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‘Strange’ Burglary Leaves Arlington Forest Cafe Owners Puzzled

The unusual overnight burglary of an Arlington Forest coffee shop has left its owners scratching their heads about what prompted the theft.

Employees at the Sense of Place Cafe, located at 4807 1st Street N. just off Arlington Blvd, arrived early this morning (Wednesday) to discover the glass in their front door smashed in and the cash register emptied. Co-owner Kay Kim expects the thieves made off with about $150 in all.

However, Kim was puzzled that the burglars left the restaurant’s expensive espresso machines untouched, and showed no interest in the iPad the cafe uses for customer orders.

Yet her notebook full of recipes and notes on the precise way to roast various types of coffee beans, one of her most prized possessions, is missing. She stored it in a desk drawer in the cafe’s back office, and she expects only someone intimately familiar with the store would know to look for it.

“It makes us feel like the target wasn’t money,” said Anna Seo, Kim’s niece and an employee at the store. “It’s all very strange.”

Neither Kim nor her sister and co-owner, Kim Seo, can think of any former employees who might’ve harbored a grudge after leaving the cafe, which has been open for just over a year now. Arlington County police spokeswoman Kirby Clark said the department is investigating the incident, but doesn’t have any description of the suspect (or suspects) just yet.

“This has never happened before and we never thought about it,” Kim Seo said. “This area in Arlington was supposed to be pretty safe. It’s very weird and scary.”

Nevertheless, she says the business is open as normal, even if it is still missing the glass from its front door.

Anna Seo notes that the whole incident “could’ve been much worse,” all things considered. But she is still frustrated that her aunt would lose so much hard work, so suddenly.

“Each of our roasts change, based on the season and the temperature, and she had that all written down,” she said. “Now, she’ll basically have to start from scratch.”

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Lengthy Verizon Outage Frustrates Arlington Forest Residents

Some Arlington Forest residents are speaking out after spending the last four days without cable or internet service.

Frustrated Verizon Fios customers in the neighborhood are taking to social media and emails to ARLnow to lament the lack of response from the company since their service went down early Saturday morning.

Ken Schellenberg, who lives on 1st Street N., says that Verizon has sent a half dozen estimates for when the problem might be resolved — and has repeatedly missed its targets.

“Promised text messages about updates on the issue never arrive,” Schellenberg wrote. “They claim it’s a widespread outage but neighbors close never lost service at all. It seems more random.”

Some of Schellenberg’s neighbors have reported similar issues on Twitter, where Verizon support staff have been able to offer only limited answers.

Verizon spokeswoman Laura Merritt told ARLnow.com that the company’s engineers are currently looking into the issue. She’s hoping to be able to offer more details soon.

File photo

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Sense of Place Cafe Finds Its Place in Arlington

(Updated 7:30 p.m.) It isn’t easy being an independent coffee shop with only a handful of part-time employees, especially one outside of a Metro corridor in chain-heavy Arlington.

But Arlington Forest’s Sense of Place Café, which opened eight months ago, is making a go of it and has slowly been gaining both popularity and solid Yelp reviews.

The cafe was full for a Wednesday at mid-morning (March 28), and two baristas scrambled to fill orders quickly while chatting with an ARLnow reporter. On a normal day, the shop sees about 50 customers.

Most customers who walked up to the counter had something positive to say about Sense of Place Café, even if they hadn’t yet tried the shop’s specialty coffee.

“You’re getting a lot of great press on the Mothers of North Arlington listserv,” one woman said to a barista as she ordered coffee, adding that she hadn’t heard of the place until recently but was happy to have more options in the area.

The coffee shop is located at the Arlington Forest Shopping Center, at 4807 1st Street N., and difficult to get to if one doesn’t live in the neighborhood or have a car.

“The size of this mall, it’s not a really busy mall,” explained the coffee shop’s co-owner, Kim Seo, pointing out the next door Brick’s Pizza as the shopping center’s main attraction. “It’s kind of frustrating, not many people come here.”

It’s about 1.2 miles away from the Ballston Metro station, which, according to Google Maps, is a 24 minute walk away. A lot of customers are within walking distance, Seo explained, but many Arlingtonians aren’t aware of the shop or how to get there.

But Seo has found ways to stand out, even if the shop faces geographical challenges. She focuses on the store’s own unique Enzymo Coffee brand, which ferments for two weeks before in-house roasting, and a mushroom tea with “high levels of antioxidants.” She also posts frequently on the shop’s social media channels.

Seo added serving a variety of flavors has helped her and her sister, Kay, the shop’s licensed barista, grow the business.

Listening to customers’ needs, like expanded weekend hours, has also helped. Previously, the coffee shop was open Monday-Saturday, but now has dropped the Monday hours and is open Tuesdays-Fridays from 7 a.m.-3 p.m., and Saturdays-Sundays from 8 a.m.-2 p.m.

Kim did this to capture the weekend crowd, which she says is easily her busiest time, and now she sees more people come and enjoy a cup instead of rushing to work.

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New Cafe in Arlington Forest Features ‘Laptop-Free’ Coffee Bar

A new coffee shop is open in Arlington Forest in a low-slung shopping center just off Arlington Blvd.

Sense of Place (4807 1st Street N.) replaced a Subway sandwich shop in the Arlington Forest Center. It opened yesterday (Monday), next door to Brick’s Pizza, the DaVita dialysis center and the Mathnasium of Arlington education center.

Sense of Place features a coffee bar that serves specialty pour-over coffee, which uses a filter and a dripper to extract more flavors. At the bar, a certified barista will serve the coffee, while a sign nearby expressly bans the use of laptops to encourage customers to enjoy their drinks without distraction.

“At the bar, customers take the time to see, smell, and taste subtly different notes of flavors and textures with every sip that they may not have noticed before,” the cafe’s website reads.

The new cafe serves its own house-brand coffee, called Enzymo Coffee. The coffee beans undergo a natural fermentation process before being roasted, which staff said keeps the coffee fresh, the acid content low and prevents any post-caffeine crashes an hour or two after drinking.

Also on offer: various other hot and cold drinks as well as homemade pastries, paninis and sandwiches.

Early Tuesday morning, the store was already doing brisk business, despite having been open for just one day. Multiple customers told ARLnow how excited they were to have an independently-owned coffee shop in the plaza, which is also home to Outback Steakhouse and used to house the now-shuttered Filipino grocery store Fiesta Oriental.

Sense of Place is open from 7 a.m.-3 p.m. weekdays and 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturdays. It is closed on Sundays.

Hat-tip to Mike Marketti.

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Police To Participate in National Night Out Events Tonight

The Arlington County Police Department will hold National Night Out activities in neighborhoods across the county this evening (August 1).

Police will take part in a number of activities with local residents, including block parties, cookouts, safety demonstrations, youth events, visits from emergency personnel and more.

National Night Out aims to better relationships between the police and the communities they patrol. Many police departments around the country participate.

“We are committed to building strong partnerships with those we protect and serve and effectively communicating to ensure the public’s trust.” said spokeswoman Ashley Savage.

“Events such as National Night Out are important because they provide us with another opportunity to interact with our community, hear about any public safety concerns they have and continue to use effective problem-solving methods to reduce and prevent crime and improve the quality of life of Arlington’s residents, visitors and businesses.”

Events will be hosted at the following locations:

  • Arlington Forest (200 block of N. Galveston Street) at 7:30 p.m.
  • Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (First Presbyterian Church, 601 N. Vermont Street) from 5:30-8 p.m.
  • Barcroft Community House (800 S. Buchanan Street) from 6-7:30 p.m.
  • Cathcart Springs townhomes (4600 4th Road N.) from 6:30-7 p.m.
  • Fairlington Villages (3000 block of S. Abingdon Street) from 5-7 p.m.
  • Park Glen Condo Association (800 block of S. Arlington Mill Road) from 7-8 p.m.
  • Nauck Town Square (24th Road S. between Shirlington Road and S. Kenmore Street) from 6-8:30 p.m.
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Busy Route 50 Intersection Set For Revamp

The busy intersection of Route 50 and Park Drive is set for improvements under a plan being considered Saturday by the Arlington County Board.

The intersection, in the Arlington Forest neighborhood, is slated for new sidewalks, upgraded traffic lights, high-visibility crosswalks and new trees, curbs and gutters.

The majority of improvements are slated for the intersection and a small stretch of N. Park Drive between Route 50 and a traffic circle. That’s also near a small strip mall that includes an Outback Steakhouse restaurant.

County staff estimate that 64,000 cars travel through the intersection daily, and the traffic volume and speed can make life difficult for bicyclists, pedestrians and those getting on and off buses. The intersection has also been the scene of numerous crashes.

Staff said the plan creates an “urban-style intersection that will reduce speeding and the incidence of collisions, and ultimately improve safety for all.

“The project will create better access and crossings for pedestrians, transit users, bikers and those traveling on the shared-use paths parallel to Arlington Boulevard,” they continued.

The County Board is set to award a construction contract for the plan at its meeting Saturday. The contract is worth just under $1.5 million, with $224,000 as a contingency for rising costs. More than $1 million of funding is through the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Highway Safety Improvement Program, with the county adding $461,000 in general obligations bonds.

Under a timeline proposed by staff, construction would begin in August.

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Longtime Filipino Grocery Store Fiesta Oriental To Close Next Month

Since opening Filipino grocery store Fiesta Oriental in 1991, Fred Sunga and his family have done much more than sell food and provide other services to a bevy of loyal customers.

“When you have a Filipino business, your country people, they come to you for information,” he said. “They always call you, if they have a problem they will call you. Even if sometimes their car won’t start they will call and ask if I know a mechanic.”

But next month marks the end of an era, as the 67-year-old Sunga is set to retire on June 30 and close the Arlington Forest staple at 4815 1st Street N. That means that the area’s growing Filipino community must go elsewhere for groceries or to send money and packages to family back in the Philippines.

Sunga moved to the United States in 1978 and started working in a bank before opening Fiesta Oriental. He prides himself on staying true to his Filipino roots, right down to watching television shows from the Philippines in the store and speaking to customers in Tagalog, the country’s official language, or one of its many dialects.

And in addition to Filipinos, who come from as far away as Manassas and Maryland to shop at his store, local schoolchildren will now have to go elsewhere for their after-school snacks.

“When the school bus stops there, the kids are going to come and get their candy and soda,” Sunga said. “Just last week I told them that I’m closing up the store next month, and they said, ‘Why? Why are you doing this to me?'”

For the family, Fiesta Oriental was a major part of growing up in Arlington. Sunga’s three daughters, Audrey, Alyssa and Angelica, all worked there at least part-time from elementary school onwards and helped on Sunday when they would cook and sell homemade Filipino dishes.

The store is open every day from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., except Sundays, when it closes at 6 p.m.

Audrey Sunga, who has a 2-year-old son, Emmett, and another baby due in August, said it is a shame that the family business will close before they are old enough to appreciate it.

“We’re going to start buying rice for the first time in our lives,” she joked. “For Emmett and the baby on the way, it’s kind of sad they won’t be able to see this. We grew up with it our whole lives, so it’s sad to see it go.”

Fred Sunga, meanwhile, said he is looking forward to being a “stay-at-home grandpa,” and enjoying more time with his family. Both Audrey and Alyssa work in Arlington and graduated from VCU, while Angelica is still there studying electrical engineering.

While he is excited to start the next chapter of his life, Fred Sunga said it is hard when customers are clearly upset he is leaving.

“I’m going to miss the store that I’m doing every day,” he said. “Especially when my customers, when they come here and I’m telling them I’m retiring next month, I feel so sad when they say, ‘Oh my God, I’m going to miss you.’ Some old people, they cry when I tell them I’m retiring.”

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Crash Closes Arlington Blvd During Friday Rush Hour

Police closed part of westbound Arlington Blvd during the Friday morning rush hour after a collision between two cars in Arlington Forest.

Officers shut Route 50 from just before N. Henderson Road to the intersection with N. Park Drive at around 8:30 a.m. Drivers heading west on Arlington Blvd. were diverted around the crash scene.

A police officer at the scene said it appeared that the driver of a gray Acura tried to turn left from the westbound lanes collided with a white Honda heading in the other direction. Neither driver appeared to sustain injuries, and the Acura was able to drive from the crash to a tow truck.

Firefighters and medics spread sand on the street to soak up any spilled fluids from the cars.

Both cars were removed from the accident scene at around 8:50 a.m. The eastbound lanes remained open, with traffic passing through as normal.

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Armed Robbery at Arlington Forest Shopping Center

Police car (file photo)Three masked men with guns robbed a business in the Arlington Forest Shopping Center last night.

The robbery happened around 11:40 p.m. The men fled on foot with cash from the business’ cash register.

Police would not reveal which store was robbed, but the only business in the shopping center that is open past 10 p.m. is the Brick’s Pizza shop.

From an Arlington County Police Department crime report:

ARMED ROBBERY, 161010039, 4800 block of N. 1st Street. At approximately 11:39 p.m. on October 10, three unknown black males entered a business armed with handguns wearing black ski masks. The suspects stole an undisclosed amount of cash from the register and fled the area on foot. Investigation is ongoing.

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ACPD to Participate in National Night Out Events Across Arlington Tomorrow

National Night Out 2016 logoArlington County Police Department officers are set to meet with locals during fun community gatherings at six locations across the county tomorrow night.

The planned events are held as part of National Night Out, a “community-building campaign that promotes police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie,” according to a flyer distributed by the police department.

National Night Out celebrations are a chance for police and members of the community to come together, usually over free food and activities.

National Night Out events will be held at the following locations:

  • Arlington Forest (200 block of N. Galveston Street) at 7:30 p.m.
  • Nauck Town Square (24th Road S. and S. Shirlington Road) from 6:00-8:00 p.m.
  • Barcroft Community House (800 S. Buchanan Street) from 6:00-7:30 p.m.
  • Farlington Villages Pool 2 (3045 S. Buchanan Street) from 5:00-7:00 p.m.
  • Park Glen Condo Associations: (800 block of S. Arlington Mill Road) from 7:00-8:00 p.m.
  • Whitefield Commons: (106 N. Thomas Street) from 5:30-7:30 p.m.

Image via ACPD National Night Out Flyer

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Morning Notes

Bald eagle spotted on N. Park Drive on July 4, 2016 (photo courtesy Paul Fiorino)

Bald Eagle Spotted on Fourth of July — A bald eagle was spotted in the area of N. Park Drive, in the Arlington Forest neighborhood, yesterday on the Fourth of July (see above). The eagle “finally flew away after half an hour of harassment from a bunch of crows,” noted a neighborhood listserv email, but not before delighting adults and children in the neighborhood who gathered to see the patriotic sight.

Vietnam Vet Survives Stroke Thanks to Medics — Quick-acting Arlington County paramedics, a Good Samaritan who helped direct traffic at an intersection to let the ambulance through and skilled emergency room doctors helped to save the life of a Vietnam veteran who suffered a stroke while visiting his son in Arlington. [Fox 5]

School Board Chair Focused on Achievement — The Arlington School Board’s new chairman, Nancy Van Doren, says her focus is on individual student achievement, even in the midst of ongoing school growth and capacity challenges. “Our litmus test must be: Does each and every child receive the support he or she needs?” Van Doren said. [InsideNova]

Faked Fireworks Included Arlington Angle — The internet is abuzz about PBS’ use of “rerun” fireworks footage intermixed with live footage during its Capitol Fourth broadcast last night. One of the camera angles used showed an impossibly clear view of the fireworks and of the Capitol building from Arlington. In actuality, rain and low clouds made for a dreary, hazy view of the fireworks display. [WTOP]

Photo courtesy of Paul Fiorino

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Police: Intruder Knocks Out Homeowner Who Threatened to Call Police During Assault

Police car (file photo)A 20-year-old man is facing numerous charges after police say he knocked out a homeowner who threatened to call 911 because the man was assaulting a woman in front of his house.

The incident happened around 10:30 p.m. Monday night, in the Arlington Forest neighborhood near the entrance to the Lubber Run Amphitheater.

From an Arlington County Police crime report:

BURGLARY W/ INTENT TO COMMIT ASSAULT, 160627052, 200 block of N. Columbus Street. At approximately 10:35 p.m. on June 27, a male homeowner witnessed a male subject assaulting a female victim in the street. The homeowner announces that he is going to call police, at which point the male subject forces entry into the home. Once inside the home, the male subject assaults the homeowner causing him to lose consciousness. Another resident of the home witnesses the assault, yells for him to leave, and the male subject threatens her and attempts to steal items before being led away by the initial female victim.

During the course of the investigation, it was determined that the suspect was involved with additional incidents. At approximately 10:25 p.m. on June 27, the same suspect attempted to gain entry into a residence in the 100 block of N. Columbus Street, through the back door and the garage. Both attempts were unsuccessful. A witness reported then seeing the suspect proceed to a neighbor’s yard in the 100 block of N. Columbus Street and attempt to open a vehicle door, but was unsuccessful.

Victor Omar Suarez, 20, of no fixed address, was arrested and charged with burglary with intent to commit assault, malicious wounding, attempted grand larceny, and possession of marijuana. He is being held without bond.

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Woman Says Two Men Tried to Abduct Her in Arlington Forest

Police car lightsA woman told police that two men tried to abduct her near the entrance to the Lubber Run Amphitheater last night.

The alleged incident happened around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, on the 200 block of N. Columbus Street in the Arlington Forest neighborhood.

The victim told detectives that two men approached her from behind as she was walking down the street. One tried to place something over her head while the other tried to muffle her screams and also touched her inappropriately, she said.

The woman was able to break free and the men fled on foot, according to a crime report. Despite the presumed commotion, there have thus far been no reports of neighbors who heard or witnessed the incident.

Police are planning to canvass the area to further investigate the crime and are also planning to increase foot patrols in the neighborhood, said ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage.

This incident is not believed to be related to a string of sexual assault incidents last summer, Savage said — the suspects in those incidents are both in custody.

From the crime report:

ATTEMPTED ABDUCTION, 160322052, 200 block of N. Columbus Street. At approximately 8:30 p.m. on March 22, two unknown male subjects approached a female from behind. One subject attempted to place an unknown object over her head while the other subject touched her inappropriately. The female was able to break free from the subjects and they fled the scene on foot. The first suspect is described as a Hispanic male, approximately 5’7″ tall and weighed 130 lbs. He was wearing a dark colored shirt and white/black checkered shorts. The second suspect is described as a Hispanic male, approximately 5’7″ tall and weighed 130 lbs. He was wearing dark colored pants and a dark colored shirt.

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Quick Action Helps ACFD Save House

Arlington County fire truckArlington County firefighters quickly extinguished a house fire Friday night before it was able to spread to the entire structure.

The call for a fire in the rear of a home on the 300 block of N. Greenbrier Street came in at 6:38 p.m., according to Arlington County Fire Department spokeswoman Lt. Sarah Marchegiani. The first responding unit arrived on scene, in the Arlington Forest neighborhood, at 6:45.

Firefighters found heavy fire coming from the deck in the back of the home. The flames were spreading to the home’s kitchen, Marchegiani said.

A second alarm was called but in the end it was not needed — firefighters were able to make quick work of the flames, extinguishing the blaze before it had a chance to spread any further.

There was extensive damage to the rear deck, Marchegiani said, and minor damage to the kitchen, but the home was otherwise spared.

This is the second “save” for ACFD in a week. On Sunday Arlington firefighters quickly extinguished a basement fire on the 3600 block of 21st Avenue N., in the Maywood neighborhood, before it could spread to the upper floors of the house.

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Sandy Didn’t Stop Wheel Thief in Arlington Forest

While most hunkered down in their homes to weather Superstorm Sandy last night, the wind and the rain didn’t slow down a thief (or thieves) in Arlington Forest.

A resident on the 4700 block of Arlington Boulevard came out of her house this morning to inspect damage from Sandy, but instead of finding storm damage she found her car up on a jack and two wheels missing. The criminal(s) left two of the Scion coupe’s wheels on, but took those on the driver’s side. The lugnuts were scattered about under the car.

Police were called and investigated the incident, but were doubtful about finding finger prints at the scene given all the rain from Sandy. A mail carrier said he recently saw at least one other such wheel theft in the neighborhood.

 

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