ATR’s permit renewal request was pulled from the Board’s “consent agenda” for non-controversial items by County Board member Mary Hynes. It was instead heard individually on Tuesday, giving Hynes, a nearby resident, a chance to inquire about a couple of noise complaints she had received from her Lyon Village neighbors.
The Board was assured by an ATR manager that the bar has addressed the noise issue and that it in fact doesn’t host any live entertainment anymore — instead it’s seeking to hang on to the permit “just in case.” That was enough assurance for Board, which took little additional time to approve the routine renewal request.
While it won the battle, it’s unclear if ATR in Clarendon will win the war. Restaurant and commercial real estate industry sources have told ARLnow.com that American Tap Room has been seeking a buyer to take over its lease.
We’re told that the company pays more than $650,000 per year in rent for the Clarendon location, which has not enjoyed the same level of success as its locations in Bethesda and Reston. The latter two locations are “crushing it” and the company may simply be looking to focus on more profitable ventures, a source says.
However, everything seemed business as usual with the ATR manager who spoke at the County Board meeting. He gave no hints of any possible changes to come.
Responding to an inquiry sent to a media representative, an ATR manager contacted ARLnow.com last week. The manager said the Clarendon location is not closing, but declined to speak on the record and sought assurances that an ARLnow.com editor was not recording the call.
American Tap Room opened its Clarendon location in 2011.
The Arlington County Board will discuss a proposed update to the 2001 Retail Action Plan, which covered the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor. The update expands the plan’s footprint to the Crystal City and Columbia Pike corridors, includes recommendations to improve the county’s retail environment and asks the Board to change regulation to allow for retail growth.
“This is a big deal and this has taken a long time to work through,” County Manager Barbara Donnellan told the Board. “This is a report that will guide us for many years to come on how we’re going to move forward. Retail will succeed where it can thrive.”
The Virginia Department of Taxation reported more than $2 billion in retail and food and beverage sales in Arlington last year, but the opportunity is there for much more local retail spending, the plan states.
“The estimated demand for retail and food and beverage is in excess of $4.7 billion dollars,” the report states, citing data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Expenditure Surveys. “With a demand greater than sales, Arlington is considered to have a leakage of retail opportunity — customers must travel outside of Arlington to purchase many goods and services — in most broad retail categories.”
Among the key recommendations are developing design guidelines to make “retail look like retail,” developing a specific retail map to guide which kinds of retail businesses should go where — encouraging clustering of specific types of retail to draw in more customers — and encouraging public art and accessibility.
Stores should be encouraged to design their exteriors creatively, the plan says, and to “design storefronts for three miles an hour (pedestrian speed) rather than 35 miles per hour (vehicular speed).” That’s a bit of a departure from years past, when retail signage rules were more stringent in Arlington, discouraging retailers from standing out too much. For interior design, the plan advocates for higher ceilings on the ground floor of buildings and to ” to allow for maximum flexibility and use of the space.”
The draft plan also recommends softening regulations on food trucks and other mobile vendors. It says “vending zones” are under consideration in Rosslyn, Courthouse and Ballston, which would allow food trucks to park for more than two hours at a time.
“With social media and serial followers, vending can help pull customers into different areas,” the plan says. “Establishing vending zones, to allow trucks to vend for longer than two hours or for alternative hours, can help prime an area that is not quite ready for retail or can attract people to other uses — parks, cultural venues or other businesses.”
Grocery stores are seen as a key component of Arlington’s retail plan, as they serve as anchors for retail districts. The plan generally lauds the Arlington County Board for its flexibility in approving grocery stores, including most recently the store planned at 1401 Wilson Blvd, whenever the property is redeveloped. However, it says the term “grocery store” should be more clearly defined for administrative purposes. “The policy should clearly articulate how and when incentives or mechanisms to support the construction of a grocery store are applied,” according to the plan.
Many of the actions the plan suggests include amending the county’s Zoning Ordinance and special exception policies to factor in broader retail goals. It’s those changes that gave some of the County Board members pause and led them to schedule a work session in January, before the plan is up for a vote in February.
Placing behind Arlington, in order, was: Madison, Wisc.; Lincoln, Neb.; Minneapolis, Minn.; Denver, Colo.; Seattle, Wash.; and Austin, Texas. Washington, D.C. ranked No. 14.
“Arlington, Virginia, is the best city for young entrepreneurs with a high percentage of educated young people, the highest per capita income in the nation and access to businesses in the Washington, D.C., area,” the website wrote. ” Nearly 28% of the city’s residents are 25 to 34 years old, and at least 74% of all residents over 25 hold a bachelor’s degree or higher — both of these figures are the highest in the nation”
Don Tito is likely to open in the 10,000 square foot space at 3165 Wilson Blvd by early March, according to Scott Parker, one of the establishment’s five partners. Construction is expected to start as soon as next week.
The restaurant will feature “flex Mex” cuisine — Mexican dishes plus traditional American fare with a “Mexican twist” — but the emphasis will be more on the aforementioned beer and tequila. A bar will be added to what is now a dining area on the second floor, and a second bar will be added to the center of the rooftop.
The partners in Don Tito are Parker, Nick Cordero and Mike Cordero — the owners of the popular but oft-maligned A-Town Bar and Grill in Ballston — plus newcomers Ryan DeMagistris and Jason Fisher. All five are Arlington residents, Parker said.
The Cordero crew is on a roll since closing the financially-sound but stagnant Caribbean Breeze and reopening as A-Town in 2012. In addition to purchasing Eventide — for a sum just shy of $1 million, sources say – the company has also secured a 6,000 square foot space in Rosslyn for a bar/restaurant that’s expected to open in the fall of 2015, Parker tells ARLnow.com.
Parker declined to reveal additional information about the future Rosslyn watering hole, including its exact location.
The Eventide purchase will give its owners two big advantages, according to those with knowledge of the transaction. For one, the sublease offers five years of well below-market rent. For another, it offers a prime location in a Clarendon business district that’s well established as a nightlife spot — as opposed to A-Town’s location, where condo-owning neighbors have railed against late night noise.
Don Tito will remain open until 2:00 a.m. seven nights per week, according to Parker.
Parker said the partners were able to buy Eventide despite stiff competition from other restaurant owners, both local and national. The concept for Don Tito has been in the works for some time now, he said, and 3165 Wilson Blvd was judged the ideal place for it to open. In 2013, a Northern Virginia Magazine article about the opening of another Cordero restaurant, Flat Iron Steak & Saloon in Alexandria, described a planned Arlington venture that was then dubbed “Tacos and Beer.”
The owners of Eventide spent a reported $3 million constructing the restaurant, which opened in 2008. Parker said changes are necessary to “liven up the space and give it a little spark,” including renovations to the second floor which is “looking a bit too much like a monastery or something.”
Parker said he thinks Don Tito will compare favorably to what he described as an overabundance of American-style bars and restaurants in Clarendon. As for more direct competition, like nearby Mexicali Blues and Fuego Cocina, Parker said he and his partners are not too worried.
“Fuego is an incredible venue and we’ve been there many times,” he said. “Fuego is a great Mexican restaurant, [Don Tito] will be a great Mexican bar.”
New Incubator to Launch in Crystal City — Eastern Foundry, a new incubator serving small businesses that contract with the federal government, is launching next month in Crystal City. Eastern Foundry joins two other recent startup-oriented additions to Crystal City: TechShop and the Crystal Tech Fund. [Washington Business Journal]
Rosslyn Planning Meeting — The county will share “preliminary Concept Plan Alternatives” as part of its Western Rosslyn Area Planning Study at a public workshop on Saturday. The study is, among other things, considering redevelopment possibilities for the Wilson School and Fire Station No. 10 property on Wilson Blvd. [Arlington County]
Glen Campbell Movie Screening in Ballston – A special screening of the Glen Campbell documentary I’ll Be Me will be held at the Regal Cinema in Ballston (671 N. Glebe Road) on Saturday. The documentary explores the music legend’s battle with Alzheimer’s disease. [Volunteers of America]
Tips for Car-Free Living in Arlington — Arlington’s transportation blog has seven tips for living car-free in Arlington. Tips include shopping at local stores, downloading the right transportation-related smartphone apps and borrowing a car when you need one. [Arlington County]
Photo courtesy Andrew Clegg
Bangkok 54′s grocery store has reopened, nine months after a fire tore through the business and forced it to shut down.
The market is connected to the Bangkok 54 Thai restaurant at 2919 Columbia Pike, which was able to open the day after the Dec. 12 fire. Owner Bundit Sookmee said the fire, which was concentrated in the front of the store, forced him to spend eight months rebuilding and restocking the store, which specializes in Asian grocery products.
“Everything was gone,” he told ARLnow.com today. “The ceiling fell down, there was water everywhere. You couldn’t even walk in here. We had to throw everything away.”
The market reopened three weeks ago, Sookmee said, largely unchanged, aside from a different layout of refrigerators and shelving. One change that could be coming soon: a 15-20 seat cafe serving fast meals like Thai noodle soup for customers in a hurry. The new cafe would be connected to the market, not the Thai restaurant, and Sookmee is currently applying for county permits in hopes of opening soon.
Buses to Use I-66 Shoulder – Buses will be allowed to use the shoulder lane on I-66 inside the Beltway during heavy traffic, starting next month. VDOT is launching the program as a way to relieve some congestion and improve the on-time performance of bus routes that utilize the traffic-choked corridor. [Washington Post]
Parkmobile Now Available in Courthouse, Rosslyn — Arlington County has completed the implementation of the Parkmobile parking payment system for the Courthouse and Rosslyn neighborhoods, ahead of schedule. [Twitter]
KickStarter Launches for ‘Wearable’ Project — A Kickstarter fundraising campaign has started for a local startup company featured on ARLnow.com last month. OnYou is planning to produce a wearable compression sleeve and carbon case for smartphones. Worn primarily during workouts, the product uses powerful magnets to attach the phone and case to the sleeve. The product was designed by a former professional poker player and prototyped here in Arlington. [Kickstarter]
Elliot in the Morning Halloween Bash Returns — DC 101′s Elliot in the Morning will be back in Arlington for the show’s annual Halloween bash. The costume party will be held starting at 8:00 p.m. on Halloween — Friday, Oct. 31 — at Clarendon Ballroom. A $3,000 grand prize is being offered for best costume. [Clarendon Nights]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
Becca Premo is likely Arlington’s only clothing maker who specializes exclusively in baby shoes.
Premo, 25, runs The Bashful Elephant, an online baby moccasin seller through the website Etsy. Premo has been selling “baby mocs,” as she calls them, on Etsy since March.
Premo moved to Arlington when her husband got a job in the D.C. area, but she had already set the wheels in motion for her new career path, designing patterns and styles in the Windy City. She had been studying psychology at Roosevelt University when the artistic side of her started to get restless.
“My parents encouraged me to pick a practical career path, so I picked psychology and stifled my creative self,” she told ARLnow.com over coffee at Cosi in Rosslyn. “I felt like I was in a box.”
Premo started to look for ways to express herself and turn it into a business. Sewing and crafts “have always been in my family,” the Chicago area native said, so she decided to make shoes. Baby shoes were a natural choice, since less material makes it cheaper to get started.
“It’s easier to make baby sizes,” she said, “and you can be more creative. You can make a bright pink shoe with bows and people love it.”
It took her months to get an array of patterns and designs she was happy with, she said. Even though making the shoes is “super user-friendly,” she admitted she was nervous to actually hit the market.
“I was scared to start for a long time,” she said. “I felt I needed to present it as a serious business, but I found out people want a personal touch. They want to know your story.”
Once Premo launched the store, she got immediate interest and drew a following on Instagram, where she says she attracts a majority of her customers.
More than six months in, she offers shoes for newborns up to size 7, which she says is approximately for toddlers 2-and-a-half years old. Because her customer base is constantly growing, she said she’s considering growing along with it; she is looking into purchasing rubber soles and making bigger shoes.
“There’s a huge market for people who are willing to spend,” she said. “Lots of people have a lot of money, and they would rather spend it on their children than on themselves.”
While she was making her point, a male stranger walked by and asked about the dozen or so shoes laid out on the table. He was a new father, and just like that, Premo’s point was made, and she had another customer.
“I’ve never gotten any negative feedback, thank goodness,” she said. “When you put yourself out there, people see you’re just a girl trying to do something, and they really latch onto that.”
World Trade Center Pieces Transported – An Arlington resident snapped a photo of the convoy on I-395 that way carrying pieces of the World Trade Center to the Marine Corps Museum in Triangle, Va. [Twitter]
Women in Business Conference — The Arlington County Commission on the Status of Women will be holding its third annual Women in Business Conference this week. The conference, to be held Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at the NRECA conference center in Ballston, will highlight women in non-traditional fields. ABC 7′s Maureen Bunyan will host. [Arlington County]
Football and Open House Attendance — Do Washington Redskins games impact attendance at Sunday open houses? The Sun Gazette posed that question to 18 realtors — most said “yes” or “sometimes.” [InsideNova]
Knightsbridge Trading Company, one of just a handful of small business retail shops in Clarendon, is celebrating its one year anniversary this weekend.
From noon to 4:00 p.m., customers and passersby can walk into the shop at 2871 Clarendon Blvd and enjoy free wine, cheese, tea and hors d’oeuvres, according to shop owner Murat Etili. The celebration comes after a year he says met his expectations when he opened his shop with national retailers like Crate & Barrel, Pottery Barn and Orvis all just steps from his doors.
“The first year is always where you build your business and pay your dues,” Etili said. “We’ve been extremely well-received. We’re a family business and we’re local, so people seem to appreciate that.”
The shop offers a wide array of gifts and knick knacks, with a consistently changing selection “at surprisingly attractive prices,” it says on its website.
Etili, a graduate of Washington-Lee High School, closed Knightsbridge’s other location in Rockville last year when its building was demolished, but plans to reopen in the same spot when the new development is complete. Until then, Clarendon will be Knightsbridge’s only location.
Despite some criticism for his business model when he first opened, Etili said the people who have come into the shop have been nothing but positive.
“When I was negotiating for the space, there were a few chains ahead of me and I didn’t think I was going to get it,” Etili said. “People have loved it. They were saying there was a huge need, and they were happy it was not another huge chain.”
Arlington Fighting to Keep, Attract Office Tenants – In the wake of federal cuts and BRAC relocations, Arlington’s office vacancy rate is now as high as 23 percent. Arlington is reportedly fighting to keep the Courthouse-based energy software firm Opower, “which is considering a move to the District to better recruit talent.” Meanwhile, Rosslyn property owner Monday Properties is still searching for a tenant for its new, gleaming 1812 N. Moore Street office tower. [Washington Post]
New Spa Coming to Clarendon — Sterling-based Origins Thai Spa is planning on opening a new location in Arlington. The spa will be located in a 5,000 square foot space next to Sehkraft Beer Garden on the ground floor of the Garfield Park apartment building at 925 N. Garfield Street. [Washington Business Journal]
County Recognizes ‘Outstanding Landscapes’ — The Arlington County Board has recognized four properties “for the quality of their landscaping and the serenity they bring to their neighborhoods.” The properties include Circa restaurant in Clarendon, the Clarendon Square office building, the Avalon Arlington North apartment building on N. Glebe Road, and the Whitmore apartment building on Columbia Pike. [Arlington County]
Trade Roots (5852 Washington Blvd) in Westover has expanded with a new cafe.
The fair trade store recently renovated and opened the cafe, which serves fair trade coffee, tea and baked goods from two local bakeries: LeoNora Gourmet and Vera’s Bakery. Owner Lisa Ostroff, who’s preparing to celebrate two years in business next month, says the cafe will help the store serve the community and boost foot traffic.
“The store has received a warm response from customers throughout Northern Virginia, and we wanted to make Trade Roots even more of a gathering space for the neighborhood,” she said.
The Trade Roots cafe will offer a “cup club” whereby frequent customers can bring in fair trade mug and have it hung on the wall, to be used during their next visit. The club will reduce the cafe’s use of paper products, Ostroff said.
Trade Roots carries a variety of goods — including jewelry, clothes and home goods — that are eco-friendly, sustainable and produced by artisans for a fair wage.
Photo via Trade Roots, Facebook
Thanks to a reduction in noise complaints, County Manager Barbara Donnellan has recommended the Board approve renewal of A-Town’s permit, with another county staff review in three months and another Board review in six months.
“Residents in the community have stated to staff that the site plan condition, which restrict the permitted hours the outdoor cafe can be in use, has significantly cut down on noise-related disturbances,” the county staff’s board report states. “However, disturbances related to overcrowding and over-serving of alcohol still have a negative impact on adjacent properties.”
County staff specifically mentioned an incident during the World Cup final on the afternoon of July 13, when the restaurant was found to be over capacity by “at least 100 people” and Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control agents “found a truck, parked on the patio, dispensing champagne to the crowd without the proper licenses to do so.”
The County Board last approved the permit’s renewal three months ago, with conditions on limiting the times at which patrons can be on the outdoor patio. The restaurant also planned to install “theater-style curtains” on the patio to reduce noise after the Board’s December use permit review, which saw several residents of the surrounding area complain about the noise the bar was generating. However, A-Town opted to simply close the patio area early instead of putting in the curtains.
A-Town is still waiting for the results of a Virginia ABC Board hearing for a February incident in which, at an employee-only party, police say one man slashed another with a broken beer bottle in the face and neck.
County staff said A-Town gets more police calls than any other “liquor-serving establishment,” with or without live entertainment, in the Ballston area. It also “continues to have issues with compliance with local and state laws and regulations.” The situation has improved since the June decision to close the outdoor café at midnight on Fridays and Saturdays and even earlier during the week, but the County Board could still revoke the live entertainment permit at its meeting this Saturday.
Wakefield High School student Amelia Semprebon could win $2,500 in a national entrepreneurship contest for her “cookies on a stick.”
Semprebon won first place in the D.C. region in the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship Elevator Pitch program, and is one of 36 national finalists for the $2,500 prize. The prize money can be used either as a scholarship or seed funding for the business.
Semprebon’s business, Millie Pops, was in second place in the online voting as of Tuesday evening.
Reliant Asset Management has 9 employees working from its headquarters at 2900 S. Quincy Street — behind Carlyle restaurant — and last year reported $85.1 million in revenue. That’s up from $153,125 in 2010, when it was founded, for a whopping 55,460 percent three-year growth rate.
Also known by the acronym RAM, the company rents modular housing, offices and classrooms to oil companies, hospitals, schools and other entities. Housing for oil field workers in remote parts of Texas, North Dakota and Canada accounts for about two-thirds of its business, according to Barry Roman, who co-founded the company with his brother, Michael.
“We’re very excited about it… it’s thrilling to be No. 3,” Barry Roman told ARLnow.com. “Since the first two were in El Segundo, California, we can say we’re the fastest growing company east of El Segundo.”
Roman said the company is currently helping to house nearly 4,000 oil workers, in temporary facilities that include 24-hour kitchens, gyms and entertainment options, plus integrated security and transportation infrastructure.
“It’s a self-enclosed town,” Roman said. “These oil companies are looking for oil in very remote locations and they want their workers to be well taken care of. There’s not much around.”
Roman said the company has been able to manage its stratospheric growth thanks to good planning and strategic outsourcing of functions like catering, transporation and security.
“We recognized it as a very fast-growing market so we went at it hard,” he said. The company currently has about 150 employees — most of whom are outside of Arlington — and plans to continue hiring and growing.
Roman said RAM’s headquarters is likely to remain in Shirlington, which was chosen due to its proximity to the highway, Reagan National Airport, downtown D.C., and the founders’ homes.
“We love it… it’s a great place to be,” Roman said. “It’s a Class A office building at a good rate and it’s very convenient. It’s a good place to attract employees… everyone can find it and it’s easy to get to.”
RAM has not received any sort of plaque from Inc. in recognition of the honor, but Roman said it did receive a copy of the magazine in the mail.
Other Arlington-based companies cracking the top 1,000 of the Inc. 5000 list include:
- American Wireless (No. 232) — “Provides carrier-agnostic contract and prepaid wireless plans and devices”
- Heartland Energy Partners (No. 256) — “Helps clients develop and manage programs and assets in the fields of energy and environment, IT, infrastructure protection, and health care”
- Fonteva (No. 286) — “Provides enterprise resource protocol and development tools on the Salesforce.com platform”
- R3 Government Solutions (No. 530) — “Provides large-scale program management, process improvement, and workforce management services to federal clients”
- Opower (No. 635) — “Combines a cloud-based platform, big data, and behavioral science to help utilities around the world reduce energy consumption”
- Kitewire (No. 901) — “Develops mobile device management software for government and private sector clients”