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Rappahannock Coffee to close this month as another café prepares to move in

Rappahannock Coffee along Columbia Pike (staff photo by James Jarvis)

Rappahannock Coffee is set to close at the end of November, making way for a new café with a different name.

Located at 2406 Columbia Pike, the independent coffee shop first opened in May 2001, according to its website. Owner Gi Lee said that after two decades of brewing coffee, he is ready to retire.

“I’m too old,” Lee told ARLnow as he served a line of caffeine-deprived customers Tuesday morning.

While ARLnow could not confirm the exact last day of operation, Lee’s landlord, Yao Yao, said it would likely be in the final week of November.

The same week Rappahannock Coffee closes its doors, a new café plans to open under a different name, according to Yao.

“He’s gonna sell coffee and sandwiches… his plan is to start his business here as soon as possible,” Yao said.

Jose Lopez, the owner of the upcoming café, did not respond to requests for comment before our publication deadline.

A handful of other retail stores along Columbia Pike surround Rappahannock Coffee, including vape shop Thicker Cloudz and electronic repair shop Wireless Rxx.

At one point, the commercial strip that houses the businesses was slated to become a mixed-use development. Local developer B.M. Smith submitted plans to Arlington’s Historic Affairs and Landmark Review Board in 2013 and in 2020 the County Board approved a special use permit.

B.M. Smith sold the properties to Yao in 2020, he said. The new owner put the plans on hold in 2022, citing economic conditions.

Yao maintains that he has no plans to revive the mixed-use development proposal any time soon, citing high interest and construction costs.

“The business environment and the economy are not very conducive for to the new development at this time,” he said.

The new café will operate in the interim and will have big shoes to fill. Over its nearly two decades in business, Rappahannock Coffee built a loyal following that has kept it afloat despite competition from the Starbucks that opened in the Penrose Square development across the street in 2015.

For Rappahannock, its following comes down to its in-house roasts.

“Big corporate coffee shops can’t control the time between roasting and brewing, giving up on achieving true coffee flavor,” the website reads.

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