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by Anna Merod February 23, 2018 at 3:20 pm 0

At a ceremony in Arlington Thursday evening, ten students graduated from La Cocina, a bilingual culinary school for the unemployed or underemployed.

The culinary job training program holds classes for 12 weeks. The students then complete a four week paid internship at different hotels and restaurants.

The majority of students, 85 percent, graduate with a job at a local restaurant or hotel. Employers of program graduates include Washington’s Sfoglina restaurant, National Harbor’s MGM Casino and supermarket chain Wegmans. La Cocina has a partnership with 30 businesses, which take on program graduates.

Current La Cocina students are all Latino immigrants from across Central and South America. The program is hoping to soon expand its student body to include refugees, military veterans, and non-Latino immigrants.

This graduation marks almost 100 program graduates over 11 graduating classes since its inception in 2014. Patricia Funegra, La Cocina’s founder and CEO, was inspired after volunteering in 2012 at DC Central Kitchen, which trains low-income people for cooking careers.

“I just fell in love with the model and how the program was transforming lives, but at the same time I thought, ‘Oh my god Latinos are already in kitchens and they are not receiving this training,” said Funegra.

The graduates receive three certificates degrees after completing the program —  in culinary arts workforce development from Northern Virginia Community College, in food safety from the National Restaurant Association, and in food allergy prevention.

Students walked into their graduation ceremony at Ballston’s Mount Olivet Methodist Church to Pharrell’s “Happy” before listening to speeches that touched on the importance of hard work and perseverance.

“It wasn’t easy for you to get here,” said Daniela Hurtado, La Cocina’s program manager. “Each of you had a goal, each of you had a vision, and you gave it your best.”

One graduate, Jose Cordova, originally from Peru, shared his experience at La Cocina during the ceremony.

“Standing up every morning and coming here was hard,” he said. “But we [did not] give excuses and we are not to give it now nor ever.”

For Cordova, who will be working at Crystal City’s Hyatt Regency hotel, the classroom became his home and the professors were like family.

Another graduate, Luisa Gil, who was born in Honduras but immigrated to the United States nine months ago, feels very connected to the other students in the program. She told ARLnow.com that she’s excited to start a new challenge as a Sfoglina chef.

“Everyday I have to learn many, many things. I have to be at the same level as my coworkers, improving my skills and learning or discovering new ingredients and techniques,” Gil said.

The ceremony concluded with a reception of American, Mexican and Peruvian food made by the 12th class in the program. Throughout the program, as food is prepared and graded, it is boxed up and donated to shelters and affordable housing units.

“It’s kind of a circle of sustainability using those resources to feed our neighbors in need,” said Funegra.

by Bridget Reed Morawski February 23, 2018 at 10:45 am 0

When James Sampson was 14, a few of his friends were hit with the red ring of death — the notorious Xbox problem that devastated gamers globally. Instead of buying new devices, they turned to Sampson — who soldered some of the wiring in the devices, along with some other tinkering, and brought them back to life.

He saved his friends hundreds of dollars, and his only training was a few hours spent watching YouTube video tutorials.

“It became a lot of people calling me asking me to fix their cell phones, laptops, just any device they had,” said Sampson. He began referring people to an actual electronic repair business — until he realized that the shop was making a lot of money.

The now 23-year-old has now gone into business himself, opening up Wireless Rxx last week at 2340 Columbia Pike. Sampson works alongside longtime electronics repairman Mario Vasquez, who has been in business for about 26 years. Sampson does the microelectronic repairs and soldering while Vasquez focuses on more traditional electronic appliances.

The pair complement each other technically and linguistically; the Chilean-born Sampson’s first language was Spanish, so he’s able to help the many nearby Spanish-speaking customers and Vasquez as he assists English-speaking clients.

By the end of the first week, Wireless Rxx made back their $700 rent without any marketing or advertising — and without the planned “old retro vibe” interior design changes, including new neon signs and flooring. The building itself, which Sampson calls “old and tattered,” stands out from the luxury mixed-use development across the street.

Wireless Rxx saw around 27 customers, and earned around $1,700 in the first week, with many flat-screen television repairs, laptop fixes, and cell phones that needed to be unlocked — though Sampson runs serial numbers and other phone identification numbers to make sure that he isn’t unlocking a stolen phone.

While many Arlingtonians might be excited to get a new phone and toss their older model, many low-income residents are finding value in the service, Sampson said, as they are able to pay significantly less for what is in most cases a relatively minor fix instead of buying an entirely new product or waiting weeks for a manufacturer repair.

“It’s a mix of what the market economy put up,” said the young entrepreneur. “You either have to wait for your fix — because if you break your phone and you go to Apple, it can be a $200 or $300 price tag — or if you take it here, it can be under $100.”

He has friends who are either recent immigrants or on college scholarships with less money to spare. They’ll go to Sampson with their younger sister’s iPads and $20 or $30, looking for a repair. It helps them maintain a decent standard of living without spending money that they don’t have for a brand new device, he said.

Sampson buys dead devices from customers, which he either fixes, sells, or recycles responsibly with a certified e-recycling company. Most electronic components aren’t safe for general trash collection.

He stressed the importance of proper electronic recycling, noting the dangerous chemicals in lithium batteries, which are found in many electronic devices. Poking one can result in chemical burns.

“If something’s broke, you can still fix it. You can still put maybe a third of the device’s [cost] into fixing it, and it’ll be a working device as opposed to buying a new one,” said Sampson. “Especially in our society right now, we just throw things away.”

by Bridget Reed Morawski February 22, 2018 at 10:10 am 0

A 10,000 square foot Ulta Beauty location is set to open its doors at Pentagon Row later this week.

The opening of the 1101 S. Joyce Street location is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Friday, February 23. The store “will feature 20,000 beauty products across 500 brands, as well as a full-service salon.”

The first 100 shoppers on Friday, Saturday and Sunday will be given beauty products and makeovers. Gift recipients will be given a “beauty treat” valued between $5 and $100, and can choose between a discounted first hair or facial appointment voucher at the in-store salon or skincare bar.

Ulta Beauty currently runs 1,058 locations across the country, according to a company press release.

by Bridget Reed Morawski February 21, 2018 at 3:45 pm 0

Several signs are up at The Lot, Clarendon’s first outdoor beer garden, but not much else.

Work on The Lot was originally supposed to end last summer, but it is now expected to finish up at some point later this year.

It will replace the now-defunct Prime Auto Group car lot at 3217 10th Street N., which still had signs up earlier Wednesday.

According to a pending Virginia ABC license application, The Lot intends to sell wine and beer and have a seating capacity of over 150. An enclosed deck will be built, as well as a small kitchen.

by Anna Merod February 20, 2018 at 5:30 pm 0

The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles opened online voting today for a license plate design contest intended to help combat distracted driving.

Voters in the Take Action Against Distraction contest have a choice between eight license plate designs created by Virginia high school students. Each license plate aims to raise awareness about distracted driving, whether it be by texting or drivers failing to keep their eyes on the road.

In 2016, distracted driving caused thousands of crashes and claimed 175 lives in Virginia, according to one report.

Voting will be open through March 20, and the winner will be awarded $1,000, courtesy of AAA Mid-Atlantic, the contest’s co-sponsor. Users can vote once every 24 hours.

“We’re so proud of the winners and their excellent license plate designs,” said Martha Meade, spokeswoman for AAA Mid-Atlantic, in a press release. “AAA Mid-Atlantic is proud to partner with DMV for this effort to bring distracted driving issues to the forefront.”

by Anna Merod February 20, 2018 at 4:15 pm 0

Last week, a Post-it note conversation emerged between two office buildings in Rosslyn. Since then, the communication has become even more elaborate.

Occupants began moving in a few weeks ago at the new CEB office tower at Central Place, which is across the street from the office of Innovative Discovery, a legal services company.

Turner Richmond, an intern at Innovative Discovery, said his office’s first contact with the CEB building was on Feb. 2, when his office posted up a drawing of a monkey holding a bitcoin on a whiteboard. Later, employees in the CEB building responded with “hey” in Post-it notes, and the conversation was on.

Here’s a chronology:

  • Innovative Discovery put up a drawing of an alien on a whiteboard, in reference to the 1997 science fiction film Contact
  • Another office in Innovative Discovery’s building then wrote “5 o’ clock yet” in Post-it notes, prompting “sum where” from the opposite building. Innovative Discovery then wrote “over the” with a picture of a rainbow in Post-its.
  • When Valentine’s Day came around (on a Wednesday), Innovative Discovery wrote “Happy [Hump] Day,” with a camel in between “happy” and “day.” The opposite building replied “Yes, no?” with hearts, to which Innovative Discovery said in post-its, “Maybe? We just met…”
  • CEB wrote “Have a good weekend” and “TGIF.”
  • Later that same night CEB also wrote the flirty “U up?” message (seen above, to the right of the camel).
  • On Friday, in celebration of the Lunar New Year, Innovative Discovery also wrote “Happy New Year” with an image of a dog.
  • Innovative Discovery also posted a picture of an 8-bit Mario from Super Mario Brothers, using multiple Post-it note colors.

No word yet on how long the Post-it chat will continue.

Photos courtesy Turner Richmond

by Bridget Reed Morawski February 20, 2018 at 3:00 pm 0

A D.C. taxicab drove onto the Custis Trail yesterday and the incident was caught on video.

The taxi was seen driving onto the bike path Monday afternoon near the MOM’s Organic Market on Lee Highway. A passerby saw it happen and ran to make sure the driver, who was apparently lost, was able to safely get off the trail and back onto the road.

“I followed him right away to make sure he backs up,” said Wael Salha, who also took the video.

Salha says that he frequently uses the path and believes that a narrower trailhead and more car-blocking bollards could have prevented the driver from mistakenly turning onto the path.

“I always use that trail and I was really worried,” he said, adding that he’s not trying to get the driver in trouble.

“I hope that this will not affect the driver’s job,” he said. “This is not my intention, I was only concerned about the people’s safety and [want] more precaution on the county’s end.”

A V.I.P. Cab Company phone operator was unable to connect ARLnow.com to the driver with partial plate numbers, but was able to confirm that all cab drivers with V.I.P. are required to use G.P.S. while driving passengers. The operator added that normally the cab company stays within Washington, so the driver was in unfamiliar territory.

Photo (bottom) via Google Maps

by Bridget Reed Morawski February 20, 2018 at 12:45 pm 0

Arlington Agenda is a listing of interesting events for the week ahead in Arlington County. If you’d like to see your event featured, fill out the event submission form.

Also, be sure to check out our event calendar.

 Tuesday, Feb. 20

Optimal Physical Therapy Open House*
Optimal Physical Therapy (1700 N. Moore Street)
Time: 4-7 p.m.

Meet with physical therapists, enjoy light refreshments, and tour the new Optimal Physical Therapy location at the Rosslyn Metro Center building.

Pet Dental Care 101
Aurora Hills Library (735 18th Street S.)
Time: 5-6 p.m.

Clarendon Animal Care presents an pet oral health lesson. It’s national pet dental health month, so now is as good as ever to learn how to take care of your cat’s bad breath.

Toastmasters Open House
Asahi Restaraunt (2250 Clarendon Boulevard)
Time: 7-8:30 p.m.

An evening dedicated to the organization focused on improving public speaking and leadership skills, where interested potential toastmasters can ask questions and learn more over dinner.

Wednesday, Feb. 21

Introduction to Python
Arlington Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street)
Time: 6:30-8:30 p.m.

Learn the Python programming language for free with this beginner’s course aimed at introducing debugging and other software programming fundamentals. Registration is required.

Arlington Committee of 100: Opioid Crisis Conversation*
Marymount University – Phelan Hall (2807 N. Glebe Road)
Time: 7 p.m.

A dinner conversation focused on addressing the opioid crisis’ causes and effects in Arlington, and what the community and officials can do to stop the epidemic. Dinner is $28 for members, $30 otherwise.

 Thursday, Feb. 22

Pups & Pints*
Latitude Apartments (3601 Fairfax Drive)
Time: 6-8 p.m.

Latitude Apartments presents a free happy hour for you and your puppies, with snacks, drinks, and socializing for all. Be sure to check out the puppy photo booth!

Right Proper Beer and Donuts Night at Sugar Shack
Sugar Shack Donuts & Coffee (1014 S. Glebe Road)
Time: 4:30-9:30 p.m.

Right Proper Brewing brings several of their beers — including their cherry-aged Cheree Berliner-Weissenborn — to the donut shop for an evening of beer pairings, paninis, and pastries.

Black Music Matters
Aurora Hills Library (735 18th Street S.)
Time: 7-8 p.m.

Celebrate Black History Month with Katea Stitt, the program director at WPFW-FM 89.3, as she examines black music’s evolution and the impact it has had on social justice initiatives.

 Friday, Feb. 23

Creative Coffee: Ink Washes
Connection: Crystal City (2100 Crystal Drive)
Time: 11 a.m.-12 p.m.

A casual weekly creative meet-up for artists to experiment and improve their work in a social setting. Bring your own materials to this adult-friendly gathering.

St. Agnes Soup Supper*
St. Agnes Catholic Church (1910 N. Randolph Street)
Time: 5:30-7 p.m.

The church will offer meatless soups and a noodle dish, and more every Friday during the Lenten holiday. Guests are invited to stay for confession and the stations of the cross afterwards.

Val Kilmer: Cinema Twain
Arlington Drafthouse (2903 Columbia Pike)
Time: 7:30 p.m.

Actor and Director Val Kilmer, of Top Gun and Batman Forever, presents a screening on his one-man show, Citizen Twain. Tickets from $30-$75. Through February 24.

Saturday, Feb. 24

Poetry Reading: Douglass & Waters
One More Page Books (2200 N. Westmoreland Street)
Time: 7-8 p.m.

Two award-winning poets — M. Scott Douglass and Jesse Waters, come to the bookstore to read from their books as well as other collections.

Urban Agriculture: Plan & Prepare Your Vegetable Garden
Westover Library (1644 N. McKinley Road)
Time: 10:30 a.m.-12 p.m.

Learn how to bring some gardening techniques to your balcony, roof deck, or larger urban space with the latest installment in the library’s urban agriculture series. This month’s topic will be planning and preparing a vegetable garden. Reservations requested.

Sunday, Feb. 25

A Diana Peterfreund Conversation: Omega City Trilogy
One More Page Books (2200 N. Westmoreland Street)
Time: 3-4 p.m.

Author Diana Peterfreund discusses the final installment of her tween intergalactic adventure series, Omega City. Peterfreund has penned over ten novels for adults, kids, and everyone in between.

* Denotes featured (sponsored) event

by ARLnow.com February 19, 2018 at 11:00 am 0

(Updated at 11:45 a.m) Darna Restaurant and Lounge in Virginia Square has been ordered temporarily closed by the county building inspector.

A recent inspection of the nightclub at 946 N. Jackson Street “revealed that there were numerous violations of the Building, Fire, Zoning and Environmental Health codes, affecting the health, safety and welfare of the public,” according to county staff.

A bright orange sticker on the door of the lounge warns that “this structure is unfit for habitation.” A separate sign says “Darna Lounge will be closed for repairs to our sprinkler system.”

Detour Coffee, on the first floor of the building, was open as of Monday morning.

The Arlington County Board is expected to review Darna’s live entertainment and dancing permit at its upcoming February meeting, a month ahead of schedule. Among the likely topics of conversation are the building inspection findings and complaints about noise.

“During the last County Board review in October 2017, staff received correspondence from a neighboring citizen with concerns about loud music during and after the hours of live entertainment and dancing,” a county staff report notes. “Several calls to the police for noise and other complaints were identified during the last County Board review.”

Darna has been open for about six years, and has since expanded, adding an open air patio on the second floor.

Hat tip to Chris Slatt

by Bridget Reed Morawski February 16, 2018 at 2:45 pm 0

A new Indian restaurant, Urban Tandoor, is one step closer to opening its doors as it hangs it sign at the Ballston space.

There still isn’t a posted opening date, though construction has been ongoing since at least September 2017. The restaurant, at 801 N. Quincy Street, will replace a series of eateries, like Republic Kitchen & Bar and Leek American Bistro, which have closed in recent years.

The owner, Rajeev Mainali, told ARLnow.com in September 2017 that the food will primarily be Indian, with some subtle differences to “cater to the young crowd.” He called the expanding neighborhood an opportunity to expand the ethnic food options along the corridor. The restaurant, sitting at the intersection of N. Quincy Street and Wilson Boulevard, is directly across from a Bruegger’s Bagels, a Taylor Gourmet, and the recently opened &pizza.

“The area is growing so fast, we feel like it has been underserved as far as restaurants go,” Mainali told ARLnow.com. “We feel like there are not enough good restaurants there. There are some, but not enough to serve the growing clientele there.”

The restaurant will have 95 seats inside, and an outdoor patio will have the capacity to host another 40 guests. The windows are mainly covered in sheets of paper, but a peek through a side window that had not been taped up revealed several chandeliers and dangling, glass lighting fixtures.

by ARLnow.com February 16, 2018 at 10:45 am 0

Damn Good Burger Co. is planning to open tonight in Shirlington, employees said.

The sister restaurant to Ballston’s Big Buns burger shop, Damn Good Burger served some of its first customers Wednesday and Thursday nights as part of a soft opening. As of midnight last night, the restaurant was closed but employees were still working on the finishing touches inside.

Located in the former Johnny Rockets space, Damn Good Burger will serve burgers, shakes and craft beer, among other offerings. The eatery is scheduled to open at 5:30 p.m. tonight (Friday).

by Anna Merod February 16, 2018 at 10:15 am 0

Demolition is underway on an old office building in Courthouse.

The demolition of the building at 2000 Clarendon Blvd will allow the construction of a new, 15-floor condominium tower. The 18,380 sq. ft. site will also feature ground-level retail and a garage fitting 112 parking spaces.

The site is currently fenced off while the building is torn down.

Photo (third) courtesy @721tv

by Bridget Reed Morawski February 15, 2018 at 1:45 pm 0

Update at 4:30 p.m. — Reese Gardner, the owner of Dudley’s Sport & Ale and Copperwood Tavern, reached out to ARL now after deadline. The sports bar has a revised projected opening time frame of between May and June 1 this year.

“We’re putting in a steel rooftop with 300 some people on top of a structure never designed to have a rooftop,” said Gardner. “There’s a whole lot of things that go into it.”

An updated construction schedule will be posted soon on the Facebook page, and Gardner says that he believes that they have completed all of the special inspections that were holding them back from opening.

“We’re back in there working, and we think that that is the last hoop that we have to jump through,” said Gardner.

Earlier: Shirlington is still waiting for its sports bar.

Dudley’s Sport & Ale, a sports bar planned for Shirlington, originally had an opening date for set for early 2016. Fast forward to February 2018 and, following numerous delays, the bar — which bills itself as “Est. 2015” — is still under construction.

Replacing the former The Bungalow Sports Grill at 2766 S. Arlington Mills Drive, which closed in June 2015, Dudley’s is bringing a 3,000 square foot rooftop space to Shirlington, the neighborhood’s first such rooftop bar.

According to Dudley’s Facebook page, the owners received a permit to continue construction on the rooftop deck last year. Another post stated that the bar had passed two of six necessary county special inspections.

Calls and emails to Dudley’s and its sister restaurants were not returned.


by Anna Merod February 15, 2018 at 12:45 pm 0

 

One smiley face made of Post-it notes turned into a conversation between the occupants of two Rosslyn office buildings in this week.

Allison Krumsiek, a government contractor, said her office has considered making contact with the office across the street — the new CEB office tower at Central Place — ever since people began moving into the space a few weeks ago.

Before the new office moved in, Krumsiek said she and her coworkers had a straight-on view of construction workers putting the building together. Then on Monday, people in the new office placed a Post-it smiley face on their window, and the intra-office communication was on.

“So we thought time was perfect to respond! We put up the ‘Hi!’ And when another floor of their building responded with ‘Hey’, we added ‘Welcome!'” wrote Krumsiek in an email.

After that Krumsiek said she heard another floor in her building put up “5 o’clock yet” to which the opposite building responded “sum where.”

“As you can tell from the picture, they had to use at least 3 colors of Post-it. Those things last forever when on your desk but go in a heartbeat when sending messages on windows,” Krumsiek added.

Photos courtesy of Allison Krumsiek

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