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by Ethan Rothstein — January 6, 2015 at 2:00 pm 2,009 0

Wet Seal, the national young women’s clothing store chain, has closed its location in Ballston Common Mall amid serious money trouble at the corporate level.

The Ballston location closed over the weekend, and pieces of merchandise were still strewn about the store despite most of it laying empty yesterday.

According to a tipster, there was a handwritten sign in the window that read along the lines of, “check the internet if you want to know why we are closed. wet seal sucks! liars!” (Update at 6:30 p.m. — BuzzFeed has a photo of the sign and an interview with its creator.)

Other Wet Seal stores around the country were closed abruptly, and employees of the location that closed in Durham, N.C., also posted a sign complaining about the fashion in which the store closed and how it treated its now-jobless employees.

Bloomberg News reported last week that Wet Seal received a notice of default and owes its creditors $28.8 million by Jan. 12. The financial news site says the company’s stock price has plummeted to 5.7 cents a share, having lost 97 percent of its value in the last year. If the company’s projections hold up, it will have lost almost $240 million by the end of the fiscal year.

According to the Dayton Daily News in Dayton, Ohio, 350 Wet Seal stores nationwide are in line to be closed. Employees in many of those stores were give just one day’s notice.

The Wet Seal location in the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City remains open, and a store employee told ARLnow.com today that the Ballston location’s closure and any problems at the corporate level are “news to me.”

by Ethan Rothstein — January 5, 2015 at 1:30 pm 2,706 0

A new store specializing in upscale Swiss watches is the newest tenant in Ballston Common Mall.

Watchstyle opened in November because, as owner Eric Kim said, he was “desperate to get open for the holiday season.” He found, however, that the Ballston Mall didn’t experience quite the holiday rush that he expected. Business was steady, and remained steady after Christmas passed.

Kim offers Swiss-made watches that aren’t the most recognizable brands, but, as a former Liljenquist & Beckstead watch buyer, he says the products he offers are the “equal or better” quality and more affordable.

“The watch market has changed so much,” he told ARLnow.com last week, “Swiss watch prices have gone up a ludicrous amount with no real increase in quality.”

Watchstyle’s watches start at around $200 with Mondaine styles and go up from there. Kim said he’s the only Mondaine dealer in Virginia. He also offers watches from brands like Ball and Maurice Lacroix. Despite the Ballston Mall’s negative perception and imminent redevelopment, Kim thinks he found the right place to start his business.

“It was definitely risky, but this mall is surrounded by the right demographic for luxury watches,” Kim said. “The mall may not be ready, but the market is.”

by Ethan Rothstein — January 2, 2015 at 3:30 pm 4,193 0

EMS in Clarendon, expected to close after January 2015Eastern Mountain Sports, the outdoors outfitter store next to Barnes & Noble in Market Common Clarendon, is expected to close at the end of the month.

There’s a storewide clearance sale going on now, and the store has signs posted inside and out announcing that the location will be closing at the end of January. According to a store employee, EMS’ lease is up at the end of the month.

The closest EMS location is in Dulles, Va., 20 miles away. A similar retailer, Orvis, is another Market Common tenant and is at 2879 Clarendon Blvd.

Hat tip to Bill Colton

by Ethan Rothstein — January 2, 2015 at 1:30 pm 3,767 0

Cakelove in Shirlington closes Cakelove in Shirlington closes

Another retailer has closed up shop in the Village at Shirlington.

Cakelove, the pastry specialty store at 4150 Campbell Avenue, has closed its doors after seven years in the shopping center. According to its website, Cakelove is closing “in in order to scale up production of our cake in a jar.”

Cakelove will still operate its location on U Street NW in D.C., but it has also closed its two Maryland locations.

Cakelove closed in December, making it the fourth retailer in the Village to close since October. First, lingerie store Bloomers closed, followed by health-conscious Lebanese restaurant Aladdin’s closed, and Periwinkle — sharing the same block as Cakelove and Bloomer’s, told ARLnow.com it wouldn’t renew its lease for 2015.

Hat tip to Stephanie

by ARLnow.com — December 31, 2014 at 5:00 pm 5,596 0

Happy new year, Arlington!

You’ve waited patiently for this post, and here it is, just hours before 2014 comes to a close and a new year of local developments is ushered in. (Those of you who receive our email newsletter may be seeing this on Jan. 1, in which case feel free to ignore this pointless introduction.)

You’ve already seen #11-20 and #6-10. Now, without additional fanfare, here are the most-viewed articles of 2014.

Pedestrian struck in front of Nottingham Elementary5. Woman Dies After Being Struck By Dump Truck (29,711 views) — It was a nightmare come to life, and it happened right in front of a local elementary school. On a cold February day, 39-year-old Jennifer Lawson was struck by a truck as she loaded one of her young children in her minivan, which was parked on N. Little Falls Road in front of Nottingham Elementary. Lawson died at the hospital, leaving behind a husband and three children.

A memorial fund was established for the family, and the incident helped to bring about additional safety changes on Little Falls Road. Despite those changes, nine months later another mother was struck while loading her kids into an SUV, just one block from the original accident.

4. Man Convicted of Assault on Roommate Who Drew a Penis on His Face (46,278 views) — It should come as little surprise that the follow-up to our No. 1 most-viewed article of 2013 would itself subsequently rank in the top 5. James Watson, a 30-something Lyon Village resident, was found guilty in May of the crime that earned him international attention – beating the snot out of a roommate who drew a dong on his face while he was snoozing. It was, of course, the mugshot — in which you can see the artwork – that turned this from a run-of-the-mill crime report item to an accidental internet sensation.

Watson was fined but the judge did not order any additional jail time. A quote from the prosecutor in the case suggests the time Watson served after his arrest might have been punishment enough. “He was an object of ridicule in jail that weekend because he still had the penis drawn on his face,” the prosecutor told us.

Maura Fussell (photo courtesy ACPD)3. Police: Drunk Woman Shows Up Naked to Visit Husband in Jail (57,215 views) — Speaking of the Arlington County Detention Facility and accidental internet fame, a Reston resident became an overnight meme in March when she allegedly showed up naked at the Arlington magistrate’s office following a Clarendon bar crawl. Maura Fussell was there to visit her husband, who also had a bit too much to drink at the bar crawl and had earlier been granted a room in the jail. Why she reportedly lacked clothing is still unknown to us.

Fussell pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor drunk in public charge in May, paying a small fine but avoiding jail time. A separate misdemeanor trespassing charge, amended down from indecent exposure, is still pending, according to court records.

2. Bar Crawl Attendee Strips Naked, Leads Police on High Speed Chase (85,876 views) — Another Clarendon bar crawl, another high-profile arrest. This time, 22-year-old Charles Mack stripped naked during June’s “All-American Bar Crawl,” then hopped in a car and led police on a brief but exceedingly dangerous chase around the neighborhood. He finally ran into a couple of cars, then was tased and taken into custody after he hopped out of the car and tried to flee on foot — all that while still naked and in front of dozens of revelers.

In September Mack pleaded guilty to driving under the influence of drugs and felony eluding, via an Alford plea. On Dec. 12 he was sentenced to three months in prison, followed by three years of probation and a $1,500 fine.

(more…)

by Ethan Rothstein — December 31, 2014 at 10:45 am 503 0

Arlington County courthouse and police headquartersThere will be no parking enforcement the first two days of 2015.

Arlington county offices, including libraries, the DMV select and the Department of Human Services, are closed tomorrow and Friday (Jan. 1-2), and parking enforcement officers will also be taking the day off.

The Circuit, General District and Juvenile and Domestic Relations courts all close at noon today (Wednesday) and are closed the rest of the week. Arlington Public Schools won’t reopen until Monday, Jan. 5.

In addition to the courts, offices and schools, Arlington’s community centers will close at 5:00 p.m. tonight and not reopen until Saturday. The grounds of the parks will remain open, but all parks programming is cancelled.

Like last week, there will be no trash collection on Thursday, and those with Thursday curbside collection should leave their bins at the side of road by 6:00 a.m. on Friday, to be collected with the Friday routes. Some collection may bleed into Saturday, the county says.

Only ART buses 41 and 51 will be operating on New Year’s Day, on their Sunday schedules. Along with 41 and 51, routes 51, 77 and 87 will also operate on Sunday schedules on Friday.

by ARLnow.com — December 30, 2014 at 4:55 pm 3,672 0

It was a momentous year for Arlington, as demonstrated by the second of our three “Top Stories of 2014″ posts.

Perhaps the biggest Arlington story of the year, in terms of local policy significance, came in at No. 6 on our list (which ranks the most-read articles of 2014). The year’s only homicide in Arlington County also made this list.

Here are articles Nos. 6-10 on our countdown. (See Nos. 11-20 here.)

Eventide Restaurant10. Eventide Restaurant Closes in Clarendon (16,098 views) — Whenever a restaurant opens or closes in Arlington, it’s almost always a big story for us in terms of readership. Restaurants help to give neighborhoods character, serve as a gathering place and are a tangible part of the community. Losing a well-known and well-liked restaurant like Eventide hits home for many people. While this article had more readers, a follow-up article announcing Don Tito, Eventide’s successor, received more comments.

9. Westover Deaths the Result of a Murder-Suicide, Police Say (19,553 views) — The sad story of 31-year-old Kristy Flowers, a Westover resident with a promising future, pulled on the heartstrings of many readers earlier this month. Police say Flowers was murdered by her live-in boyfriend, Ray Savoy, Jr., who then turned the gun on himself. They were a seemingly happy couple in photos posted to Facebook just weeks before the shooting, making the shooting ever more senseless.

8. Police Investigating Possible Homicide in Westover (20,191 views) — ARLnow.com was the first to report on the tragic crime that was also the focus of our No. 9 story. It originally came in on the scanner as two people found dead in an apartment. While it wasn’t reported as a homicide over the air, we immediately sent a reporter to the scene. We waited for a source to confirm our suspicions before we published our report that police were investigating a possible murder-suicide.

7. Stabbing at Ballston Metro Station (20,508 views) — Any time you have a large number of police and fire department vehicles rush to a Metro station, it’s going to get a lot of attention. We reported on this brutal stabbing after receiving numerous tips from readers. A witness report that was retweeted by @unsuckdcmetro also caught our attention: “Someone was just stabbed on inbound platform at Ballston. Blood all over the platform.” We were able to get some initial information from Metro, then update the article with more details the next day.

Rendering of a streetcar along Columbia Pike6. Streetcar Project Canceled (23,411 views) — To say that this news was a surprise is an understatement. After many years of planning and a couple years of pitched controversy and political infighting, Arlington’s ambitious half-billion-dollar streetcar project was nixed with one somber press conference and a quick vote.

We were told that morning (Nov. 18) that a “significant” announcement regarding the streetcar would be coming at noon. But even Arlington insiders were caught off-guard at the sudden reversal. ARLnow.com editor Scott Brodbeck and Sun Gazette editor Scott McCaffrey took bets on what the announcement would be — and both were wrong. The one person who saw this coming was local Democratic political strategist and blogger Ben Tribbett, who told ARLnow.com that “the streetcar is dead” just hours after the historic re-election of County Board member John Vihstadt.

(more…)

by Ethan Rothstein — December 30, 2014 at 2:30 pm 3,279 0

Java Shack (photo via Facebook)(Updated at 2:35 p.m.) Java Shack, the locally owned coffee shop in Courthouse, will change ownership on Thursday after opening 19 years ago.

The shop, at 2507 N. Franklin Road, is being acquired by Commonwealth Joe, owner Dale Roberts announced on Facebook yesterday.

Commonwealth Joe is an Arlington-based coffee company that sells its roasted beans, coffee-infused desserts and other goods both online and at local farmers markets. It was started two years ago by four Arlington residents and has grown around the community.

Commonwealth Joe’s owners “are passionate about coffee, and dedicated to maintaining and building upon our neighborhood tradition,” Roberts wrote in his Facebook post. “I’ll still be around, but will be less visible on a day-to-day basis.”

Roberts is hosting a going away party of sorts at “The Shack” tomorrow (Dec. 31), when Roberts will be “solo behind the bar” serving coffee in his last day as owner.

Photo via Facebook

by ARLnow.com — December 30, 2014 at 10:50 am 5,279 0

EatBar (Flickr pool photo by Dan Brown)(Updated at 3:15 p.m.) A new barbecue restaurant is coming to the former Tallula and EatBar space in Lyon Park.

A permit has been filed for a new restaurant — “Texas Jack’s Barbecue” — at 2761 Washington Blvd. That’s the former address of Tallula and EatBar, which closed in October after the owner was “unable to reach an agreement with the landlord on renewing Tallula’s lease.”

Texas Jack’s co-owner Steve Roberts talked to ARLnow.com Tuesday afternoon and said he hopes to open the restaurant by April or May. Roberts said Texas Jack’s will be a neighborhood-centric restaurant serving “classic central Texas barbecue.” Roberts noted that he has no plans for making Texas Jack’s a franchise — rather, he and his business partner plan on treating it as their “second home.”

Roberts, a Montana native who describes himself as a restaurant veteran and a long-time Virginia resident, says Texas Jack’s is named after Texas Jack, a famous Virginia-born Texas cowboy who also served as a courier and scout during the Civil War.

Texas Jack’s will be open for lunch, dinner and late night bar service (until 2:00 a.m.). The original Whitey’s bar, used by EatBar, will remain.

Roberts said he an his management team have a “love and a passion for barbecue.” He anticipates utilizing Southern Pride barbecue smokers, which will be in use “all day long.”

“We want to do it right,” he said.

Flickr pool photo by Dan Brown

by Ethan Rothstein — December 29, 2014 at 3:00 pm 4,160 0

It’s time again for our annual list of most-read stories of the year.

Readers gravitated toward stories comical and serious, from signs that look like genitals to car crashes and elections. The year turned out to be an historic one, with unprecedented election results and massive policy shifts. It also proved that Arlington readers care just as much about local politics as they do about drunken shenanigans.

Without further ado, the first 10 stories on our countdown:

Six vehicles involved in crash at Columbia Pike and S. Dinwiddie Street20. ART Bus Driver Charged After Seven-Vehicle Wreck (12,868 views) — An ART bus hit multiple cars, both moving and parked, on Columbia Pike, sending four people to the hospital. The bus driver had been driving in revenue service for only a month. During the accident, the bus took out several bricks from a retaining wall and destroyed trees and benches. The wreck left a trail of destruction highly uncommon, even in multiple-vehicle accidents. The accident drew dozens of spectators to the scene, who stayed for hours while police and fire crews cleaned up.

19. Fatal Crash Suspect’s Friend Died in Wreck One Block Away (12,947 views) — After another fatal car accident at the heavily trafficked Lee Highway intersections near the Key Bridge, a little digging on social media into the suspect revealed a surprising connection. The driver, who allegedly drove drunk struck a car and killed a 24-year-old man, was friends with Sami Ullah. A year earlier almost to the day, Ullah died in a car accident a block away after driving 90 mph over the Key Bridge. The connection between the two crashes was both chilling and sad.

18. Restaurant Lashes Out at County Board Over Revoked Permit (12,976 views) — A routine County Board meeting over the Pines of Italy’s live entertainment permit became a minor national story. A woman there in support of the restaurant called the County Board “c–ksuckers,” and sports gossip website Deadspin deemed it worthy of a story all its own.

17. Man Arrested After Pepper Spraying GMU Law Prof (14,149 views) — A man tried to place a law professor under citizen’s arrest, but, when the professor resisted, he received a face full of pepper spray. No students came to his aid, according to Forbes, which may have been because the professor was teaching a class on vigilantism, “so many students in the class may have believed that the assault was part of the planned lesson.”

The logo for Market Place & Cafe in Ballston16. Despite Ridicule from Yelp Reviewers, Ballston Cafe Keeps Phallic Sign (14,176 views) — A friend of ARLnow.com, visiting from out of town and staying at the Holiday Inn in Ballston, got the hat tip for this story. While walking back from the Metro, he spotted Market Place & Café’s phallic sign. The sign has been up for more than half a decade and had already been the subject of online mockery. Unfazed, the owner — who declined to speak to ARLnow.com for the story — has kept the sign up and stayed in business.

15. Vihstadt Wins Historic Victory (14,426 views) — After a runaway victory in April’s special election, John Vihstadt won just as decisively in the general, sending political shockwaves throughout the county and directly leading to the Columbia Pike streetcar’s cancellation. Vihstadt hosted an election night party in his home, and the mood from dozens of supporters, family and friends was jubilant. Vihstadt, in fact, was pressing those in attendance not to count the chickens before they hatched, settling them after each precinct made it clearer and clearer that he would emerge victorious.

14. New Apartments, Town Center Planned for ‘Revamped’ Ballston Mall (14,435 views) — Ballston’s big announcement of the plans for the much-maligned Ballston Common Mall came at the same time as the snafu that ended the Restaurant Challenge. The plans for the mall are still under review and have yet to be approved by the County Board. (more…)

by Ethan Rothstein — December 29, 2014 at 12:00 pm 955 0

Now that the Christmas season is over, Arlington is once again offering residents a chance to turn their trees into mulch.

Starting Monday, Jan. 5, those with curbside trash collection can set their coniferous trees on the curb next to their trash can to be picked up. The trees will be picked up on the regular trash day until Jan. 16, after which they will still be picked up, just not recycled.

All trees must be cleared of lights, ornaments and all other decorations, as well as taken out of their stands, before being placed on the curb by 6:00 a.m. on trash day.

Those without curbside trash pickup can call (703) 228-6570 to schedule an appointment to bring their trees to the Solid Waste Bureau, along with proof or Arlington residence.

The trees will be recycled and turned into mulch, which is available for free for Arlington residents.

by ARLnow.com — December 24, 2014 at 12:30 pm 1,240 0

Christmas tree in the Sheraton hotel on Columbia PikeIt’s Christmas Eve, and very little is stirring in Arlington, as 2 in 5 are out of town and very few of those remaining are at work.

Most of the activity around town can be found at the mall, as procrastinators wrap up their Christmas shopping.

On this Dec. 24, ARLnow.com again wishes you and yours a happy and peaceful holiday. This has been a volatile year of change in Arlington, but regardless of your stance on those changes, Christmas is a time we can come together and be thankful for the the great community we have.

We’ll see you back here on Friday as we shake off the eggnog hangover and get back to work.

by ARLnow.com — December 24, 2014 at 9:30 am 1,017 0

Arlington TV, the county-run television channel, has released its annual year in review video.

This year’s video is titled “Prosperity Through Change.” It includes highlights such as the election of County Board member John Vihstadt, the launch of TandemNSI, the completion of the new Courthouse Road/Route 50 interchange, the opening of 400 new affordable housing units, the approval of major school renovations and the redesign of the county website, among other 2014 milestones.

“Through all this growth and change, we’ve maintained the very best characteristics of a small town,” County Board Chair Jay Fisette says in the video. “Our community is strong, diverse, caring and incredibly civic-minded. Together we will build a promising future for the generations of Arlingtonians who will follow us, and we will remain the place that other communities look to for inspiration.”

Fisette also talks about the surprise cancellation of the county’s streetcar project.

“It was the most difficult decision I’ve ever had to make,” Fisette says. “It was a realization that the support that had existed when these plans were developed was no longer there, to the point where it was immobilizing and distracting our community.”

by Ethan Rothstein — December 23, 2014 at 1:30 pm 1,356 0

Arlington County Police Department swearing-in ceremony Friday, Dec. 19, 2004 (photo courtesy ACPD) Arlington County Police Department swearing-in ceremony Friday, Dec. 19, 2004 (photo courtesy ACPD)

Thirteen new police officers will soon be patrolling the streets of Arlington County after police academy graduation yesterday.

Of the 14 candidates who started in police academy, 13 will now begin training to become full-time ACPD officers, along with five sheriff’s deputies who also graduated from the academy. The officers were sworn in by Arlington Clerk of the Circuit Court Paul Ferguson on Friday, according to ACPD spokesman Lt. Kip Malcolm.

Two of the new officers won the physical fitness awards at the Northern Virginia Criminal Justice Training Academy, which also graduated officers from Alexandria, Falls Church, Fairfax County and city, Manassas, Prince Williams and Loudoun counties and the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, among other departments.

An Arlington officer also was given the Thomas L. Shaw Award for displaying “characteristics of professionalism, dedication and leadership,” according to the ACPD’s Facebook page.

The newly sworn-in officers “will complete several weeks of in-house training before beginning their ‘field training,’ which is an 12 additional weeks of training on all three patrol shifts with a training officer,” Malcolm said.

Photos courtesy ACPD

by Ethan Rothstein — December 23, 2014 at 10:30 am 584 0

Inflatable Christmas decorations at a home in the Aurora Highlands neighborhoodMost offices and facilities of the Arlington County government will be open tomorrow during Christmas Eve, but will then close until Monday, Dec. 29.

All of the courts in the Arlington County Justice Center will be closed tomorrow, Dec. 24, and the DMV select will close tomorrow at noon.

Arlington Public Schools will also be closed on Dec. 24, and students won’t return to school until Monday, Jan. 5.

All county community centers and recreational classes are cancelled for Christmas and the day after, but parks grounds remain open at normal hours.

Parking will not be enforced on Dec. 25 or Dec. 26.

Those with Thursday trash and recycling collection will have their scheduled pushed back a day, and should put their cans on the side of the road by 6:00 a.m. on Friday. Those with Friday pickup will be on their normal schedule in all likelihood — because of the added workload, some houses might not see their trash picked up until 5:00 p.m. Saturday, according to the county.

Only ART buses 41 and 51 will be operating on Christmas Day, on their Sunday schedules. Along with 41 and 51, routes 51, 77 and 87 will also operate on Sunday schedules on friday.

There will be no parking enforcement on either day. Regular services and schedules resume on Saturday, and offices will reopen on Monday.

Flickr pool photo by Desiree L.C.

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