In the lower level of the Garden City Shopping Center at the corner of Lee Highway and N. George Mason Drive, Jonathan Elias, Chris Bienlein and their friends can be found amidst a haze of vapor, puffing away on electronic metal tubes.
Elias, 30, owns My Vapez, a store at 5183 Lee Highway that sells vaporizers, a form of e-cigarette. Bienlein is his friend and partner in the fledgling enterprise, but it has become increasingly clear to them that, even though e-cigarettes are a new phenomenon, the market is booming.
Less than a year ago, Elias was a 29-year-old working in information technology when his friend told him about “vaping,” a way to consume nicotine without smoke and without tobacco. The friend had tried the mainstream e-cigarettes like Blu and NJoy but told Elias neither helped him with his smoking habit until he tried a rechargeable vaporizer.
The vaporizer heats up vaporizer juice until it’s a vapor. The liquid has nicotine, two forms of glycol to help the nicotine vaporize, and flavoring.
The idea to open a store didn’t occur to him at first. He asked a now-competitor for more information, and he said they ignored him. So he bought 100 bottles of juice and sold them out of his house last March. Once those sold out, he bought even more.
By June he had a decent business distributing and wholesaling juice out of his house when he bought a space in Herndon to sell retail.
“I never expected it to blow up,” Elias told ARLnow.com in the back room of his Arlington location, which he opened in late October. “At first it was a part-time job. It’s still a learning experience.”
Now Elias operates two stores, is preparing to open another in Rockville, Md., but admits he’s not a huge fan of all the work that has come with the territory. He is, however, enthusiastic about his product. Vaporizers help two-pack-a-day smokers quit entirely, he says, and that’s where about 90 percent of his business comes from.
“I’ve seen guys who haven’t touched a cigarette in months,” he said. “People try other things and they don’t work, so they keep coming back.”
My Vapez carries close to 80 flavors and a handful of different vaporizers, which Elias says are incredibly difficult to keep in stock. One of the vaporizers, which are also called “mods,” sold out before it even arrived in store, thanks to My Vapez’s active Instagram and Facebook following.
“It’s so customizable, they even have Hello Kitty tips,” Bienlein said.
Elias says vaporizer stores like his “are on every corner in California,” but his is the first of its kind in Arlington.
One customer was going to India for a year and bought 30 boxes of juice, Elias said. Another drove all the way from Delaware for a particular mod and flavor. Even though most potential customers are just learning that these products exist, Elias is already proving his doubters wrong. The owner of the grocery store next to My Vapez’s Herndon location was originally one of those doubters, predicting that they would go out of business.
“He told me ‘you’re wasting your time,’” Elias said. “Now his outside wall is lined with e-cigarettes.”
Work to Begin Soon on Bergmann’s Development — Developer McCaffery Interests is planning to begin demolition work soon on the former Bergmann’s dry cleaning plant, at the corner of Lee Highway and N. Vietch Street. Workers could be seen surveying the building last week. On the site, McCaffrey will build a mixed-use development now called “Verde Pointe.” The project, which was approved in 2012, includes 177 apartments, 23 townhomes and a 14,000 square foot MOM’s Organic Market grocery store. [Washington Business Journal]
Opower Files for IPO — Courthouse-based energy efficiency company Opower has filed for an initial public stock offering. The company has nearly 500 employees across 5 offices worldwide. It was founded in 2007. President Obama visited the company’s Courthouse headquarters in 2010. [Wall Street Journal]
Bar to Host ‘Condoms and Candy Necklace Party’ — In honor of Valentine’s Day, Wilson Tavern in Courthouse (2403 Wilson Blvd) will be hosting a “Condoms & Candy Necklace Party” tomorrow (Friday) from 8:00 p.m. to close. [Clarendon Nights]
Updated at 3:10 p.m. — Westbound Lee Highway will remain closed during the evening rush hour between N. Buchanan Street and N. Columbus Street as crews continue water main repairs. Seek alternate routes if possible.
The westbound lanes of Lee Highway are shut down near Glebe Road due to a reported water main break.
We’re told that both westbound lanes of Lee Highway are closed between N. Columbus and Buchanan Streets, just west of Glebe Road. Eastbound lanes remain open. Repairs are expected to take the better part of the day.
Businesses in the area are being impacted by the water main break.
“Businesses along Lee Hwy between N. Culpeper St and N. Glebe Rd will be without water for up to 5 hours as repairs are underway,” Arlington County said.
One possible detour for drivers would be to go north on Glebe Road, turn left on 25th Street N., then left on George Mason Drive, before returning to Lee Highway.
Image via Google Maps
A boat fell off its trailer on Lee Highway in Cherrydale Saturday evening, requiring a 40-ton crane and several hours to remove it from the roadway.
The boat belongs to Tom McNulty, a Yorktown resident who took his 16-foot Bayliner power boat out on the Potomac to enjoy the unseasonably warm weather on Saturday. Driving back on Lee Highway, McNulty said he hit a big bump in front of the Dunkin Donuts at 3520 Lee Highway.
“We weren’t going fast, maybe 27 or 30 mph,” McNulty told ARLnow.com today. “We hit the bump and the trailer doesn’t have any suspension. We felt it slide, slowed down, and that’s when it drifted into the right lane and hit a street light.”
McNulty said multiple safety chains and other securing mechanisms snapped, allowing the boat to come completely off the trailer. Once it hit the pavement, it slid down the road “about 100 feet,” McNulty said, leaving fiberglass residue all over the pavement.
The incident happened around 4:45 p.m. McNulty said it took about three hours for the crane — which was called in after a flatbed tow truck operator took one look at the boat and realized he could not tow it — to finally lift it and take it to a yard, where it now sits awaiting an insurance claims adjuster.
“My brother was the one who called it in, and the 911 dispatcher thought we said a bird in a road,” McNulty said. “I’m sure dispatch thought some idiot called in a bird in the road, so when they sent a squad car they realized what was actually happening.”
McNulty said there’s only superficial damage to the boat, but said this isn’t the first time he’s had problems keeping his boat out of harm’s way.
“A tree fell on my first boat,” he said. “During the derecho storm last year. This massive tree just came right down on it. I’m getting my pilot’s license next year so I hope I have better luck with planes.”
The Arlington County Board is expected to approve easement acquisitions to the northwest and southwest corners of the intersection at its meeting Saturday, which will allow the county to widen sidewalks and install bus shelters at the intersection.
The easement acquisition is the first step of wide-scale improvements coming to the intersection. Construction is expected to begin sometime in 2014, but there is no timeline yet, according to county Department of Environment Services spokeswoman Jennifer Heilman.
Among the changes coming to the intersection will be the installation of left-turn lanes on N. Glebe Road, four new bus shelters, and a new commercial entrance into the Rite Aid shopping center between Glebe Road and N. Albemarle Street. There will also be new streetlights, crosswalk markings and traffic signals installed.
The project is 50 percent designed and funded in partnership with the Virginia Department of Transportation.
Photo via Google Maps
With the stated goal of “a more economically vibrant, walkable, attractive Lee Highway corridor — one that benefits neighborhoods and the business community,” representatives from the civic associations have already met with the Arlington County Planning Commission for guidance, according to representatives of the Waverly Hills Civic Association.
Along with Waverly Hills, East Falls Church, John M. Langston, Glebewood, Yorktown, Leeway Overlee, Old Dominion, Donaldson Run, Cherrydale, Maywood, and Lyon Village have also joined what the group is calling the “Lee Highway Grassroots Re-visioning.”
Waverly Hills Civic Association President Ginger Brown says the group hasn’t discussed specifics on what the future Lee Highway should look like, calling these first months since the group formed in February “the educational phase,” which includes meetings with the county’s planning staff.
Among the issues the group will be examining and presenting to staff and, they hope, the County Board, will be land use planning and zoning, housing, transportation and parking, demographic trends, tax increment financing and transferable development rights.
“It is anticipated that the new vision will be sent — in early 2015 — to the Arlington County Manager’s office with a request that the County Board appoint and fund a Task Force,” Brown wrote in an email. “Its purpose would be to formally develop a Lee Highway Sector Plan that guides future rezoning and development applications.”
(Updated at 4:45 p.m.) A Little Caesar’s franchise is expected to open near the intersection of Lee Highway and N. George Mason Drive before the end of 2013.
The pizza shop, at 5175 Lee Highway, will be the only Little Caesar’s location in Arlington, according to Little Caesar’s spokesman Gray Reynolds. Little Caesar’s has one location in Alexandria and three in Fairfax County. The space was formerly occupied by Sana Jewelers.
There is already a Little Caesar’s banner on the roof of the storefront and a “Now Hiring” sign on the window. The owner of the Garden City Shopping Center — the strip mall in which the future Little Caesar’s is located — was approved for an interior alteration building permit Sept. 24.
Hat tip to Jim Sweetman
A new restaurant specializing in food from Bangladesh opened its doors today at 5169 Lee Highway.
Aladdin, in the Garden City Shopping Center near the Yorktown neighborhood, opened for lunch today with a limited menu, owner Harun Rashid said. He is planning a grand opening on Sept. 1.
Rashid and his wife, Shiuli, opened their first restaurant in 1994 in New York City. After a few years there, they moved to Atlanta, then to Rockville. They sold their restaurant in Maryland and signed their lease in Arlington in May.
He didn’t initially plan to have a soft opening before Sept. 1, but he said many of his Bangladeshi friends “were getting frustrated” that they couldn’t eat at the restaurant yet.
“We’re eager to see the local crowds,” Rashid said. “Most of our customers are American and have our lunch buffet. They love it here. In Georgia, they just go to Waffle House, Waffle House, Waffle House all the time and don’t try anything else.”
The buffet is open from noon to 3 p.m. and costs $9, Rashid said. Aladdin’s specialty, however, is the Kachi Biryani, a slow-cooked, lamb delicacy they only serve on Saturday that customers need to call and order in advance. Rashid said he already has an order for five dishes from an former Maryland customer this Saturday.
“We think we make the most authentic Biryani,” he said. “It takes six hours in total to make, and we won’t reheat it. It’s a very expensive, very tender meat, and a very unique cooking process.”
Bengali food is very similar to Indian food, Rashid said, but there are subtle differences in its texture and spice. Rashid’s two children were sitting quietly in the restaurant Thursday morning when he spoke to ARLnow.com. He emphasized that it’s a family-owned and operated establishment and he hopes to build ties to the area.
“I’m very proud to be part of the Bangladeshi community here,” Rashid said.
A car flipped on its roof on the eastbound lanes of Lee Highway this afternoon, sending at least one person to the hospital.
The accident happened between N. Nash and Quinn Streets, near Rosslyn, around 3:30 p.m. today (Friday). The late model Toyota Corolla somehow overturned, coming to rest in the left-hand lane of the three-lane thoroughfare.
One person was transported from the scene in an ambulance while police closed the two left lanes. A Bergmann’s Cleaning truck remained on scene while its driver gave statements to Arlington County police officers. It’s unclear whether the truck was involved in the accident or if the driver was being interviewed as a witness.
The car lost its right rear wheel in the crash, and the area around its left rear tire was stripped of paint in the accident.
A new hookah lounge and restaurant is coming to Lee Highway, perhaps as soon as this summer.
Cloud Lounge is planning to open at 2525 Lee Highway, in the basement of Burger 7 restaurant. A sign is up in the adjacent parking lot and its owner, who owns both Burger 7 and Cloud Lounge, told us in a brief phone call that he’s hoping to open this summer.
A construction permit for the lounge, first issued in February 2011, indicates that it will seat 53 people. We’re told the restaurant will serve Middle Eastern cuisine, as well as Illy coffee, chocolates and other desserts.
The lounge will also offer cigars, thanks to a walk-in humidor, and hookahs. Alcoholic beverages will not be offered, we’re told.
The interior of Cloud Lounge, meanwhile, will have a unique look, according to the restaurant’s website.
“The distressed aged space is dressed and accessorized with semi modern Baroque designed furniture,” the site says. “When such style of furniture is mixed with modern & vibrant color upholstery, the results are one of a kind.”
Photo via cloudlounge.co
This weekend, the Arlington County Board is expected to consider a plan to build a new hotel on the former Colony House furniture site at 1700 Lee Highway.
The hotel is slated to be branded as a Hilton Homewood Suites. Developer B.F. Saul plans for the hotel to be 8 stories tall, with 168 rooms and 102 parking spaces.
“Due to the extreme topography of the site, which rises 20-50 feet in elevation from the northern to the southern property line, the two levels of parking are at grade and visible along Lee Highway and at the corner of North Quinn Street,” Arlington County staff wrote in a report to the County Board.
The staff report anticipates “marginal” increases in traffic at nearby intersections after the hotel opens, with no additional traffic delays expected. The hotel is roughly a half mile from the Rosslyn and Courthouse Metro stations.
The County Board is set to consider the project at its Saturday meeting. If the Board approves a rezoning and site plan for the hotel, developers hope to have it built and open at some point in 2014.
(Updated at 12:50 p.m.) Police and firefighters responded to a two-alarm house fire this morning on the 2300 block of N. Dinwiddie Street, near the intersection of Lee Highway.
The two-story house was fully engulfed in flames when rescuers arrived.
At least two people are reported to be hurt, and were transported via ambulance to a local burn center. Drew Lofton, a witness, says one woman jumped to safety from a second story window, at the encouragement of neighbors who rushed to the house after spotting the smoke and flames. A third resident was rescued from the basement.
Samantha Pozo tells ARLnow.com that she was in the basement of the house and was rescued, along with her two pet ferrets, by a firefighter. The basement was filling with smoke and she was still on the phone with a 911 operator when a firefighter found her and escorted her to safety.
“He came to me and he said to go,” Pozo said. “He took my ferrets and we just got out of there.”
Pozo, who was uninjured, says the fire started suddenly.
“I heard an explosion from the kitchen, I believe,” she said. “Then I saw fire and smoke outside my door.”
According to Pozo, a student at Northern Virginia Community College, six women live in the house. Her roommate downstairs was at school at the time of the fire.
Police shut down westbound Lee Highway at Glebe Road and several neighborhood street for more than two hours due to the large fire response.
Heat from the fire melted the siding on an adjacent house, and caused damage to the side of another adjacent house.
The incident happened at the intersection of Lee Highway and N. Veitch Street just before 9:00 a.m. Via a traffic camera, it appears that the pedestrians were attempting to cross Lee Highway on the western side of the intersection when they were struck near the center median.
One of the victims suffered a head injury, while the other suffered a possible back injury, according to scanner traffic. Both victims’ injuries are described as relatively minor.
At about 9:15 a.m., a tree fell on power lines along Lorcom Lane, in the area of N. Jackson Street, causing several transformers to blow. That knocked out power to 3,827 customers, according to Dominion. Power was restored by noon, the company said.
Shortly after that outage was reported, another began.
“Around the same time we had another outage involving a tree on a power line in nearby northern Arlington,” Dominion spokeswoman Daisy Pridgen told ARLnow.com. “It affected 2,455 customers. Power was restored in two hours and 25 minutes.”
Traffic lights were reported dark on busy Lee Highway near I-66 as a result of the outages.
(Updated at 2:30 p.m.) A car has plowed into the front of a Pizza Hut restaurant on Lee Highway.
Arlington County police and firefighters responded to the Lee Centre shops on the 3300 block of Lee Highway just before 1:00 p.m. for a report of a car into a building. Upon arrival, they found a Honda Fit hatchback that had driven through the front door of the Pizza Hut. Half of the car was in the restaurant, stopped only by the order counter.
The 86-year-old female driver was extricated from the car by firefighters, according to Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck. She suffered no visible injuries but was taken to a local hospital for evaluation.
Amazingly, even though it was lunch time, there were no customers inside the store at the time of the accident. Four employees were inside at the time, according to police, but nobody was hurt.
The car was removed from the building by a tow truck around 1:30 p.m. An Arlington County building inspector has determined that there is no structural damage to the building, but the restaurant will be boarded up until its front facade can be repaired.
Photo courtesy @CAPT258