Despite financial difficulties and rumors of it possibly closing in the Lee Harrison Shopping Center, Dogma Bakery (2445 N. Harrison Street) is plugging along. Owner Sheila Raebel wants customers to know she’s not giving up on the store yet.
While hesitant to admit the store may have to close after 12 years at that location, Raebel said it wouldn’t make financial sense to extend the lease, only to continue losing money. Dogma’s lease at that location expires in November of 2013, so Raebel said there’s still time to turn things around.
“It is true that we are not doing as well as I would like. Are we making money? No,” Raebel said. “As far as closing, I’m not going to close down a store just to close it down. I’m a little stubborn, I guess.”
Raebel wanted to be up front with her employees and with customers, so she recently sent a letter discussing the store’s financial trouble. She said many people came to the store after not having stopped by for a while, and said they took it for granted Dogma would always be there.
“I was honest with what we need, which is more people coming in the store,” Raebel said. “It was great that we had so much response and it helped us a great deal. It was really good that people responded the way they did.”
Although it may seem like the business would have taken a major hit when a competitor — Unleashed by Petco — moved in across the street, Raebel says the problem is largely the economic downturn. She said although there is some overlap between the two stores, they tend to serve different customers. She said Dogma staff continues to work to differentiate the store from others.
“When Unleashed came in, quite frankly, it was very scary for us. But they have their place in the community. I could not say that it is any reason for us not doing as well as I would like us to be doing,” said Raebel. “In a way it’s very much of a compliment that a business like that comes in. They recognized over the years that boutique businesses like ours is what the neighborhoods are really looking for. It’s a compliment that they changed their business model to have this new division.”
Raebel said many loyal customers were angered when the competitor moved in so close to Dogma. However, she continues to put the majority of the blame on the down economy.
“We’re not just a dog bakery, we’re a boutique that has gift items, toys and cat items. Some of those segments were hit hard, and that hit us in all those segments within the store. That’s the nature of retail,” said Raebel. “Goods cost more, shipping costs a lot more, taxes are going up. All of those things come together and sales are going down.”
For now, Raebel is working with the landlord, whom she said is being very helpful in trying to hash out a deal. If she’s not able to find a way to keep the store at the current location, Raebel hopes to find a nearby site. That, however, would be a last ditch effort.
“There’s a lot of things in flux right now,” said Raebel. “We’re all going to try to work together and see what we can do so everyone comes out whole.”
In the meantime, Dogma will continue to operate until a decision needs to be made next year. Raebel said the staff is constantly trying to improve and give customers what they want.
“Our staff work really hard and try to be knowledgeable. I feel confident they are, and we will continue to learn,” Raebel said. “And eventually, we will be back where we need to be.”
In response to recent incidents throughout the county, the Arlington Commission on the Status of Women is hosting an emergency community forum on sexual assault.
The forum will be held at the Fairlington Community Center (3308 S. Stafford Street) at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, July 19.
Speakers include Theo Stamos, Commonwealth Attorney for Arlington County, who will discuss the prosecution of these crimes, as well as Jo Johnson, project coordinator for domestic abuse prevention program Project PEACE. The Arlington County Police Department will also have a Special Victims Unit representative present to speak about recent incidents, provide safety tips and take questions.
Samantha Sewell with the Arlington Commission on the Status of Women said the forum will not only provide safety information, but will examine the services currently available for sexual assault victims. Part of the program will focus on shortcomings in what’s available throughout the community and what improvements can be made.
Sewell stresses that the intent is not to blame victims, or for example, to tell people not to run in certain areas. The goals are to talk about safety and education regarding sexual assaults. Everybody is welcome to attend the forum.
“We don’t want to put this all on women,” Sewell said. “We want to educate the community as a whole, and educate our men as well.”
Organizers say although there’s been concern about the number of sexual assaults for some time, the emergency forum was initiated specifically in response to recent incidents, such as the rape on Four Mile Run trail, and a sexual assault in the Ballston Public Parking Garage.
An Alternative Analysis/Environmental Analysis (AA/EA) was performed as part of the Columbia Pike Transit Initiative, examining transit along the five mile corridor from the Pentagon City area to the Skyline area in Fairfax. The AA/EA included three options besides the streetcar; two involved improving bus service and the final one involved taking no action. The project team recommends the County Board supports the “Streetcar Build Alternative.”
The staff report states that improved mobility along Columbia Pike would have positive economic impacts such as increased property values, an increased pace of development and additional tax revenues. It says the streetcar will attract new riders and encourage more residents to incorporate public transit into their daily lives. The report says the streetcar plan “will best achieve the vision for the Columbia Pike corridor as a vibrant, diverse, and pedestrian and transit oriented community.”
Staff members say their research indicates more residents will take rail transit over buses, and articulated buses won’t create enough ridership. They report that streetcars provide greater capacity than articulated buses, and would more easily and reasonably allow for expansion in the future.
During a 30-day information gathering process from May through June, the county collected public feedback on the AA/EA via the mail, email and at two public meetings. Results are available in the Locally Preferred Alternative Report released yesterday (Monday).
For those commenters opposed to the streetcar plan, the main reason is the cost of and funding for the project. Other opponents believe it will worsen traffic, that the current transportation system capacity along the corridor is sufficient and that it’s unclear how the streetcar would increase ridership. Proponents liked the idea of the streetcar supporting economic development, being environmentally sustainable and offering a long-term transit solution.
The report acknowledges that the streetcar development would likely add pressure to rents, raising concerns about affordable housing along the project corridor. The recently released Columbia Pike Neighborhoods Area Plan addresses some of the issues, and aims to preserve affordable housing along the streetcar route.
The staff report lists the cost for the streetcar at about $249 million, and annual operating costs at about $8.9 million. Fares are expected to be comparable to bus fares, and revenue is projected to be $2.5 million.
The County Board will take the staff report into consideration when voting on the matter at its meeting on Monday. The board needs to formally accept the information gathered in the AA/EA and adopt the streetcar plan as the locally preferred alternative in order to proceed with an application for federal funding.
Previously, there had been concerns with the restaurant’s outdoor seating along South Adams Street complying with requirements in the Americans with Disbilities Act. That led to the board deferring the issue in April, to allow county staff to work with the restaurant on solutions. At its meeting in May, the County Board approved 18 seats along the restaurant’s Columbia Pike frontage.
The current request involves adding 40 seats near the restaurant, 36 along South Adams Street and four along Columbia Pike. The restaurant has proposed constructing a removable platform to account for the grade change there. Some tables and chairs would be placed on the platform. Handicap accessible seating would be added on the Columbia Pike side.
The restaurant agrees to keep a six foot wide clearance on the sidewalk, and to remove all furniture, including the platform, seasonally.
County staff recommends approval of the outdoor seating plan at the County Board meeting on Saturday, July 21.
Update on 8/3/12 — The opening is now scheduled for Aug. 10.
A-Town Bar & Grill — the re-branded and remodeled incarnation of Caribbean Breeze — is hoping to open on August 1, a co-owner tells us.
Located at 4100 Fairfax Drive in Ballston, A-Town Bar & Grill will feature an expanded beer list; an “eclectic” menu including sushi, sandwiches, flatbread pizzas and steaks; a redone outdoor patio; and lots of flat screen TVs.
Scott Parker, a partner in the new restaurant along with existing owner Mike Cordero and his son, Nick, says crews are working hard to get the eatery ready for a hoped-for August 1 opening.
“We’re on a tight schedule,” he said in an email. “The construction crews are working like crazy.”
Flickr pool photo by Maryva2
Repairs are planned for Fire Station No. 2 (4805 Wilson Blvd) in the Bluemont neighborhood, some of them stemming from last year’s earthquake. At its meeting on Saturday, July 21, the County Board will vote on awarding the work contract to the Avon Corporation.
The contract will cover stabilization of the entire building’s foundation, in addition to repairing cracks in the bunk rooms. Some of the bunk rooms in the 15-year-old building already had cracks due to shifting of loose foundation soil under the building. But the earthquake last August 23 caused damage to spread to another two rooms, and to the entrance of the truck bay. In addition to repairing the existing damage, the work is designed to prevent future wall cracking.
Some of the work includes demolishing and replacing walls, repairing cracks and slab jacking to raise and stabilize the foundation. New structural steel columns, metal panels and windows will be installed. There will also be some utility relocation and the roof drain will be moved.
County staff concluded that although the shifting and cracking of the building does not pose an immediate safety threat, the continuous movement will eventually cause the structure to collapse.
Staff recommends the County Board approves the contract, worth $247,000, on Saturday.
Mystery Surrounds Eden Center Shooting — Questions still surround the murder and suicide that occurred at the Eden Center in Falls Church on Saturday night. The victim, meanwhile, has been identified as 51-year-old Tai Phan, of Annandale, who at the time of the shooting was on his way to a gig as a bass player at a restaurant. [Washington Post]
Board May Drop Retail Requirement for Condo Complex — The Arlington County Board is poised to reverse a requirement it set 9 years ago for the Woodbury Park condo complex to reserve interior space for a convenience store. The store would have been located inside the 364-unit complex, with no outside signage and no easy access for non-residents. Nobody has stepped up to rent the space, so county staff is recommending the Board drop the retail requirement and allow Woodbury Park to build a condo unit in its place. [Sun Gazette]
Library, Bayou Hold Instagram Photo Contests — Arlington Public Library and Bayou Bakery restaurant (1515 N. Courthouse Road) are both holding photo contests aimed at smartphone users. Entrants to both contests are encouraged to enhance — and, in the case of Bayou, submit — their photos via Instagram, the photo sharing and special effect service recently acquired by Facebook. The library’s contest is entitled the “Steve Jobs Memorial Juried Cell Phone Photo Show,” while the Bayou contest is called “Bayou by You.” [Arlington Public Library, Bayou Bakery]
Flickr pool photo by Ddimick