Newsletter

Morning Notes

Jones Point Park live-action roleplayers fight with foam swords, create community — “It is Sunday at Jones Point Park, and today is the day Marcus finds glory on the battlefield.” [Alexandria Times]

Yunnan by Potomac Noodle House honored on 2022 Yelp 100 list — “The Alexandria restaurant is one of the top 100 restaurants in the country, according to Yelp.” [Alexandria Living Magazine]

Penthouse unit with exposed brick lists for $1.4M in Alexandria — “Would you pay $1.4 million for this penthouse unit? This residence features industrial loft design and rooftop views of the Potomac.” [Patch]

Carr pitches redevelopment of entire block in Alexandria’s Old Town North — “Carr Companies is exploring a major redevelopment in Alexandria’s Old Town North.” [Washington Business Journal]

4 Comments

Police are investigating a grand larceny from a local glasses business in the city’s West End.

The incident took place at the Bauer’s Optical (4680 King Street) in Shoppes at Summit Centre, a shopping center in the northwest corner of Alexandria.

A witness told ALXnow that three men came in and broke through the glass display in the store, stealing glasses inside before fleeing.

The larceny follows a similar smash-and-grab in Arlington last week, but Alexandria Police public information officer Marcel Bassett said it was too early to say if there was a connection between the crimes.

Police said on social media there were no injuries reported at the time.

Alan Henney, James Cullum and Vernon Miles contributed to this story

0 Comments

Sixteen months after being forced to closed due to bankruptcy reorganization, Seattle-based kitchenware retailer Sur La Table is planning to reopen at 326 King Street.

The company won’t say exactly when the reopening will happen, but ALXnow was tipped off after Sur La Table posted a $70,000 a year job for a full-time manager for the store.

“We can confirm that Sur La Table is reopening in the area, but we do not have a timeline we can share at this time,” the company told ALXnow in an email.

Sur La Table, which opened at 326 King Street in 2013, had to close approximately half of its 121 stores around the country. The Old Town store closed at the end of September.

Via Google Maps

5 Comments

Ready for a Mangorita? Tiki, a new pop-up bar will open next week at 2312 Mount Vernon Avenue.

The former longtime home to The Sushi Bar was briefly converted into the Christmas-themed pop-up bar Joy On The Avenue, and more pop-ups at the location are being planned as plans for the final concept fall into place. For now, bamboo decorations are being put in place and Tiki masks have been painted on the walls.

Next month, Homegrown Restaurant Group owners Mike Anderson and Bill Blackburn will transform Tiki into the Valentine’s themed “Love Shack” pop-up next month, followed by a yet-to-be-named Mardis Gras pop-up after that.

“We’re transforming the space formerly known as kid-less Sushi, formerly known as Joy On The Avenue to new bar cocktail bar called Tiki,” owner Bill Blackburn told ALXnow. “There is no single person in Alexandria more qualified to open a tiki bar than mango. Mike Anderson.”

Anderson owned Mango Mike’s for 18 years on the West End.

“It’s about creating an experience, an escape,” Anderson said. “People need a bright spot in their day, and haven’t been able to take vacations. We’re giving them a vacation on the avenue.”

Tiki will serve tropical drinks, as well as food from HRG’s Holy Cow Del Ray.

Blackburn says HRG is ironing out a permanent fast-casual concept for the space, which he hopes to unveil in the spring.

0 Comments

It will take three-to-five years for Alexandria to economically work its way out of the pandemic, according to the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership (AEDP).

That’s according to a recently released Alexandria State Of The Market 2021 Mid-year Report, in which AEDP outlined business trends and impacts.

“The hardest-hit industries continue to be tourism, restaurants, and retail, and the use of office buildings and mass transit, and attendance at live entertainment venues remain low,” the report said. “The onset of COVID-19 in 2020 not only created new trends but also accelerated those that were already underway and hastened the demise of others. That said, it is expected cities will bounce back in three to five years, largely due to the appeal and vitality of entertainment, finance, technology, and education.”

AEDP President and CEO Stephanie Landrum says that business owners have been through the worst days of the pandemic.

“We made temporary things permanent, like the closure of streets, the ability for businesses to use sidewalks,” Landrum said. “The things that we were scrambling to do last year when these first surges happened, we’ve learned how to do all of them and we’ve made them all permanent. We’re in a much better place as a community and as businesses to get through this next surge.”

AEDP has distributed millions in Back To Business grants to businesses all over the city, and has been a hub for relief-related information. The nonprofit has also been central to bringing major business development to the city, including Amazon’s HQ2 and the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus.

“I don’t think anyone was prepared for the level of uncertainty and the length of this pandemic,” Landrum said.

The city has experienced a dramatic drop-off in hotel occupancy and revenues. Mayor Justin Wilson noted in a social media post that hotel revenue fell from $1.1 million in July 2019 to around $200,000 in July 2020, and Landrum believes that hotels emptied by the pandemic could be converted into affordable housing.

More people are also working from home, and the city’s office vacancy rate increased to 15.9% (as of June 2021) over 13.1% in 2020.

The report outlined the following rising trends:

  • Telework
  • Suburban Migration
  • Safety/Health Concerns for Indoor Public Spaces
  • Affordable Housing Crisis
  • Demand for Public Open Space
  • Retail Sector Transformation
  • Concerns about Racial Equity
  • Federal Deficit
  • Use of Bikes and Scooters
  • Worker Shortages

The report outlined these slowing trends:

  • Appeal of Cities and Density
  • In-Person Meetings/ Conferences/Business Travel
  • Experiential Retail
  • Growth of Health/Wellness Establishments
  • Tourist-Oriented Retail/Leisure Travel/Tourism ö Mass Transit Use
  • Apartment Amenity Wars
  • Live Entertainment/Movie Theaters

Retail investments may never fully return to pre-pandemic performance, the report said.

“Typical storefront retail will lose value as customer foot traffic counts decline over an increasing preference toward online purchases and home deliveries,” the report said. “Consumers may forever shift to e-commerce shopping for most apparel, food, and household items.”

2 Comments

After six months of waiting for the city’s Permit Center to approve an expansion of her nail salon, Kathleen Le was ready to throw her hands up in resignation.

“I tell my staff that if they hear me talk about opening another location or expanding to please kill me instead,” Le told ALXnow. “Don’t let me do it.”

Just last month, with the grand opening days away for an expanded Salon Meraki, Le failed an inspection. A sprinkler head in her new salon had paint on it, and after replacing it, she says she was told that all of her paperwork was going to have to go through the city from the beginning.

“I called City Hall to reschedule the final inspection the very following day, because I had the grand opening party, but they said I couldn’t do that,” Le said. “They told me I was going to have to bring in my permit drawing and they would have to review all of my paperwork all over again from square one.”

Le turned to Danielle Romanetti, the owner of fibre space and last year’s winner of the Chamber ALX small business of the year award. The move worked, since Romanetti is well connected.

The multi-department Permit Center is intended to streamline the approval process for residents and business owners. Like many city services, the Permit Center closed at the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, although the city says that its online APEX permitting system was still up and running. In November 2021, after 19 months of the pandemic, the city says it fully reopened to in-person business. During the interim period, though, Le said her messages and calls were seldom returned, prolonging what should have been a simple exercise.

“The first phase started with in-person services by ‘appointment only’ in the summer of 2020,” said Kelly Gilfillen, the city’s acting director of the Office of Communications and Public Information. “The second phase began in April 2021 with permit technicians located on the first floor of City Hall. On November 15, the fourth floor Permit Center reopened to in-person customers. Online services continue to be available.”

Gilfillen said that some processes will remain electronic for larger projects submitted by major developers and contractors, although small businesses and residents (to include their contractors) will continue to be provided same day services.

Soon after contacting Romanetti, Le’s permits all got approved and she got the green light to open.

“Prior to the pandemic, we had a one-stop-shop expediting service for small businesses that allowed us to schedule a time to run a project through all departments at once,” Romanetti said. “That is gone. It existed for a reason. We can’t wait 30 days to get permits for a sign on a new business.”

Le said she appreciated the approval, but that the process was unfair.

“It’s not fair for other business owners who have to go through the same thing that I went through,” she said. “What if they don’t have the connections I have? It’s not fair, because the city is supposed to work for the public.”

0 Comments

Faced with a drastic disruption in foot traffic, Alexandria-based Comfort One Shoes had to pivot. The pandemic forced the company to focus its energy on online sales, bringing in more casual merchandise and closing the Union Station location in D.C.

Company President Garrett Breton says the efforts made 2021 sales higher than the pre-pandemic year of 2019.

“The Old Town locations (200 and 201 King Street) are on fire right now,” Breton told ALXnow. “People are wanting to go out and do stuff. They want to see their friends, and they need new shoes, because if you try to put your old dress shoes back on and go to the office, even if it’s one day a week, you’re pretty miserable.”

Comfort One Shoes sells brands around the world like Mephisto, BeautifeelEcco and Dansko at its 14 locations in Maryland, Virginia and D.C. The company’s Dupont Circle location has been the most successful of the stores for years, but the reduction in Metro traffic has changed things.

“Before we went into the pandemic Dupont Circle was our number one volume store,” Breton said. “It won’t be for a really long time, maybe never again. It’s based on downtown commuter traffic. People have to walk from the metro to their jobs. I don’t know when offices are coming back. It is what it is.”

Breton became president in January 2020 after the retirement of his father, Maurice, who opened the first Comfort One at 201 King Street nearly 30 years ago. A lifelong Alexandrian and 1998 graduate of Bishop Ireton High School, the younger Breton says that, in the early days of the pandemic, he was challenged to temporarily lay off staff he’d known most of his life. The company employs just under 100 employees, and all its stores closed between one-to-four months in 2020.

During those first months of the pandemic, Breton said, more focus was put on internet sales and he’d have to shift from buying dress shoes to casual shoes and sneakers.

“The online business grew at around 40% at the end of that crazy year (2020), and by last September we exceeded 2019 numbers,” Breton said. “That’s with tons and tons of athletic shoes, and that was not even a part of our business 10 years ago. Nobody is buying dress shoes right now. We’re selling lots of athletic shoes and a lot more slippers — shoes you just slide on to run out quickly.”

Via Comfort One/Facebook

2 Comment

There will soon be a second Chewish Deli bagel shop in Old Town, as the company officially announced it is working to open at the former Dunkin’ Donuts space at 1640 King Street.

Chewish Deli opened its first brick and mortar at 807 Pendleton Street in the Braddock area in October 2020. It began seven months before that as a food truck selling bagels, hot pastrami and Reuben sandwiches.

The new location is blocks from the King St-Old Town Metro station.

“In this new location you’ll be able to sit down and enjoy your bagel, sandwich and coffee. With much more space in the front area than at Pendleton, we will be expanding out our traditional deli offerings,” the company announced on Facebook. “We will be offering more cold options and a few less hot items than Pendleton since there isn’t the option for a grill there.”

The company said that it is working on getting new equipment, renovations and hiring staff.

Owner Gregg Linzey, in a previous interview, told ALXnow the secret to making the perfect bagel.

“It’s simple, but not necessarily easy,” Linzey said. “You have to get every part of the equation right for all of your ingredients, like making sure the dough has the proper hydration. You need the perfect percentage of water, salt, flour, and we use malt syrup as our sweetener. That’s the key to getting a good New York-style bagel. No sugar, no brown sugar, no honey. Just malt syrup.”

Via Facebook

9 Comments

Morning Notes

Local restaurants to require vaccination proof in January — “At least a few restaurants are asking diners to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination before dining indoors.” [Alexandria Living Magazine]

COVID-19 cases more than doubled in past week — “Cases of COVID-19 in Alexandria more than doubled in the seven days ending on Tuesday, apparently fueled by the highly contagious Omicron variant combined with indoor holiday gatherings.” [Alexandria Times]

DASH adjusts service due to COVID-19 — “DASH is facing a shortage of workers, including bus drivers and mechanics, due to coronavirus.” [Alexandria Living Magazine]

Alexandria plans pilgrimage to Montgomery, Ala., to honor its lynching victims — “A national memorial in Montgomery, Ala., has been honoring the victims of lynching since 2018. Now, the city of Alexandria, Va., is planning a pilgrimage to Montgomery to recognize its place in that history, and the public is invited.” [Washington Post]

Partnership to benefit Mount Vernon Trail — “National Landing Business Improvement District has teamed up with the Friends of Mount Vernon Trail to help preserve 18-mile trail.” [Alexandria Living Magazine]

2 Comments

A number of New Year’s Eve parties are being voluntarily canceled in Alexandria, and some businesses scaling back their services. All of this, of course, is in response to a dramatic jump in COVID-19 infections over the last month.

According to the Del Ray Business Association, the following businesses have stopped in-person service:

In Old Town, the rising tide of new cases led to the cancelation of First Night Alexandria, the city’s New Year’s Eve celebration.

These businesses have canceled their New Year’s Eve parties:

These New Year’s Eve celebrations are still on:

2 Comment
×

Subscribe to our mailing list