Lee Raynes says she’s got this one. There’s no dampening of her spirits, because the new owner of Bellies & Babies is on a spiritual journey and the pandemic is just a bus stop.
Raynes bought the Del Ray consignment shop from owner Dawn Luepke last fall and took over at the beginning of the year. She had two months of a mild winter’s worth of business before COVID-19 effectively shut down foot traffic along Mount Vernon Avenue and limited the number of customers she could let into the shop.
“I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing,” Raynes told ALXnow. “I have been on a journey of self-discovery for five years now, and it takes a long time to change. It doesn’t just happen.”
Now most of her sales are made on Facebook and Instagram, and she says more than 500 customers have established charge accounts so that they can make impulse buys should any item of interest pop up. She also recently closed the shop during the week except by appointment, and is open on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and on Sunday from noon to 4 p.m.
The shop sells children’s toys and clothes at deeply discounted rates. The items are provided by more than 3,000 consigners.
“It’s just whatever people bring me I put out to the world,” Raynes said. “I am just a conduit.”
Raynes wants people to know her story, about how she left her marriage of 20 years, quit her career as the operations manager for a photography company and ventured into a new life. The 42-year-old native of Westchester County, New York, then started her own concierge service (which she hopes to integrate into Bellies & Babies), and now lives within walking distance from her shop with her nine-year-old son.
“I had to do a lot of self-work to figure out what it looks like to fix not being happy, you know? And so I went on a journey of trying anything,” she said. “I tried meditation, I tried acupuncture, lots of yoga, pilates, pretty much anything recommended.”
Raynes added, “A lot of it worked. I am much more spiritual, and I am far less judgmental than I ever used to be. I was unhappy in both my marriage and my work. So, I decided that I couldn’t change both in one year. I separated from my husband and then gave a year’s notice to my work and said, ‘I will train my protege.’ And that’s what I did. I separated from my husband and then I hired somebody to train and then that following year I left that job and decided to look at what I was good at, and what I enjoyed doing.”
One day last year, Raynes walked into Bellies & Babies and started talking to Luepke about the shop, and Luepke asked if she was interested in buying it. Raynes recalls the answer she gave as appreciative, yet unrealistic in tone, as if such a thing would never really happen. But the idea of owning the shop grew in her mind, and Raynes, who also received positive advice from her psychic on the matter, jumped at the chance when Luepke posted a note on social media announcing that she was selling.
“I love being saturated in this neighborhood. This is Del Ray,” Raynes said. “I mean, you can’t name one other place like it, not even Old Town. It’s not the same. I’ve always wanted to live near a city but not in a city.”
Raynes has taken a deep financial hit because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I have taken a huge financial hit, and it sucks, but it isn’t gonna break me,” she said. “I look at the other people who were bidding on this company who were putting their life savings on the line. They were going in wholeheartedly and Dawn made the decision that it wasn’t the right fit. I find that fascinating, because had this pandemic hit, and one of those people were the ones that bought it they would be completely wiped out.”
Regardless of the circumstances, she said she’s happy with the decision to buy the shop.
“A lot of people are willing to settle. And I felt like I had settled enough. In my marriage, in my life, in my career. I was done with settling,” Raynes said. “I decided that I was no longer going to be an innocent bystander in my own life. I wanted to choose instead of just let life happen to me.”
In other words, she said that the shop has provided her with a sense of ownership.
“I chose this path, and I will move through it,” she said. “I think, really, sometimes you need a reality check of what is important. And I think that one thing the pandemic has taught us is priorities of what really is important. Is it money? Is it the store? Is it family? Is it friends? Is it the condition of your house? Is the fulfillment in your work? For me, it’s helping my neighbors. What is it for you?”
New Inova Facility Planned — “Inova Health System plans to open a new health care facility on part of Oakville Triangle, giving another try to the 13-acre site on Richmond Highway in Alexandria across from a planned Virginia Tech campus and a short distance from Amazon.com Inc.’s second headquarters.” [Washington Business Journal]
Christmas Attic Closes — “One of Alexandria’s most beloved businesses, The Christmas Attic at 125 S. Union St., has closed its doors after nearly 50 years in business near the Alexandria waterfront. The year-round winter wonderland offered a special shopping experience.” [Alexandria Living]
Food Truck Serves Fido — “A food truck for dogs? Yup, and not a truck that rolls up and hands out kibble. Woofbowl serves up treats like burgers, fries, and pho… [The truck] frequently pulls up to Del Ray’s Saturday Farmers Market.” [Zebra]
Port City IPA Release Party Tonight — “Introducing a brand new beer to our Limited Release lineup, Star Sailor White IPA! Made with 100% VA Grown Wheat, this hop forward hazy golden beer has fruity notes that will leave you refreshed and ready for star gazing.” [Port City Brewing]
St. Pat’s Parade This Weekend — “Alexandria will turn green at the 39th annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Fun Dog Show on Saturday, March 7. The festivities are sponsored by the Ballyshaners, a nonprofit dedicated to Irish heritage, and are expected to include more than 2,000 participants.” [ALXnow]
Reminder: Daylight Saving Time Returns — “Love it or hate it, our annual ritual of early March – daylight saving time – is coming this weekend. At 2 a.m. Sunday, the few analog clocks still around must ‘spring forward’ an hour, turning 1:59:59 a.m. into 3 a.m.” [USA Today]
(Updated at 3:25 p.m.) After 14 years in business, the Walgreens at 615 King Street in Old Town will shut its automatic sliding doors for good at the end of business on Monday, March 2.
“The rent went up and Walgreens is out, so we gotta go with the flow,” a store employee told ALXnow. The nine full and part time staffers at the convenience and drug store will be moved to other locations, we’re told.
Another employee said he has worked at the store for four years as a customer service associate, and will work at both the Walgreens at the Bradlee Shopping Center (3614 King Street) and the store at 4515 Duke Street going forward.
“It ain’t nothin’ but a thing,” the employee said. “I’m looking forward to it.”
Charles Harris lives near Bradlee Shopping Center and remembers the store before it became a Walgreens, back when it was a McDonald’s.
“Am I sorry it’s closing? No. I guess I should say I’m sorry, but I can still go to the Walgreens over by my house,” Harris said.
Map via Google Maps
A deal to take change hands at a longtime Old Town tobacconist and Scottish gift shop has hit a snag.
Last fall, plans were being set for Old Virginia Tobacco Co. to take over The Scottish Merchant/John Crouch Tobacconist at 215 King Street. Merchandise was marked down half-price and the new owner even planned to keep on veteran staffers and keep the shop open while undertaking renovations in January and February.
But no changes have been made since.
“We hit a snag, so we’re still working through it,” Old Virginia Tobacco’s General Manager Brian Ceres told ALXnow without going into finer detail. “It’s by no means dead in the water. We still love those guys and making something happen there.”
The shop, which has been on King Street under the same ownership for more than 30 years, serves a dual purpose. As The Scottish Merchant, it sells Scottish tartans, kilts, hats, jewelry and accessories. As John Crouch Tobacconist, it carries a wide range of cigars, pipes, tobacco and other accessories.
Old Virginia Tobacco, which has locations in Arlington’s Fashion Centre at Pentagon City mall and in Seven Corners, is known for its lounge atmosphere, leather couches and big screen televisions. The company has six locations around the region, and its president said last fall that his company was excited to make the move.
The Old Town GNC is closing next month, and the store has discounts on nearly everything inside until then.
The nutrition store at 711 King Street is scheduled to close on Wednesday, Feb. 19, according to staff. GNC offers a variety of food, snacks and supplements, with an athletic focus.
An employee said that some products throughout the store are marked as 75% off, while the rest are 50% off.
GNC stores nationwide have been scaling back over the last year, with 700-900 scheduled to close by the end of 2020. Company leadership blamed the closures on declining foot traffic.
The GNC in Old Town opened in 2017. Before that the location had been a frozen yogurt shop and, before that, a photography studio.
There is another GNC in Alexandria at 4651 Duke Street, where staff said they currently have no plans to close.
Staff photo by Jay Westcott
Everything must go! Numerous Pier 1 Imports stores will be closing in Virginia by the beginning of March, and that includes two Alexandria locations.
Staff at the Pier 1 at the Potomac Yard Shopping Center (3901 Richmond Hwy) are marking merchandise 20% to 40% off, and bigger discounts are expected in the days ahead. The store has two full-time and 12 part-time employees, all of whom were informed of the closing after the Christmas holiday.
The Texas-based company was founded in 1962, and announced earlier this month that it will be closing around 450 brick and mortar locations around the country — nearly half of its stores — as sales continued to dip.
“Although decisions that impact our associates are never easy, reducing the number of our brick-and-mortar locations is a necessary business decision,” Pier 1’s CEO Robert Riesbeck said in a statement. “We thank our team of hard-working associates for their commitment to Pier 1 and to serving our customers.”
The Pier 1 Imports online store locator no longer lists the locations that are closing around the country. There will be at least a dozen stores that will close in Virginia, according to Business Insider.
“We will definitely be here for the next couple of months,” said a Pier 1 staffer in Alexandria who could not disclose their name.
The Pier 1 at 4609 Duke Street will also be closing its doors, and the only locations in Northern Virginia that will remain open are in Fairfax, Woodbridge and Leesburg. Locations in Arlington and Bailey’s Crossroads are also closing.
A roofer fell through the roof of a building along King Street this morning.
The incident happened around 10:45 a.m. at King Dry Cleaners (3425 King Street) on the corner of King Street and N. Quaker Lane, near Fairlington.
The worker reportedly suffered non-life-threatening injuries after the nearly 12-foot fall into the dry cleaning business below.
“Around 10:41 a.m. on Jan. 15, AFD responded to a call for a male who fell through the roof of a commercial building,” fire department spokeswoman Ray Evans tells ALXnow. “While working, he stepped in a soft area of an adjoining business where renovations were being done and fell through. Patient was injured, but didn’t lose consciousness at the time of the incident. AFD transported the patient to GW Hospital for treatment.”
The building, which was recently renovated after a Radio Shack store closed, also houses a Mattress Warehouse store.
Virginia’s first Patagonia flagship store is set to replace the vacant Old Town Theater this coming spring.
“We’re thrilled to be in Old Town, and we look forward to opening our doors in spring 2020,” Patagonia spokesperson Corley Kenna told ALXnow.
The outdoor clothing and gear company caters to adventurers of all sorts — from those looking for a casual fleece to others needing jackets to tackle subzero temperatures.
The nearest Patagonia store is currently in Georgetown, but some of the company’s offerings can be found in department and outdoors stores in the area, including Macy’s, REI, and Dick’s Sporting Goods.
Developer Asana Partners acquired the building in 2018, along with several other properties in Old Town. According to its website, the developer aims to bring commercial storefronts to Old Town with the goal of transforming the neighborhood into an “18-hour” community.
During its prime, Old Town Theatre served as the first permanent theater in Alexandria and screened silent movies. Throughout its century-long run, it closed and re-opened several times, before closing for good several years ago . Economic development officials say its reincarnation as a retail store will be a net positive for the community.
“The Old Town Theater is one of the most identifiable buildings along King Street, and has been out of commission for too many years,” said Stephanie Landrum, president and CEO with the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership.
“Today’s business model for successful film and live theater operations requires more space than exists, as a handful of previous operators will attest,” she said. “Asana and Patagonia are investing significant resources to preserve and reuse the building, and will create a memorable and very popular experience that will attract all types of shoppers.”