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by ARLnow.com — May 27, 2015 at 11:00 am 691 0

HomeMade Pizza on Lee Highway(Updated at 11:10 a.m.) Boston-based Upper Crust Pizzeria is planning on opening a new location in the former HomeMade Pizza Company space on Lee Highway.

HomeMade, which offered bake-at-home pizzas, closed in 2014 after about five years in business at 4514 Lee Highway. It was part of a company-wide shutdown for the Chicago-based chain.

Now, another regional pizza chain that has gone through financial troubles is coming in.

Upper Crust shuttered 10 locations, including one at 1747 Pennsylvania Avenue NW in D.C., during a bankruptcy in 2012. It’s apparently now on the rebound, under new ownership and management.

Upper Crust Pizzeria has applied for a permit to sell wine and beer at its new Lee Heights Shops storefront. There are no records of any construction permits being applied for so far.

Upper Crust currently has six locations, all in the Boston area. Ben Deb, the company’s CFO, says the Lee Highway location will be the first of what they hope will be several D.C. area locations.

“We’re looking at multiple spots in the D.C. metro area,” Deb told ARLnow.com. “The brand had a great following when it was there. We get inquiries on our website all the time.”

Construction is expected to begin next week and the company is targeting an opening in Arlington as soon as mid-July, according to Deb. He said Upper Crust’s freshness and thin crust pizza style sets it apart from other pizza joints.

“The product is second to none… we make our dough fresh on site everyday and use fresh ingredients,” he said. “We’re really looking forward to being a part of the Arlington community.”

Upper Crust’s menu includes pizza by the slice, specialty pizzas by the pie, lasagna, salads and calzones.

by ARLnow.com — May 26, 2015 at 10:35 am 5,533 0

Johnny Rockets in Shirlington (photo via Google Maps)

Johnny Rockets has closed its doors in Shirlington.

A sign posted in the window of the retro burger restaurant at 4251 Campbell Ave this weekend stated that it had closed its doors permanently. No reason for the closure was given.

Johnny Rockets closed sign (photo courtesy @EdwardRyder)The lone remaining Johnny Rockets in Arlington is located inside the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City, at 1100 S. Hayes Street.

Johnny Rockets is the seventh business to close in Shirlington since last October. Other shuttered businesses have blamed high rent and slow business.

Photo top via Google Maps. Photo right courtesy @EdwardRyder.

by Tim Regan — May 22, 2015 at 3:05 pm 4,610 0

Food truck parked outside of Summers Restaurant, photo by Alan Beals

(Updated at 6:30 p.m.) The owners and managers of 12 restaurants centered around the Courthouse Metro station say local food trucks are severely impacting their restaurants.

We’re told that representatives from Summers Restaurant, Guarapo, Me Jana, TNR Cafe, Afghan Kabob House, Subway, Cosi, Boston Market, California Tortilla, Jerry’s Subs and Pizza, Corner Bakery, and Ireland’s Four Courts met Wednesday to form a group that plans to push the Arlington County Board to further regulate food trucks.

Alan Beal, COO of Bar Concepts, a restaurant consulting company that recently started working with Summers Restaurant, was the one who called Wednesday’s meeting to order.

“We’re forming a coalition because the food trucks are running amok,” says Beal. “It has a serious financial impact on these brick and mortar restaurants.”

Beal says between three and five food trucks park in front of Summers Restaurant and other Courthouse area eateries each day. Though the trucks are legally allowed to park there for two hours, Beal and other restaurant owners say the trucks sometimes skirt that time limit.

“Parking is free until 8 a.m.,” says Beal. “From 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m., food trucks will send cars to the Courthouse area to park in all the spots in front of these restaurants and wait for the food trucks to show up.”

“Sometimes, the food trucks even send people to stand in the spots and wait for the food trucks to arrive.” says Beal.

Guarapo owner Nesrin Abaza says the accumulation of food trucks caused her business to stop serving lunch altogether.

“It just wasn’t feasible,” says Abaza. “How can you compete? There’s no control.”

“It’s like, can I stand outside the restaurant next door and sell my empanadas?” Abaza says. “Would I be allowed to do that? Absolutely not. But food trucks can do that to us.”

Despite the recent outcry in Courthouse, this is hardly the first time food trucks have clashed with brick-and-mortar restaurants. In 2012, Rosslyn’s Business Improvement District mulled asking for restrictions on where food trucks could operate. But in 2013, the Arlington County Board went the opposite direction — voting to extend the parking time limit for food trucks from one hour to two hours.

“Our argument is that Arlington County has been listening to the food trucks,” Beal says. “At the end of the day, none of our businesses were approached or represented, and we see the food trucks multiplying.”

Che Ruddell-Tabisola, executive director of the DMV Food Truck Association, says he’s sympathetic to the restaurants’ problems, but that more regulation isn’t the answer.

“This has been something very common to hear from brick and mortar owners,” says Ruddell-Tabisola. “The underlying myth is that food trucks are somehow harming existing businesses, and it’s just not true.”

(more…)

by ARLnow.com — May 21, 2015 at 3:30 pm 2,967 0

Washington Redskins HelmetVirginia state Sen. Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax) has some tongue-in-cheek suggestions for Arlington-appropriate alternatives to the name of Washington’s professional football team.

The Arlington County Board on Tuesday adopted a resolution, by a vote of 3-0-2, calling on the Washington Redskins to change the team’s “objectionable” name.

On his blog today, Petersen — who last year helped to form a “Redskins Pride Caucus” in the Virginia General Assembly — took the opportunity to come up with some fitting team name suggestions.

“I read in the news this week that the Arlington County Board — having run out of actual problems — has decided to enter the world of naming professional sports teams,” Petersen wrote, introducing his list. “So what names fit for Virginia’s most ‘politically correct’ elected body?”

Petersen’s top 10 list is as follows.

  1. “The Dog Park Warriors”
  2. “The Million Dollar Bus Stops”
  3. “The Abandoned Street Cars”
  4. “The (Over) Regulators”
  5. “The Tax and Spenders”
  6. “The Vicious Vegans”
  7. “Poets in Turtlenecks”
  8. “The Exploited”
  9. “White Liberal Angst”
  10. “The Granola Bars”

by Tim Regan — May 21, 2015 at 10:00 am 1,707 0

A new sushi restaurant is now open just steps away from the Ballston Metro station.

Sushi 2Go, named for its daily selection of carryout sushi, is located in the former Primo Fresh Deli space in the Metro plaza at the corner of Fairfax Drive and N. Stuart Street.

The restaurant’s menu includes nigiri, classic sushi rolls, and a range of specialty rolls. Patrons can either order freshly made sushi at the counter, or grab a pre-made roll from a to-go cooler.

To celebrate its opening, Sushi 2Go is offering reduced prices until May 30. Under the special, nigiri and sushi rolls are currently both $4, and specialty rolls cost either $6 or $8.

Owner Unsook Kim says she got the idea for the to-go concept after visiting a Wasabi franchise in New York City. After seeing how popular the franchise was, Kim decided to open her own take on the sushi-to-go concept.

“This is my own style,” Kim says. “Young people love sushi.”

Kim says that by this winter, she’ll add other Korean and Japanese specialties like bibimbap, yakisoba noodles, and teriyaki dishes to the menu.

by Tim Regan — May 20, 2015 at 5:00 pm 997 0

Girl Scout Troop 3661 in front of their Little Free Library in Bluemont Park, Photo courtesy of Girl Scout Troop 3661, photo courtesy of Photo courtesy of Girl Scout Troop 3661.

A Girl Scout troop unveiled a Little Free Library in Bluemont Park last Saturday.

The tiny library, located in Bluemont Park near the tennis court pavilion at 601 N. Manchester Street, holds a smattering of books that can be borrowed under a “take a book, leave a book” policy.

Girl Scout Troop 3661, composed of 12 Ashlawn Elementary School fifth graders, paid for the library by hosting a yard and bake sale earlier in the spring.

For their hard work, the troop earned the Girl Scout Bronze Award, the highest honor for a Girl Scout Junior. The troop also plans to donate more than 800 books to Books for America on May 28.

Photo courtesy of Girl Scout Troop 3661.

by ARLnow.com — May 20, 2015 at 4:05 pm 4,008 0

The Italian Store opened its new Westover Village location to large crowds of hungry fans Monday.

The store, at 5837 Washington Blvd, represents an expansion for the company in more ways than one. At 6,000 square feet, the new store is more than twice the size of the original, beloved Italian Store in Lyon Village.

The Westover location features an espresso coffee bar, a gelato station, a sandwich counter, a pizza station and retail shelves of wine, pasta and sauce. There’s also a small private dining room in the back, an outdoor cafe area and a dedicated customer parking lot. Owner Robert Tramonte termed it an “Italian Store on steroids.”

Customers at the store Monday evening seemed unperturbed by the long lines and upbeat about the opening.

“We’re really excited about it,” said Amy Penchuk, who walked 10 minutes from her home to visit the new store. “I grew up in New York so I was used to getting great Italian food, and this makes me feel at home. It’s about as good as it gets around here.”

Tramonte enlisted his entire family to try to serve customers as quickly as possible.

His sons, Michael, Vincent and Joseph, were all working alongside him Monday night. Also working: Tramonte’s wife, Laura, who was celebrating her birthday.

Michael, a newly-minted college grad who’s managing the front of the store, said that despite continued delays and challenges, his dad was determined to open on his mom’s birthday.

“It’s her birthday present,” the elder Tramonte said, with a smile, when asked about the date. In the end, it paid off: Tramonte said the first day of business exceeded even his optimistic expectations.

by ARLnow.com — May 20, 2015 at 2:45 pm 1,021 0

The Tutti Frutti frozen yogurt store at 1301 S. Fern Street in Pentagon City, across from the Costco, has closed.

The store closed recently and as of Monday it appeared that the furniture and froyo machinery had been cleared out.

The Tutti Frutti Pentagon City location first opened around the beginning of 2013. A north Arlington Tutti Frutti location, which is not owned by the same franchisee, remains open at 2439 N. Harrison Street, in the Lee-Harrison Shopping Center.

by Tim Regan — May 20, 2015 at 1:00 pm 3,812 0

A crowd of locals swapped memories, shared beers and even fought back some tears while saying goodbye to longtime neighborhood hangout Jay’s Saloon on Monday.

Jay’s Saloon first opened its doors in the fall of 1993, and became famous throughout Clarendon for $8 pitchers of beer during happy hour, cheap eats and a no-frills dive bar aesthetic.

In 2011, the bar received news that the building that houses it could be demolished and replaced with a mixed-use development. Last summer, that news became reality. The new development, called 10th Street Flats and located at 3132 10th Street N., is planned to have 135 residential units, 3,660 square feet of retail, almost 5,000 square feet of office space and nine live/work units.

Kathi Moore, who co-owned Jay’s with her ex-husband, spent the night slinging beers and hugging old friends.

“This is my life,” said Moore. “I spent half my working life here.”

For Moore, the closure of Jay’s represents an end, but also a new beginning. “[It’s] another phase of my life,” she said. “I’ll get another job.”

Moore’s patrons spent the night toasting the bar’s iconic status as the last dive bar in Clarendon.

Charlie Heitman, who manages the condo across the street from Jay’s, ate lunch there three or four days a week for more than a decade. To Heitman, the bar’s closing means one less place for locals to feel at home.

“It’s not a corporate bar, where everything is pre-programmed,” Heitman said. “I’m more sad about this than my last divorce.”

Last Saturday, Heitman served as auctioneer as bar sold off memorabilia and keepsakes.

“We sold almost everything off the wall. It was a frenzy,” said Heitman. “People [wanted] just a little piece of Jay’s to take home with them.”

“We know all the waitresses, we know all the bartenders,” said longtime regular Elaine Ethier. There’s no other place in Arlington like this.”

Jacki Barnett, who was a bar regular since 2007, spent the night savoring the minutes before last call. Even though she knew the doors would close for good, Barnett said she will always keep in touch with the people she met over the years.

“I’m going to take a big deep breath, I’m going to shed a tear, realize that all these people are still my friends,” Barnett said. “I’ll see them around the corner in just a minute.”

by ARLnow.com — May 20, 2015 at 10:00 am 5,592 0

Former Curves storefront in Cherrydale, possible home to a new gun storeNova Firearms is planning to open in the former Curves storefront in Cherrydale, the company confirmed Tuesday night.

In a statement, the McLean-based company said it will open its new Arlington location this summer. The store will sell firearms to police departments and civilians, and will offer gun safety classes.

Rumors have been flying around neighborhood listservs about the store, which is currently under construction. Some residents have said that such a store raises concerns about safety and even local property values.

The full statement from Nova Firearms is below.

McLean-based Nova Firearms have announced the opening of its new store in Arlington, Virginia scheduled for Summer 2015.

The grand opening of the Arlington location will coincide with the first anniversary of owner James “JB” Gates’ purchase of Nova Firearms. Nova first opened its doors in Falls Church in 2012 under previous ownership, then moved to its current location in McLean where it has enjoyed a warm reception.

“We want to thank the communities of Falls Church and McLean who welcomed Nova Firearms with open arms, and we believe Arlington will be an equally good location for our small, family-run business,” Gates said.

Nova supplies police departments as well as civilians. “Because of our proximity to the nation’s capital, the Pentagon, and CIA Headquarters, our customers understand security on a professional and personal level,” Gates explained.

When Gates isn’t behind the counter serving customers at Nova’s Mclean store, the US Marine Corps veteran provides personal protection and IT security services to a wide clientele, in and around the Metropolitan area.

The customers of Nova Firearms are equally diverse. According to Gates, their clients include many first time gun owners, longtime sportsmen, and the occasional celebrity. “You might be surprised by the number of well-known government leaders who did their Christmas shopping at Nova Firearms,” he remarked.

Gates is a proud sponsor of local charities, including the conservation efforts of local Ducks Unlimited chapters and programs supporting veterans and their families. He plans to offer expanded firearms safety training to the community at the new Arlington location of Nova Firearms.

by ARLnow.com — May 19, 2015 at 2:45 pm 4,679 0

Former Curves storefront in Cherrydale, possible home to a new gun storeUpdate on 5/20/15 — Nova Firearms has confirmed that it is indeed opening a store in Cherrydale.

The Maywood and Cherrydale neighborhood email listservs are abuzz today with talk of a gun store coming to the neighborhood.

The rumors surround the former Curves storefront at 2105 N. Pollard Street, in a small strip mall along Lee Highway. In a widely-circulated email, a neighbor says she’s spoken with the shopping center’s owner and he confirmed that a gun store will open there.

The property owner, Kostas Kapasouris, told ARLnow.com last week that an “expensive sporting goods” store has leased the space. He would not say who owns the store was or whether it would sell guns.

Listserv users have said they believe that the store may be linked with NOVA Firearms, a gun store in McLean. A man who answered the phone this afternoon said the owner of NOVA Firearms would call an ARLnow.com reporter back — but then quickly hung up before asking for a phone number.

Owners and employees of other stores in the shopping center said they heard the same rumors of a gun store or a high-end sporting goods store selling guns, but said they had not heard anything definitive from Kapasouris. Some expressed concerns about a gun store moving in, particularly given that there are several schools in the area.

Residents on the listservs expressed similar concerns.

“Wow! Was hoping for something a bit more family friendly,” one said. “I’m sure ‘walkable to gun shop’ will do wonders for our real estate values.”

“I am adamantly opposed to this!” another said. “If others feel the same way, can we petition the County to prevent this business in our neighborhood?”

It’s unlikely the county government has any legal standing to prevent a gun store that’s otherwise following Virginia law from opening. At least one resident privately told ARLnow.com that he’s not sure why there’s such an uproar.

“Note that the pawnshop on Lee Highway and Kirkwood (which used to go by National Pawnbrokers) also sells firearms, so I’m not sure what the big deal is,” he said.

Interior construction could be heard inside the store last week and workers could be seen coming and going. County officials told ARLnow.com that construction permits were not necessary because the work was minor. Inspectors responded to the location and found no code violations.

As of Tuesday afternoon, opaque plastic sheets covered the store’s windows and no other activity could be seen.

by ARLnow.com — May 19, 2015 at 1:00 pm 9,901 0

Ballston Common Mall, set to undergo a major renovation project next year, will be rebranded as “Ballston Quarter.”

Mall owner Forest City revealed the new name at the International Council of Shopping Centers convention in Las Vegas on Monday, as first reported by Bisnow.

The new mall’s most defining feature will be an open-air plaza running through the middle of what is now enclosed shopping space.

A recently-deployed Ballston Quarter website, which includes the slogan “Life Uncommon” and a slick preview video, lists the features of the airy shopping center:

  • “An open-air, urban environment coupled with a remodeled interior concourse”
  • “An open-air, public plaza gathering space and an intimate mews entrance along Wilson Boulevard”
  • “Activated streetscape to engage the community including street-entry stores and restaurants, some with sidewalk, terrace or rooftop dining options”
  • “A unique and vibrant mix of stores, restaurants, entertainment venues – 365,000 SF in addition to Macy’s”
  • “A residential tower with over 380 apartment homes and stunning amenities will top the new Ballston Quarter”

Macy’s, Rock Bottom Brewery, Panera Bread, Sport & Health, Regis Hair Salon, Regal Cinema, Noodles and Company, CVS, Kettler Capitals Iceplex and Shiki Sushi are all expected to remain open during the renovations. Most other mall retailers are expected to close after the end of the year.

by ARLnow.com — May 18, 2015 at 4:05 pm 1,858 0

Pacers Pentagon Row store (photo via Google Maps)Pacers will close its running store on Pentagon Row next month, the company announced this afternoon.

The store, at 1101 S. Joyce Street, is being moved to a new Pacers location at 300 Tingey Street SE, in the District’s Navy Yard community.

The Pentagon Row store will close its doors on June 28, while the Navy Yard location is expected to open in late August. The Pacers location at 3100 Clarendon Blvd in Clarendon will remain open and will be the local chain’s only Arlington location.

The Pentagon Row Pacers opened in spring 2009, after the company bought and took over the storefront of the Gotta Run Running Shop, which originally opened in 2004, according to Pacers CEO Kathy Dalby.

Dalby said that the popular Pacers races in Pentagon City and the Pentagon Row store’s active running club will continue even after the store closes. She said the decision to close the store was mostly about its small size.

“Pacers Pentagon Row has a great following, especially the groups that run with us weekly out of the shop,” Dalby said. “However, the size of the store — our smallest at 1,200 square feet and 60% smaller than our average location — limited our ability to provide the full breadth of product our customers have come to expect from Pacers Running.”

“We look forward to still supporting runs and races from Pentagon Row and [continuing] to be an integral part of the South Arlington fitness community,” Dalby continued.

Separately, Pacers also announced that it will be moving its existing location near Logan Circle in D.C. to a larger storefront at 14th and S Streets NW. That move will take place around the Fourth of July holiday.

Photo via Google Maps

by ARLnow.com — May 14, 2015 at 4:30 pm 900 0

AAA logoAAA Mid-Atlantic will formally announce that it is now offering roadside assistance for D.C. area bicyclists Friday morning.

The announcement is timed to coincide with Bike to Work Day and will be made at a Bike to Work Day pit stop in D.C.

“To encourage bicycle commuting, which is growing exponentially across the region, AAA Mid-Atlantic will debut the addition of its new roadside assistance service for bicyclists,” the organization said in a media advisory Thursday.

“Starting on Bike To Work Day, the AAA bicycle service will be immediately available to nearly four million AAA Mid-Atlantic members within the club’s Mid-Atlantic footprint, which includes the entire Washington Metro Area, and it applies to all bicycles and bicycle rentals.”

The service is already being advertised on the organization’s website.

A number of other regional AAA branches across the country, including in the Pacific Northwest and New England, already offer the service.

by Ethan Rothstein — May 14, 2015 at 11:30 am 12,929 0

Cakelove in Shirlington closes(Updated at 3:35 p.m.) Next month, the Bungalow Sports Grill plans to close its Shirlington location. Yesterday, the doors of Bonsai Grill were locked and the lights were off in the restaurant, indicating the Japanese restaurant has likely closed.

If Bonsai doesn’t reopen and Bungalow indeed closes on June 10  — when manager Carla Marquina tells ARLnow.com it will — the two businesses will be added to the growing list of Shirlington establishments that have fallen by the wayside, and more could be on the way.

Since last October, counting Bonsai and the Bungalow, seven businesses in the Village at Shirlington have closed: Bloomers, Periwinkle, Aladdin’s Eatery, Cakelove and The Curious Grape are all gone. Other than the Curious Grape, whose space was quickly taken over by an Italian restaurant, all of the spaces remain vacant.

With the vacancies have come less foot traffic and rising frustrations, business owners say. Some are blaming Village of Shirlington owner Federal Realty Investment Trust for their woes, saying the company keeps raising rents even as tenants struggle in a local economy that seems to be slowing.

The Bungalow Sports Grill in Shirlington“We are struggling to survive,” one Shirlington restaurant owner told ARLnow.com, speaking on the condition of anonymity for fear of landlord repercussions. “The landlord should reduce the rent or at least keep it the same. They don’t care about the business.”

Marquina, the Bungalow manager, said landlord problems are the reason that the neighborhood sports bar, which has occupied its large space off S. Randolph Street for decades, is shutting down.

“The owners have had disputes with the landlord,” she said. “They haven’t been fixing things that they should fix, and it’s not worth it to us to fix it.”

Bungalow owner Win Froelich spoke to ARLnow.com this afternoon and said Marquina “was not involved with what was going on,” and added “Federal has been lovely to work with.”

“We had an extended negotiation over renewing the lease, and the economics of renewing for us just didn’t work,” Froelich said. “There’s nothing that the landlord is obligated to repair that the landlord hasn’t repaired. The total package that worked for us and the total package that worked for them didn’t match up in price… They’ve been a great landlord and we’re sorry that we’re going to be leaving the Shirlington Village.”

While some vacancies have filled — the Extra Virgin space that has sat empty for two years will soon be home to an art-themed restaurant called Palette 22 — many others remain, and even store owners who say they have “a great relationship” with FRIT say they wish the Bethesda-based real estate firm would step up its effort.

“Walking down this really small area and seeing a bunch of empty spaces is depressing,” another store owner, who claims to be “doing fine” with no complaints about his relationship with FRIT, said. “[FRIT] could be doing a lot more to bring in new business.”

Aladdin's Eatery closes in ShirlingtonWhen Periwinkle closed, its owner told ARLnow the rent was too high, a refrain repeated by at least five business owners we contacted. According to multiple business owners, FRIT raises rent every year — a not uncommon practice for commercial and residential real estate — despite what they see as declining foot traffic.

Shirlington isn’t the only place FRIT is losing tenants either; in Pentagon Row, Denim Bar closed in April and another retailer is expected to announce its closure soon. When asked for comment, FRIT spokeswoman Jill Powell said she “was unable to reach the appropriate people at corporate.”

Along with Palette 22, FRIT is renovating Shirlington’s AMC movie theater and Powell said they are expecting to make “another exciting new lease announcement” soon. Regardless of Shirlington’s future businesses, some of its current tenants remain deeply dissatisfied.

Bonsai“Business has been slower,” the second store owner said, “and I’ve heard from a lot of people that property management is the issue.”

The first owner said she’s not sure how much longer she’ll be able to stay open. She said she doesn’t take home a salary and works 14 hours a day, seven days a week.

“We signed a contract and agreed to the rent. We can’t blame [FRIT],” she said. “But people aren’t going out to eat anymore. If the landlord understood about the economy, they’d stop raising the rent every year.”

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