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(Updated 3/31) One year after a plan to open at 128 N. Pitt Street seemingly fell through, hyper-popular D.C. bagel shop Call Your Mother Deli says an Alexandria location in Old Town is back on the menu.

Currently, “somewhere” is the best the company can say for the exact location, but a store representative ruled out one location: 128 N. Pitt Street.

“Call Your Mother’s second VA location will be in Alexandria / the historic Old Town district, but it will not be at 128 N. Pitt Street,” said Carly Connor, a public relations manager with a firm representing Call Your Mother Deli, in an email.

Neighbors told ALXnow the new location is likely the new development at 1300 King Street.

Connor said the aim is to open sometime this summer.

“The lease is not yet final,” Connor said, “but it’s looking like mid-summer for the opening!”

The news came alongside an announcement that a new location will also be opening in McLean.

Photo via Call Your Mother/Facebook


U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine visited Alexandria for a reelection campaign happy hour on Monday, and said he’s partly running to keep Virginia out of Republican crosshairs in 2024.

Kaine says that he’s concerned about former President Donald Trump’s calls to protest if he is indicted today.

“Obviously I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow (today),” Kaine said at Pork Barrel BBQ in Del Ray. “I’m worried about it. You learn not to dismiss it.”

Kaine continued, “It’s just not a good time for our country. It’s not a good time for people that have energy and passion for doing good to kind of move aside, because there’s real issues at stake about the future of our democracy. What we’ve seen in the last few years, particularly on January 6, but there was a long run up to it, a long set of consequences to it.”

Kaine announced in January that he was running for a third term in 2024, and said that there would be “some chaos” in the national democratic party if he chose not to run. The former 2016 democratic vice presidential candidate is a former Governor of Virginia and Mayor of Richmond. Virginia’s other U.S. Senate seat is filled by Democrat Mark Warner, also a former governor.

“It’s probably a little more likely that at the national level, the Republican Party would said, ‘Oh, great. Virginia has an open seat, we’re all in in Virginia,'” Kaine said. “Right now, they’re probably looking more at Ohio, West Virginia or Montana. If I can keep their attention off us (in Virginia), then that’s valuable.”

The audience was full of local elected officials, including Mayor Justin Wilson, who recalled being in Richmond when Kaine announced his intention to run for reelection.

“I believe about eight different people called me and told me they would run if you (Kaine) were not running that day,” Wilson said. “The biggest relief in the world was when I heard that Sen. Tim Kaine is going to run for reelection to be our senator for another six years.”

Kaine said that the decision to run again wasn’t easy.

“It was a hard decision, because it’s an eight year decision,” he said. “Two years of campaigning, six years of service. And an eight-year decision when you’re 65 is different than when you’re 55 or 45… But the ability to do good every day, still energizes and excites me.”

Stomping Ground in Del Ray

(Updated 6 p.m. on March 13) Del Ray restaurant Stomping Ground will be reopening as a taqueria, its staff are telling customers.

The eight-year-old restaurant at 2309 Mount Vernon will change to a taqueria, although menus have not been prepared. The concept was confirmed by multiple managers with the restaurant group, although a recent post on Facebook says otherwise.

“Sorry, This information is incorrect,” Stomping Ground said in the post. “The name and concept. Please remove this article and call us for a fact check. Thank you!”

Owner Nicole Jones said that she is ready for a change on the company’s website.

“Our team has decided that in April 2023, we will shutter our beloved biscuit house to make way for something entirely new,” Jones said. “We know that the next chapter will hopefully delight our customers again. In the meantime, please join me in saying goodbye to my beloved first restaurant. She has been so good to all of us.”

Jones said that Stomping Ground was impacted by the pandemic, and that cost increases made the restaurant too expensive to run.

“While watching the price of flour, dairy and eggs, the soul of our recipes, skyrocket, I watched my staff become more complacent every day,” Jones wrote. “Without the community, Stomping Ground is not the third space it once was and working there feels more and more like just another job.”

Jones has two years left on her lease and said that she isn’t ready to give up, but that the pandemic changed her on a fundamental level.

“I still have the same team, and for the most part the same customers, although we see less and less of our old regulars,” she wrote. “All of this compounded as I realized I have 2 years left on my lease. Is it time to tap out and close Stomping Ground after 10 years? I simply don’t have the wherewithal to eke out yet another round of changes and the market can only sustain so many price increases. I no longer have the anxiety and adrenaline it took to pivot my business over and over for 2 years. I have pivoted her into something I no longer recognize.”

At the end of her letter, she simply signed off as “Nicole — Janitor, Chef, Owner.”

The full letter is below the jump.

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New sign at The Birchmere (image via City of Alexandria)

Chris Issak, John Waters and Judy Collins are just a few of the dozens of famous artists who petitioned the Alexandria Planning Commission and City Council to approve The Birchmere‘s Special Use Permit request to keep up its flashy new 5-foot-by-2.5-foot digital sign along Mount Vernon Avenue in Arlandria.

The Planning Commission approved the request 7-0 on Tuesday, and it now goes to City Council. Planning Commission Chair Nathan Macek said that the letters with all of the supporting signatures would be “an excellent auction item.”

“Performing artists are now expecting the venues to keep up with the times,” wrote Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Judy Collins. “It is a necessary tool to promote the artists as well as the venue.”

Some requests were simple, like filmmaker John Waters, who wrote, “I am writing to support the Birchmere’s request to be allowed to keep their new LED sign.”

Chris Isaak wrote: “I wholeheartedly support the Birchmere Music Hall in their effort to retain their beautiful new sign. Please help them out… thank you!”

Gary Oelze, the owner of the music hall, erected the large electric sign last summer without city approval, prompting a request from the city manager’s office to go through an official process. Oelze, who was recently named a Living Legend of Alexandria, died last month.

“I think you know we do have a process in place for digital signs,” Macek said. “This is probably a case where they should have come in advance of putting the sign in.”

The Commission also approved a request to keep the sign lit until midnight, as well as the installation of a smaller sign at the entrance of the venue.

The following artists wrote letters in support of the new sign:


Old Town was packed on Saturday morning for Alexandria’s 40th annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

Thousands of visitors lined King Street to watch a procession of more than 2,000 participants, including Irish dancers, historic reenactors and the City of Alexandria Pipes and Drums. The festivities also included a car show and a dog show at Market Square outside City Hall.

This year’s Grand Marshal was Charlotte Hall, managing director of Old Town Business. The parade was sponsored by the Ballyshaners, a nonprofit dedicated to Irish heritage. Ballyshaners is Gaelic for “Old Towners.”

Enjoy the photos!

Map of the proposed Old Town Business Improvement Service District (via Old Town Business)

With the clock running down on a rushed timeline, Old Town Business (OTB) is conducting more outreach sessions today, Friday, on its proposed business improvement district.

The group conducted information sessions yesterday (Thursday) and scheduled one for this morning and another for 1 p.m. along the ALX Community Waterfront at 201 N. Union Street.

“We’re running into a deadline for this year’s tax calendar,” Scott Shaw, a managing partner of Alexandria Restaurant Partners, previously told ALXnow. “We’re compressing this more than we want to, we’re aware of that.”

The group of local business owners are trying to gather 60% support from hundreds of Old Town restaurants, shops and other retailers by mid-March. Organizers are operating on a crunched timeline to get their proposal on the City Council docket this month, before the city sets the tax rate for the upcoming budget, which must be approved in May.

OTB wants the effort to be funded by a 10-cent addition to real property tax rates for businesses within the proposed district.

“For example, a parcel that has a taxable value of $700,000 that currently pays $7,770 in annual property taxes would be billed an additional $700 for a new total of $8,470,” OTB explains in its petition. “Parcels of real property which are either exempt from real property taxes or strictly residential in use, as determined by the City on an annual basis, shall not be billed the annual BISD tax.”

Those funds would then go toward events, marketing, business support services, advocacy and more.

Per the proposal, the Business Improvement Service District (BISD) would be overseen by 13-to-15 board members, all of whom would be approved by City Council. Board meetings would also be open to the public.

A message from Old Town Business on its BISD efforts (via Old Town Business)

via Old Town Business

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Earlier this week, Old Town Business debuted new plans for a Business Improvement District along King Street.

The new effort comes after multiple earlier efforts to get a BID launched for Old Town, but BID proponents highlighted at a meeting earlier this week that this effort will be different.

Scott Shaw, managing partner of Alexandria Restaurant Partners, said the new BID is both smaller in scale than earlier efforts. The BID would focus on organizing events, marketing Old Town at a regional level, and doing more “placemaking” like banners, wayfinding and outdoor programming. The BID would also be focused on King Street primarily, while previous BIDs have included extended sections along other streets in Old Town.

Shaw said the BID could also help advocate and organize to tackle Old Town’s parking problems. In particular, the BID could work with owners of underutilized parking lots or parking garages to find parking solutions for businesses — ensuring workers have lots to park in rather than parking on the street.

BID proponents say the district could help pick up on work the volunteer-led Old Town Business has been doing for commercial tenants along King Street.

The City council approved a framework last year that said a BID needs 60% of commercial property owners to sign their support. This week, BID proponents said they’ve gotten pledges of support from property owners representing 100 of the 300 parcels they’ll need to get to 60%.

But another challenge facing this BID is a tight timeline. Old Town Business leaders said they’re eager to have the BID included in this tax year, which means the BID only had until mid-March to get the support it needs to make it onto the City Council docket.

The next in-person meeting is on Wednesday, Feb. 22, at Lorien Hotel (1600 King Street) with public information sessions throughout the day.


Seichou Karate Old Town was born in the 2007 Recession and adapted to survive the 2020 Covid pandemic, but after 16 years in the heart of Old Town North, it may not survive the neighborhood’s development boom.

Seichou Karate is one of a dozen stores at the Montgomery Center (807 North Royal Street) in Old Town North. The squat building sits at the heart of a rapidly developing area of the city. Carr Companies purchased the building and announced redevelopment plans last year.

With the building slated for demolition and redevelopment, a handful of local businesses that helped boost Old Town North for decades now find themselves victims of their own success. Beloved local bike shop Wheel Nuts closed in December after 20 years in business. Another shop owner on the block, who asked not to be named, said her shop would be running until they’re forced out. Like others on the block, she said she’s tried to find an alternate spot for her business, but it’s been difficult finding a location she can afford.

Richard Romero has run Seichou Karate since 2007, but has been teaching traditional martial and cultural arts in Old Town since 1997.

The brick walls around the interior of the dojo are holdovers from when that space was an alleyway between buildings. Under the mats, Romero said there are still manhole covers.

“I leased it 17 years ago and there was nothing here,” Romero said. “The bricks inside: that was the exterior of the other buildings.”

Before running the Seichou Karate, Romero was a lawyer, but said he couldn’t really find a place where he felt comfortable. Growing up in New York, he’d trained in karate, and when a coworker asked about martial arts, Romero agreed to teach him. That grew to a small class in the office, and Romero fell in love teaching.

“In 2004, I left law and taught at health clubs,” Romero said. “I was teaching at seven locations.”

Romero said going to work at Seichou Karate has never felt like “going to work.” Romero runs 28 classes per week out of the dojo. Two other trainers at Seichou Karate have been there for 12 years.

The building has gone through significant changes and improvements over the years, including a $22,000 investment in 2021 that Romero said proved to be ill-timed, as shortly after the improvements were completed it was announced that the building would be torn down.

“I get it,” Romero said. “I understand what these developers are up against. On the other hand… I feel confident they could do much more.”

Romero said he was hoping that Carr Companies could appoint a point person to help tenants relocate, but that hasn’t happened. There are doors a representative from Carr can open in the business world that smaller businesses can’t.

“I’ve been looking for 16 months,” Romero said. “If I do manage to call a landlord, many of them don’t want a karate school. There’s a reluctance for martial arts schools because we make noise and can’t afford the rent something like Chipotle can. but if Carr calls, they’ll pick up that phone.”

Other businesses around Montgomery Center told ALXnow that, like Romero, they’ve been searching for buildings to purchase or rent, but the rates are much higher than the Montgomery Center. While commercial real estate has struggled in recent years, Romero said many he’s encountered can still afford to wait for the safer bet of a national chain compared to a local business.

Romero and other businesses in Montgomery Center said they did receive offers to return to the Montgomery Center after the block was redeveloped, but Romero said he can’t afford to wait the several years it might take to build the new development.

For Seichou Karate, Romero said the deadline to find a new place is the end of March.

“We’ll stay here as long as they’ll let us stay,” Romero said. “This [community] isn’t something you can reproduce easily. Our students love us. We’re not a national brand, but around here, we’ve been a gem for the community. We teach something unique and provide holistic development. I’m not ready to hang up my obi just yet.”

A vehicle smashed through the front window of the Tropical Smoothie Cafe in the Bradlee Shopping Center, Feb. 14, 2023 (staff photo by James Cullum)

A car smashed through the front window of the Tropical Smoothie Cafe (3610-G King Street) in the Bradlee Shopping Center this morning.

No one was injured in the crash, which occurred just after 8 a.m., and closed the business for the day. The driver stayed on-scene and wasn’t charged, according to a store manager

Contractors are already on-site replacing the front window.


The new chair of the Chamber ALX says that she will focus on supporting local businesses and making the organization more resourceful.

Nicole McGrew, owner of Threadleaf & Company, celebrated officially taking over as chair during a chamber event Thursday night held in the visitor’s center of George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate. Her term officially began Jan. 1.

She is the first Black woman to chair the chamber and succeeded former Chair Angela Hartley.

“When I joined the chamber in 2018, I never imagined I’d be here as chamber board chair,” McGres told event attendees Thursday. “As a chamber, we are here to support and advocate for our businesses, large and small, for-profit or nonprofit, everything from parking to procurement. You have a question and we’re here to help you do it.”

McGrew opened Threadleaf in 2018 after an impressive decade-long legal career. She has a history from the University of Chicago, a master’s degree in political science and government from Hofstra University and a law degree from  Georgetown University Law Center. For five years she was assistant general counsel for the Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs, and she was the deputy general counsel for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy during the final year of the Obama administration.

Threadleaf & Company closed its brick-and-mortar location at 102 N. Fayette Street last year, eventually closed its online shop and transitioned to personal consultations. In a Dec. 23 Instagram post, McGrew said that she is transitioning away from her business.

“Businesses do not exist in a vacuum,” McGrew told the audience. “How do we create and maintain sustainable businesses and livable communities that will last for our children and our children’s children? These are my priorities this year — growing business, engaging community and promoting a culture of sustainability so that in another 300 years, Alexandria will still be the best city on the Potomac.”

Scott Reamy, a manager at Dominion Energy and a Chamber board member, told attendees “we’re in good hands for the next year.”

“There is not a more genuine person here tonight to lead the chamber in our efforts moving forward,” Reamy said.

The event was attended by six members of City Council as well as many local business owners and other members.

Via Chamber ALX/Facebook


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