(Updated, 9/30) Local landmark Green Valley Pharmacy is undergoing “extensive renovations” to reopen as a kabob and burger restaurant later this year, both the property and business owners confirmed to ARLnow.
Established in 1952, Green Valley Pharmacy was Arlington’s only pharmacy and lunch counter to serve the Black community during the Jim Crow era.
Muse, a graduate of Howard University School of Pharmacy, opened the business in the 1950s for Black customers who were often at the time not allowed to enter through the front door, if at all, at other Arlington pharmacies.
But in 2017, Muse died and the property deed was transferred over to his daughter, Jesse Al-Amin. The pharmacy has remained shuttered ever since, but that appears to be changing.
In August 2019, Al-Amin agreed to allow Arlingtonian Nasir Ahmad, who also owns establishments in Sterling and Fredericksburg, to rent the building and open a restaurant. Ahmad tells us he previously owned a business across the street from the pharmacy about 20 years ago.
The original thought was to have the building remain as a pharmacy, but there were too many complications with that plan, Al-Amin said, so renting out the building was a good alternative.
She currently lives in Georgia and didn’t want to sell the property.
“A lot of people wanted it,” she told ARLnow, “But I wanted to keep it as a memory of my father.”
It took nearly two years to get all the permits and approvals. Due to the historic nature of the building, all exterior alterations needed to be approved by the county’s Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board (HALRB). To date, according to Historic Preservation Program coordinator Cynthia Liccese-Torres, no recent applications for exterior alterations have been received by the board.
This past July, a Commercial Tenant Buildout permit was approved by Arlington County. The permit lists “Time Square Grill” as the business name, but Ahmad said that was just a placeholder. The business will be called “Halal Spot” and serve burgers, pizza, and kabobs.
Interior demolition and construction are already underway, as evident by the giant dumpster currently outside of the building. Ahmad anticipates that the restaurant will open prior to January 1, 2022.
He’s planning to keep pretty much the same layout, including putting the food counter in the same place as the pharmacy lunch counter, in homage to Muse.
“I want to match it up as much as I can,” he says. “For memory’s sake.”
The restaurant will also have a display honoring Doc Muse and the Green Valley Pharmacy, according to both Al-Amin and Ahmad, which they say is a better outcome than complete demolition or another business that wouldn’t acknowledge the building’s history.
“She didn’t want a big company, like a McDonald’s, to go there and destroy everything,” says Ahmad.
Hat tip to Dion Mitchell
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