporting Northern Virginia’s Minority-owned Businesses report said that minority-owned businesses experienced more devastation from the pandemic due to being “small in size, concentrating in high-risk industries, and experiencing difficulty securing capital.”

Businesses are eligible for the program if they:

  • Demonstrate they meet defined criteria around BIPOC- ownership
  • Are licensed to conduct business in the city
  • Are in good standing with City Hall with taxes and regulations
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Black-owned businesses in Alexandria (image via Visit Alexandria)

At an upcoming meeting, the City Council will consider releasing $500,000 in funding for a program to help incubate Black, indigenous and people of color-owned small businesses.

The funding is considered as part of the BIPOC-Owned Businesses Grant Program, which can then award a one-time grant of up to $7,000.

According to the docket:

Consideration of the release of $500,000 in FY 2023 Contingent Reserve Funding set aside for Minority Business Incubation for programs that support black, indigenous and people of color (“BIPOC”) owned small local businesses that enable the City to retain and grow existing businesses, recruit new business, and/or assist with start-up activities.

The summary of the program says that for businesses to be eligible, they must demonstrate they meet defined criteria around BIPOC ownership, license to conduct business in the City of Alexandria, and compliance with City fiscal and regulatory policies (“in good standing”).

The summary said that grants are awarded by tiers based on the business maturity — including factors like years in operation, brick-and-mortar presence, the number of employees — and the business’ needs. The average grant size is expected to be $5,000.

Businesses that did not receive funding as part of the various Covid recovery programs will be prioritized. According to the summary:

“It is anticipated that the number of eligible applicants may exceed the total funding currently available,” the summary said. “Businesses that did not receive prior Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES”)/American Rescue Plan Act (“ARPA”) grants… through the City (business grant programs administered by AEDP/ACT for Alexandria) will be prioritized.”

The proposal is scheduled for review at the City Council meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 25. If approved, the program would launch in December with review and selection in January and grants awarded starting in March.

Image via Visit Alexandria

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