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by ARLnow.com — May 26, 2015 at 10:35 am 6,555 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 11:00 am 2,485 0

Our Lady of the Vanishing Arts, photo courtesy of Artisphere

A new art piece will lambast the closure of Artisphere on the venue’s final day of live performance.

Artist Carolina Mayorga can neither confirm nor deny that she will assume the form of the Virgin Mary apparition during a performance titled “Our Lady of the Vanishing Arts.” But Mayorga, who’s dressed as the holy figure before, says there’s a good possibility a divine apparition could materialize at 7 p.m. on Saturday, June 6.

“[The Virgin Mary] is thinking about making an apparition at Artisphere,” Mayorga says, chuckling. “She might appear. She’s thinking about it.”

During the performance piece, which lasts an hour and precedes a musical performance by Stooges Brass Band and Black Masala, Mayorga will perform mock holy rituals and anoint Artisphere attendees.

“I have these cardboard letters that spell the word art,” explains Mayorga. “and I’m going to burn them in a little metal tray, mix that with oil, and use a brush to [paint dollar signs on attendees’ foreheads].”

A live organist will play Catholic mass classics such as “Ave Maria” alongside the performance.

“I call it Ash Saturday,” says Mayorga.

The point of the performance, explains Mayorga, isn’t to belittle religion. Instead, it’s to mourn the loss of a local artistic institution.

“I benefitted from Artisphere for a long time,” she says. “I did an artist in residency with them in 2013. They’ve always been supportive of my work.”

Some of the art from Mayorga’s residency still clings to the gallery’s walls as a permanent installation.

“When you want to do a special performance, you need a venue like Artisphere,” Mayorga says. “It really hurts to lose it.”

Photo courtesy of Artisphere.

by ARLnow.com — May 20, 2015 at 2:45 pm 1,038 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 3,879 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 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.”

by Ethan Rothstein — May 13, 2015 at 3:30 pm 3,221 0

Kite Runner Cafe, closing in Cherrydale May 15 Kite Runner Cafe, closing in Cherrydale May 15

Kite Runner Cafe, the critically acclaimed Afghan restaurant at 3800 Lee Highway in Cherrydale, will close tomorrow afternoon.

In its place, possibly in a month, will be Gaijin Ramen Shop, the second ramen shop coming to Arlington after Yona in Ballston was announced last year.

Kite Runner owner Homayon Karimy told ARLnow.com this afternoon that he’s selling the business, which opened two years ago this month, to spend more time close to family.

“I need to spend more time with more 4-year-old daughter,” he said. “I feel like I missed three years of her life with one year of construction and two years in the restaurant.”

Karimy, a native of Afghanistan who came to Northern Virginia in the late 1990s and spent a decade at Lebanese Taverna before striking out on his own to start a restaurant serving the cuisine of his birthplace.

Now, he said, he’ll take a month off, then go back to school, hoping to graduate in a few semesters and re-enter the hospitality industry.

The ramen shop, he said, plans to do minor construction on the interior before opening.

Hat tip to @ZHitmanHart

by Ethan Rothstein — May 1, 2015 at 3:45 pm 3,914 0

Just over 13 months after opening with a mini-sandwich giveaway, 100 Montaditos in Rosslyn is now closed.

The Spanish-style restaurant at 1776 Wilson Blvd specialized in serving all different kinds of mini sandwiches, with a variety of ingredients like pulled park, Iberican ham, brie and chocolate. Its parent company declared bankruptcy back in March, which appears to have been the Rosslyn location’s death knell.

An anonymous tipster tells us that 100 Montaditos packed up the interior overnight last night, coinciding with the end of the month. The interior is bare and the door is now locked — there are splotches of missing paint on the walls where artwork used to hang.

by Ethan Rothstein — April 28, 2015 at 3:05 pm 4,779 0

S.H. “Doc” Friedman is a man of few words and less nostalgia. The 82-year-old pragmatist will be closing Public Shoe Store in Clarendon sometime this summer, closing the doors on one of the oldest businesses in Arlington.

Will “Doc,” a former podiatrist, miss the store that’s been a part of his life since he was five years old?

“No. It’s just a matter of time marching on,” he said. “Nothing stays the same.”

Friedman’s father, Sam, opened the business in 1938 across Wilson Blvd from N. Hudson Street, before the building was taken over to build the Clarendon Metro station in the late 1970s.

Friedman doesn’t remember exactly when his father’s store had to move, but when it did, it replaced a cadre of six Vietnamese businesses occupying the less-than-5,000-square-foot space. Before that, it had been a Kay Jewelers; Friedman still has the sign, well-preserved hanging over the stairs that lead to the basement.

When the store moved across the street, Friedman was still working as a podiatrist, with an office just a few blocks away. But when his father could no longer work in the store, he took it over. Doc had been working as a podiatrist in the neighborhood.

When asked where specifically his office was, he shrugged and replied “I don’t remember that far back.”

But keepsakes around the store provide more clues about its, and Doc’s, past. Friedman has photos from the original shop the year it opened, with employees dressed in suits and the shelves immaculately organized. He brings out a picture of his father, standing proudly in front of a Cadillac he won, pointing out that the car was the inspiration for a jingle his wife wrote for the store, long ago.

His memory extends to the surrounding community. Few, if any, are as familiar with the changes in Clarendon over the last three-quarters of a century. At one point, when it was considered the “Downtown of Northern Virginia,” there were a half-dozen shoe stores in the area, he said.

Public Shoe Store is the only one left standing, and soon it will be gone.

“That’s one stage in life,” he said. “But things change.”

Before the Metro came in, the area was known as “Little Saigon.” Now, as the years have gone on, Clarendon has transitioned again to the food and nightlife hotspot it is now.

“It just changed from clothing-type stores and furniture-type stores to alcohol,” he said. “There’s a bunch of restaurants because kids around here don’t cook, and they go out to eat, and they all have money.”

He doesn’t know what the storefront will become next. He owns the building and is working with a real estate agent to lease the space. He assumes a restaurant is likely, but doesn’t have a preference as long as it’s someone “who looks like they’ll stay and not give any trouble.”

Next door, the owner of Kabob Bazaar, Mohammed Kafi, said that’s exactly the type of neighbor Friedman has been for the 20-odd years he’s owned his restaurant.

“He’s a very nice gentleman, never had any problems with him,” Kafi said. “It’s been very nice knowing him. Once he’s gone, he’ll be missed.”

Friedman has children and several grandchildren, but none of them wanted to take up the mantle of Public Shoe Store the way he did from his father. His children are all at or near retirement, and the next generation are aspiring teachers and scientists.

“They don’t seem to be interested in it,” he said. “Kids today are into different things, it’s a different world.”

Although his loyal customers will miss coming into the shop and seeing him every day, shuffling deliberately across the store and trying his hardest to find the perfect shoe for each foot problem, he hasn’t thought much about what his next step will look like.

First, he said: tending to his Lyon Village home, which is just a few minutes ride from the store via his motorized red scooter.

“I’m going to clean out all my junk,” he said. He smiles when he’s asked what he’ll miss most about the store, and said only, “I don’t know yet.”

by Ethan Rothstein — April 21, 2015 at 4:15 pm 9,516 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 10:00 am 3,745 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 12,467 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 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 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.

by Ethan Rothstein — April 7, 2015 at 3:45 pm 3,177 0

Eclectic Threads, the vintage consignment, furniture and clothing store in Lyon Park, is closing in June.

The shop, at the corner of Washington Blvd and Pershing Drive, has been open since 1982, owner Sheila Selario told ARLnow.com today. It’s combined with Corner Cupboard, and Selario runs the two stores with her daughter, Tara.

The building’s being sold, Selario said, prompting the closure. Everything in the shop — a mix of knick-knacks, furs, lamps and pretty much anything else that can fit through the door — is 20 percent off for now, but the sale could go up before Eclectic Threads shuts down.

“If the public hasn’t come in yet, now’s the time,” Selario said.

The store opened as consignment 33 years ago before growing in scope. Selario said she’s going to use her time now to “catch up on things” she missed while running the business.

“I’m really going to miss it,” she said. “It’s been a wonderful experience.”

by Ethan Rothstein — March 30, 2015 at 3:30 pm 5,680 0

(Updated at 7:00 p.m.) The Curious Grape, the wine bar and shop in Shirlington, closed Saturday night, but a new restaurant will be taking its place shortly.

Coming in to the location on 2900 S. Quincy Street will be Osteria da Nino Cucina Italiana & Bar, an Italian restaurant that plans to start its soft opening on Thursday, its owners told ARLnow.com today.

The restaurant is being launched by a pair of couples and helmed by Italian chef Nino Pino, who has worked at a number of restaurants in Northern Virginia, including Palio Ristorante in Leesburg. Crews will be working around the clock until Thursday night, when Osteria da Nino hopes to get in a few practice runs before a planned Easter brunch on Sunday.

The turnaround might catch some by surprise — many restaurant openings take more than a year in Arlington. Even more so because The Curious Grape had been a Village at Shirlington staple for more than a decade.

“As most people know, running a restaurant is really a 24/7 commitment,” Curious Grape owner Suzanne McGrath said in an email. “Actively managing the restaurant has also diverted my efforts away from wine education, which is really my career focus. We have so appreciated all the support of our loyal customers and the wonderful people who enjoyed The Curious Grape.”

Osteria is looking for waitstaff, bussers and kitchen staff to join the team immediately, and is asking those interested to apply in person.

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