Arlington, VA

It’s hard to run a small business in Arlington, and Lyndsey DePalma of the former House of Steep knows the ups and downs as well as anyone.

Now, she’s making sure other business owners don’t make the same mistakes she made.

After DePalma sold her Lee Highway teahouse in 2017 — it permanently closed a year later — she took time off to reflect and spend time with her family. One day she had an epiphany: why not turn her experience into an opportunity to help others?

“I call myself a business sanity specialist,” DePalma said in an interview with ARLnow. “I look at people who are overwhelmed and see what we can do to make it better.”

After two years of writing, DePalma transformed her pile of business notes and personal reflections into a book called “READY: What To Expect When Starting a Business.” In addition to being sold online, the book will soon be on the bookshelves of local stores One More Page Books and Trade Roots, she said.

While the book is catered to business owners everywhere, DePalma understands starting up in Arlington comes with both unique hardships and positive value.

“Rent is expensive, sure, but when you rent in Arlington you’re also renting within a local community,” she said. “The county’s only 26 square miles — there’s a proximity and connectedness that makes this special.”

In 2011, DePalma knew her business idea for a “tea house and foot sanctuary” would be a hard sell.

“Everyone kept telling me, it’s too ‘West Coast’ for Arlington,” she said. “But I did it anyway.”

It took a year and a half to get the store off the ground, with multiple roadblocks such as zoning requirements and hiring certified staff.

“And then on opening day, we had things go wrong that we never would have imagined,” DePalma said. “We had a huge check-list, and I threw it out the door.”

DePalma credits much of her early success to a mentorship within the Arlington Economic Development’s BizLaunch program. BizLaunch is billed as a “small business and entrepreneurial assistance network” and a “one-stop-shop for everything you’ll need to know about starting or growing a business in Arlington.”

DePalma said small businesses should take advantages of opportunities to seek help whenever possible.

“There are still headaches [there], and I wish there was a focus on programs, but small businesses do need to know there are resources there,” she said.

After becoming pregnant with her second child, DePalma made the decision in the fall of 2017 to sell the businesses.

“My identity had been wrapped in this, and I loved every part of it,” she said. “It wasn’t easy.”

One last piece of advice?

“Make those relationships. Start them early,” she said. “That was the differentiator for me, I had time to really get to know the real estate brokers and bankers, and I had to figure out what people I clicked with, and that made the biggest difference.”

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ACPD Warns of Bike Thefts

Nearly 400 bicycles have been stolen so far this year in Arlington County. According to police, many of those thefts were preventable.

To help residents protect their bikes, the police department is asking cyclists to use a U-lock rather than chains or cables.

Police are also reminding bike owners that they present thieves with an easy target anytime they leave their bike unlocked on a front porch, in a shed or in an open garage.

ACPD issued the following additional tips for protecting oneself from bike theft.

Be prepared:

  • Register your bicycle with the Arlington County Police Department. You will receive a decal that may be a visible deterrent to theft. Your bicycle information will also be on file in case it is stolen.
  • Keep a photograph of the bike and a record of your bicycle’s serial number and distinguishing features.
  • Make a note of the brand and the style.
  • Note the identification number (located underneath the bike, between the cranks).
  • Most importantly, take a moment to consider what makes your bike unusual. What will make it stand out from the crowd? Photograph any distinguishing characteristics (unusual seat or pedals, scratches, racks, bags – the things that make your bike yours).
  • If it is generic, personalize it.

The most effective counter strategy for a cyclist is to use two types of locks; a U-lock combined with a cable or chain. As with most cycling skills, technique is everything.

  • Open the front quick-release, remove the wheel and place it next to the rear wheel. Rest the fork on the ground.
  • Put the U-lock around a fixed object (guard rail, bike rack, etc.), the rims of both wheels, and some part of the bike frame (either the seat tube, chainstay, or seatstay.) Make sure the lock goes around the rims and not just the spokes, or a thief with wire cutters can walk away with your nice set of wheels.
  • Thread the cable lock through the frame, the front wheel (if it is bolted on), and around a fixed object. Because different tools are needed to break each lock, you will have a backup if one lock is defeated.
  • Do not forget the saddle. If your seat-post has a quick-release, pull the whole thing out and run the cable through the saddle rails.

If you observe someone with a backpack, spending time around the bike racks at the Metro or in your condo garage or taking too long to unlock a bike, it may be suspicious. Call the Arlington County Police Department Non-emergency Line at 703-558-2222.

The Arlington County Police Department also has an Abandoned Bicycle Hotline. If a bicycle remains in place (unlocked) at a parking meter, lamp pole, or bike rack for longer than five days please call 703-228-4057. Leave a description, location and a contact number because the bicycle may have been stolen and left behind.

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On this, the 50th 90+ degree day of the year, you’re probably already a pro at beating the heat. But just in case you need a refresher on hot weather best practices, here are a few resources that may come in handy.

For bike commuters, Bike Arlington’s Chris Eatough has a number of important tips for staying cool and hydrated on the road and non-smelly in the office. Among them: leave earlier in the morning, don’t wear a backpack and freeze your water bottles before heading out.

For pet owners, the Animal Welfare League of Arlington has advice for keeping your pets safe in hot weather. Limiting exercise for older dogs and dogs with thicker coats is recommended. Put sunscreen on your pet’s nose and ear tips if he or she is going to be out in the sun for awhile. And, of course, never, ever leave your pet in the car while running errands.

For people of all ages, Arlington County’s Hot Tips for Keeping Cool includes classic, common-sense hot weather advice that sometimes we can lose sight of in the midst of our busy schedules. For instance, if you’re going to be outside drink plenty of fluids, even if you’re not thirsty. Exercise in the morning or evening hours. And, again: never, ever leave kids or pets in the car unattended.

For local parents, the county’s spraygrounds are a great place for younger children to have fun and cool off. Check out the list of sprayground parks and their hours.

Finally, the county also has a page with tips for reducing your electricity usage during times of high power demand, such as hot and humid days like today.

Flickr pool photo by Christaki

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We are in the midst of the “peak” season for weddings. Something about spring — the warmer temperatures, the flowers and plants blooming, the absence of pro and college football games — seems to make it a perfect time for nuptials.

It also seems that there are quite a few engagements this time of year. All those happy couples need some place to get married, so we started to wonder if there were any wedding-worthy locations in Arlington. For the answer, we turned to Arlington-based professional photographer Jan Graves, of Jan Michele Photography.

Location-wise, it’s natural that most couples would immediately think D.C., with the monuments and the history and whatnot. But Graves says there are some worthy wedding venues to consider in Arlington. Here are her top six.

Ft. Myer Old Post Chapel (article)

Pro: “Light, bright and beautiful chapel, seats 200.  And you can’t beat a Saber Arch upon leaving the church.”

Con: “Must be military to use.  Can’t decorate the chapel.”

Top of the Town (website)

Pro: “Best views of DC you’ll find.  Outdoor patio space — if the weather is nice.”

Con: “It’s at the top of a condo building so there are restrictions on music/noise. The ceiling is a bit low and it’s a long elevator ride plus a long hallway to get to the space, so it can feel a bit claustrophobic.”

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