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by Ethan Rothstein — April 24, 2015 at 12:40 pm 3,802 0

Leslie Fender and Angel have traveled almost 1,500 miles over three years to get to Arlington, and they’re not stopping now.

Fender is a Vietnam War veteran and Angel is his horse. Right now, and through the weekend, Fender and Angel will be camped out at American Legion Post 139 at 3445 Washington Blvd in Virginia Square. Fender and Angel started their journey from his hometown of Stephenville, Texas, three years ago, raising awareness for stroke prevention and research.

Fender is tall, wears a cowboy hat and his American Legion nametag, speaks in a Texas twang and says he started his ride to benefit the National Stroke Association and American Stroke Foundation, which helped pay for his own stroke surgery and recovery in 2004.

This morning, an Arlington resident called 911 after seeing Angel grazing in front of Post 139 and Fender relaxing in his tent on the front lawn. Arlington County Police Department Dustin Sternbeck said the man from the 17,000-person “Cowboy Capital of the World” is doing nothing illegal.

“The horse is not being housed here, so therefore it’s just a mode of transportation,” he said. “When the horse is in the road, cars need to yield to it.”

Fender is staying the weekend to visit the U.S. Marine Corps Memorial in Rosslyn and the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C., he said. And what if some new neighbors want to come see Angel?

“They can come and see her, definitely,” Fender said. “But they should donate to the stroke foundation if they do.”

After this weekend, Fender said he and Angel will mosey north, visiting Veterans Affairs hospitals, American Legion posts and V.F.W. posts, raising awareness for stroke research, camping out and stopping traffic as they go.

by Ethan Rothstein — April 23, 2015 at 4:30 pm 1,121 0

Monarch butterfly on swamp milkweedArlington naturalists want to see more Monarch butterflies in the county, and they are hoping residents with green thumbs can help make it happen.

In an email to the Arlington Neighborhood News Exchange, Long Branch Nature Center Naturalist Rachael Tolman wrote that the best way to ensure the butterflies’ presence in the area is to plant milkweed.

“Milkweed provides a critical link in the life cycle of monarch butterflies; they cannot survive without it,” Tolman wrote. “Monarchs lay their eggs on milkweed because it is the only food their caterpillars can eat. Unfortunately, the numbers of milkweed plants across vast areas of North America have been declining for decades due to increased land use for crops and widespread herbicide use.”

According to National Geographic, Monarchs east of the Rocky Mountains are threatened because where they migrate in the winter in Mexico has been hurt by natural disasters.

Long Branch Nature Center (625 S. Carlin Springs Road) offers milkweed seeds for free. In addition to the seeds, those interested in planting the flower — there are eight species native to Arlington — will need “a seed starter kit, soil, water, a heat mat (optional) and a grow light or sunny spot,” Tolman said.

For more information on planting milkweed and attracting butterflies, email Tolman at [email protected].

Photo by Derek Ramsey via Wikimedia

by Ethan Rothstein — April 23, 2015 at 11:00 am 1,889 0

Willard's Parlour of Mystery's opening night show, Timeless Deceptions(Updated at 11:15 a.m.) “Willard’s Parlour of Mystery” a theatre showing comedic magic shows, is opening this weekend in the former Comedy Spot space in Ballston Common Mall.

The magic theater’s opening show will be tomorrow night, at 8:00 p.m., with a performance called Timeless Deceptions by brothers Peter and Matt Wood.

The parlour was founded by Willard Royal, a magic enthusiast who has been trying for more than a year to find a way to host shows in the black box theater on the third floor of the mall.

“My motivation was to look for a permanent home for the region’s best entertainers,” Royal told ARLnow.com this morning. “Magic is hot right now, and my friends who have good shows are all looking for venues.”

The Comedy Spot in Ballston Common MallThe opening night show is likely to sell out, Royal said, and tickets start at $45. The parlour occupies the small, several-dozen seat theater in the back of the venue.

There will be shows every Friday and Saturday night intended for adults, and Saturday afternoon shows starting May 9 intended for the whole family. Those shows will be hosted by Barry Taylor, owner of the former Barry’s Magic Shop in Rockville, Md.

The Comedy Spot moved because their lease was up, its owner told us in February. Royal’s lease goes until the end of the year, after which time he said he will “re-evaluate” because of the mall’s pending overhaul.

Photo, top, courtesy Willard Royal

by Andrea Swalec — April 21, 2015 at 5:25 pm 4,749 0

It’s easy to walk past the Arlington County Detention Facility without realizing the high-rise with reflective windows is a jail.

Nestled between office buildings and apartment towers, the 12-story building at 1435 N. Courthouse Road, just a block from the Courthouse Metro station, houses nearly 500 male and female inmates.

On a recent tour of the facility, assistant operations director Capt. Jimmie Barrett Jr. said the jail offers more than 100 therapeutic and recreational programs to minimize disruptions and reinforce positive behavior.

“This is what jail is,” he said as he walked ARLnow through quiet cell blocks. “It’s not a lot of loud screaming or yelling. It’s about creating some structure to help people go on with life.”

Sessions on addiction, foreign languages and money management are among the program offerings, and quilting is one of the most popular activities for men and women alike. Started about two years ago by a jail employee who quilts in her free time, the sessions are now held three times per week.

“It started as a small group of women and expanded. Now the men are doing it, too,” Barrett said.

The inmates make baby blanket-sized quilts on the jail’s sewing machines, using donated materials. Many of the quilts are given to the local nonprofit Borromeo Housing Inc., which aids homeless young mothers and their children.

“It’s like a photograph. It’s something you can keep forever,” one female inmate said about the quilts she made. “It’s homemade, and I’m really sentimental.”

The inmate, a 22-year-old Arlington native charged with credit card fraud, said she planned on continuing to quilt once she leaves her current cell block of 41 women.

As of Friday, the jail built in 1994 housed 410 men and 58 women, for a total of 468 people. Inmates include people awaiting trial, awaiting sentencing and those sentenced to 12 months or less.

On a Yelp page created for reviews of the facility — which got comedian Stephen Colbert’s attention in 2013 — inmates praised the “polite” staff and the jail’s library.

“I almost asked for a couple of extra days I haven’t been able to catch up on my reading like that in YEARS!!” an apparent ex-inmate wrote in October.

The jail includes a full legal library, with rows of hardcover tomes. Inmates increasingly prefer to use the online tool LexisNexis to learn about laws and their rights, corrections analyst Cristen Bowers said. Librarians there try to get inmates the reading material they want.

“If they request a book and we don’t have it, we’ll get it from another library,” Bowers said.

Inmates stay in single- or double-occupancy cells with an early wakeup time. Breakfast is served about 5:30 a.m., and then guards inspect inmates’ cells about 7:30 a.m. Lunch is served about 11 a.m., and guards conduct surveillance walk-throughs every 30 minutes. Dinner is served about 4:30 p.m., and lights out is at 11:30 p.m.

Inmates are allowed two 20-minute visits twice a week, not including meetings with lawyers.

With the exception of maximum security units on the building’s 11th floor, inmates are allowed to attend programs based on their compliance to jail rules. Inmates who break rules can be placed in solitary cells for “disciplinary segregation,” Barrett said. Those who are a danger to themselves or others can be put into “administrative segregation.” The separations can last as little as an hour or extend for weeks, said Barrett, a 23-year veteran of the facility.

Maximum security units are located on the jail’s 11th floor, where just 18 men were held as of Friday. The inmates there are confined to their cells and served meals through slots in the doors. Whether they must remain on that floor is reassessed weekly, Barrett said.

Officers assigned to booking see a rush of people on Friday nights, Saturday nights and holidays, mostly for public intoxication, they said.

Detainees are escorted into the facility through back doors, some of which are connected to the court next door. Footprints painted on the floor show where they must stand as they wait to be fingerprinted and have their mugshot taken.

Every detainee receives a handful of pamphlets guiding them through everything from how to report sexual misconduct to what personal items they’re allowed to keep, like a wedding band without stones, worn only on the left ring finger.

“Think of it like your first day of college,” Barrett said. “You’re getting oriented.”

by Ethan Rothstein — April 21, 2015 at 4:15 pm 9,192 0

Jay's Saloon & Grille in ClarendonIn less than a month, Jay’s Saloon in Clarendon will join the long list of Arlington dive bars forced to close to make way for new development.

The last day of Jay’s will be May 18, after which the building will be demolished and replaced with a mixed-use development called 10th Street Flats. The building will have 135 residential units, 3,660 square feet of retail, almost 5,000 square feet of office space and nine live/work units.

Two days before it closes, on May 16, Jay’s (3114 10th Street N.) will host an auction for the multitudes of memorabilia that have adorned the walls, in growing numbers, since the watering hole opened in 1993. Among the possible auction items: a sign that says “Our house wine is Jagermeister.”

Jay’s co-owner Kathi Moore wasn’t at the bar when ARLnow.com visited this afternoon, and the manager working said the date of the auction might change. But regular patrons know Jay’s hasn’t changed much in 22 years, still serving $8 pitchers of beer during happy hour and some of the cheapest food in Clarendon.

“You don’t get good food for this price around here anymore,” the manager, Sally, told ARLnow.com. “Everybody’s going to miss us.”

The most sought-after item in the saloon, Moore told us last summer, is the naked woman painting that hangs over the bar. Despite the amount of money that would go for in a customer auction, Moore said it’s not for sale.

File photo. Hat tip to John Fontain.

by Ethan Rothstein — April 21, 2015 at 2:10 pm 2,690 0

Northside Social in Clarendon(Updated at 2:20 p.m.) Three years after the Fedorchak brothers, Stephen and Mark, opened The Liberty Tavern in Clarendon, they were working to open two new businesses within, they hoped, “six months to a year of one another.”

But, as is common in the restaurant industry, the opening dates changed, and the timetables of the coffee shop and brasserie the Fedorchaks were trying to open kept lining up more and more.

“I remember when it happened, it was like a freight train coming down the tracks,” Stephen Fedorchak told ARLnow.com last week. “We thought ‘these things are going to open within days of each other.’ We’re proud that we pulled it off, but we wouldn’t necessarily try to do it like that again.”

Five years ago this month, Northside Social, the coffee house and wine bar, and Lyon Hall, the brasserie, opened seven days apart. Combined with Liberty, they give the Fedorchaks and their partner, Brian Normile, a trifecta of staples in the Clarendon restaurant scene.

“They really are anchors in the Clarendon community,” Matt Hussmann, the executive director of Clarendon Alliance, said. “The three restaurants they have, each are distinctive, they fit in really well with the community.”

That’s not a surprise, since the owners of three of Clarendon’s most celebrated restaurants all live in the neighborhood. They’ve seen it grow, seen it change, and they have had hands in both.

Before Northside Social Coffee and Wine opened, the distinctive red building at the intersection of Washington, Wilson and Clarendon Boulevards was home to Murky Coffee, where Fedorchak said his team “must have met 100 times” when discussing their burgeoning business. When Murky was closing and the space opened up, they felt they had to jump on it.

“It has a legacy of not only a coffee shop but a community gathering place, and the building itself has been a community gathering place for 100 years,” he said. “We wanted to offer a place where you could visit every day if you wanted to. We liked the idea of something versatile, open a lot of hours, and the idea of an old-fashioned coffee house vibe with a cultural center feel to it.”

To ensure business from sunrise to sunset, they installed a wine bar on the second floor, and the idea clicked. “The business has been busy since day one,” Fedorchak said. They also expanded the outdoor patio, which rarely has an empty seat on sunny days, and the food menu, a tricky feat considering the building’s historic status precludes the owners from installing some industrial kitchen equipment.

The building is part of the secret sauce that makes Northside unique. Fedorchak said people ask him all the time if a second Northside Social is in the works somewhere.

“I tell them, ‘when we can find a space we like as much as this one,'” he said. “Between the two floors and the outside capacity, it’s awesome. The visibility is unparalleled, there’s great sunshine, the upstairs during the day is quieter; it allows us to have a variety of ambiences.”

Lyon HallWhile the Northside Social opportunity opened up, Lyon Hall (3100 Washington Blvd) was the product of the ownership team seeking out a new venture.

“We thought it would provide some diversity to what’s out there,” Fedorchak said. The French-style brasserie — with some German influences — serves dishes like a Bohemian sausage platter. It provided variety to a Clarendon restaurant scene which at the time was experiencing an influx of frozen yogurt and pizza restaurants.

“Lyon Hall has been a lot of fun for us because the business continues to improve every year,” Fedorchak said. “It’s kind of worked for us, because it is perceived as distinctive. People wouldn’t normally go to a German restaurant, but we tried to offer a fun bar, we have happy hour there seven days a week, we really love the patio. It worked out great.”

(more…)

by Ethan Rothstein — April 21, 2015 at 10:00 am 3,635 0

Manhattan Bagel in Ballston, which plans to close April 26 Manhattan Bagel in Ballston, which plans to close April 26

Manhattan Bagel, which has served bagels, coffee and sandwiches to Ballston for more than a decade, will close its doors after this weekend.

The small shop at 4201 Wilson Blvd remained a bustle of activity this morning, when the family who owns the franchise told ARLnow.com that they had “lost the lease” and were closing for good.

According to emails from customers, the bagel shop’s business has continued to thrive despite Dunkin Donuts opening up in the same building, two storefronts over, last summer.

The shop’s last day will be Sunday, April 26. The closest Manhattan Bagel franchise is in Vienna.

by Ethan Rothstein — April 20, 2015 at 2:00 pm 12,203 0

(Updated at 6:45 p.m.) The Baskin-Robbins ice cream shop in the Lee-Harrison Shopping Center has closed, apparently in a hurry.

Ice cream cakes are still in the freezer, cones are still on display and no signage has been removed from the location as of noon today, but multiple ARLnow.com tipsters have said the store has been closed since the beginning of April.

Eviction papers from the shopping center’s landlord were served to the business on March 26, the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office confirmed Monday evening.

The Baskin-Robbins corporate website no longer lists the Lee-Harrison shop, and the shopping center’s website lists the space as available. The two other Baskin-Robbins locations in the county are at 3520 Lee Highway and 3100 Columbia Pike.

Sweets lovers in North Arlington now have their options greatly diminished. Baskin-Robbins’ closure coincides with Mother’s Macaroons across the street closing last week.

by Ethan Rothstein — April 17, 2015 at 12:00 pm 3,117 0

District Taco, the Mexican restaurant that started as a taco cart in Rosslyn five years ago, is coming back to the neighborhood.

Owner Osiris Hoil said he signed a lease today to occupy 3,000 square feet at 1500 Wilson Blvd, in a storefront across Clarendon Blvd from Starbucks. It will be a welcome sight to District Taco’s fans in the neighborhood, who haven’t been able to partake of all-day breakfast burritos and other favorites since the cart closed last year.

“Oh man, I’m super excited for this,” Hoil told ARLnow.com over the phone this morning, hours after finalizing the paperwork. “We have a lot of customers in Rosslyn that love us, and I’m excited to go back with them.”

The space will be District Taco’s seventh location, and he’s planning to sign leases for three more by the end of the year, including another one somewhere in Arlington. Hoil’s original brick-and-mortar store is still going strong at 5723 Lee Highway, he said, and the customer service and atmosphere there is what he tries to replicate at all of his shops.

“The Arlington location is the original, and that one works very well,” he said. “We are a young company, we’re very excited, and we have a lot of energy.”

The buildout of his locations usually takes about five months, Hoil said, putting the Rosslyn store’s opening on track for mid-September this year.

by ARLnow.com — April 15, 2015 at 2:00 pm 1,571 0

(Updated at 2:25 p.m.) Next Tuesday, the Arlington County Board will vote on a budget that may or may not close Artisphere, the ambitious but money-losing cultural center in Rosslyn.

In the four-and-a-half years since it opened in the former Newseum space, on 10/10/10, Artisphere has attracted both fervent critics and impassioned supporters.

With the future of Artisphere and the nature of the county’s support for the arts on the line, it’s worth taking a look back at the optimism that surrounded Artisphere’s opening.

County leaders showed off the $6.7 million, 62,000 square foot facility on Oct. 6, 2010, touting it as — in our words — “a centerpiece of the effort to revitalize the workaday Rosslyn business district.”

Indeed, even though it was a county-owned facility, the Rosslyn Business Improvement District provided much of the support for Artisphere’s opening. In a press release about the opening — printed on Rosslyn letterhead — the BID committed $1 million in start-up funds for the facility, and pledged $300,000 annually for the life of the center. That commitment was signified in the form of a giant $7.3 million check presented to then-County Board Chair Jay Fisette at a press event.

Artisphere was designed to be a “new breed of urban arts center,” with four performance venues, three visual art galleries, a 4,000 square foot ballroom, a “WiFi Town Hall,” and its own cafe and bar. Initial programming cut a broad cultural swath, including music and dancing, often with an international flair; conceptual and interactive art exhibits; poetry open mic nights; documentary and art film screenings; the Washington Shakespeare Company; educational events; and even puppetry.

Rosslyn, county and cultural leaders believed that the Artisphere would be a game-changer for the neighborhood, attracting 250,000 visitors a year and generating nearly $800,000 in admission and ticket revenue, in addition to expanding the county’s artistic horizons.

“Artisphere is a new model for American cultural centers… a unique techno-savvy arts space that offers interactive opportunities to participate in the creative experience,” Arlington Cultural Affairs division chief Norma Kaplan said in the 2010 press release. “It will be a venue between work and home where people living and working in the Washington area can engage in the arts, challenge their intellect, or just hang out.”

(Kaplan would leave her post for a job in New Jersey less than a year later, after Artisphere’s visitor revenue projections came in 75 percent below expectations. By the April 2011, fewer than 50,000 people had visited Artisphere.)

Artisphere might have opened on an intriguing date, but in the rush to open on 10/10/10 the county was unable to hire an executive director or find a cafe operator in time for the opening. It would be January 2011 before Jose Ortiz, who previously worked at the Harvard Art Museum, was hired to lead the center as executive director. In April came the opening of Here Cafe + Bar, run by the owners of Guajillo in Rosslyn.

(more…)

by Ethan Rothstein — April 15, 2015 at 11:15 am 6,329 0

Mother’s Macaroons Bakery, an institution in North Arlington for 28 years, will close on Friday.

Owner Kay LoMedico decided to hang up her apron this week after a trying year in which her husband — who owned the Sunoco gas station nearby — passed away and three longtime employees left the shop.

“It was a series of things, and it hit me like a bag of rocks,” LoMedico told ARLnow.com today from her bakery at 2442 N. Harrison Street, across from the Lee-Harrison Shopping Center. “When I opened this bakery I was in my 30s. Now with the stress of the bakery and owning the Sunoco, I sort of fell out of love with it.”

The bakery, which serves all kinds of cookies, brownies and sweets as well as coffee, juices, breakfast and lunch, was sold 10 years ago when LoMedico’s mother died. Two weeks later, she regretted the decision, and six months after that she was able to buy it back and reopen.

Through almost three decades of keeping her customer base plied with sugary goods, LoMedico said she will miss the community and independence the most.

“My favorite part was I was able to make what I wanted,” she said. “I’m going to really miss the community. They have been wonderful for me all these years and helped me to grow.”

Although the bakery is closing, LoMedico said she’s not sure what she wants to do next, and it may not be goodbye for good.

“I’m going out with my name and my recipes,” she said. “Who knows, I may be back.”

by Ethan Rothstein — April 14, 2015 at 1:00 pm 2,362 0

Another new pizza place in Rosslyn opened to the public yesterday.

Spinfire Pizza, at 1501 Wilson Blvd, is in the middle of a soft opening, training staff and preparing its 90-second, custom-made pizzas starting at 11:00 a.m. every day. It joins its neighbor just a few blocks away, Wiseguy NY Pizza, as new businesses opening this month serving the Italian staple.

The restaurant offers personal pizzas with up to four toppings for $8.99, and toppings range from pizza staples like pepperoni and mushrooms to Sriracha sausage, candied pecans and dried cranberries. It also make calzones, which, like the pizzas, are baked for 90 seconds in Spinfire’s custom, rotating oven.

The restaurant is owned by Paisano’s owner Fouad Qreitem and Washington Redskins receiver Pierre Garçon. The co-owners will be in Rosslyn on April 30, when Spinfire holds its grand opening celebration.

by ARLnow.com — April 10, 2015 at 11:30 am 1,986 0

The Denim Bar has closed on Pentagon RowThe Denim Bar, a store offering high-end jeans in a boutique setting, has closed on Pentagon Row.

The store’s Bethesda location had previously closed. After holding a 75 percent off “Everything Must Go” sale, the location at 1101 S. Joyce Street is now closed as well.

As of Thursday the interior of the store had been largely cleared out, although the storefront signage remained.

Other than the sale announcement on the store’s website, there was little fanfare around the closure. The Denim Bar’s Facebook and Twitter accounts have been inactive for months, its phone line has been disconnected and there was no sign announcing the closure on the store windows.

by Ethan Rothstein — April 8, 2015 at 2:00 pm 1,165 0

Jordan Lloyd Bookey and Felix Brandon Lloyd of Zoobean(Updated at 3:20 p.m.) An Arlington-based startup has partnered with Arlington Public Library to bring curated children’s book recommendations to parents.

ZooBean, based in Rosslyn’s ÜberOffices, has launched Beanstack with the library. The program takes the preferences of each child — “like ninjas, princess or even math and science,” the app’s promotional video explains — and the child’s reading level, and an Arlington librarian recommends books in the catalog that apply.

Each book recommendation also comes with a brief learning tip, ZooBean co-founder Felix Lloyd told ARLnow.com. This could be culling a few vocabulary words from the book to review.

“In many ways, the end user is the parent,” Lloyd said. “A lot of it is about their having a good place to start when it comes to their kid. The way we view it is with a lot of things going on in today’s world, it’s hard to have the confidence that there’s good content and you know how to use it in a way to accelerate their reading, to give them a better place to start in school.”

The app is free and available to any Arlington resident. B0oks available electronically can be downloaded immediately, and those available by hard copy can be reserved and sent to the family’s local branch. Beanstack makes a recommendation for a different book every week, and always reading material that has been approved by a librarian.

“Modern public libraries are constantly looking at the evolving needs of their customers,” Arlington Public Library spokesman Peter Golkin said in an email. “A service like Beanstack takes the knowledge of our children’s librarians, mixes it with proven online ‘matchmaking’ based on the particular child’s interests and puts the results in convenient emails that arrive on a regular basis. If the suggested book is an available ebook in the collection, then you don’t even have to make a trip to the Library.”

Felix Brandon Lloyd and Jordan Lloyd Bookey of Zoobean on ABC's Shark TankThe service just launched this month, and Arlington is the second library system to offer it in the country, Lloyd said, following the Sacramento, Calif., library system. Fourteen other library systems have signed on for Beanstack already, including Montgomery, Prince George’s and Howard counties in Maryland.

ZooBean got its big break appearing on ABC’s Shark Tank last April, and receiving a $250,000 investment from Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. Since then, Lloyd said, Cuban has invested even more into the company. The combination of Cuban’s endorsement and Arlington’s early partnership has helped spur the business’ growth.

“Arlington buying our product before it launched was a bet for them,” Lloyd said. “Them buying into the service helped our business, because we could go out and point to this model community that invested. It was a validation of a small business.”

by Ethan Rothstein — April 8, 2015 at 12:30 pm 2,611 0

The FroZenYo in Ballston might not reopen The FroZenYo in Ballston might not reopen

The FroZenYo in Ballston, which has been closed all winter to await the return of warm weather, now appears likely to not reopen at all.

The FroZenYo in Crystal City (2231 Crystal Drive) reopened this week, according to the D.C.-based company’s Facebook page. On that same page, the company posted in a comment that the Ballston location is likely closed.

Unfortunately  it doesn’t look like we will be reopening the Ballston store this year, sorry about that,” the comment reads.

On FroZenYo’s website, the Ballston store is no longer listed — the Crystal City and Rosslyn locations are now the only branches the company claims in Virginia.

The Ballston FroZenYo store opened in 2012.

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