The following feature article was written by Buzz McClain, a writer and communications professional who lives in Arlington. It was funded by our new Patreon community. Want to see more articles like this, exploring important local topics that don’t make our usual news coverage? Join and help fund additional local journalism in Arlington.
A feral cat is a cat that lives in the wild without human intervention, and Arlington has plenty of them.
Along with coyotes, foxes, rabbits — so many rabbits — turtles, snakes, and other fauna that share the county with humans, feral cats have established “colonies” throughout Arlington, some of which date back for generations.
At any given time there are some 200 to 250 feral cats in Arlington, with colonies ranging in size from two to three cats to more than a dozen. There seems to be a concentration of colonies around Columbia Pike and Carlin Springs Road and in the Nauck neighborhood, according to Anna Barrett, an animal services coordinator with the Animal Welfare League of Arlington, the private nonprofit organization that provides shelter and animal control services in the county.
Feral cats are easy to spot, she said. For one, they are unapproachable, so if they see you first, chances are they’ll run and hide. You can’t lure them to your hand or into a trap, not even with food. “They’re more like wildlife than a domestic cat,” she said.
They also may have a section of an ear removed. A clipped ear, Barrett said, is an indication that the cat has been trapped, neutered, inoculated for rabies and distemper, “ear-tipped” to indicate treatment, and returned to where it was found as part of the AWLA program of the same name: Trap-Neuter-Return. (See here for the feral cat program page of the AWLA website.)
AWLA personnel do not do the trapping, and they don’t accept feral cats as strays for adoption — they are not safe for the staff to handle. Feral cats cannot be domesticated, and handling them may lead to injury, to humans as well as cats.
But feral cat colony “caretakers,” and the occasional determined resident, manage to bring them in. That’s when the AWLA staff does the T-N-R and ear clip service. The feral cat colony caretaker who brought in the cat is responsible for returning them to where they were found, which is why it’s best for those unfamiliar with feral cat behavior to not even try.
In her eight years at the shelter, Barrett has seen a reduction in the feral cat population. “We feel the 200 to 250 number is greatly reduced from year’s past, in large part to the T-N-R program,” she said.
The T-N-R program, she added, “is not a perfect solution, but it goes with our humane approach to animals.”
The neutering would cost $300 to $400 per cat for a pet cat or kitten. The League pays for cats trapped in Arlington or in the City of Falls Church.
The cats, said Sandra M., choose her and not the other way around. And it’s been that way for going on eight years.
After her own cat died in 2010, an “outdoor” Siamese cat tentatively approached her at her home in South Arlington and Sandra M., a cat lover, fed it. (She would rather we did not use her full name or specify which neighborhood she lives in, for reasons that will become obvious.)
The cat was healthy but clearly did not have a home, nor did it seem to crave human companionship other than the occasional meal. Eight years later, the cat still comes for regular feeding but little else, along with some eight other cats.
They do not go into her house. Instead, they live nearby in the wild in what is known as a feral cat colony, one of many in Arlington, some of which date back for decades.
Sandra M. is a feral cat colony caretaker, an unofficial title given to a select few by the AWLA. But not everyone is enamored with having feral cats in their neighborhoods. Sandra M. reports several of her charges have been mistreated after being captured. Kittens and older cats have been poisoned.
“That’s something I just don’t understand,” she said. “I don’t understand why a human would do that.”
For Sandra M., the cat colony is a blessing. “They rescued me,” she said. “They’re like little children to me.”
If you see a cat you think is feral, Anna Barrett suggests contacting the AWLA office to report it. A feral cat colony caretaker may be able to have the cat serviced in the Trap-Neuter-Release program. Questions may be directed at [email protected] or by calling 703-931-9241, ext. 200.
The patio is open!
Fire Works American Pizzeria and Bar in the Courthouse neighborhood is a wonderfully warm place to while away a meal during the frigid months, but when spring finally arrived, so did the opening of the patio.
“I think we have one of the biggest patios in Arlington,” says Jason Silerto, the general manager of the eatery. “And this year, it’s completely dog friendly.”
In fact, Silerto and the restaurant management team has reinvented the patio, which was already a neighborhood favorite, by changing up the menu, redesigning the layout and adding more convenient outdoor beverage service.
Fire Works is now entering its eighth year in business which readers will know is a remarkable run in a region full of fickle diners. The key, Silerto suggests, is its consistent high quality in every aspect of the business.
That quality extends throughout the Fire Works family of restaurants, including Leesburg landmark Tuskie’s, the sandwich bakery South Street Under and events-oriented Birkby House, as well as Purcellville’s upscale Magnolias.
While Silerto would like you take a look at the Other Side of the Menu (the non-pizza side we wrote about last October; find it here), a dinnertime visitor can’t help but notice the copious amounts of pizza being marched out of the kitchen and into the dining room and patio.
The famous (some would say infamous) wood-fired crust boast a delightful savory char that some mistake for over-cooked. It is not, and it is delicious. The crust serves as a crispy thin bed for toppings ranging from Bakers farm sausage and grana padano to white sauce with shrimp and clams.
For those looking for the fare on the Other Side of the Menu, there is more traditional bar fare in wings, burgers and salads. Those co-exist with chef Thomas Harvey’s adventurous offerings — from from flank steak to wild caught salmon to an entrée sandwich of grilled gouda, goat and gruyere slathered with that tomato jam, among many other choices — and the enormous craft beer selection.
Ingredients are sourced from the closest purveyors possible, including fertile farms in Leesburg and Purcellville but also CommonWealth Joe Nitro Brewed Coffee from the neighborhood.
“We just believe in quality, and people like to see that,” Silerto says.
Fire Works American Pizzeria and Bar is at 2350 Clarendon Boulevard. The website is here for booking a table or call 703-527-8700 for reservations or to enquire about a private room and catering. The preceding was written by Buzz McClain and sponsored by Fire Works.
When Ashlee Trempus was studying to be an American Sign Language interpreter, she found herself frustrated with the lack of access to deaf individuals with whom to practice.
She turned this frustration into inspiration and set out on a path to build a platform to address this problem. But not being a developer, she knew right away she would need a partner who could help turn her idea into reality.
Which is exactly what Arlington-based Ideas2Excecutables does. Walking Trempus through the software development process, Ben Simon used her vision and direction to help her realize her goal of creating a virtual language immersion program to connect those learning sign language with deaf “Ambassadors.” Now SignOn is an award-winning web-based application that is connecting the hearing and deaf communities.
“We have been helping entrepreneurs like Ashlee, as well as larger organizations, take their software ideas from the back of a napkin to reality for over 10 years,” says Simon who runs the company with his wife, Shira. “We’ve written software powering a wide variety of ideas, including designing custom features for a leading tech blog, medical imaging software and visitation software for correctional facilities. That one was really interesting.”
Clients come to the Simons with questions, lots of questions, which is how they like it, particularly with local clients. “We love sitting down with customers to work through their concept in real time,” he says. “Rather than go back and forth over email, we can be much more productive over a cup of tea and a bagel.”
“Being able to meet face-to-face increases the success of your project,” he said. “Regardless of what you want to build in the software development space, communication is king, and nothing beats in person meetings to get the specific nuances of your idea exactly right.”
If you’ve been pondering any of the following, send an email or give them a call today ([email protected] ; (703) 688-3084):
- I have an idea for software, where should I start?
- Should I use pre-built software or build custom?
- How do I protect my idea and keep it from getting stolen?
- I have an idea to help my business run smoother, is that something you can help with?
- I’m considering outsourcing my project overseas? What do I need to consider?
Ideas2Executables offers free consultations.
A mere 90 minutes due west of Arlington is another world, another landscape with a seriously laid-back attitude and decidedly far better scenery.
Hard as it is to believe, but a fast 40-or-so miles away from your harsh hustle and bustle are the sprawling pastures of Sunset Hills Vineyard and 50 West Vineyards, two working farms with breathtaking views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and serving award-winning wines grown among five regional vineyards.
But it’s winter! Even better: The cozy tasting rooms at the vineyards are open year-round, with people who know their wines gladly pouring the fruits of the growing season’s labor for visitors who are exploring the countryside.
A late afternoon at Sunset Hills Vineyard introduces visitors to three of their award-winning wines — the 2016 Viognier and the 2013 Mosaic Bordeaux Blend — as well as the mountain-view sunset the grounds are named for.
“Our Sunset Hills property runs primarily off of solar power and have more than 200 solar panels throughout the grounds,” said Emily Peters, marketing manager for the properties. “Solar power runs our wine production facility, which is why we say we ‘turn sunshine into wine.'”
Sunset Hills, which turns 10 years old this year, is an Old World-style farm, with a historic, restored Amish barn in Purcellville. The website with directions, hours and available wine selection is here.
50 West, operating from a converted horse stable perched on a bluff overlooking the Bull Run Mountains, specializes in classic French Bordeaux-style reds and whites.
50 West Vineyards is on the outskirts of historic Middleburg, in Aldie. The website with directions, hours and available wines is here.
To maximize your day, you can take in both vineyards in one afternoon. They’re about 30 minutes of countryside scenery apart.
As an ARLnow.com reader bonus, there is an offer of half-price tastings plus 20 percent off bottles. Register here to receive this limited-time discount.
Both vineyards use 100 percent Virginia grapes, and both brands are active in local philanthropic efforts, Peters added. Among the nonprofits supported are the Sweet Julia Grace Foundation, Loudoun County Hunger Relief and Boulder Crest Retreat. Last October the vineyards donated nearly $20,000 to the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins.
For more information on 50 West Vineyards and Sunset Hills Vineyards, send an email via this page.
The preceding post was written by ARLnow.com and sponsored by 50 West Vineyards and Sunset Hills Vineyards.
After year-and-a-half of dramatic improvements, the 56-year-old Barcroft Plaza Shopping Center is ready for its close-up.
Federal Realty, which has owned the 115,000-square-foot center since 2007, invested several million dollars and considerable expertise to bring the centrally located plaza at 6345 Columbia Pike in Falls Church up-to-date, with modern design detailing and an improved tenant mix that includes a new Glory Days Grill.
“Federal Realty is proud to own and invest in our local community,” said Kari Glinksi, director of asset management for Federal Realty. “The scope of the improvements go beyond the superficial. Not only have we elevated the standard of design for the center but we’ve also enriched the customer experience.”
Among the changes: Old canopies, signs and storefronts have been replaced with new facades boasting modern architectural details; improved lighting for safety and appeal; new signage above and below the canopy; and fresh landscaping that adds new energy to the plaza.
There’s now an outdoor patio at the Starbucks, new pavement on the parking lot (plus 19 additional parking places) and new attention to detail at the nearby 7-11, which Federal Realty purchased in 2016 in an effort to maintain a standard for the entire plaza.
But all of this is likely to be overshadowed, at least for now, by the grand opening of the Glory Days Grill on January 17. There are innumerable reasons why the Fairfax-based local chain of family sports grills has won state and local Restaurant Neighbor Awards from the National Restaurant Association 13 times since 2003, in addition to dozens of other awards (see them listed here). Newcomers to the full-service restaurant will quickly become fans.
The 20 shops, restaurants and services of Barcroft Plaza, including the Harris Teeter supermarket and a Bank of America branch, have a new look, new energy and a new tenant that will continue to add excitement to the community for years to come.
Barcroft Plaza Shopping Center is at 6345 Columbia Pike in Falls Church. There are leasing opportunities of 1,500-to-3,900 square feet for interested tenants. The website is here. This article was written by ARLnow.com and sponsored by Federal Realty Investment Trust.
Craftmark Homes has opened sales of their luxury townhomes at Chantilly’s The Preserves at Westfields for delivery in early 2018. Priced from the upper $500s, these contemporary homes in the Dulles Technology Corridor are walkable to shopping, dining, & transportation options, and are close to recreation facilities and Wegmans.
These townhomes truly live like single family homes. With nine-foot ceilings, hardwood floors on the main living level and up-to-the-minute built-in technology, Craftmark’s townhomes boast up to four bedrooms, three to four full and one half baths, and one- to two-car garages.
They also feature one of the most sought-after amenities: Wooded private backyards. And with rooftop terraces and optional decks that provide extra outdoor living space, residents will be able to entertain and enjoy the seasons.
Need more space for your household? These homes are selling quickly, so book an appointment soon.
The Preserves at Westfields on-site sales trailer is open daily from 11 a.m.-5 p.m at 4900 Stonecroft Blvd., Chantilly, VA 20151. Please contact Bethany Stewart at (703) 214-6661 for more details.
Beatriz Sampaio came to the U.S. from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1985 after studying at a university there. After less than a year in the states, she and a friend-turned-business-partner acquired a house-cleaning company based in Arlington. The previous owner was looking to leave the business, and handed over the keys to Beatriz and her partner.
In the last 32 years Beatriz has seen the residential and commercial cleaning industry evolve. And over those years her own company, simply called A Cleaning Service, has evolved as well.
A Cleaning Service has been providing high-quality, competitively priced and diligently performed cleaning to residences and businesses in the Arlington and Washington, D.C., area for more than three decades. It’s a business that Beatriz has devoted her life to, but it was never her first idea.
Beatriz had no experience running a business but was eager to take on the challenge. She said she learned by working and watching.
“I was so young then, and so fresh,” Beatriz said. “I had the knack for it. I was born to be an entrepreneur.”
Part of that knack was having a competitive instinct and a flair for leadership. She empowers her more than 50 employees and gives them opportunities to grow. “I guide them so they can succeed,” she said. “We work as a team and work together. Some have been with me all 32 years.”
Their quality has been recognized as an Angie’s List Super Service Award Winner (2011-2016).
A Cleaning Service is independently owned and operated and is deliberately not a franchise. “I like being my own boss and I like being competitive,” Beatriz said. “And I’m very creative.”
In what spare time she has she enjoys listening to jazz and classical music, playing classical guitar, painting and solving math problems.
To reach Beatriz Sampaio to schedule service or arrange for an estimate, call 703-892-8648. See their website here.
After seven years, Fire Works American Pizzeria and Bar has gotten pretty good at the pizza side of the menu. What’s not to like? The wood-fired crust with the delightful savory char is the crispy thin bed for toppings ranging from Bakers farm sausage and grana padano to white sauce with shrimp and clams.
But in case you haven’t noticed, there’s another side to the menu. “That’s actually what we call it,” says Jason Silerto, the general manager of the Courthouse restaurant. “The Other Side of the Menu…We’re pretty confident that our pizza stands up to pretty much any place in the DC market,” he says. “But I think it’s time we reminded people we’re more than pizza.”
Regulars who frequent Fire Works are familiar with the pizza, the enormous patio and the pioneering craft beer selection, but less known–but just as demanding of attention–is Thomas Harvey, the chef Fire Works landed a little more than a year ago to bring attention to the Other Side of the Menu.
“It was a big step to bring him to Arlington,” Silerto says, mentioning Harvey’s experience working in the kitchens of Fabio Trabocchi (Casa Luca), Frank Ruta (Palena) and master butcher Nathan Anda (The Partisan). “But after seven years, we thought we could do a little more to bring in other folks looking for something besides pizza.”
The Other Side of the Menu boasts an array of Contemporary Seasonal American concoctions designed to suit any mood. It begins with “Snack,” small plates of starters such as bacon fat French fries with chili flakes, herbs and tomato jam or goat cheese stuffed lamb meatballs in tomato sauce; to “Bite,” more substantial offerings including, new this season, fire braised beef short ribs with local red corn grits or mussels in spice fra diavolo sauce; to “Feast,” satisfying portions of mainstays ranging from flank steak to wild caught salmon to an entrée sandwich of grilled gouda, goat and gruyere slathered with that tomato jam.
For those looking for more traditional bar fare, fear not: wings, burgers and salads co-exist with Harvey’s adventurous offerings and the enormous craft beer selection.
Ingredients are sourced from the closest purveyors possible, including fertile farms in Leesburg and Purcellville but also CommonWealth Joe Nitro Brewed Coffee from the neighborhood.
“We just believe in quality, and people like to see that,” Silerto says.
That quality extends throughout the Fire Works family of restaurants, including Leesburg landmark Tuskie’s, the sandwich bakery South Street Under and events-oriented Birkby House as well as Purcellville’s upscale Magnolias.
For those fixated on the Pizza Side of the Menu–and who can blame you?–the answer to the question is oak. That’s the wood that gets the stone-bottom oven to 600 degrees and provides the thin crust the smoky charm that has kept the crowds coming back to Courthouse’s largest patio for seven years.
Speaking of the patio, look for a new layout and new furnishings next spring.
There is a private dining room for holiday occasions that seats 35 (more if standing). Now is the time to book for the holidays. See here for information.
And here’s a scoop: Fire Works is going into the catering business. Plans are being finalized this month. Stay tuned.
Fire Works American Pizzeria and Bar is at 2350 Clarendon Boulevard. The website is here for booking a table or call 703-527-8700 for reservations.
Editor’s Note: Playboy founder Hugh Hefner died last night at the age of 91. Arlington resident Buzz McClain, a writer and communications professional, was a regular contributor to Playboy for two decades. Below, McClain shares a brief recollection of his time at Playboy.
From 1992 to 2012 I did a monthly home entertainment column on the movie pages of Playboy. I would review several B-movies or direct-to-tape (later, direct-to-disc) films, with the occasional A-list movie.
There are few bigger thrills than getting your first paycheck with an embossed “bunny head” on it signed by Hugh Hefner’s daughter, Christie. (Hef led the way in empowering women; his daughter was chairman and CEO of Playboy Enterprises. His considerable philanthropy for women’s rights and free speech is largely unnoticed, and he liked it that way.)
Hef was probably the world’s biggest movie fan, with his every-Wednesday night screenings of new movies at the Mansion for his close friends and buying one of each of just about every film that became available at retail. And he watched them! No pressure on the critics, right?
Only once in 20 years did he change the “bunny head rating” on a review of mine, bumping up “Superbad” (2007) from 3 to 3.5 bunny heads. I’m OK with that.
Somewhere in the house I have an autographed copy of “Hef’s Little Black Book” he sent for my birthday. I was hoping it was his personal phone book (ahem), but it turns out it was his rules for living a full and meaningful life. No doubt that was the better option.
“But I found that living in a city apartment without a hose at my disposal made that difficult,” he says. “It was hard to keep my baby clean.”
That’s when it dawned on him that the car washing business was ready for a disruptor, an internet-based service that would essentially deliver a car washing service the way ride-hailing apps deliver rides.
Fishman and partner Dinko Badic launched WashMyCar, LLC, last summer. Car owners schedule their washes via a superbly friction-less web-based application or an old-fashioned phone call an hour or two before they want the service.
Car washes start at $22 for an exterior hand wash.
“We spend a minimum of 50 minutes on a hand wash,” Fishman says. “But we’ll spend up to three hours if a customer orders a full slate of the services we offer.”
That includes tire shines ($8), interior cleaning ($45) and hand waxing ($32). Customers may also sign up for a subscription for scheduling the service at regular intervals.
“We describe our service as somewhere between a machine wash–which isn’t as safe as hand washing–and a full-on detailing service, but we’re far less expensive,” he said.
WashMyCar is not the usual service you get from the soap splashing teens raising money for their high school bands at the gas station. Fishman and Badic are serious about providing a quality service that earns high praise. “We have 100 percent positive customer feedback, and we want to keep it that way,” Fishman says.
Which is why they bring their own high-quality, proprietary equipment and cleansers and a better-than-average knowledge of factory-applied clear coat, base coat and primer and what works best when cleaning them.
Like Fishman when he was inspired to start WashMyCar, any Arlington residents live in dwellings that do not make outdoor hoses available for washing cars and trucks. Fishman and Badic solved that problem with what he calls “a two-bucket method” of washing.
“We use two to three gallons of water, which is very low water consumption for a car wash,” he says. “So it’s eco-friendly, which was important to us. There’s virtually no water run-off. And we don’t need a hose. It takes a little longer than if we used a hose, but it’s worth it.”
The car doesn’t have to be outdoors, even: WashMyCar can wash your car in a garage. And the vehicle owner does not need to be present at the time of the wash, unless they want interior cleaning, and even then if arrangements are made for opening the car, they don’t have to be there for that.
The preceding was a sponsored business profile written by Buzz McClain.
On a recent Friday, part-time landlord Steve Rose had 20 possible tenants anxious to see his newly available apartment. But instead of spending the day showing the property and taking information on the visitors, he turned to a new Arlington business to do it for him.
Leaseably, Rose said, “had everybody scheduled, gave me a summary of all the applicants, did the background checks on them all and made it well worth the money.”
For Rose, a self-employed businessman with three investment properties, Leaseably listing services saved him time, effort and possible aggravation in finding a new tenant.
Finding tenants is just one of the services Leaseably offers. Leaseably is an Internet-based virtual assistant — with a staff of property management experts and Realtors behind it — that handles the copious details of property management for landlords, from dealing with calls requesting home repairs to finding the qualified and licensed repairmen to make them.
“A lot of people don’t want to sell their homes in Arlington, they want to rent them for a profit–with a property management company that offers quality and transparent services,” said Miriam Bolanos, who founded the company with her sister Brenda.
Traditional property managers can charge anywhere from 8 percent to 15 percent of the monthly rent charged to a tenant. That’s a deep cut into a property owner’s pockets.
“That model has to change,” co-founder Brenda Bolanos said. “Leaseably helps landlords rent and manage their rental properties with ease and confidence at a reasonable price without any hidden fees.”
Property owners such as Rose have found Leaseably to be agreeably inexpensive. He pays $70 a month to Leaseably for rental property concierge services to answer the calls from his tenants, to send reminders to collect the rent on time, to coordinate repairs, to keep track of expenses and to handle the various transactions that naturally accompany a monthly money-making endeavor.
“In my experience, a property management company takes up to 10 percent,” he said. “Why would I pay 10 percent? I would do it myself, but for $70 a month, I’ll let Leaseably do it.”
Leaseably has several sensible management plans to accommodate the property owner’s own involvement, but all of it with timely, efficient and courteous service to the tenant and the landlord.
Rose’s bottom line on the bottom line, echoed by others: “It’s been great.”