Alexandria, VA

Feeling stressed? Momma’s Hemp at 1314 King Street carries $2 lollipops infused with CBD that are supposed to calm you down, give you energy, make you creative and focused.

Jennifer Bright and her eldest son, Devin Pullen, opened the shop on Tuesday. The pair also opened a location in their hometown of Culpeper, Virginia, in 2019.

“Old Town is kind of like coming to a foreign country, but I’m getting used to it,” Bright told ALXnow.

Before going into business for themselves, Bright said she was wrongly fired from her job as a customer service representative for a retail store in Culpeper for bringing in CBD edibles to the office. The products won’t get customers high since CBD, or cannabidiol, is a completely legal cousin of the marijuana plant and has no psychoactive effects.

“I wish we had opened my business sooner, but being the single mom of four boys, I depended on that money and just felt comfortable in that position,” Bright said. “I feel like it happened for a reason, even though I didn’t understand it at the time. But now that I look back at it, it inspired us to do this, to push ourselves.”

Bright said that Pullen was experiencing anxiety, and that prescription medication wasn’t helping. So, they ventured into CBD. Products at the store include coffee, teas, candies, lotions, bath bombs and vapor cartridges.

“We’ve been watching him crawl out of the shell that he’d been in for quite some time,” Bright said. “It’s wholistic healing, and I’m using it, too. I’m not on any heavy medication. I feel better now than I have in my entire life. It just provides a great body relaxation. If you deal with anxiety or have pain, it’s gonna just help take that edge off. “

Bright said that she and her son are waiting for marijuana to get legalized in Virginia so that they can sell it.

“That’s kind of what we’re waiting for,” she said. “The plan is to keep these two open, and then open more locations down the road.”

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The owner of a hookah lounge has filed a special use permit to operate a hookah lounge and restaurant in the West End.

Diko Bar and Lounge would take over at the former home of the all-vegan Chez Hareg Cafe at 5245 Duke Street. The 1,200-square-foot location is next door to Shooter McGee’s, across the street from the Canterbury Square Condominiums and near the Alexandria Fire Station 208.

The location can accommodate 47 people inside, 18 people outside and has a 145-space parking lot. The SUP was requested for a new use at the space, which is the former home to Sangeet Alexandria Halal Meat and Grocery and Chez Hareg Cafe.

Owner Diko Woldehawariate could not be reached for comment, and details are scarce. The business has no website or social media. Woldehawariate wants to run it from noon to 2 a.m. seven days a week, according to the application. The menu includes beef and chicken shwarma, kabobs, Ethiopian dishes and desserts.

Public comments on the application are open until March 4, 2021, after which the application goes before the Planning Commission and then City Council for final approval.

Photo via Google Maps

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Popular sandwich franchise Jersey Mike’s Subs has opened a new location at 360 S. Pickett Street in the West End Village.

The new location opened between Taste of Asia and Mediterranean Bakery and Cafe in the former location of Ace Wig and Hair, but has been empty since at least 2018.

The sandwich shop launched with a partnership with Together We Bake, a local nonprofit workforce training program, offering a free regular sub when guests display a coupon and make a $2 donation to the nonprofit.

“We’re excited to partner with the new Jersey Mike’s at 360 S. Pickett Street which opens Monday 2/15!” the nonprofit said on Facebook. “In addition to becoming one of our Employer Partners, Jersey Mike’s will be offering free regular subs when you donate a minimum of $2 to TWB at checkout from 2/15-2/19.”

The restaurant is open every day from 10 a.m.-9 p.m.

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It was a cold week in Alexandria.

With bits of snow and temperatures hovering at around freezing, our top story this week was on Allison Priebe, the local business owner who was robbed while pumping gas in Old Town. Police later released suspect photos and advise anyone pumping gas to keep their keys with them and lock their vehicles.

On the coronavirus front, Alexandria is now at 9,903 cases and no new deaths, which is an increase of about 150 cases since Monday’s report. Meanwhile, as the city contends with a growing vaccine waiting list, the Health Department is warning residents of COVID-19 vaccine scams.

More than 260 people participated in our weekly poll. This week we asked about voting in the upcoming City Council and mayoral elections, and 87% plan on voting in the primary and general election; 6% only plan on voting in the primary; 5% aren’t voting and 1% will only vote in the primary.

In case you missed them, here are some other important stories this week:

Here are our top stories of the week in Alexandria:

  1. Local Business Owner Robbed of Car While Pumping Gas at Old Town Gas Station
  2. BREAKING: Large Power Outage Reported in Old Town
  3. ACPS Releases Semifinalist Names for T.C. Williams High School and Matthew Maury Elementary School Renaming
  4. Just In: ‘QAnon Shaman’ from Capitol Siege Transferred to Alexandria Jail
  5. Poll: What Do You Think of the Proposed Heritage Development in Old Town
  6. Mayor: Brace Yourselves, It Could be End of Summer Before City Moves into Next Vaccine Phase
  7. BREAKING: Councilman Mo Seifeldein Running for Alexandria Mayor, Hatch Act Conflict in Question
  8. Alexandria Sheriff: Jailed ‘QAnon Shaman’s’ Organic Food Request is Normal
  9. Just In: James Lewis Files Paperwork to Enter City Council Race
  10. Photos: The Regal Potomac Yard Movie Theater is Being Torn Down
  11. City Councilman’s Virtual Super Bowl Party Ambushed by Racists and Nazi Trolls

Photo via Alexandria Police

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A new women-focused athletic wear chain Athleta could replace the now-closed tapas restaurant La Tasca at 607 King Sreet.

According to a filing at the Board of Architectural Review for the March 3 meeting, Athleta owner Gap Inc. is seeking permits to restructure the store to better function as retail. The storefront windows would be replaced with larger, aluminum framed ones and the front door replaced with a new glass one.

The store primarily focuses on athletic attire for women and girls, though it also sells dresses, jackets, and now masks.

Athleta would be the third Gap-owned store on the block, with a Gap Factory at 622 King Street and a Banana Republic at 628 King Street.

Image via City of Alexandria

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East Coast-based pet store chain Loyal Companion is planning on opening its doors in Old Town North on Feb. 25.

“We’re a one-stop-shop for pet wellness,” Loyal Companion said on its website. “Stop by and wow your pet with our selection of toys, treats, food, supplements, expert advice and grooming all under one roof.”

Loyal Companion, at 923 N. St. Asaph Street, is located in the Gables Old Town North/EDEN property, and neighboring businesses include Oak SteakhouseHinata Sushi Bar and Grill and Cut and Shave Barbershop.

The company launched 52 locations in 2019, including nine in Virginia. Loyal Companion is comprised of seven independent pet retailers that converged into a pet store that provides spa and grooming treatments.

From March 3 – March 7, the store will offer free nail trims, treats and advice. It will be open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day every day of the week.

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Erik Muendel wants the new ESP Tea and Coffee to be what the old Killer E.S.P. should have been.

The coffee shop at 1012 King Street was a beloved, hip hangout spot in Old Town featuring sorbet, pie and espresso, that latter from which the bistro derived its name. Behind the scenes, however, its controversial owner Rob Shelton clashed with staff who alleged inappropriate behavior toward women and minors working at the shop. The conflict culminated with the entire staff quitting in early 2020 followed by the replacement staff quitting just months later.

Muendel, a local tech entrepreneur, was one of those customers who was a fan of the coffee shop but was disheartened by last year’s revelations. He’s taken over the space and the equipment and looks to reopen to the public on Monday, Feb. 1.

“There was a little fanbase, myself included, so that’s why I got involved,” Muendel said.

Landlord Ian McGrath confirmed that Shelton has left the business entirely, and said that the shop will maintain its boho vibe.

Now, Muendel said the challenge is to create the kind of coffee shop those who were regulars at the old place wanted it to be. It starts with a minor name change.

“I worked with the name to get something that was familiar but different,” Muendel said. “It was something I loved when I first started going there; I thought it was a cool name before I realized it stood for ‘espresso, sorbet, and pie.'”

The new name is ESP Tea and Coffee with a third-eye motif to represent paranormal “extrasensory perception.”

“I personally have a passion for tea,” said Muendel. “I loved the selection at Killer E.S.P. but I specialize in a special kind of tea from the Hunan Province of China called Pu-erh.”

Pu-erh, as Muendel explains it, is a type of fermented tea that comes in a cake form rather than loose leafs. ESP will be an exclusive provider of Pu-erh tea in the region, selling both the cakes and offering mini-cakes for single servings. Like wine, Muendel said Pu-erh is aged and fermented, with a bold taste and varying notes of flavor.

“It’s very high end, very exclusive, and there’s no shop in the Metro area that sells it,” Muendel said.

Almost nowhere: Blueduck Tavern in D.C. (1201 24th Street NW) also has pu-erh tea on the menu, as does Ching Ching Cha — as of 2018 at least..

The old Killer E.S.P. tea selection will be narrowed down to around 30 loose leaf teas and six Pu-erh options.

Along with the rebooted tea selection comes a return of some of the old staff.

“I was a long time customer and I got to know many of the managers and baristas over the years,” Muendel said. “[Contacting them] was one of the first things I wanted to do. I’ve run several small businesses in Old Town but I’ve never done restaurant/retail. It’s a new space for me, so it was important to get connected with past employees in the leadership position.”

Two former Killer E.S.P employees will work as the new general and assistant manager.

“I’ve put a lot of trust in them and am learning a lot from them,” Muendel said.

Muendel is planning to do a soft opening for the new cafe starting on Monday, Feb. 1.

“I’m excited to reconnect with the community,” Muendel said. “I’ve kept the core interior pretty similar, so it will be pretty familiar. It will almost feel like a parallel dimension, familiar but different and cool.”

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Morning Notes

Black History Museum Asks for Help in Conservation Effort — “The Alexandria Black History Museum (BHM) is asking for help from the community. The museum hopes to apply for a conservation grant from the Virginia Association of Museums (VAM)… From Jan. 11 through 20, people can vote for their favorite artifact on the top ten list. The artifact with the most votes will win the People’s Choice Award and $1,000 toward conservation work on the artifact.” [Zebra]

Nothing Bundt Cakes to Open on Duke Street — “Nothing Bundt Cakes is opening its first Alexandria location. The bakery will open at 4553 Duke St., replacing a Subway sandwich shop in the Shoppes at Foxchase in Alexandria’s West End.” [Alexandria Living Magazine]

Goodwin House to Receive Second Dose of Vaccine This Month — “375 people were vaccinated last month and are awaiting their second dose on January 19. Bagley hopes they’ll vaccinate more people once Governor Ralph Northam initiates Phase 1B, which will allow CVS and other pharmacies to distribute vaccinations.” [WDMV]

Alive! Feeds Hundreds at Food Distribution Event — “Alive!, an Alexandria, faith-based community organization, held its first large scale food distribution drives of the New Year.” [WJLA]

Northam Says Year-Round School is Possibility — “In a press conference this week, Governor Ralph Northam said, ‘One of the things we are entertaining is perhaps year-round schooling for the next year. Perhaps adding increased days this summer. To really help our kids get caught up.'” [Zebra]

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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Alexandria Cupcake owner Adnan Hamidi likes to wash his hands so much that he just bought a natural soap company.

Hamidi’s got big plans for his Scentual Soap Co. and envisions eventually opening a brick and mortar location in Old Town.

“Most soaps leave you dry, and they have a lot of synthetic ingredients in them, including perfumes,” Hamidi told ALXnow. “I am seriously considering looking at a brick and mortar (in Old Town) where we will move a lot of the production in there.”

Hamidi bought Scentual Soap Co. last month, and the products are based on recipes that he developed with the company’s founder. Next month, he will roll out with a few new products, like bath balms, natural lotions and a men’s shaving kit. He will also be shopping the soap around to sell at other area businesses.

“Making soap is almost like making a cupcake,” Hamidi said. “The simpler you keep it, the better. Our soaps will never dry your hands out. They’re made with essential oils and lye, which is a natural byproduct that needs to be used to kill bacteria and break down viruses.”

Scentual Soap Company was founded three years ago, and its products include Greek Yogurt Soaps, Goat Milk Soaps and Natural Soaps. Each bar of soap costs $6.

Photo via Scentual Soap Company/Facebook

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A new pho restaurant is now open for business in Old Town — five months after the fact.

Pho Nam, the second location for the Gaithersburg-based company, was under construction for six months at 606 King Street. It was supposed to open in May, but got held up because of the pandemic. The restaurant officially opened on Oct. 20.

“I came here last Christmas and took a picture of how magical Old Town looked during the holiday season, and we wanted to be open this time around,” Pho Nam Old Town’s General Manager Ryan Le told ALXnow. “This is the soup season, and it’s always good to have a hot bowl of soup when it’s cold out.”

Le’s uncle Quang Nguyen emigrated to the area from Vietnam in 1977, and opened Pho Nam in Gaithersburg 20 years ago.

The building on King Street was last home to Breugger’s Bagels, which closed in 2018 after 12 years in business. Neighbors include Noodle Box Old Town and Chipotle Mexican Grill.

“When we opened we had a debate over waiting until COVID is over or just opening,” Le said. “We don’t know how long it’s going to last, so we decided to open. We’re very happy we did, and people have been willing to spread the word about our phenomenal soup.”

Pho Nam posts updates on its Instagram and Facebook pages. It does not serve alcohol and is open from 10 a.m. to 9 pm. every day of the week.

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